--- UPDATEs per feedback (from both StackExchange and Reddit) ---

a. Bamboo species is "clumping growth," not "running" flavor. We don't have concerns about it "escaping." Does this change any perspectives about the rhizomes warping the steel planters?

b. Bottom of all the planters is open, not closed.

c. The pictured planter is NOT the one where we're placing the bamboo.

d. Low-VOC paint, if any, will only be applied to the INSIDE walls of the planter.

--- Original post format, with above modifications ---

  1. Will large clumping-growth bamboo such as Graceful Bamboo (Bambusa textilis gracilis) warp or disfigure steel planters (see below) over a long period of time (think 10 or more years)? NOTE: the bamboo species will NOT be any of the "running" patterns.

  2. Do steel planters negatively impact the health of bamboo over time, especially when compared to cedar wood planters?

  3. Planter specifications: the bottom of these planters is open, not closed. The planters will be 3' (3 feet) tall, 2' wide and about 35' long. There will be significant internal bracing for said steel planters, similar or same to the planters shown in the photos below. The "Graceful" species has canes about 1" wide and can reach 30'+ tall, though I am not expecting this given the restrictions of the planters. They are currently 17' tall with more than a dozen canes in their containers (before being planted).

  4. Is low-VOC paint or similar treatments (see below) helpful to protect the INSIDE WALLS ONLY (we love the look of the rusted-steel exterior and will not paint over it) of the steel planter from contact with soil and plant roots? Will this paint prolong the life of a steel planter? Reiterating, the low-VOC paint/root block liner/polyiso foam is only for the interior of the planter. So the question is whether any liner/sprayed product would extend the life of the planter itself and thus be worth the added time/expense. Note: to match the other steel accents throughout the back yard, the planter walls will be vertical.

  5. The pictured planter below is NOT the one that will house the bamboo. The photos shown are simply to provide an example of what the planters will look like (although they will be in the same backyard as the photo-ed planters). The planters that will hold the clumping bamboo have not yet been built. And the bamboo planters will not be adjacent to the pool.

  6. Any other considerations to make in addition to the points above with regards to both long-term a) bamboo health and b) steel-planter structural integrity?

Geographic location: south-central Texas, USA.

Low-VOC paint:

Again, the following planters are EXAMPLE photos, and NOT the planters that will house the bamboo.

https://i.imgur.com/JE6ldCB.jpg enter image description here


1 Answer 1


Beautiful planter. Hope you leave it finished just as it is now.

A few points, one would be to completely remove the bottom panel. Even bamboo will suffocate immersed in water and mud. IS that a live oak? Love the fence built around the branch.

You could punch holes in the bottom of this planter but you would have to lift the bottom so there was a layer of air beneath to facilitate drainage. Your big tree would be compromised no matter what...weight above the roots, extra water possibly rot, the depth the tree's roots would be subjected to would essentially cause death of the roots beneath this planter...is it meant to stay right there?

What has been done about the installation of your hot tub? What foundation is supporting tub? Is that a jetted tub? How long ago did you install your tub? Could you draw a cross section of fence, tree, planter, patio with rough elevations? Access to service hot tub?

You obviously care about your tree. You are also in the shade of your tree? Shade isn't a bamboo thing, really. A beautiful sure fire solution would be a privacy screen, built from dimensional lumber similar to a fence panel.

Bamboo planted in a planter are nothing like bamboo in a forest. Forget worrying about deformation.

The trick to controlling the growth of bamboo is using galvanized metal pushed own into the soil a good two feet.

If you want to bury this planter or use it as a little water feature with fish and lilies or fill with potting soil for any type of plants, look into rhino liner to spray on only the parts under soil or water. Very cool stuff. We got rid of pond liner xtwo to make water tight water features (on some types of water features not all) spraying rhino liner, hired the rhino liner professionals to spray the real stuff... inexpensive.

Please don't paint this gorgeous finish. This finish is to die for in sunset magazine, so....professional...grins. seriously.

