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Golden bamboo is a perennial with finely textured green leaves and attractive golden-yellow stems. Considered a running bamboo, it is often planted for privacy’s sake because it grows quickly (sometimes up to 20 feet or more) and spreads to create a dense hedge or screen. It also provides bold vertical interest in landscape beds or in the contained space between two driveways. Unfortunately, this plant becomes invasive so it’s not recommended for all landscapes.
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Alternatives to Golden Bamboo
Golden bamboo is an invasive plant in many areas of North America, particularly those with tropical climates. Spreading by a series of underground stems, it quickly grows beyond the original growing location. Fast-growing and easy-to-grow golden bamboo may be sold at local garden centers. Before purchasing, check with your local Extension service about the invasive status of golden bamboo in your area.
If golden bamboo is invasive in your region, consider planting a noninvasive ornamental grass instead. 'Northwind' switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) has thin blades and a bold upright habit. It grows 4 to 5 feet tall. 'Karl Foerster' feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora), which has showy seed heads in late summer and fall, is another native grass to consider. It grows 3 to 5 feet tall and has showy seed heads in late summer and fall.
Caring for Golden Bamboo
Golden bamboo grows best in full sun and rich, moist, well-draining soil. Dig a hole as deep as the plant's container and twice as wide as the root ball. Place the plant in the hole, then backfill with soil mixed with mulch. Water deeply. Subsequent waterings should keep the soil moist but not soggy. Space golden bamboo plants at least 4 feet apart to accommodate future growth.
Install root barriers around these perennials when planting them in the landscape unless you are prepared for infinite spread. Or plant each one in a large plastic pot sunk into the soil so the rim of the pot extends 3 to 5 inches above the ground. This will prevent golden bamboo from creeping into the surrounding soil.
Avoid spreading altogether by planting golden bamboo in a container at least 24 inches deep and wide. The pot should be made of wood or unglazed terra cotta with drainage holes at the bottom. Place the pot on a sturdy, impenetrable surface, such as a concrete, that will prevent the ground from being invaded. After planting, cover the soil surface with two inches of mulch to help it retain moisture. Water a potted golden bamboo three times a week during the summer, more often if the temperature reaches 90°F. (In other words, don't let the soil dry out.) Following the manufacturer's directions for dosage amount, fertilize once a month with 17-6-2 slow-release fertilizer. Water thoroughly after fertilizing.
Getting Rid of Bamboo
Golden bamboo is tough to eradicate once it is established in the ground. Be persistent. Cut plants as close to the ground as possible. Watch for new growth and repeat cutting several times during the growing season as necessary until underground rhizomes die. Chemical herbicides are occasionally effective, too. Follow application directions carefully.