What should I do about canes that died this winter?

A visitor to our website writes:
Hi Sherry, I live in Lakeland, Florida and have really enjoyed viewing your web site. Your photo pages are very helpful in trying to determine what varieties I’ve been growing.

I have about 10 clumps of what I believe is “Golden Hedge” Bambusa multiplex alphonse karr that I’ve planted from diggings over the last 20 years & it looks great and has been very low maintenance. People who visit my 1 acre property are always amazed when they see it!

We also have a single clump of “Giant” Bambusa vulgaris (I believe) that I purchased about 13 years ago. I really enjoy the tall green canes with their large leaves.

This plant had 2 or 3 small canes on it originally and over the last 4 years it has grown only one cane really fast each summer.

This Giant is usually affected by the freezes that we get each year at the top half.

But this January my family & I were camping at the “Alafia River Rendezvous” during the latest freeze and unfortunately were not home to take any measures to protect the plants.

So now my Giant is brown all the way to the ground.

My question, Sherry is should I cut the Giant canes at the ground or just clip the small branches? It looks bad & I feel like I’ve neglected it.

I’m sort of in a hurry to see some kind of growth activity.

In the past when freezes affected just the top half, it seems like most of the growth on the canes stayed down in the lower half with just minimal signs of life up top.

I’d greatly appreciate any advice you can give and I do plan on visiting your nursery “one of these days”.

My response:
Bambusa Vulgaris, better know as Giant Bamboo, is one of the more tropic-loving bamboos and, therefore, is more susceptible to temperature dips than more cold-hearty specimens. Even in a normal Central Florida winter we would expect some leaf loss and possible cane die-back with this particular bamboo.

This winter was anything but normal. I'm not surprised that even a mature plant like you have got killed back. Our Vulgaris bamboos suffered cane loss too. The good news is, by the end of the summer Giant Bamboo - your and ours as well - will be beautiful again!

All bamboos, including cold-sensitive plants, regenerate from the roots. The cold may kill the canes but it never kills the roots. Any day now you should see some young, thin shoots sprout at the base of the existing dead canes. Initially, the canes will be rather short and leafy but by the time summer comes along larger, taller shoots will have emerged. By the end of the summer your stand of bamboo will look better than ever with large diameter, tall canes bigger than the ones that died.

If it is too much work to cut down all the dead canes, you can leave them. Woodpeckers will drill holes for nests and in the breeze, dead canes will clack against each other and make nice sounds. Don't feel bad about the dead canes. Even if you had been home there would have been nothing you could have done to protect a tall, mature Vulgaris from freezing temperatures.

If you do decide to cut and remove the canes, cut them as close to the ground as you can so your grove will look neat and tidy.

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