Winter is not quite over, with morning low temperatures down at -5°C and I saw the first shoots on all of my Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ seedlings. I planted them into a raised bed and covered with a transparent PVC cover so I could protect it from freezing temperatures during the winter. When the temperature dropped too much, I piled up snow on top to insulate the bed as much as possible. It now seems it worked perfectly. During the winter, the soil got frozen on several occasions, but it didn’t seem to bother the seedlings much. They were showing first signs of dehydration, yet none of them shows any signs of frost related damage. In fact, they look way better than they did when I was overwintering them inside. They struggled each and every winter, except their first year as tiny seedlings.
First shoots in mid March
None of the bamboos started shooting this year yet, not even the fastest shooter I have, Fargesia Rufa. I was pleasantly surprised to see the first shoots on arcana seedlings, even though they were protected. The shoots are small and there’s no way to tell what kind of upsize is to be expected, but they are here! It could be, that they started during the fall and had now decided to continue with their growth. I doubt it, because all the autumn shoots were whip shoots and these are regular spring shoots (still juvenile). I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Hoping to see an upsize
So far, none of the Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ seedlings had shown their parent’s striped culms. I have two vigorous unvariegated seedlings that are going to become at least pencil size thick this year. I’m sure if there is any culm variegation, they should start showing it by now. There are also 3 variegated seedlings that will be interesting to see developing. They are showing quite a lot of differences, even at their current juvenile phase. I’m very interested to see their culms color. It now seems that one of them is going to have yellow-ish culms with an orange tan. I have yet to see if the orange colour persists with age, or is it just a sunburn pigmentation that will eventually fade out.
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A word about first overwintering of variegated seedlings
Winter is finally coming to an end. Days are getting longer, snow has almost melted and mild spring-like temperatures are on our way. This winter was quite cold with temperatures down to -16°C and strong north-eastern wind that emphasized the windchill index. Luckily, we’ve also had quite a large amount of snow during the cold weather. It was not hard to protect bamboos using snow this year, so I expect minimal damage on my larger bamboos, moderate damage on my Moso seedling and no damage on my Phyllostachys arcana seedlings. I can only hope we don’t get hit by severe freeze in late spring like we did the last few years. It did not affect the bamboo much, so I’m more worried about other plants and fruits around the garden.
I’m keeping my variegated seedlings in a raised bed. To keep the bamboos protected, I covered the whole thing with a PVC tunnel. It did OK throughout the mild first part of winter, but as it got really cold, I’m not sure the seedlings would be able to survive without better protection. Lucky for us, the polar blast brought some snow, so I was able to pile it up around the raised bed. There was enough snow to cover the bed completely. Later, we’ve got quite a lot more snow and tunnel finally collapsed under thick snow cover. When the worst was over, I removed the snow and found the seedlings completely unharmed. They were in better shape than I hoped they would be. I hope to see a decent upsize this spring. Last year, there were hardly any new shoots, all of them seemed to be survival shoots. They managed to grow long rhizomes in all directions, though, so I expect them to upsize… eventually.
As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, Phyllostachys arcana seedlings finally started growing rhizomes this summer. Due to hot and dry weather, many of my bamboos suffered from mild drought, but overall, they liked this summer.
The vigorous seedling
Extremely active and aggressive seedling which started running before it was 6 months old didn’t grow much this spring. During the early summer, it only received a couple of new shoots. It’s planted in a bucket, which made it suffer during the dry weather. Occasionally, when I was not around, it got completely dry. When I watered it, it bounced back, but it lost most of the growing tips. It was somewhat pale during most of the summer, so I didn’t expect much. When weather cooled down, I noticed a hole in the pot. Rhizome broke the thick plastic. At that point it was the first time I saw that the whole pot already got deformed, and it was clearly visible that there’s a lot of rhizome activity inside – bucket was bursting!
Until recently, highly variegated seedlings of Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ were not nearly as aggressive as other, non-variegated seedlings. It seems that most seedlings I started from the Luteosulcata seeds, run with extreme force. I placed the variegated seedlings into raised bed and they loved it. With early autumn, rhizomes also arrived. It is evident, that all the seedlings have rhizomes which love to travel above ground before plunging back into the soil. That makes them really easy to find. Two bright variegated seedlings have very similar leaves and variegation, but they don’t share the rhizome color. The slightly older seedling’s rhizomes are yellow, with only just a notch of green. The other one has dark green rhizomes, similar to the color of regular green seedlings. The same applies to shoot color as well. None of them shows any kind of specific sulcus coloration.
