This native Chinese clumping bamboo is robust, upright, and taller than other Fargesia species. For this reason, Fargesia robusta makes a great choice for creating a dense privacy screen.
- Common name: Campbell’s form
- Botanical Name: Fargesia robusta
- Type: Clumping
- Average height: 12-15 ft (3.5-4 m)
- Average diameter: 0.75 in (1.9 cm)
- Hardiness: 0°F (-17°C) – Will not survive in high heat/humidity
- USDA Zones: 7-9
- Light requirements: Partial shade or light sun
- Best use: Privacy screen, ornamental, container, crafting, edible shoots
What are the characteristics of ‘Robusta’?
Fargesia robusta is a tall and robust bamboo with green culms. Unlike other species of the Fargesia genus, it grows more upright and can handle the sun better. That’s where it got its name from – it’s more robust than F. nitida or F. murielae.
In late spring and early summer, the whitish leaf sheaths and the green culms impart a beautiful dual-color. It is making the landscape look appealing with this rather checkerboard look.
When fully mature, it has light green culms with dense green foliage. During early spring, the new shoots will have a hairy texture and appear reddish when emerging from the ground. During the early growth, the culm sheaths will persist but the color will fade to an almost light grey/white.
In the right environment, the shoots of Fargesia robusta will have a prolific growth, creating an impenetrable clump. The short and narrow leaves are glossy bright green on the upper surface and dark greenish/gray on the underside.
In addition, the plant is much more tolerant of the sun than other Fargesia species, which ensures that the leaves will not curl up. Fargesia robusta is also drought tolerant and during the cold winter months, its foliage will be retained intact. When fully mature, the bamboo is aesthetically pleasing as a fence, screen, or a tall hedge.
Because of the clumping nature, this bamboo is not invasive. It naturally grows as a clump with a diameter of 3-5 feet but the clumping can be reduced by growing it in the shade. In ideal conditions of low shade and/or sun, the fully grown cane will measure about 15 feet (4.6 m) with a diameter of 0.75 inches (1.9 cm).
What are the best growing conditions?
One of the remarkable features of Fargesia robusta is that it is relatively easy to grow.
What temperature & climate does it prefer?
Fargesia robusta will thrive in USDA Zones 7-9. The lowest acceptable temperature is 0°F (-17°C).
This Fargesia species can tolerate both extremes of heat and cold, without compromising its growth. However, the bamboo is best grown in mild shade or the afternoon sun.
In the typical hot weather found in the southern USA, Fargesia robusta will require some shade or the leaves will fade and the growth will be restricted.
While this bamboo can be grown in many places in the US, it is best suited for the Pacific Northwest, which offers both a similar climate and geography that is found in Sichuan, China (its origin). Fargesia robusta can withstand frigid winters, snow, and even windy conditions.
Unlike other Fargesia species, Fargesia robusta has the ability to tolerate a lot more sun. However, it should not be grown in the face of continuous strong light, like in the southern USA, because this will cause the leaves to burn and restrict growth.
This bamboo grows best in moist soil that is rich in nutrients. It can even be grown in sandy soil or heavy clay as long as it is provided with ample water and good drainage.
It is a good idea to ensure that the soil is fertile and rich in nutrients. Read more about soil & fertilizing bamboo here.
Planting F. robusta
Because Fargesia robusta can make an excellent screen, the plant should be spaced 3-5 feet apart. This space will fill up in 12-24 months. If you want a lighter tall hedge or fence, you can even increase the spacing. The time to fill up space will take 3-5 years. The bamboo will take at least 8-10 years to reach its maximum height of 12-15 feet (given it is grown in the best climate).
The bamboo is first grown in compost with the regular addition of liquid fertilizer during early spring. The first new shoots will emerge in late August or early September but will remain bare during autumn and winter. These new shoots will have a reddish tinge that is covered with a white sheath. In early April, these shoots will start to form small glossy green leaves.
During the winter season, the leaves will curl up to reduce stress on the roots. Once spring arrives, the leaves will be restored to their original open shape.
Plant care tips
To ensure good growth and an aesthetically pleasing plant, here are some plant care tips for Fargesia robusta.
Even though Fargesia robusta is easy to maintain, it still requires regular pruning to keep the aesthetics. Pruning should be done twice a year: during spring and at the end of summer. All damaged and weak stems should be carefully cut. If the bamboo growth is very dense, it may need thinning.
While flowers may appear attractive, it is important to trim them. The reason is that flowering requires an enormous amount of energy and this can lead to growth retardation of the cane. When pruning is done regularly, it will reflect the beauty of this bamboo.
After planting the bamboo plants, you should water very frequently. If the dry periods are prolonged, it is highly recommended that you water it even more. When the plant has established roots and you get somewhat frequent rain, it should be sufficient.
Sheaths & mulching
One thing, you’ll have to regularly do is cleaning up the sheaths unless it doesn’t bother you. Once they get very dry, they’ll peel off the canes and fall down. Sheaths are a great way to insulate the roots (think of it like mulch). It also keeps moisture in the ground. However, it may not be aesthetically pleasing. You can mix them in with the soil or add a layer of mulch instead.
Diseases & safety
Fargesia robusta is a hardy plant that is resistant to disease. However, in very wet and humid weather, slugs and mites may be attracted and need to be removed to prevent damage to the new shoots.
This species is deer-resistant. The risk of allergies to humans is minimal.
Best uses of this Fargesia species
Fargesia robusta is a very versatile bamboo with many uses. It is most often used as a screen but can also be used as a tall hedge or fence. Because of its height and tolerance to wind, it is ideal for any landscape that needs a screen. The bamboo can also be grown in a circle to reshape the landscape.
Finally, the culms can be used as decorations, ornaments, gazebo covers, and plant holders.
The shoots of Fargesia robusta are edible although they are very small. Make sure to prepare them properly in order to get rid of the cyanide. Read more here.