Fargesia nitida grows natively among forests in China, to be found growing on mountain slopes and at elevations just over 3,000 metres, this is a hardy species well suited to cooler climate zones.
A versatile bamboo, particularly as you can plant it out in an area with dappled partial shade. As this is not a large bamboo, it is clump-forming, and it can also do very well in containers.
Common names include: 'Fountain Bamboo', 'Chinese Fountain Bamboo', and even ‘Blue Fountain Bamboo’. Although I can gather that unless the plant is healthy and has a mass of foliage to weight down the branches it may not appear as fountain-like but more upright in stature.
Spread up to 1m (3.3 ft.) to maturity and matures quite fast, with a clumping growth formation.
Average height of 3 metres (10 ft.) but 4 metres (13 ft.) is possible in ideal conditions.
Maximum culm diameter: 1.5 cm (0.6 inches).
The thin culms of Fargesia nitida are a dark purple in colour, sometimes so dark they can be described as purple-black, and produced in a dense clump of growth topped by arched foliage. On maturity, new culms emerge erect through the foliage each year until full height is achieved which on most bamboo takes around ten years.
The overall appearance is graceful with somewhat arching branches that can result in a weeping outline. This is probably why it has become commonly known as ‘Fountain Bamboo’.
Short narrow leaves more of a grey-green colouring 5cm long by 1.5cm wide (2 inches by 0.6 inches). Note that the slim leaves have been known to grow longer, up to 9cm.
Hardy to minimum temperature of -29°C (-20°F), zone 5
To retain the dark colour of purple of F. nitida it is recommended to plant in semi shaded areas so they do not suffer from direct sunlight which can affect the colour resulting in fading. Don’t plant in deep shade though; you won’t achieve the same distinct ornamental cane colour. If possible to set in light shade but still with a light background behind the plant, you will get the best effect from the darker culm colouring.
For hedging, plant out with around 1m between plants (3.3 ft.).
For solitary planting, give a nice bit of space around it to show off the culms and form.
Container planting is also suitable. Choose a light coloured pot to show off the dark stems.
Fargesia nitida has relatively recently flowered, in the 1990s, and a lot of the plants now on offer are seed grown, you can safely assume there is no likelihood of it flowering again for a very long time, maybe even a hundred years. I gather that there may still be some flowering as recently as 2011 so make sure you get a seed grown plant.
Traditional uses include building lightweight fences and hurdles, basket weaving, and making sieves. The canes can be harvested for lightweight plant supports but I would wait for it to be fully mature before cutting out canes.
In gardens it can be used as an outdoor pot grown plant, in the semi shade of a woodland type garden, and as a low windbreak or noise reduction planting. As mentioned above, to get the nice purple colour canes plant in semi dappled shade, not full shade and not full sun.
Fargesia nitida ‘Ems River’
Fargesia nitida ‘Jiuzhaigou’
Fargesia nitida ‘Wakehurst’