The Q&A Archives: Giant Bamboo Pests

Question: I have giant bamboo in my new yard. It has been very healthy (almost too healthy). Three of the new shoots have suddendly died. One of the largest has a bug-hole about 1/4 -1/2 inch in diameter. It is not dead, as are the other two. There appears to be black spots on the trunks. Do you have any idea what is happening. Also, the leaves on the bamboo seem to be dropping more than usual and also seem to be quite yellow. Suggestions? Ideas? Thank you. This is all very new to us. We do love the bamboo! and want it healthy.

Answer: Phyllostachys bambusoides, the giant timber bamboo, is a running bamboo with the potential to reach 35' in height, with 6" stems. It makes an excellent hedging screen, but can get out of hand unless the roots are contained or you place barriers around the bed. (To contain running bamboo so it does not crop up in unexpected places, install a barrier around the root, 1 1/2 feet into the soil. Poured concrete or strips of galvanized metal are effective. You can also plant running bamboo in large containers, such as bottomless oil drums or flue tiles, sunk into the ground.)

Bamboo is a giant grass, and is subject to the same ills - fungal and bacterial diseases, and insect infestations. The major insect pest of bamboo is the powder post beetle. Adults bore into the wood and lay eggs; the larvae feed on the inside of the cane and completely destroy the wood. The best control is to remove and destroy the affected wood. (Don't be tempted to save it and use it as support stakes in your garden!) Powder post beetles leave a very fine powder behind as they bore into wood. Black spots on the stems indicates a fungal disease, perhaps from poor air circulation within the clump. Applications of a copper-based fungicide should help control the disease. It's not unusual for the lower leaves to turn yellow and drop, but if the newest leaves are dropping, it might indicate too much or too little water, or a need for nitrogen. You can feed your bamboo monthly during the spring and summer growing season with a high nitrogen lawn fertilizer, applied at the same rate as listed on the label for lawns. Be sure to water well after fertilizing. Enjoy your new garden!

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