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What is Fargesia?

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  • Written By: Deborah Walker
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2016
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Fargesia is a non-invasive, clumping type of bamboo native to southern and south-western China's alpine forests. It is also known as umbrella bamboo, dragon's head bamboo, green panda, and fountain bamboo. Fargesia has small-to-medium sized canes averaging one-half inch (about 1.27 cm), and dark green leaves. It is often used in landscaping as a hedge, screen, or ornamental plant. Fargesia is a cold-hardy, low-maintenance bamboo that resists many diseases and pests.

This type of bamboo has two growing periods, early spring and mid-summer, in which new white-and-green checkerboard-patterned culms, or stems, sprout. Flowering occurs about every 100 years, after which the plant will die. Depending on the cultivar, fargesia's full height can be 6-20 feet (about 1.8-6.1 m) and its spread 4-15 feet (about 1.2-4.6 m). It can grow up to three feet (0.9 m) in a single day, and reaches its maximum height in about two months. Fargesia prefers filtered sunlight, fertile, well-drained soil with a neutral pH level.

This type of bamboo is often used as a screen, hedge, as an accent to water features in landscaping. Fargesia works especially well in small areas where a dramatic focal point is desired. This plant tends to have an arching or weeping umbrella-like appearance, which is quite different than the usual straight screen or hedge. Individuals who prefer a straight screen can trim the culms up to 50%. This removes some of the weight and allows the bamboo to spring back into an upright position.

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Fargesia does best in cooler areas and can tolerate temperatures as low as -25 degrees Fahrenheit (-32 degrees Celsius). It has been known to grow at altitudes up to 10,000 feet (about 2048 m). It thrives in United States Department of Agriculture hardiness zones four to ten. It does not do well in hot or humid conditions.

Maintaining the plant is fairly simple. It requires water two to four times per week from late spring through fall. Fertilizer rich in nitrogen should be applied once in the early spring and once in the middle of summer. Pruning the culms is not necessary, but doing so will not hurt the plant.

Fargesia is susceptible to aphids, sooty mold, and the oriental cane mite. Common pesticides may work on aphids and sooty mold but aren't very effective against the oriental cane mite. Cutting down the infested plants and burning the cuttings is one of the only alternatives to getting rid of the cane mite permanently.

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