12/22/10

Is it normal for bamboo leaves to turn brown?

A customer who bought bamboo from us before the recent cold snap wrote to ask: 
Is it normal for the bamboo to brown in the winter?  All but the Golden Hedge now have brown leaves, following some rather bitterly cold nights we had last week and the week before.  The stalks still look basically the same.
 
Just wanted to see if something’s gone wrong.  I did avoid watering before the coldest nights for fear of freezing the roots, but otherwise they should have received plentiful water.
 
I replied:
You haven't done anything wrong.  The unusually cold weather has "burned" the leaves on many of the bamboos.  Those leaves will be falling off in the coming weeks and new leaves will form to take their place.  For information on which bamboos are most vulnerable to winter temperatures, please click on this post

10 comments:

  1. the stems of my two large potted bamboos are green but the leaves are all dead! will new leaves come from existing canes or do i need to cut them right back and wait for new shoots? its such a shame as they are lovely tall plants
    thanks
    Linda

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    Replies
    1. If the culms (stems) are green, it means your bamboo is still alive and new shoots should be sprouting soon. New leaves might also regrow on the ends of the canes but I have to wonder why the leaves all died? Are you giving your potted bamboo enough water? Remember that potted plants dry out quickly and therefore need to be watered more frequently than bamboo planted in the ground. Also, are you adding fertilizer? Container-grown bamboo need regular applications of a time-release high-nitrogen fertilizer to help them grow healthily.

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  2. I planted six golden goddess 8" root ball clumps in May of 2013. They took off and each grew about 2-3' last year. We have had a mild winter in Kansas City and now they are ALL light brown (stems and leaves) and appear dead. Will they return to green this spring or should I plan on replacing them?

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    Replies
    1. Golden Goddess is very hardy but it is still a tropical bamboo and cannot survive if temperatures dip below 13-15 degrees. If it got that cold (or colder) in your area this winter, it probably killed all the above-ground parts of the plant. You probably lost some, if not all, of your canes and leaves from the freezing temperature but hopefully, the roots should be fine and will rebound in spring. Please keep us informed on how the plants do as the weather improves. If they don't come back, please consider a running bamboo instead. Running bamboos do well in cold climates while clumping bamboos, even hardier ones like Golden Goddess, are meant to grow in climates that do not suffer severe winter temperatures.

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  3. My large bamboo is brown all the way down the stalk till about 5 inches or so from the soil, can I cut it down and will it go back?

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    Replies
    1. Yes, you can cut it down but that cane won't grow back. The way bamboo grows is that every year during the warm months, bamboo produces new canes. How many new canes depends on the soil and water conditions, the age of the plant and the weather. If your bamboo was killed back because you planted a cold-sensitive variety in an area that gets cold weather, you might want to consider replacing that bamboo with one that is more appropriate for your location.

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  4. Hi, We had a horrific winter in PA last year. My very sturdy bamboo-some about 9 ft high are ALL light brown/hay colored. Have I lost them for good? I am so upset-I have been growing them for about 7 years as a cover across the back of my yard. Thank you for any help you can give... Judi Z

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    Replies
    1. Despite the rough winter, it's likely that your bamboo will recover as the weather warms. The existing brown canes may have been killed by the cold but new shoots should appear as they do every year growing just as tall as the previous years' growth.

      Sometimes, severe winter temps can cause a normally cold-hardy bamboo like you have to suffer more than usual. Since this past winter was such a tough one, you may not get as many new shoots this summer as you usually do. I'd suggest spreading a thick layer of compost, manure or other high nitrogen soil amendment around your bamboo. Since it suffered so much this winter, you want to do everything you can to help it along. Improving the soil will help add important nutrients. If it a dry spring, irrigate and mulch. Doing those things will help your bamboo recover.

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    2. My bamboo is basically in the same condition as the above comment. I also live in eastern PA, where we had a very severe winter. I've had it for years...almost 40 years in some places, and never before did it turn this brown. I used to see some leaves turn brown and everything came back as the temperatures grew warmer. But now I'm really worried.

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    3. I was recently in western MA where I also saw brown leaves on running bamboos that normally withstand winter temperatures. At this point you need to wait and see if new shoots appear. Since your 40-year-old grove is so well established, I think there's a good chance the roots survived and will produce new canes this summer. If they do, those new canes will quickly grow as tall or taller than the previous years' growth. You should, however, cut down at the base the old canes. If you don't do it now, it will be much harder to do later. It would also help to spread compost and/or manure and mulch after you cut down the dead canes to feed the plants and encourage more growth. Please keep me posted. I'd like to know how the bamboos fare as summer progresses.

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