A unique and rare bamboo, Phyllostachys angusta is both useful and attractive, making it an excellent choice for your garden! Its thick-walled culms hold up well in snow, are great for crafts or DIY projects, and make wonderful privacy screens.
- Common name: Stone Bamboo
- Botanical name: Phyllostachys angusta
- Type: Running
- Average height: 20-25 ft (6-7.6 m)
- Average diameter: 1.5 in (3.8 cm)
- Hardiness: -5° F (-20° C)
- USDA zones: 6-11
- Light requirements: Full or partial sun
- Best use: Windbreak, privacy screen, crafting, edible shoots
Phyllostachys angusta is a bamboo native to the tropical regions of Eastern China, introduced to the United States by the explorer Frank N. Meyer. Like other bamboos of this genus, Phyllostachys angusta is a running type of bamboo. Despite its commendable height, however, it’s actually one of the shorter species of Phyllostachys bamboo.
As the name suggests, Stone Bamboo has thick-walled culms that make them valued for bamboo furniture-making and other crafts. Its culms are also one of the reasons that Stone Bamboo is a good option for temperate climates, as they will remain upright even under heavy loads of snow.
Phyllostachys angusta is also known for being one of the first bamboos to sprout new shoots in the spring, which happen to be excellent for eating!
What does Phyllostachys angusta look like?
As uncommon as it is beautiful, the hardy Phyllostachys angusta has beautiful shoots which emerge a lovely cream color, marked with black spots. As the culms mature and lose their protective sheaths, they turn olive-green in color. The strong culms grow straight and tall, despite being one of the shortest species of Phyllostachys bamboos.
When mature, a stand of Stone Bamboo is almost impenetrable. Not only are the culms themselves like stone, but the stalks branch low, making for a dense hedge or privacy screen. The long, yellow-green leaves grow densely, providing excellent shade on a hot summer day.
How to plant Phyllostachys angusta
When preparing to plant Phyllostachys angusta, make sure to choose a partly-shaded location that receives 4-6 hours of sun daily. Stone Bamboo isn’t particularly picky about soil types, so unlike other bamboos, you can plant it in rocky soil and it will do fine. That said, it will do best when grown in rich, damp, well-draining soil.
Soil pH for Phyllostachys angusta should range between mildly acidic to mildly alkaline. You can easily test the pH of your soil with an at-home kit.
At the time of planting, amend your soil with some organic fertilizer or compost to make sure that your young bamboo plants have enough nutrients to grow a strong root system. This is especially important if you’re transplanting young bamboo shoots or plants started from seed.
You can try growing your own Phyllostachys angusta from seed, though seed can be difficult to come by given the periodic flowering habits of Phyllostachys bamboo.
How to care for Phyllostachys angusta
Luckily, Phyllostachys angusta is not a very needy bamboo, and will survive both droughts as well as heavy loads of snow. Like other kinds of running bamboo, however, you’ll want to add some kind of barrier to make sure your Stone Bamboo doesn’t spread too far and become invasive.
As Stone Bamboo is a fast grower, you should expect to prune it frequently to contain it as well as manage its appearance. Remove old and ailing culms to help maintain the overall health of the plant and improve airflow, especially as the grove matures.
As with other bamboo plants, you can alternate pruning rows of culms to thin the grove in a way that’s hardly noticeable. Because the culms of Stone Bamboo are so strong, they don’t break easily, and you may need to use a saw to prune or remove old culms.
As Stone Bamboo is native to a tropical climate, it prefers humidity and moist soil, especially when grown in a container. For Phyllostachys angusta grown in the garden, water at least once a week or more, depending on the weather.
Generally, it’s best to water when the top 2 inches of soil feel dry to the touch. Water deeply, allowing the topsoil to dry out before watering again. Luckily, this species is quite drought tolerant once established, so it’s okay if you forget to water it every once in a while.
Pests and diseases
While uncommon, Phyllostachys angusta can be prone to some pests in warm or humid climates, especially if the soil is allowed to remain wet for prolonged periods of time.
In particular, garden slugs may come to snack on the juicy leaves and young shoots. Keep an eye out for these pests and simply remove them by hand when you find any. If your bamboo grove is affected by a mite infestation, you can use an organic miticide to get rid of them.
Fortunately, Stone Bamboo is not commonly affected by many diseases. If culms appear damaged or ailing, simply prune them to prevent the spread of disease.
How to use Stone Bamboo
Due to its strong culms, Phyllostachys angusta has been used for centuries to make bamboo furniture and other crafts. But it’s great for more than just crafting. Phyllostachys angusta makes for a dense privacy screen, and its cream-colored shoots can be harvested for eating.
Harvesting Stone Bamboo shoots
Bamboo shoots have been harvested for culinary purposes for ages. While not all bamboos have shoots that are good for eating, the Phyllostachys genus is known for its delicious and sweet shoots.
Harvest new bamboo shoots in the spring when they are around 1.5 inches in diameter and no more than 12 inches tall. You can boil, steam, stir fry, or pickle the shoots to eliminate their natural bitterness and make them safe to eat. Bamboo shoots are very high in minerals and protein, and are great when added to a stir fry!
Crafting with Stone Bamboo
The hard, stone-like culms of Phyllostachys angusta have been used in China to make bamboo furniture for centuries. But as you can imagine, its uses extend far beyond just furniture.
You can try making other items such as gates, fences, garden trellises, garden planters, canes, and even toothbrushes. Bamboo is naturally moisture-resistant as well, making it a great choice for kitchen, bathroom, and outdoor uses.