Update: Perfect planters for Bamboo...could not be better. Forget worrying about deformation. In 50 years something happened to the weld...then sue me, ha ha ha! I would plant those planters using a cheaper metal extending the walls of steel (galvanized roofing?) into the ground 2 feet, maybe 3'. That bamboo is a survivor. As long as you keep your bamboo fertilized correctly, watered consistently and it gets lots of sun...that bamboo won't be working very hard to escape.

When you've got bamboo coming out of the ground and it is an 1" thick that is pretty much the diameter it stays. I just learned this. You want a miniature bamboo forest not a real bamboo forest...(crouching tigers leaping lizards...what was that beautiful Japanese Movie where everyone is doing martial arts in the bamboo forests)? Planters are a natural way to restrict the growth and size of plants. Think of Bonsai. Miniature trees with fine texture with moss for ground cover make you think of viewing that Bonsai from afar. When you are in an outdoor room right next to your home, this 'trick' is important. Fine textures recede making the space larger, coarse textures come forward, get right in your face...making a space feel more intimate and human sized. Your bamboo is inherently fine textured. Great choice. Don't worry about thinking 50 years into the future; you should change the soil and plants for a new look every few years! Plants planted in planters and ornamentals planted in cultivated areas are always smaller than the same plants found in their indigenous habitat. Well, usually. Sometimes plants that normally are found in 'transition' having a less exacting spectrum of needs are able to thrive where most plants can not...these are great plants for humans to grow because of their flexibility, hardiness and forgiveness with mistakes. Take away the competition and these plants can become monsters...

There is Rhinoliner type stuff you can spray instead of the paint. You want something that will not be leaching chemistry into the soil of the planter. As long as you don't grow food crops that just is not a big deal...steel/oxygen = rust. Big deal. Iron.

There are products just for protecting metal from oxygenation; another spray on thing great for DIY protecting old rusting metal from more oxygenation. Just read the fine print for chemistry, call and ask the company for toxicity, get the MSDS Sheets on the product...

Cedar planters will last but a short short time in this application. Cedar has chemistry in the wood that inhibits decomposition and acts a bit like a waterproofing. Steel will outlast you and the next couple of generations you produce! Even rusting...

  • Thanks for all the compliments and tips! I updated the question to address general feedback from several folks. Live oak = yes. Bamboo will be in different part of the yard. No painting of exterior steel, for sure. Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 23:07
  • Your fence just as an aside, make sure there is no plant material, mulch soil OR concrete on that fence material. Or plan on replacing the fence within a few years. Send a picture if you are able to remember showing your planters, bamboo and I am assuming a nice, private patio. (Go check out Miscanthus sinensis gracillimus something like that). Another great soft hedge/privacy/vertical element that also 'moves in the wind'...a little known quality of plants, the movement.
    – stormy
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 0:08
  • indeed, that fence is the worst part of the backyard -- it came with the house, before upgrades we're making. We're definitely not going to make sure not soil, foliage, concrete, or any other construction material employs the fence as a border or support. Further, we plan to "hide" the fence with bamboo and vines. And we'll probably have to replace the fence sooner rather than later, too, as its wood is terrible. Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 2:03
  • Gosh, there is nothing wrong with that fence, especially because it has that dove gray patina. That is the only color for wood in the landscape. Matches gravels, boulders...highlights the beauty of plants, doesn't detract. That is the color you will find of all wood in the gardens of Japan, the tea gardens. Japanese Gardens are a lot more than Buddha or a concrete pagoda! Fascinating the science and expertise behind 'Japanese Gardens'...Gray is great. Perfect. They actually have stains that enhance the UV graying AND protect the wood...
    – stormy
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 2:27
  • Thanks again @stormy for all the detailed feedback. My interest in hiding the fence has little to do specifically with its color per se; rather it's more about the fence's undesirable aesthetic "match" with an ipe-wood deck in the same backyard. (There's a lot going on the property that you can't see in the photos.) In any case, thanks again! Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 9:06

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