Everyone wants and loves black bamboo, that is everyone but the people who bought the wrong kind of black bamboo and had it take over their yards or die during the first frost. The truth is that black bamboo is spectacular when its in the right setting. That's why its good to know the differences between the types of black bamboo before you buy, and definitely before you plant.
Black is a color and not a type of bamboo. There are several varieties of black bamboo and yes there are both clumping and running varieties. They each have there own very unique growing conditions and they are not interchangeable.
The 2 major differences in black bamboo are either clumping or running. Clumping bamboo like its name suggests, forms tight clumps and don't extend more than a few feet away from where they were planted. we call this type of bamboo, bamboo that behaves. We love clumping bamboo because it does what is expected of it with no huge surprises. Running bamboo on the other hand will take over whatever size area it can. it is common for running bamboo (if not properly contained) to take over an entire city block! This is definitely not my idea of behaving!
There are 3 known varieties of clumping black bamboo, which are:
Bambusa Lako - Common name: Timor Black, Black Lako - This one grows about 15' in pots and works this is a beautiful clumping variety and the most popular and best landscape black bamboo. it is absolutely amazing and looks great in the TROPICAL landscape. No the cat did not step on the caps lock button, ALL clumping black bamboo is tropical, and all of it will die to the ground at around 28F. If it just gets 28F for a few hours it might come back with new shoots next year, but if it gets to 28F for more than a few hours, your black bamboo will be dead! It is a shame because everyone wants this plant, and hardly anyone lives in an environment where it can be grown outdoors. Dont worry, I have some solutions and suggestions coming up.
G. Atroviolacia - Common Name: Java Black, tropical Black - This is another clumping black bamboo, but it is a good bit bigger (at 70' overall) and somewhat less upright than the black lako described above. Atro as it is called for short has a very similar minimum temperature as the lako black and frost should be avoided at alll costs. You can tell Atro from Lako by the nodal bands, or the rings between the bamboo nodes. Lako has black think bands and Atro has thick white bands. Atro is much more of a flat black bamboo where Lako is much more of an eggplant purple/black color.
Black Asper (betung hitam) - Common name- Black Asper - This is the big one at over 100' when grown in ideal conditions. This is a black version of the famous Asper bamboo and is absolutely amazing but extremely rare and extremely cold sensitive. I tried growing this one in SW Florida and the occasional cold spells were too much for it. this is a true collectors bamboo and is way to big for the landscape (unless you have acreage).
Running Black Bamboo - I only know of one major variety Phyllostachys nigra. This is an aggressive running bamboo and must be contained. this bamboo takes the cold down to about 5F and prefers a real winter to go dormant. This is a nice landscape bamboo if you have the ability to contain it. Not preferred for the tropics.
Let us help you choose the right bamboo for you. I am a professional grower of over 60 varieties and am right here in SW Florida, serving the bamboo community since 2002. If you need any help choosing the correct variety, dont hesitate to call Scott at 8554769420