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Dendrocalamus is a genus of very large bamboos native to India and Southeast Asia. Several species can top out at almost 100 feet (30 meters) at full maturity. These bamboos are traditionally used as a source of timber and building materials and they continue to be cultivated for this purpose. They can also be grown as ornamental plants and are highly effective for privacy screens and security hedges.
These particular members of the grass family have evolved in tropical regions with climates like those found in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) zones nine through 11. They need warm, humid conditions and are not frost tolerant. Dendrocalamus also requires very wet soil; in nature, the plants are often found alongside rivers and streams, and in the garden, they need to be grown in an area where they get ample water supplies. Partial shade is recommended for the best growing conditions, although mature plants can tolerate more sun.
Preferred soil for Dendrocalamus species is light to heavy loam, amended with compost or manure periodically to provide nutrition. The plants can be periodically trimmed to remove dead leaves and crowns and to encourage the bamboo to leaf out. These clumping bamboos can be propagated by digging up and dividing the roots. They will also readily propagate themselves if neglected and can become invasive if they like the soil conditions.
Gardeners outside the tropics can grow Dendrocalamus in conservatories or greenhouses with bright indirect light and humid growing conditions. It is important to select a conservatory or greenhouse with a high roof to allow the bamboo to grow to full height, or to be aggressive about trimming the plants to keep them from breaking through the roof. Indoor tropical gardens can use stands of these bamboos as specimen plantings and backdrops for smaller tropical plants. Other plants preferring humidity and having high water requirements are good companion plants for these tropical bamboos.
There are an estimated 29 species classified in the genus Dendrocalamus. Gardeners interested in cultivating these bamboos can obtain seedlings from nurseries and mail order catalogs; tropical plant supplies and companies specializing in bamboos are often the best resource. It is also possible to ask other gardeners for divisions or cuttings. Due to the sometimes invasive nature of bamboos, it is advisable to think before planting, as the plants can be difficult to eradicate if a gardener decides they are unwanted later.
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