Its no secret that in Florida, ficus is in decline. Specifically, whitefly decline. For the past decade or so, homeowners throughout Florida have been fighting a losing battle against whitefly infestation on most Ficus shrubs and hedges. Once ficus hedges begin to show signs of decline from whitefly infestation,you have two choices, fight it with expensive, and harmful chemicals or replace it with something Florida friendly.For those wanting something as unique as it is beautiful, clumping bamboo could be your answer.
Many homeowners and landscape professionals have found Florida friendly clumping bamboo to be the ultimate fast growing ficus replacement. Clumping bamboo is the well behaved cousin of the notorious running bamboo varieties infamous throughout the Northern United States. Where running bamboo takes over entire areas forming its own grove after years, clumping bamboo stays where you plant it and grows in a tight clump (similar to Areca palms). You could expect a mature bamboo clump to grow full size in just a few years. It will eventually reach a maximum height and overall clump size ranging in size from 4-6 feet wide depending on the variety. There are several varieties of clumping bamboo that are suitable for using as ficus replacements. When selecting a clumping bamboo variety to replace your ficus keep a few things in mind. With over 1200 cultivated varieties bamboo offers privacy solutions in every size and shape, from 4 foot to 40 foot!
Below are a couple of bamboo selections that work well to replace ficus:
For smaller size hedges consider one of the many multiplex bamboo varieties. Multiplex bamboo can be groomed into a short bush from 4 feet to around 20 feet. This variable family of bamboo has several cultivars or cultivated varieties from its shortest, fernleaf stripestem @ 5', to its tallest, Alphonse Karr at 25'. the best thing about clumping bamboo is how easy it is to control its height.Once growing bamboo is cut it will not grow any taller. this means that controlling the height of any bamboo is as easy as cutting it once at the desired height, then for the rest of the culms life, it will not grow any taller. this makes bamboo a lot easier to take care of than similar clumping trees and a lot less maintenance than areca palms.
For medium to tall hedges i like seabreeze bamboo. Seabreeze is a clumping bamboo that has attractive foliage that comes all the way down the stalk and provides privacy from the top of the clump all the way down to ground level. This makes seabreeze bamboo the ultimate privacy bamboo. Seabreeze can be spaced anywhere from 6 feet apart to make a screen to a tight hedge at 4 feet apart. Expect seabreeze bamboo to take around 2-3 years to really fill out, but after that time you will have an attractive, low maintenance tall hedge that requires none of the work of ficus. Large ficus hedges cost thousands to maintain annually, Clumping bamboo stays put and once a culm is trimmed it stays at that same height for the life of the culm, this means one trip on new growth is all that is needed.
For smaller hedges under 15 feet, I like any of the multiplex family of bamboo. This includes from smallest to largest: stripestem (around 10'), fernleaf (20'), Silverstripe (25') and Alphonse Karr (25'). Most multiplex are green cane, pencil bamboo, named because the canes are commonly used for pencils in China. The exception is the Alphonse Karr cultivar of multiplex bamboo. This variety is yellow with green stripes on its canes. Alphonse karr is one of the most popular hedge bamboo varieties and in a great privacy screen planted with adequate space in between, or cna be an amazing tight boxed privacy hedge when planted tight and properly maintained.
I grow and help people with their bamboo selections on a daily basis. Give m a call (my phone number is on the top of the page) or comment below and i will gladly help you select the right bamboo variety for your particular application.