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Starting Phyllostachys nigra ‘Henon’ seeds

Starting Phyllostachys nigra ‘Henon’ seeds

I received some bamboo seeds from fredgpops (another bamboo enthusiast from Bambooweb) last October and less than a week later, one of them sprouted. The seedling I got, was an offspring of Phyllostachys nigra ‘Henon’ bamboo. Sadly none of the regular nigra or Chusquea gigantea had germinated, I hope I can try again next year.

Young Phyllostachys nigra ‘Henon’ seedling

Sole survivor

The seeds I received were mostly empty, underdeveloped or damaged. I think that hungry birds already took care of them, before the seeds were collected. I expected at least some germination from the remaining seeds, but they eventually started rotting and perished. Some of the damage and poor germination could be the result of slow transport from The US to Slovenia.
One of the seeds, however, sprouted very fast and started growing vigorously from the early beginning. It doesn’t have any leaf coloration or other apparent characteristics that would make it look special.

3 months old seedling

Problem with mites

When the seedling was a couple of months old, I made a mistake and brought in some mite infected cuttings. Since the plants are somewhat congested under the grow lights, mites started colonizing the area. In only a couple of weeks, they were everywhere. The most hit were my Hibiscus rosa-sinensis seedlings which dropped leaves completely. The infected Nerium oleander cuttings got badly damaged as well. I sprayed the whole area and nearly killed my carnivorous plant collection in the process, but it seems that mites perished in the process.

Slow growth after a couple of shoots

After the mite infection, the seedling stopped shooting every couple of weeks and remained at 4 shoots it had before. As the seedling stopped shooting, I thought that mites caused it to suffer. As I noticed later, it wasn’t even slowing down – not at all. Most if not all Phyllostachys I’ve grown so far, and I’ve grown many, managed to put out numerous shoots at their juvenile stage, before they eventually started running and ceased to produce shoots. At that point, when the seedlings started running, they only produced whip shoots from the exposed rhizomes. They just wait for the spring to arrive to start their regular shooting cycle.


As I poked around the pot when I watered the seedling, roughly 3 months after germination, I noticed the first runner escaping far away from the initial clump on the edge of the pot. Since bamboo seedlings usually starts running at least a year after sowing, it came as a surprise – yet, I’ve seen the same thing happen with my Phyllostachys arcana seedlings before. As it seems, grow lights I use make a great difference and can really speed-up seedling’s development. Around a month later, less than 4 months old juvenile already colonized the pot with rhizomes and started to deform its plastic nursery pot.

Multiple runners trying to escape the pot

Another bamboo in my collection

From the point when bamboo starts actively running, its growth usually gets exponential. Bamboo effectively uses all the resources it can lay its roots on and if it feels comfortable enough in the given climate, starts rapid development towards the mature stage. If I find proper location with enough space and nutrients, I’m sure I can expect first 1cm+ diameter culms in less than 2 years. From that point everything goes even faster.

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Variegated Phyllostachys arcana seedlings 2020 update

Variegated Phyllostachys arcana seedlings 2020 update

Not a typical year

This year started normally, first shoots appeared in March as they always do. Then strange things started to happen. One of the seedlings (the most variegated one) stopped and refused to shoot until late May or early June, and even then, it only managed to produce a couple of thin shoots. Since it’s not overly shaded, the cause has to be somewhere else. I’ll try to get them into their final position as soon as possible! Other seedlings were acting normally. Compared to other Phyllostachys bamboos I have that also failed to shoot normally. Phyllostachys edulis ‘Moso’ for example shot small shoots when the first wave was completed, Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’ shot twice with one month pause between the shootings. Phyllostachys aurea waited until late June to even start shooting, which is way later than ever.

Regular green seedling on the left and variegated seedling on the right.

Upsize? – yes and no

I expected upsize this season, because bamboos are still in fairly juvenile state. One of the seedlings did grow thicker culms, but other bamboos remained roughly the same size. They did, however, produce quite a lot of new growth. With the exception of one that I mentioned earlier which took a year off.

