How long will it take to grow a mature bamboo privacy screen in upstate NY (USDA zone 5)?
And am I free to grow whatever species I prefer?
Different types of bamboo grow at very different rates. They are members of the grass family and can shoot up quickly but may take a while to thicken out to create a privacy screen.
Of the clumping types of bamboo that have fewer problems for you (and your neighbors) with spreading invasively, Fargesia is the most cold-hardy genus, which is what you will need in a cold winter area. It grows rapidly but will take about ten years to be fully mature and four or five years to become dense enough to create full privacy. The rate of growth will also be affected by whether the growing conditions are ideal for the plant.
Not all species of Fargesia are hardy in your zone, so check with the nursery before you buy. Fargesia rufa is known for being very hardy and grows into a large round clump about 8 feet high and wide suitable as hedging or privacy screen.
In New York State, you are prohibited from growing only Phyllostachys aurea and Phyllostachys aureosulcata bamboos but different municipalities have their own restrictions as well. Contact your county's Cornell Cooperative Extension Office to ask for advice on local restrictions:
Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service
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