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Botanical name: Bambusa multiplex 'Alphonse Karr'
Common names: Alphonse Karr Bamboo
USDA zones: 8 to 10
Water requirement: Regular until established
Light requirement: Full sun to partial shade
Mature size: 15 to 35 feet tall (10 to 12 feet tall as a container plant)
Tolerances and environmental benefits: Deer resistant; tolerates wind and coastal conditions; can grow in containers
Distinguishing traits. An evergreen grass, Alphonse Karr Bamboo has golden irregularly striped canes reaching an inch diameter. New foliage shoots out with a pinkish hue. Canes exposed to direct sun often take on a magenta tinge.
Clean canes grow to heights of 20 or 30 feet tall and can be kept at 12 to 20 feet tall when trained as a hedge or grown in a container.
Alphonse Karr Bamboo is a clumping bamboo, making it much more manageable and less invasive in the garden. Running bamboo, on the other hand, sends its rhizomes in many directions before sending up new shoots. It can easily take over the garden and needs to be physically contained. While clumping bamboo is slower growing than the running varieties, you will still get an attractive and fully filled-in screen within a few years.
How to use it. Use bamboo as a screen to create privacy in your landscape or as a living fence to divide space. Alphonse Karr makes for a great windbreak, and its tolerance of coastal conditions will protect your garden and make dining al fresco that much more enjoyable in the summer — just don’t opt for this species if maintaining a pristine view is on your list of priorities. Landscape architect Joseph Huettl recommends this species of bamboo for both its use as a screen as well as its visual interest.
Alphonse Karr Bamboo grows well in containers. Containers keep the size down and allow for you to use it on a patio or even in a well-lit indoor space.
Planting notes. Spring is a great time to plant your bamboo — water well to establish a solid root system before the plant feels the heat of summer or winter's frost. Plant several feet apart and the plants will fill out. While this is a clumping bamboo, landscape architect Jude Hellewell still suggests using a physical root barrier in case you are planting close to a building or neighbor's property. Once it's established, you can reduce the watering schedule.
Alphonse Karr is hardy to around 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Once you go much lower in temperature, foliage burns or canes die back. This is a particular bamboo that branches from the base to the top, so trimming branches near the base of the plants will maintain a clean and clear pathway.
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