Culm coloration

Culm diameter is now large enough to check how the culm variegation looks like. This time, it’s much more evident that there’s a fancy kind of striping all around the culm surface. Variegation of culms is similar to leaf variegation. At first it’s not as evident, but with time in a month or two, the color difference grows bigger and I expect the striping eventually to become even more pronounced. with larger number of shoots, there are more and more variations of the coloration. At first there were no culms with large, thicker striping, now they start appearing. They are far easier to spot than thin striped variegation which visually blends into a less dark green color, especially from afar.

Leaf variegation

New leaves on old growth (seedling #1)

Leaf variegation remained the same. First two seedlings are far more yellow and progressively receive more and more chlorophyll with each additional leaf. By he end of the autumn, some of the new leaves can appear completely dark green. The third seedling is a mix of similarly progressive variegation and part of it seems to have regular white striping on the dark green foliage. I’ll try separating these two visually distinct parts and check if they stabilize. Perhaps the seedling is chimeric.

New growth on one year old culms. Seedling #2

Leaves that start growing on last year’s growth have much more green from the beginning. They are not thinly striped like those on new shoots but have way thicker and well defined stripes. These leaves are usually less likely to show sun related damage.

Bamboo for a shaded location

Damage is not as severe as last year

As expected from last year’s experience, the dramatically variegated seedlings are prone to sunburn. Parts which are exposed to sun most of the day get damaged pretty quickly. The more protected leaves (shaded inside) and the western side of the clump show much less sunburn damage. The first leaves that appear are the most delicate as they are usually completely yellow. Luckily they fall off as soon as bamboo leafs out completely.

New leaves are really bright yellow

Despite evident leaf damage, they don’t suffer and rhizomes start crawling in all directions as soon as new shoots grow their foliage. It grows much slower than green version of the seedling, but still -they are quite aggressive. I have had some escapees already and I planted one into a container – unlike last year, it survived. Previously, it ran out of resources as its leaves were yellow and it couldn’t regain strength in time.

What now?

Leaf color contrast

Seedings reached the point where they started growing one into another into one mixed grove. I’ll have a hard time separating them, despite their distinctive features (I’ll have to separate all the roots thoroughly) when I plant them into their new location. At that point, they will have much more space and growth potential to further develop into mature bamboo plants. Hopefully I’ll manage to plant them this year.

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Phyllostachys arcana seedlings – shooting season 2019

Phyllostachys arcana seedlings – shooting season 2019

Early starters

First shoot on variegated seedling
First shoots started to emerge

Like each year since I’m growing the seedlings in their outdoor location, they started shooting before other bamboos. Fargesia Rufa started a week later and Phyllostachys pubescens ‘Moso’ seedling woke up 2 weeks after the seedlings.
Winter was mild and bamboos managed to get through it without much damage. Sun during the summer is much bigger threat to the variegated seedlings than winter weather. This year, we’ve experienced dry winter with little precipitation which made most of the bamboos I grow thirsty. Arcana seedlings were hit the most, since they are still growing in their raised beds with good drainage. Despite slight desiccation, seedlings kept the leaves without much visible damage. In early March first shoots started appearing on all but one seedling. By mid March the shoots started showing around all the seedlings. March 13th was their earliest shooting date so far.

Non-variegated seedling started shooting as well.

Nice upsize

Variegated seedlings showed stem variegation last year and I really hoped for a decent upsize, to make the variegation easier to notice. It seemed at first, that culm diameter won’t increase much, except on one seedling that started the first. They are growing many shoots that are around last year’s size and larger. Some should be almost twice the size. I’m sure they will look much better now. Variegated foliage is getting dense and it will finally shade out itself a bit. It needs protection from hot early summer sun, so I’ll try to help it with some additional shading as well.

First variegated seedling upsized quite a bit
First variegated seedling upsized quite a bit

Colorful shoots

Second seedlings shoot
Fast growing bamboo shoot

The shoots are still juvenile and need quite some time to start showing more mature characteristics. They all look arcana-ish, though. They also vary in colour a bit. The yellow culmed seedling has more reddish shoots, compared to all the darker ones. The two other variegated seedlings have darker shoots, but not nearly as dark as the shoots of green non-variegated plant which gets almost black. As the plants grow, the shoots started to turn a bit darker. Last year, the yellow culmed seedling pushed out only yellow shoots with a hint of red, now there’s some green on them as well.

