Bamboo damage, winter 2017-2018

As I hinted at earlier this week, it's time to take a look at the bamboos and survey the damage that winter has dealt to them. If you prefer seeing healthy, green bamboos (as I do) with little evidence of winter's wrath, then you should look at the before photos I took in December. What comes next won't be pretty.

This is a look along my driveway. Indocalamus longiauritus, in front, usually shows almost no damage. The greenest clump is Sasa oshidensis, but even it has significant burning.

(Note that I took all of these photos on March 19. Things look a little worse now.)


Here is the reverse angle, looking up the driveway:

Sasaella bitchuensis is brown in the foreground, then Sasa oshidensis, with Indocalamus longiauritus in back. I can't tell if that one is all brown or only partially. I'm leaning toward all brown, or maybe 3/4 so.

Turn slightly to the left to see Sasa veitchii on the other side of the driveway against the house:

I expect to cut it down each year (or at least heavily prune), but this is the most brown I've seen it for a while. It's cool that you can still see the burst edges which look like variegation early in the winter!

Moving forward up the driveway to the front, two other bamboos that get mowed:

The Pleioblastus viridistriatus is just sticks, and the Sasaella masamuneana 'Albostriata' by the mailbox, well, there will be no trouble in deciding how much to prune off this year -- no green left at all! (Here's what it looked like last year)

Making my way to the left along the hellstrip -- which has an appropriate name right now -- there again is nothing green in sight:

Pleioblastus shibuyanus 'Tsuboi' has defoliated for the first time. I wonder if it will leaf back out? Behind it is Sasaella bitchuensis, completely brown.

Have I mentioned that we had no snow cover during the coldest weather? Back in the winter of 2013-2014 it got almost as cold, but snow protected some of the leaves. Not this year.

The other Indocalamus longiauritus:

This will be a challenge to prune/shear. Note that the Pleioblastus fortunei in the foreground has defoliated (but I always mow it anyway).

Continuing along the hellstrip and turning to the left, looking down the south side of the house:

It's good to see some green, right? So much brown though! That's Phyllostachys aureosulcata. I often wonder if the house protects it from the worst that winter dishes out. It must.

Many of the brown leaves had already fallen too:

There are more leaves in my yard now than there were last autumn I think.

Ph. virella lost every single leaf:

Ph. atrovaginata showing a lot of blonde, but there is still some green in there too:

This one has been all brown and leafed out before (in 2013-2014), so I'm not too worried. (I'm a bit worried because it's one of my favorites.)

The Ph. bissetii next to the driveway is tinged with brown, but there's much green in there:

Same for Ph. aureosulcata 'Aureocaulis':

The two recent transplants on the north side are looking surprisingly good:

They have so few culms that I thought they would be goners -- they both have green leaves left though! That's Ph. dulcis on the left, and Ph. heteroclada on the right.

I don't expect many new shoots from either of these, so it's important that the existing culms leaf out again.

One reason that these two may have fared better than many of the others: water. We had a very dry late summer and fall, but I watered these two often since they were newly planted. Everything else didn't get much water, which I suspect contributed to their more severe winter damage.

Next to the patio Shibatea chinensis on the left and Fargesia sp. 'Rufa' on the right:

The Rufa has quite a lot of green in it, although there are some brown leaves. It fared the best of all of the varieties I grow.

Indocalamus sp. 'Solidus' is usually almost untouched by winter, but this year... much damage!

It's nothing compared to the Ph. rubromarginata and Ph. aureosulcata 'Spectabilis' in the back though:

Very few green leaves in sight, especially on the rubro. I think many of the culms have been killed. I'll know more in a few weeks.

Another Fargesia 'Rufa' on the left, and Indocalamus tessellatus looking almost completely brown on the right:

Those surprise lilies pushing up between them show how even "green" bamboo looks tired in the early spring (when compared to the fresh greens).

That Shibatea chinensis and F. 'Rufa' next to the patio, seen from the other side:

There's the groundcover Pleioblastus distichus in that photo too (defoliated, will be mowed), as well as on the far left Pleioblastus chino 'Kimmei' (I think). That one lost all of its leaves too. Will it leaf back out?

Turning around, prepare your eyes for brown:

The big Sasaella bitchuensis patch, plus another Indocalamus tessellatus. Behind to the left is Shibatea kumasaca (all brown too), and in the back middle you can see the top of another Indocalamus sp. 'Solidus', just as damaged as the one I showed earlier.

Next to that 'Solidus' though...

...another Fargesia 'Rufa'. The weird thing is though...

...this one has barely a brown leaf on it! So green!

What's different about this one? Even the other Fargesias had some dead leaves -- more than this one. One theory: the other Rufas are "tissue culture" plants, propagated in the lab the way many other types of plants are. Anecdotal evidence from bamboo growers seem to indicate that these TC bamboos are not as "strong" as field-grown plants of the same species or variety. This plant was not labeled as being one of those TC plants, so probably is not.

It doesn't seem like it has more protection back here, but possibly.

In any case, that super green champion of the winter is closest to this one:

Another of the transplants of last summer, Ph. makinoi. This one was severely drought stressed, and seems to have been topkilled. If it's completely dead I may plant something else here (again).

Turning around to see the Ph. atrovaginata (left), Ph. aureosulcata (middle back), and Shibatea kumasaca (low plant on the right).

The kumasaca has some green left in it unlike the other planting, possibly because some of the culms may have been stuck down to the ground with some ice.

I forgot to show you the Semiarundinaria okuboi:

It looks like this most winters, but leafs back out. I wonder if it will this year? I suspect I'll need to remove a lot of culms again -- it's looking pretty crowded in there!

Looking back across the yard, there's a lot more brown than usual at this time of year:

But enough green is left to remind me that things will soon be looking so much better!

As I mentioned, all of these photos were taken March 19. In the three weeks since a lot more brown leaves have fallen, but leaf buds have for the most part not started swelling yet. I'm eager to see which of these will grow new leaves and which will require lots of cutting.


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Salty Pumpkin Studio  – (April 12, 2018 at 12:57 AM)  

Sorry things didn't go better. That's sad, so much damage. Gives new meaning to gardening this year.

Mark and Gaz  – (April 12, 2018 at 3:29 AM)  

Interesting thing about TC plants there, and have heard that so many times before that TC'd bamboos don't fare well as the divisions. Come summer all of these will be just a faint memory.

outlawgardener  – (April 13, 2018 at 8:38 AM)  

Wow! That's a lot of damage. Sorry that winter was so unkind to your bamboos and hope that they'll green up again soon.

Anonymous –   – (February 14, 2020 at 7:27 PM)  

Very interesting to see your winter damage posts! Thanks for sharing.
New boo owner here in a zone 8-9 equivalent in Germany. Planted an arrow bamboo in a pot on my balcony in June 2019 and it is showing weird and progressing discolouration since October 2019.
Now I see half dried out/dying leaves and many more with the weird browning.
Surprised to see 4 new culms growing from the root mass though.

I'm contemplating changing all the soil (in case of over-fertilisation, although I tried to wash out excess fertiliser with 100l of water a few days ago) in the next weeks and install proper drainage. Well, more proper than 6 holes in the bottom of the container that is.
See these photos from October:
Then December:

Can't determine if it is normal winter discolouration (we've had a very mild winter up until now), over/under watering, pests or over-fertilisation as somebody on reddit ( suggested.

Have you seen something like this?
Would love to hear your thoughts/ideas.

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