Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Bamboo Ranch

Part 1 of a 2 Part Series on Bamboo

What would your garden look like if you just planted bamboo? Ever wonder the space it would create?  I asked myself this question last year as I began planting bamboo around the gardens.  I did a lot of research on bamboo and made the decision to plant Buddha's Belly Bamboo. It was a beautiful variety and today it grows and makes a bold statement in the garden.  I had heard of a home that fell in love with bamboo and were so passionate about this plant that they started growing it. People saw their garden and began asking where they could buy bamboo. And so began Tucson's very own Bamboo Ranch....  This place did not disappoint in the least. Their home is surrounded by a shroud of bamboo forest.  It had so many varieties of bamboo growing all over the property that it was hard to distinguish one from the other. However, the owners have everything you need to know about bamboo and will walk with you around their property to point things out.                         

Bring a list of questions before you go as the owners will go over a lot of information with you.  We were given a pad and paper to write down varieties of bamboo that we may be interested in purchasing.  Bamboo, by the way, is bigger than you can imagine.  There are smaller varieties, but even then, they are still pretty big.  In the picture above, you will see the difference between the running and clumping varieties. The left, the running bamboo, is more hollow while the right, or clumping variety, has a thicker culm.  The runners are great for areas that you don't care about or an area you want filled fast.  It can be invasive and most people think ALL bamboo is like this.  However, it is not.  I believe the majority of people in Tucson prefer the clumping varieties over the runners.  It was explained that because of our clay soil; it's not really all that invasive....but be warned:)

 Ever wonder what it would look like if you planted your garden with only bamboo?  Look here as the sun is blocked by this forest of green sticks.  I will say that bamboo encourages mosquitos to hang out longer in the fall.  If you plant bamboo, make sure you have the space.  It makes a great screen from the neighbors and during the summer it does require a little extra water.  However, if you have grey water, direct it to your patch of bamboo and see what a difference it will make:)

Tucson Botanical Gardens

Bamboo will rise to the occassion above your trees. It loves sun and I find it does better on the west side of our home. In shade, it will grow slowly.  The first year, your bamboo won't do much, but in your second year, you'll see it double in size. By the 3rd to 5th years, you will notice thicker culms.  It is considered a grass and should be fed twice a year with nitrogen.

A bridge over a wash creates a magical space. Your garden space can be transformed into a tropical wonderland.  People say that bamboo is not native to Tucson and they wouldn't be completely wrong except that there is a bamboo native to the Sonoran desert known as the Mexican Weeping Bamboo.

Bamboo galore!!  Generally a 5 gallon runs 40 bucks at Home Depot or Lowes. However, at the Bamboo Ranch, you'll find a large variety of bamboos that vary in prices according to the variety you buy.  Generally, for a healthy batch of bamboo in the 5 gallon, it'll run you anywhere between 50-65 dollars while the 15 gallon pots will run you around 120 dollars.  Now that I know this place is here, I'll be returning for more in spring:)

Check out the culms on these stalks!!  Notice how some bamboo are more erect while others bow.....something to consider.

You can have your own forest within 5 years:)  Just beware....once it's in the ground and established, it can be difficult to get rid of......

Notice the size against human comparisons.....

Netting is only needed on the very hot side of the home when they are getting established their first year.  Once established they can take the FULL sun. 

For more information on purchasing bamboo, contact 520-743-9879 or email at
If you are interested in visiting the Bamboo Ranch, you will need to set an appointment up with the owners.  It truly is an amazing place with over 100 varieties of bamboo. As they say in their advertisement, it's your southwest source for bamboo!! You can see that they love what they truly was a great afternoon at "The Ranch"  Below are two websites.  One is for the bamboo ranch and the other was a link that shows you how tall bamboo can get.  Happy Gardening!!



  1. Bamboos are so resilient, and I think for the right oasis spot, they are perfectly appropriate in the desert. You are mild enough in winter you have more clumping species than we do up here another 3000'.

    I will read up more on their suggested irrigation methods; I am not picturing drip for large areas of bamboo (though sounds good on small areas), though the gray water idea sounds great.

  2. I love bamboo. They are beautiful. Some varieties can grow by inches or feet each day. I will only grow them if I have a few acres of spare land. Thanks for that photo that shows the difference between a running and a clumping bamboo. I learn something new.


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