Cold Damage

As I've hinted at a few times already, the recent cold snap has caused some damage to my bamboos. Although I won't know the extent of the damage for a few months when the leaf buds start to swell (or don't because they've been killed), it's easy to see that most if not all of my larger bamboos will be losing the majority of their leaves.


It's not just the temperature that causes problems (about -8ºF/-22ºC here), but the wind. A cold, dry wind does terrible things to bamboo leaves.


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As you can see, most of the leaves at least on the outermost parts of the plants are tightly rolled, the plant's way to protect itself from losing too much moisture in dry conditions. In the summer this would correct itself after a good watering. In the winter though, this is not a good sign.


Here are three different views of what is probably the most prominent bamboo in my garden, the Phyllostachys aureosulcata 'Aureocaulis' that is between the driveway and the patio:




Notice the spiky look of the leaves? The too-light color?

Here's what it looked like just before the cold air moved in:



I'm guessing that all of the rolled leaves will soon turn brown, and will drop in the spring. Since I haven't gardened with cold like this before, I don't know for certain.

Even Ph. aureosulcata (aka "Yellow Groove") which is very close to the house took damage -- there's nowhere to hide when the winds are so gusty. (Shown in first photo of this post.)

The Ph. bissetii next to the driveway has damage too:


It seems though that there are non-rolled leaves in the center of the plant. Perhaps it was dense enough to self-shelter the innermost culms -- I'll be very glad if that is the case, but only time will tell.

I think most of these have severe damage, although I haven't surveyed them up-close yet:


If you remember, that's the bissetii in front, then Semiarundinaria fastuosa 'Viridis', Ph. nigra, Ph. dulcis, Ph. heteroclada (probably can't see), Ph. rubromarginata, then Ph. aureosulcata 'Spectabilis' way in the back. The nigra and dulcis may have top-killed. Again, I'll know more once winter nears an end and it's time for leaf buds to start swelling.

Ph. atrovaginata looks to be in pretty bad shape too:


Unfortunately it wasn't dense enough to self-shelter any culms. Sigh.

Even the larger-leaved species took a hit:


Indocalamus longiauritus has never shown this much damage since I planted it in 2008 (or was it 2009?)

I probably won't post more photos of the bamboo damage until the leaves start browning.

It's going to be an anxious end to winter while I check the bamboos every day to see if the leaf buds are doing anything. I just hope we don't have another arctic air incursion this year...

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Gerhard Bock (Bamboo, Succulents and More)  – (January 9, 2014 at 11:18 AM)  

I feel for you. I can totally sympathize. All you can do is hope it won't be a bad as you think while mentally preparing for it to be worse :-(.

Lisa  – (January 9, 2014 at 7:34 PM)  

It looks like the worst is over... for now anyway! It's the life of a gardener... nature gives and natures takes it all right back again!

Alan  – (January 10, 2014 at 9:13 AM)  

Today with temps above freezing the bamboo looks "fine" -- most if not all of the leaves have unrolled. I know the damage has been done though.

Mark Henley  – (January 10, 2014 at 11:15 AM)  

Hi Alan, i grow bamboo in Boise, Idaho (also zone 6, albeit a bit drier). I've been following your blog for a couple years now and absolutely love it!

I know how frustrating cold snaps can be. Last year most of our 14 species planted in the ground looked pretty brown going into the spring, with probably 80% leaf kill. Luckily the aureosulcatas (aureocaulis, spectabilis and harbin inverse), bissetti and atrovaginata had very few culms die. The vivax and nigra henon were not so fortunate. The former group still sized up nicely last spring; the later two came back about half their previous height. Unfortunately we already had a cold snap in early December (down to negative 5) which looks like it did similar damage again. It's all a waiting game now, but i'm encouraged by the recovery last year. Hope your's bounce back well this spring!

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