Do you want to give your landscape a little bit of an Asian flair?
One of the plants that can best accomplish that is bamboo.
Bamboo is a well-known representation of the Far East and reflects the magnificent grace and elegance that we link with Asian design and Japanese gardens.
You can go one step further by planting a Japanese maple, whose leaves form a lovely canopy and turn a vivid red in the fall. The Mugo pine, which has compact needles and a dwarf-like appearance, is a lovely addition as well. Add some Mondo grass, sometimes called dwarf lilyturf, and you’ll soon be sniffing your way into a deep Zen trance.
However, if you’re determined to create a Japanese garden, you’ll need to have some bonsai trees. Yes, there has been a dramatic rise in difficulty. A bonsai tree requires hard work to maintain. However, it is rather simple to maintain a bamboo bonsai.
In comparison to most other plants and trees, bamboo is simpler than bonsai. It has a shallow root system that can withstand trimming, making it exceptionally hardy. Taking care of a bamboo bonsai is not at all difficult compared to maintaining some kind of elm or cedar that has been miniaturized. However, picking the right species is critical.
Choosing The Right Kind of Bamboo for Bonsai
It goes without saying that you should let go of some of the common timber bamboo varieties if you’re considering growing bamboo in a shallow pot that is only 8 or 10 inches wide. Relatively small culms and more delicate leaves are the qualities of the perfect bonsai candidates.
Finding a tree that can be proportionately scaled down is one of the keys to making a beautiful bonsai. For instance, a maple tree with leaves that are 5 inches wide and 12 inches tall will appear a little weird. On the other hand, the leaves of a Japanese maple are naturally very small. Going for the Mugo pine, which has relatively short needles compared to most kinds of pine, the small leaves appear proportionate to the small trunk and branches when the tree is cultivated as a bonsai.
Consequently, if you encounter a Temple bamboo or an Arrow bamboo with their long, tapering leaves, they may appear lovely in your landscape but not appropriate in a small bonsai pot.
The best bamboo varieties for a bonsai pot are often the many dwarf forms. In the first six months, the roots are unlikely to break the pot since the leaves and culms are inherently more compact.
The best bonsai candidates to look for are listed below:
- Bambusa multiplex has a few dwarf cultivars, including Tiny Fern and Tiny Fern Striped. They often never reach a height of more than 3 feet, with culms that are no thicker than 1/4 inch. Bambusa species are also clupers, so their roots won’t spread out as quickly.
- Dwarf white stripes and dwarf green stripes are fantastic bonsai alternatives. They are members of the genus Pleioblastus despite being very small species. The roots may need regular pruning because they are runners.
- Bambusa ventricosa, sometimes referred to as Buddha’s belly, is one of the ideal alternatives for bamboo bonsai. This species can reach heights of more than 50 feet under normal circumstances, while the dwarf variant typically reaches 20 feet or higher. However, it can be shrunk down and preserved in a pot. Being potted under pressure actually promotes some of the Buddha’s Belly’s more fascinating features. The common name is a result of how occasionally the short internodes bulge, giving them a cute, belly-like shape. Additionally, a portion of the culms will grow irregularly and zigzag, which is incredibly remarkable when stressed or under-watered.
- The Chusquea culeou “Hillier’s form” has very appropriate proportions for a bonsai specimen, with short stems and tiny leaves. The Chilean species is easy to keep short and compact, and its culms are exceptionally solid.
- Pygmy bamboo is the common name for Pleioblastus pygmaeus. With solid, vivid green foliage, this is another favorite variety. Although it can be trimmed much shorter, its typical height of 2 feet makes it a perfect candidate for bonsai. On a small scale, the leaves’ tiny hairs add some aesthetic complexity.
- Pseudosasa owatarii is a cold-tolerant running bamboo native to Japan that only grows about 1 foot tall and has lush green foliage. This type is quite simple to maintain in a smaller bonsai pot since it normally grows so small.
- Phyllostachys aurea ‘Waminita’ is a miniature cultivar of the pervasive but likely invasive Golden Bamboo. This smaller subspecies has a strikingly captivating appearance and is simple to keep in a small container.
Caring for Your Bamboo Bonsai
Any type of bonsai specimen presents one of the most difficult pruning tasks because it calls for consistent attention to detail. The roots will likely need to be pruned once or twice a year regardless of how you’re growing the bamboo.
Naturally, growing running bamboo requires more work in maintaining the roots. Most of the time, clumping bamboo will spread considerably more slowly below the surface. Clumping varieties, like Bambusa, are suitable for bonsais because of this. For the very same reason, many growers make an effort to completely avoid using bamboo.
However, taking a small piece of bamboo out of a bonsai pot is much simpler than taking it out of the ground or a wine barrel. Additionally, you may cut through the tough roots without a Sawzall. Ideally, a good pair of gardening clippers will do.
Once or twice a year, in the late fall and early spring, before and after the growing season, try to remove it from the pot. Roots should be thinned where they are dense and cut back where they are spreading the fastest. While you’re at it, thin out some of the older culms. Keep in mind that bamboo is a grass, so if you prune it too drastically, it will almost always grow back and produce new shoots.
Growth to Look Forward to
Compared to a bonsai tree, bamboo is simpler to care for as grass, and its results will differ. The bamboo will never grow to its full size if it is kept in a small container. Therefore, even if you’re working with a bigger, thicker species, the bonsai variety will only develop culms the size of a pencil.
Many bonsai tree gardeners take pride in how old their trees are. Bamboo has a long growth cycle. Depending on the species and external conditions, the single culms will age and die within 5 or 10 years, but the root ball will remain. To keep the plant appearing young and vibrant, simply cut off the old culms as needed. Once more, this form of pruning will only promote new, healthy growth.
Amazing and stunning bonsai trees exist. However, they may also be particularly challenging to maintain. Bamboo is an excellent way to start bonsai gardening because it is a perennial grass that requires significantly less maintenance than a tree.
Junipers and Ficus plants are some of the simpler shrubs to grow in miniature if you’re seeking extra bonsai accents but aren’t quite ready to cultivate. For an easy and rewarding alternative, you could also plant a variety of succulents in some lovely bonsai pots with a humidity/drip bonsai tray. They too will require repotting or, at the very least, some dividing after a year or so.
Now, the only things left to add are a pagoda and a koi pond!