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Bamboo Health Issues

A well tended bamboo has few problems from pests or disease or at least that has been the case here for the last twenty three years. Here are problems I have observed.

Spider mites. During dry warm periods spider mites multiply rapidly. They are tiny. They rasp into the underside of leaves sucking out plant juices. Take a white piece of paper and hold it under a leaf then tap or shake the leaf. If you look close you may see black or red specks. Those little things are the mites. A hard rain or a blast of water from a hose knocks them off. By the time they climb back up on a leaf their life cycle has ended. Bayer and Ortho make systemic products which make a bamboo leaf unattractive to them. Doing nothing has worked for me.  Natural predators reduce infestations to manageable levels. Find these products at Lowes, Home Depot or garden supply stores.

Mealy bugs. Sooty mold at the node where branches come out is a sign of Mealy bugs. Ortho and Bayer make systemic insecticides which defeats them. Mix according to the bottle instructions and apply to the soil near the plant and/or on the leaves in early Spring and later in Spring when plant growth is noticeable. Reapply if the problem does not go away. This also gets rid of scale. Ants tend mealy bugs protecting them from predators so as to harvest more of the honey dew they secrete. When you notice ants traveling up and down you bamboo culms you likely have mealy bugs. Spreading ant killer near the base such as Amdro exposes the mealy bugs to natural predators such as the ladybug beetle called Mealy bug Destroyer. It has a red head with a black body.

Scale. Scale are small upside down bowl looking creatures that suck juices out of bamboo and many other plants. When wearing gloves I rub up and down a culm cleaning the culm of these pests. The systemic insecticide for Mealy bugs also kills off scale and various other occasional pests. All of these creatures excel at reproduction. Still a well tended bamboo is not much bothered by them. At least that has been the case here. Follow the instructions above and on the bottle.

I have used the Bayer Tree and Shrub insect control on potted bamboo with success. I squirt the mixed fluid in the pot soil using a back pack sprayer in the early Spring and again about four to five weeks later. It knocks down both Mealy bugs and scale considerably. I have not used this for any bamboo in the ground. My observation is that the multiplex bamboos are most affected by these pests.

Other problems are occasional fungal spots on the leaves which I ignore and I have heard about but not experienced here Bamboo Mosaic Potex Virus. I rarely buy new bamboo from other bamboo gardens which helps me not catch the latest new pest.

Our property grows a variety of host plants which serve as home base for beneficial insects. Those are the good guys that feast on the nasty plant eating pests. I have purchased mealy bug destroyers and other beneficial insects but only when I believe our environment will allow them to over winter and become a member of the local creature community. My host plants include Confederate Rose, Yarrow, various herbs, Shrimp plant, dill, butterfly weed, marigold, zinnia and golden rod. Also important I use chemicals only as a last resort and then sparingly. When you spray far and wide you kill off your beneficial insect friends.

Again a well tended bamboo seldom has health issues.