Second seedling's shoots along the runner rhizome
Second seedling’s shoots. Nice upsize in both size and number of shoots.

The waiting game

Third seedling’s shoots

Variegated seedlings are slower to develop and it takes longer for them to mature. Last season, I could only check one of the seedlings for culm variegation, other two were too small to make a valid observation of green striping. This year, shoots on all the seedlings are thick enough and it will be interesting to finally see how they look like. It might be interesting to see if I can save the early set of yellow leaves. Last year sun scorched them before I could make a decent photo, but the bamboos looked fabulous. Sadly not for long.

First seedling upsized. Hopefully culm variegation will get more visible this year
Non-variegated seedling has dark shoots
nice upsize of variegated seedling
Nice upsize of second variegated seedling
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Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ seedling’s autumn transformation

Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ seedling’s autumn transformation

Winter is coming

Leaves become much darker in the fall
Leaves become much darker in the fall. On the photo: Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ seedling 2.

Tonight, we’ve seen snowflakes in the air for the first time this autumn. Before the arrival of winter and bitter below freezing temperatures, bamboos prepare and become hardier which makes them more likely to get through the winter unharmed. With first cold, all Phyllostachys bamboos started shedding some of their leaves to decrease water loss due to transpiration in cooler weather. Leaves also become thicker and coated with waxy protective layer, which also prevents desiccation.  The variegated seedlings had a lot of issues early in the growing season, but came out in excellent shape. They lost most of the damaged leaves from early summer and spring and ended up with new, mostly undamaged leaves. Sadly, some kind of fly destroyed most of the growing tips.

color change

Darkening of the foliage is evident.
Darkening of the foliage is evident.

Like expected, based on previous observations, leaves started changing their color in mid summer. First leaves were all completely yellow. Every following leaf got a bit more dark green color in the form of dark green striping. The last leaves that grew just before winter weather kicked in, started to look almost as green as the regular unvariegated seedling form. New leaves are also much less prone to environmental damage and should survive the winter intact. The gradual darkening also appears on the variegated seedlings culms. It seems that usually green variegation forms on sulcus, but can appear on other sides of the internode as well.

Difference between the two seedlings

Very bright yellow culm of the first variegated seedling. It does have some green striping which should become much more evident next season with an upsize

The most apparent difference is the culm color. I wrote about it some time ago and observations only became more evident as the shoots started maturing. The first seedling changed from lime green to bright yellow. There is almost no red tanning, but I expect it to start again in early spring and around shooting.  I’m not certain about the amount of culm variegation yet, since both the seedlings are still in young juvenile form. Based on last year’s progress, I expect them to upsize significantly. It should be interesting to see them develop.

Leaves are very similar on both seedlings and have the same type of progressive darkening. First leaves are all lime green or yellow and gradually start darkening. There seems to be a difference in how dark the leaves finally get, but it might be too early to tell for sure. It seems that the first seedling doesn’t get as green as the second one. It was also a little bit less prone to sun damage, which is quite strange, because it’s leaves were just as pale if not paler.

Second seedling often shows darker green coloration below the nodes
Second seedling often shows darker green coloration below it’s nodes

Second seedling has started with bright green culms and dark green striping. Sun tanning was extremely strong during early spring and it turned almost black on sun exposed shoots. With time it started fading to brown color with a hint of red. The lower parts that were not exposed to sun, changed from bright green to olive green color. Variegation of the culm appears on all sides of the culm, but is usually found as darker green sulcus. A lot of internodes have a dark green coloration below the node, some can extend further down as green striping. It is not as evident as green variegations of yellow culmed bamboos like Phyllostachys aureosulcata, at least not yet. Culm color might change a bit as the culms fully mature. Time will tell how they look like when they get there.

Darker green sulcus on yellow-ish olive green culm.
Darker green sulcus on olive green culm.

Variegated seedling in front and regular dark green form of Phyllostachys arcana 'Luteosulcata' seedlings
Variegated seedling in front and regular dark green form of Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ seedlings

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