Fargesia murielae is widely considered one of the most attractive species of clumping bamboo, with a decorative canopy and lush, compact growth habit. Native to the mountainous regions of China, this cold-hardy and non-invasive species is a fantastic choice for containers and garden landscaping alike.
- Common name: Umbrella Bamboo
- Botanical name: Fargesia murielae
- Type: Clumping
- Average height: 10-13 ft (3-4 m)
- Average diameter: 0.5 in (1.3 cm)
- Hardiness: -20°F (-29°C)
- USDA zones: 5-9
- Light requirements: Partial shade
- Best use: Privacy screen or hedge, ornamental, container, crafting
Fargesia murielae was first identified by British plant collector Ernest H. Wilson in the Hubei province of China. He came across it around the same time as his daughter’s birthday, Muriel Primrose. To commemorate the event, Wilson requested that the new bamboo species be named after her.
While many clumping bamboos are tropical, Umbrella bamboo is cold-hardy, making it an excellent non-invasive choice for the North American grower. Plant it in a pot for decoration, or plant several in a row to create a beautiful and effective screen or hedge.
What does Fargesia murielae look like?
Umbrella Bamboo looks similar to its cousin, Fargesia nitida. What sets it apart are its slender, elegant culms that are yellow-green in color, with tan- or cream-colored culm sheaths.
Each cane produces an abundance of leafy branches with vivid, pea-green foliage. The culms have a tendency to arch under the weight of the leaves and branches, creating a pendulous, umbrella-like canopy.
Fargesia murielae rarely grows more than 13 feet (4 m) tall. If you’re looking for an even smaller plant, check out the ‘Luca’ cultivar. This dwarf bamboo grows to an average height of 20 inches and can be used as a short hedge, border, or even ground cover.
Ernest H. Wilson spoke of Fargesia murielae fondly, stating that ‘This bamboo is the handsomest I know with its bright golden yellow culms [and] arching plume.’ His opinions were still shared almost a century later and, in 1993, this species received the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.
What are the best growing conditions for Fargesia murielae?
Growing Umbrella Bamboo in your garden is not too difficult. This adaptable species can tolerate a wide range of temperatures and soil conditions. However, it can be sensitive to intense sunlight and hot, humid weather.
Fargesia murielae grows best in partial shade or dappled sunlight. This makes it a great choice if your garden doesn’t receive a lot of natural light, or if you have structures such as buildings and fences blocking the sun.
Your bamboo will be fine with a few hours of direct sunlight in the morning. However, avoid planting it in full sun or in a part of your garden that’s exposed to the intense afternoon sun, as this can make the leaves curl. If you want to grow Fargesia murielae in a tropical or hot climate, consider planting it in a spot that is shaded for most of the day.
Umbrella Bamboo prefers moist soil that’s rich in organic matter. However, it’s not too pretentious about the soil conditions your garden has to offer. It can tolerate clay soils, and although it grows best in acidic soil with a pH of 5-6.5, it won’t mind a neutral or slightly alkaline substrate.
To ensure healthy growth, it’s best to amend the soil in your garden before planting. Dig the soil to a depth of at least one foot, and incorporate plenty of compost, manure, or leaf mold.
If you’re growing Fargesia murielae in a container, plant it in a loamy, well-draining but moisture-retentive potting mix. You can use a combination of equal parts peat-free soil and humus or compost. You can also add some worm castings or slow-release fertilizer to the mix, to give the plant a nutrient boost. Avoid universal potting soil, though, as it’s usually peat-based.
Fargesia murielae is hardy to -20°F and will grow well in USDA zones 5-9. With some protection, it will also survive winters in zone 4. Just make sure to apply a thick layer of mulch to protect the rhizomes from the harsh cold, and your plant will grow new shoots in the spring.
This bamboo tends to retain most of its foliage throughout winter. In the fall, it will shed some of its older leaves from the bottom of the canes, but overall it will maintain its evergreen looks.
Like other Fargesia species, it doesn’t tolerate hot and humid environments particularly well. If you live in USDA zones 10 and higher, you may find that this bamboo will struggle to grow in your garden.
How to care for Fargesia murielae
When grown in the proper conditions, this bamboo doesn’t require much maintenance. It rarely suffers from pests or diseases and, because it’s a clumping species, you don’t need to worry about containing its spread as you would with running bamboo.
Umbrella Bamboo requires minimal pruning. In the fall, you can remove any wilted branches or old, dried canes. If the clump gets too thick, you can also prune some of the thin, bare canes below soil level to improve its looks and make room for new shoots.
Like other types of bamboo, Fargesia murielae has a monocarpic life cycle and only flowers once every 80-100 years, after which the species dies off. You can prune the flowers early on to slow down the process, but you can’t stop it entirely.
What makes its flowering pattern even more unique is that it’s synchronous with other bamboos of the entire species! Since Fargesia murielae last flowered in the 90’s, it’s therefore not expected to flower again until around 2085.
Watering and fertilizing
Water your Umbrella Bamboo regularly, especially in hot weather. This species doesn’t tolerate drought, which can cause sudden wilting and stunted growth. In the summer, you can use mulch to keep the soil cool and help retain moisture.
Feed your bamboo throughout spring and summer using a nitrogen-rich fertilizer. You can use organic fertilizers such as blood or bone meal, or liquid seaweed. Always check the instructions on the package for more information on dosage and how often you need to feed your bamboo.
How to propagate Fargesia murielae
The easiest way to propagate this bamboo is through clump division. In spring, dig out the soil around the clump to expose the rhizomes. Use a saw to cut a piece of rhizome with a cane attached. Trim the top of the cane until you’re left with a 2-3 node culm, then transplant it into a pot or a sheltered part of your garden.
Your new bamboo plant will take about three years to become established, after which you can repeat the whole process again.
Common pests and diseases
Fargesia murielae is a pest-resistant species that doesn’t usually suffer from serious problems. It’s resistant to deer, as well as most pests. Plus, it’s virtually disease-free, which makes it a very low-maintenance ornamental plant.
In early spring, keep an eye out for slugs and snails. They will find the young, tender shoots to be a very tasty treat.
Aphids can occasionally be a problem in summer. Luckily, they’re easy to get rid of by using a mild insecticidal soap solution.
Uses of Fargesia murielae
Fargesia murielae is particularly popular for its ornamental value. The yellow-green culms have decorative appeal, but the highlight of this plant is its lush foliage and dense clusters of leafy branches. As the plant grows, the canes and branches will start to bow outwards, giving this bamboo the elegant look of a weeping willow.
Due to its fast growth rate and compact size, this bamboo can create a gorgeous privacy screen. It’s also easy to prune into shape, which means that you can use it to create an evergreen ornamental hedge.
Despite their thin looks, the canes can be very sturdy. You can use them for decorative purposes or handmade crafts, to make reed fences or mats. They also make excellent trellises or teepee-shaped supports for your climbing or vining plants.