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Bamboo in southen Wisconsin.....will it work???

October 18, 2005

I own recreational land on the Wisconsin River, which is on the flood plain, similar to many of the large islands in the river itself down here. I need some suggestions. The soil is almost pure sand, with some sediment type top soil, enough to support grass to mow. Many types of oaks, maples, birch, willow, dogwood,etc grow well here. am trying to create a 100' screen on a lot line, I need it to be as tall as possible, deer and flood resistant. The river usually floods for a week or two in early to mid April.

Oh yes, it is a full sun /partial sun setting, things can really get baked, even though their is plenty of water just below the surface.

Would some of the hardy, cold weather climate bamboo actually grow in this environment? I would need it to reach 8-10 ft....is this possible?

I have been considering tall grasses, particularly miscanthus, I know that would grow, however I am very intriged by the possibility of bamboo......

Comments (10)

  • excelent3

    Followup: From my research, Yellow Grove, Spectabilis, or Ruscus would be possibilities, my main concern is will they grow in the sandy soil.....

  • lkz5ia

    If the sandy soil stays moist bamboo shouldn't have a problem. It probably could run faster in sandy soil. If organic matter is lacking, working in composted manure or topdressing granular fertilizer should help. How much top soil is above the sandy soil? The biggest question and possible problem would be if/and how often does that area flood. Bamboo tend not to want to stand in water. Only a few kinds can stand to have wet feet.

  • excelent3

    Topsoil is 2-3 inches at best. It floods 1-2 weeks in April, water temp is just over freezing, spring snowmelt from northern Wisconsin..so pretty much everything is still dormant...My pine short needle and white pines have been under water over the years up to 3 weeks and have fared well....

    Is there any bamboo that would thrive in the river bottoms where there is much more organic matter, leaves, sediment, etc?

    I have full sun in that area...

  • brian_k

    For your area, I'd say try Phyllostachys bissetii. It is widely believed to be top tier in terms of cold hardiness. Plus, it is part of the heteroclada group, which means it has air channels in its rhizomes. Now I do not think any bamboo can survive completely submerged in water year round, however if flooding is just a week or two, it probably will do fine.

    Here is a link that might be useful: bissetii

  • Thuja

    Yep, others to try are Arundinaria gigantea and Phyllostachys heteroclada, aka Water Bamboo. 8-10 feet may be difficult to achieve but maybe would take 3-4 yrs if you're willing to winter protect the culms during the worst part of winter during Jan-Feb.

  • lkz5ia

    Also, the more land that they conquer the better they may survive. Phyllostachys atrovaginata is another supposedly cold hardy and can take wetter soil than some. Living in 4b, don't expect much at first, just expect them to grow like a giant grass each year and die back down each winter like a perennial. bissetii may be the best bet. How cold have your winters been in the past?

  • excelent3

    The winters here in southern wi have been relatively mild over the last 8 years especially. Last year, we had a few nights of -5 to -10 below, that was it. After reading articled on the Bamboo Society webpage, I am convinced I will have good results, knowing what I know now. I have a southern exposure with lots of light, will be able to mulch 5-6 inches, and contain the spreading tendancies easily. Phyllostachys Bissetii, Spectabilis, Red Margin, Fargesia Murielae are what I have narrowed down as real candidates. I am really looking forward to experimenting with these, and am excited about the possibilities!

    There is a super informative article on the Bamboo Societys website entitled:

    Growing Bamboos in the Northeastern U.S.
    By Paul Schneider

    Check it out..... http://www.americanbamboo.org/GeneralInfoPages/SchneiderIntro.html

    I also plan on introducing some tall miscanthus also...! That should keep me occupied in Gods Country!

    Appreciate this forum immensely.

  • excelent3

    lkz5ia -

    Great recommendation! This is exactly what I am after as it is more water tolerant. The spot I am considering is low, water is literally ownly 1-2 feet down in spots...

    Hardiness: -10°F ( listed by the American Bamboo Society at -15°F)
    USDA Zone recommended Safe 5b through 10 may do fine in 5a

    . Phyllostachys atrovaginata has an unusual characteristic in that the culms have a substance on the surface that has a fragrance somewhat like sandalwood. Like water bamboo, Phyllostachys heteroclada, this species has air canals in the rhizomes and roots which are an adaptation for growing in wet soils.

    Sandalwood, hey, aroma therapy too, maybe I should get out my Led Zepilin and Santana albums from the 70's whilst sitting in my Bamboo Utopia...

  • Thuja

    I've read that article too. Some good tips in there for protecting bamboo in very cold climates. There's another good article posted on ABS called "Intro to Hardy Bamboos."

    I tend not to believe the claims of anything below -5*F for bamboo, especially if it's in an exposed sunny & windy site in winter. I'm not sure, but some of these ratings might apply to "rhizome hardiness" or to large, very well-established groves.

    I you do try Fargesia, watch out for heat and sun. These need the coolest site you can find on your property.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Intro to Hardy Bamboos

  • Thuja

    Fred-- Did you plant any bamboo or other grasses this fall or waiting 'til spring? Let us know. The Wisconsin bamboo contingent seems to be growing. ;)

    Here is a link that might be useful: Wisconsin Bamboo Society ;)

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