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I have a boring grey northwest-facing-with-southwest-exposure concrete wall on my balcony, outdoors, in Vancouver BC, that I would like to turn into a lush wall of bamboo.

I have one container whose inside dimensions are 14cm × 81cm × 43cm deep (5½″ × 32″ × 17″ deep). The inside of it has been prepared with landscaping fabric, and the bottom is lined with metal cans to promote drainage and prevent rot. Holes in the bottom of the container permit water to escape.

Vancouver does not get very cold in the winter (temperature history), and these plants will enjoy heat emanating from the building walls, all year round.

This balcony is an alcove, rather than something that hangs off the side of the building. Sheltered, it experiences low winds. The building is concrete, and I would rate the load capacity of the balcony as functionally unlimited. There is a drain in the balcony floor for water runoff.

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  1. Which variety would you plant to grow a thick, tall screen?
  2. How would you prepare the growing medium?
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    is this container to be placed indoors or outdoors? What area of the world to do you live in? – kevinsky Jun 26 '13 at 12:30
  • Where you live matters, as Kevinsky has asked, but 'thick' will be difficult to achieve, whatever variety you choose. The narrowness of the container will restrict thickness. – Bamboo Jun 26 '13 at 22:27
  • I've added location details to the question! – steveluscher Jun 27 '13 at 18:08
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There are two issues here the container and the plant:

  • You can try Phyllostachys bissetii which is a runner type that is hardy to around -20 degrees celsius. It is shallow rooted and suitable for containers. The main problem I see is that this plant wants to be 16' tall (~3.5 metres). Unless you have an unusual balcony the plant is likely to be thin at the base and have all it's foliage at the top.
  • Any plant grown in a container should be at least one zone hardier than your planting zone as the roots will get colder than if they were in the ground.
  • Your container is quite narrow as the esteemed Bamboo has pointed out and this will make it hard to keep moist enough. Most balcony plantings suffer from excessive winds which dry them out.
  • moist wood rots, even cedar. You need to be sure that you have drainage holes at the bottom. Pool liner would be a better choice than landscape fabric to line the container.
  • containers are heavy. Be sure you will not be exceeding the load limits on your balcony.
  • when you water the plant where will the excess water go? If it could go over the side and down onto your neighbour's balcony you have a problem.
  • a typical soil mix for a container would include a higher percentage of perlite to decrease weight but it promotes good drainage so more frequent watering will be in order
  • Thanks for the ideas. To address your notes, I've added details about my setup to the original question. – steveluscher Jun 28 '13 at 18:25
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I'm just a little south of you in the Seattle WA area, and there are tons of options when it comes to bamboo that will thrive around here.

For planter use, I'd recommend a small clumping variety, like Rufa. It will be plenty hardy, can tolerate shade, and grows 7-10ft. You'll need to keep the watering up, at least until it is well established.

It would be a good idea to find a local nursery for some advise, as they will know your exact area, and can provide better recommendations. You can also try Craigslist or other classified's, there are often people thinning or removing Bamboo that you could grab for free.

In general, stick to clumping varieties. They tend to be smaller, can grow denser, and are easier to manage.

For some specific varieties: http://www.beautyandthebamboo.com/clumping.html

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