A “Living stick”, is a culm of running bamboo that has had its root system altered in a way that prevents it from producing additional rhizomes or shoots.
Living sticks will never grow into a grove. They won’t produce a hedge or screen. It will for the rest of its potential 7 to 10 year lifespan remain a single culm of bamboo. It will remain the same height and diameter as well.
Living sticks are popular in Japan. They are planted in small gardens where spreading is not desired.
Now living sticks are pretty useless for most growing applications here in our northern climate. If it top-kills, it can’t return from its roots as a normally functioning bamboo plant does.
Where living sticks have a purpose is in large indoor planters such as those found in some hotel lobbies and certain other indoor growing situations.
The reason that they serve a purpose in these areas is because it reduces maintenance for interior designers and landscapers. There are no advancing rhizomes to control and no new shoots to remove.
A fully functioning bamboo root system will expand to a point that it can burst even larger indoor planters, or even push up through cement floors in some indoor bed configurations. Rendering the root system of a living stick incapable of spreading eliminates these risks.
While a bamboo plant with a fully intact root system can potentially live for 60 to 100 years, a living stick is limited to a potential 7 to 10 year lifespan. After that time it will need to be removed and replaced.
The fees associated with repotting, pruning, and other root maintenance requirements are saved and more than compensate for the need to replace living sticks when their life cycle is over.
Living sticks, while not suitable for outdoor use in northern climates, are the way to go for indoor landscaping in lobbies, foyers, and malls.
Varieties of bamboo most often chosen for living sticks are the more ornamental colored ones such as Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Aureocaulis’, ‘Harbin’, ‘Harbin-Inversa’, and Spectabilis’.
These varieties can be mixed with dark green species such as Phyllostachys nuda to make a very strikingly colored arrangement.
Situating these plants under well lit sky lights or in front of south facing windows with direct sunlight is key.
They should also be situated out of the path of any direct air flow from heating and cooling vents, as not to lead to foliar dehydration.
Winter temperatures below 70°F or even below 60°F if possible is best for these varieties. Think of them as very large cool house plants. Too warm of winters can exhaust them.
A reduction in watering during the winter as daylight hours shorten is also beneficial and will prevent root rot in planters.
Some leaf drop can occur as daylight hours shorten. Leaf change will happen naturally as with most plants.
These potted bamboo plants should be fertilized with balanced fertilizers. Organic fertilizers are best, but diluted chemical based fertilizers may also be used. A ratio of half recommended strength on a once a month schedule is okay, but more minor doses with each watering is better.
Ordering living sticks – Unless differing requests are made, the bamboo plants we offer for sale are fully intact and we make sure they are capable of producing new growth before sale. Living sticks are available only by special request for an additional fee due to the extra care and work involved in their production. If you require living sticks this request must be made prior to your order being dug.