Phyllostachys nigra or the Black Bamboo has to be the most popular and best known of all bamboos. The shiny jet black canes reach can reach to 4 or 5 metres in height and are covered in masses of lush green dainty leaves. The black bamboo is probably the first hardy bamboo to have been grown in Europe with it’s introduction dating back to the late 1820’s. The high quality of the beautiful black canes have made it popular with handicrafts throughout the world with products such as walking sticks, fencing, furniture and more being made from it’s attractive high quality cane.
I have seen Phyllostachys nigra planted in many different gardens and to varying uses. It makes a wonderful specimen bamboo but equally I’ve seen it planted as a stunning hedge, clipped both at the top and sides into quiet a formal shape. It always looks at it’s best however if the lower branches are stripped from the mature canes to show of the beauty and form of the bamboo. I remove all sideshoots off the main canes each year up to 1.20cm high to great effect.
The best situation for the black bamboo is in a good, rich soil that does not dry out too readily but also does not have a tendency to waterlog over the winter months. Idealy sheltered from strong winds as the delicate small leaves can be scorched in excessive exposure. It is also worth bearing in mind that although most books and garden centres will tell you the Black bamboo is clump forming this is not the case. They can and will start to wander once they are happy, I was once told by a bamboo expert that freshly planted Phyllostachys bamboo ‘often sleep for a few years only to suddenly wake up running’ so be warned consider this when planting and think about restricting it’s ambitions
The Black Bamboo plant can grow well in a container but must be kept well watered at all times to ensure good, strong growth. Feed with a general purpose feed between the months of May and September to keep the plant looking lush and healthy. You should expect the black bamboo to add about a third to its height and spread each year and if it is really happy, maybe more! To achieve the blackest canes possible, plant in full sun and enjoy the wait as the canes turn from a lush green to an ebony black.
Please note that the new culms emerge green and then slowly age to black over a couple of years, so do not be alarmed that your Phyllostachys nigra may arrive with green culms.