Seedlings that survived the winter outside
I left a couple of weak bamboo seedlings outside, planted in my raised bed. I did not have the will and energy too get them inside and prepare them for the winter. As these were the weakest seedlings, growing in deep shade of my chili plants, I decided I could try their winter hardiness that way. If they would have perished, I would know I need to take care about the remaining plants with more effort. They not only survived the winter untouched, they started running at least as aggressively as my most aggressive seedling at comparable size. Rhizomes are much thicker than those from the overwintered bamboos and they seem to travel even further away. Based on their happiness and vigor, I decided to keep all my variegated seedlings outside this winter as well. Hopefully they will be equally hardy and the winter will not be too hard on them.
The remaining neglected seedlings
I have a dozen or so more seedlings that are inside smaller containers. They were neglected and stayed alive, but remained small – the size of 2 month old seedlings. Their resilience is kind of striking, they were almost completely dried out, frozen, growing in deep shade, bright light and in the end, grass had overgrown their pots. I was thinking about planting them somewhere for a while to help them get going, but I’m really tight on available space. I’ll need to do something about that, but in the meantime, I’ll just try keeping them alive. They don’t die easily though, they are the opposite of Phyllostachys pubescens – Moso bamboo seedlings. Those often die off from no apparent reason just if you look at them the wrong way.
Keeping my 3 variegated Phyllostachys arcana ‘Luteosulcata’ seedlings inside during last winter, caused seedlings to decline. The older seedling that was once larger, hardly managed to survive the winter. At first, they seemed healthy, but they all got some kind of mold infection soon, which didn’t have any visible effect on their vigor, yet they started to decline as they stayed inside for too long. When I planted them outside, their leaves recovered and mold issues stopped, but they refused to start shooting.
A few words about the weather
This year we’ve had a cold spring with severe late freezes. Cold did not harm the variegated seedlings, but the infected moldy leaves fell down. I suspect the much brighter sun fried them completely. New leaves were healthy until later in the summer. Summer brought very warm weather without much precipitation. Temperatures rose up above 38°C a few times and stayed above 30°C almost the whole summer. I planted the seedlings into raised bed, which made them suffer drought a bit more, despite frequent watering.
Heat stress resilience
During first half of the summer, all the seedlings managed to cope direct sun exposure extremely well. I expected the two highly variegated seedlings to have issues with bright light conditions, because I’ve seen last year how their leaves tend to bleach due to sun exposure. Until mid June, there was no damage on any of their leaves. They looked fascinating, despite the fact that they never started shooting and all the leaves and branches were the result of growth that was initiated inside. As summer progressed and sun reached the highest point in the sky, leaves of both bright variegated bamboo seedlings started getting bleached. The strength of the sun was just too much for them to handle. At the same time, we’ve had temperatures above 35°C, which only added some additional stress to the plants. The leaves of all the seedlings curled during the heat and watering didn’t help much. They were not able to supply enough water to replenish the water lost due to transpiration. Over all, heat and sun related resilience was good. I am impressed.
In mid summer when the heat was hardly bearable, drought kicked in. Constant wind and very high temperatures started to show first signs of damage on the leaves. Daily watering was not enough to keep the soil wet, but even when the soil dried out, bamboo seedlings got enough water from deeper roots. When the seedlings mature, I expect them to fare drought even more. In the end of the summer, leaf tips stopped drying. At the same time I noticed they were not sitting idle during the summer. They were producing, a lot!
The dark green variegated seedling
The darker green variegated seedling that was the largest and nicely variegated while I kept it inside, had lost the variegation almost completely. It looks like bright light position makes it greener and shady indoors conditions under grow light caused it to become variegated. I may try moving it into a shaded position or I’ll just divide it and plant it into different locations. It is the only seedling that did not start shooting until late August. There’s one more thing I need to mention about this Phyllostachys arcana seedling – it did not grow any taller. Now it looks like some kind of ground cover bamboo with many tiny culms that only reach 20 cm or so. It all happened when I watered it with an Aspirin solution as I experimented with salicylic acid to combat mold infection. Possible cause could also be the lack of dormancy. I’m quite certain it will start growing next year.
As the summer fell into second half in early August, I have noticed that two highly variegated seedlings started running. Runners started crawling in all directions, often getting to the surface and plunging back into soil again. The seedlings are still small and the rhizomes are also tiny, but the fact that they started spreading with such vigor is very promising. It will be interesting to see them start shooting the next spring when they hopefully start upsizing exponentially.
Winter is coming… eventually
When the warm part of the year ends, I plan to keep them outside in my raised beds. I will cover them with PVC tunnel and hopefully they will like it as much as a couple of tiny all-green seedlings last year did. They are now spreading vigorously, producing quite thick runners. I’ll somehow get rid of those in the spring, to make room for the variegated seedlings. I expect them all to recover even further after they get through their first dormancy.
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