If you’ve ever happened upon a feathery patch of Foxtail Bamboo or Chilean Bamboo, it likely took your breath away! These whimsical ornamental plants are varieties of a bamboo species called Chusquea culeou, a hardy bamboo native to South America.
Chusquea culeou makes a great choice for a hedge or privacy screen, or as a stand-alone ornamental clump. If you’re fortunate enough to live in its ideal growing conditions, Chusquea culeou can be fast-growing and quite easy to maintain once established.
Quick facts about Chusquea culeou
- Common name: Chilean Bamboo, Foxtail Bamboo, Culeou, Chilean Weeping Bamboo
- Botanical name: Chusquea culeou
- Type: Clumping
- Average height: 16-20 ft (5-6 m)
- Average diameter: 0.75-1 in (2-2.5 cm)
- Hardiness: 0-15°F (-17°C)
- USDA zones: 8-9
- Light requirements: Full sun or partial sun
- Best use: Ornamental, privacy screen
Chusquea culeou originated in Chile and Argentina, which is why it’s often referred to as Chilean Bamboo or Chilean Weeping Bamboo. While its South American origins may suggest that it’s a tropical bamboo species, Chusquea culeou actually prefers a more temperate environment with cooler evenings.
This evergreen, clumping bamboo is highly unique due to its solid culms, unlike most bamboo varieties which have hollow culms. There are several popular varieties of this bamboo species, including Foxtail Bamboo, Chilean Weeping Bamboo, and Caña Prieta. These varieties are prized for their fluffy foliage, drooping canes, and reddish culms, respectively.
Chusquea culeou is famously cultivated in the UK and Scotland and has only recently been grown in the United States. Unfortunately, while they can be very fast growers, they are notoriously slow to propagate, which makes them a bit more challenging to come by. Make sure to check your local bamboo nursery or online for availability.
What does Chusquea culeou look like?
Chusquea culeou is an ornamental clumping bamboo with feathery soft, dark evergreen foliage that can have either an upright or a weeping appearance, depending on the variety. The culms of Chusquea culeou range from yellow to olive green, typically with white sheath, making for a beautiful contrast.
The culms of all Chusquea bamboo species are uniquely solid, making them strong but also flexible due to their diameter, which typically averages around one inch. When mature, they have a very dense, bushy appearance, making them ideal for hedging and privacy, but also ornamental due to their delicate fluffy appearance.
How to grow Chusquea culeou
Your success in growing Chusquea culeou will first depend on your location. If you have the ideal environment, then this type of bamboo grows very fast and can be prolific with minimal maintenance. If conditions are less than ideal, you can still grow this bamboo, but you may need to give it more attention to ensure it thrives.
Chusquea culeou prefers being planted in full sun, but it will tolerate dappled shade, particularly if you live in a climate with hot or dry summers. The mature height of your Chusquea culeou depends on how much light and humidity you can give it, with full sun resulting in a taller, stronger plant.
Ideally, Chusquea culeou prefers summer temperatures around 80°F (26°C) with an evening cooldown to 70°F (21°C). Chusquea culeou grows best in USDA Zones 8-9, but you may find success growing them from Zones 6-9 with some adjustments in planting and care.
In the winter, Chusquea culeou prefers temperatures no lower than 5°F (-15°C), though it can tolerate the occasional drop to 0°F ( -17°C). Wind tends to be the biggest concern in the winter, and care should be taken to shelter your bamboo plants from cold, northerly winds.
On the flipside, Chusquea culeou will start to suffer if temperatures are consistently above 100°F. In hotter climates, make sure to plant this bamboo in partial shade and provide a layer of mulch to keep the soil cool.
Chusquea culeou is not picky about the type of soil you give it as long as it is well-draining. It will be perfectly content in sandy, loamy, or even heavier clay soil as long as there is good drainage.
Ideally, add in some organic material when first planting your Chusquea culeou. You can also mulch around established plants with compost or leaf mold to provide extra nutrients and maintain soil moisture. As for soil pH, Chusquea culeou can handle mildly acidic, neutral, or mildly alkaline soils, but avoid extremes where possible.
If you’re not sure what pH level your soil has, you can simply test it with a tool. It’s the easiest way to find out if you need to work on your soil before planting your bamboo.
Keep the soil consistently moist to keep your Chusquea culeou happy and thriving. If your bamboo is well-established and mature, it can tolerate occasional drought conditions but try not to extend those drought periods. If you live in a warmer climate, adding at least a one-inch layer of mulch to the top of the soil will help keep the soil moist and cool.
How to care for Chusquea culeou
Once you’ve established your Chusquea culeou in the right environment, caring for this bamboo is quite easy, as it generally doesn’t experience too many problems and is considered relatively low-maintenance.
While pruning your Chusquea culeou isn’t always necessary, you can remove weak, damaged, or dead stems at any point or during the springtime. The primary benefit of doing this is to keep your clump of bamboo clean and tidy-looking.
After a few years, the foliage may grow unruly. At this point, pruning may be desired for aesthetic purposes or to increase airflow between plants.
Common problems and pests
The biggest problem when growing Chusquea culeou bamboo is maintaining moderate temperatures, particularly near the roots. This means that planting your Chusquea culeou directly into the ground will ensure less struggle than planting it in a pot or container.
Moreover, the delicate weeping foliage of Chusquea culeou prefers some humidity. To prevent dry spells from resulting in dead foliage, spray or mist the plants occasionally with a garden hose.
Aside from that, Chusquea culeou is highly resistant to pests and diseases. It’s notably resistant to honey fungus and the dreaded verticillium wilt. As Chusquea culeou tends to be grown in humid climates, adequate airflow is key to preventing fungal growth. This can be achieved with occasional pruning or thinning of the plants.
As for pests, slugs and snails are the most common pest you may encounter if they run rampant in your garden. You can protect your bamboo from slugs and snails by using a barrier of diatomaceous earth, as long as you repeat the treatment after heavy rainfall.
Uses for Chusquea culeou
Chusquea culeou is primarily used for ornamental hedging or privacy hedging since it has densely packed foliage that is feathery and beautiful. But did you know that you can harvest the young shoots for cooking and eating?
People have also found Chusquea culeou useful for making spear handles, musical instruments, and even furniture. The culms are solid but also flexible, making them a very versatile material for crafting and building.