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Mr. Smarty Plants - Replacement for running bamboo in California

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Monday - May 20, 2013

From: Paso Robles, CA
Region: California
Topic: Shrubs, Trees
Title: Replacement for running bamboo in California
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

We currently have running bamboo planted next to the side our house facing West, which has provided wonderful shade in front of two large windows. However, because it is running bamboo we are afraid it may damage the foundation or pool and want to remove it. I'd like to replace it with something else - could be potted - that will grow quickly and stand up to the extreme afternoon sun and offer the same type of shade as bamboo. We live in zip code 93446, with cold winters and very hot summers.

ANSWER:

It is a good thing you are doing removing the running bamboo.  For one thing, bamboos are not native to North America and what we are all about here at the Wildflower Center are native North American plants.  The running bamboos also tend to invade and take over and are difficult to control.

As a replacement, I am assuming that you want something evergreen.  All of the plants listed below are native to your area and are evergreen.  I've listed several sites for information on each plant so that you can make your own decision about which one to use.

Prunus ilicifolia (Hollyleaf cherry)  Theodore Payne Organization says that it is slow to establish, but then fast to grow.  California Flora Nursery says that it is tolerant of heat, drought, wind and oak root fungus.

Heteromeles arbutifolia (Toyon) is evergreen with showy red berries.  According to bewaterwise.com it tolerates "full sun or partial shade, heat, smog, wind and heavy or light soils."  Theodore Payne Organization says that it is fast-growing.  See more information and photos from Las Pilitas Nursery.

Ceanothus cuneatus (Buckbrush) is evergreen with showy blossoms, but attractive foliage without blooms.   Theodore Payne Organization reports that it has moderate growth and it dense.  Here is information from Las Pilitas Nursery.

Juniperus californica (California juniper) is evergreen and withstands heat and drought.  Theodore Payne Organization says that its growth rate is slow.  Here are photos and more information from Las Pilitas Nursery.

Quercus durata (Leather oak) grows 3 to 10 feet and forms dense thickets.   It is, however, slow-growing.  Here is more information from Las Pilitas Nursery and photos from CalPhotos, University of California-Berkeley.

Frangula californica [synonym=Rhamnus californica] (California buckthorn of Coffeeberry)  Here is more information from Las Pilitas Nursery and more information from Theodore Payne Organization.  Note that there are several varieties listed for sale. Here are photos from CalPhotos.

Las Pilitas Nursery, located in Escondido and Santa Margarita, has a list, Plants for Central Oak Woodland, with plants native to your area that you can check for other choices.

 

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