Hardy Clumping Bamboo
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What is Hardy Clumping Bamboo?

Clumping bamboos can be planted without fear of them spreading beyond their assigned territory. Their rhizomes, the underground stems, are quite different than those of our timber and other non-clumping bamboos. Instead of a horizontal spreading rhizome, they are u-shaped making new culms next to the original plant, spreading only a few inches per year, hence the name clumping bamboo.

Clumping bamboo are defined as having a non-invasive rhizome structure (known as pachymorph rhizome) which differs from the better known –and sometimes feared—running bamboo (leptomorph rhizome). Clumpers form a tight cluster of gently arching culms extending from a relatively small root mass. Each underground bud pushes upward forming culms, and do not become long running rhizomes. Instead, clumping bamboos grow outward in a circular formation at a modest pace of 2 to 12 inches per year. Canopy growth is also relatively slow, usually gaining a couple feet of height and width annually. Height range at maturity is between 10 and 20 feet for most species. There are some exceptions; tropical and subtropical species can reach 50 feet or more in the US, given hot, southern climates.

We have a special affection for hardy clumping bamboos. We believe these plants will help overcome popular fears about bamboo, and pave the way to its acceptance as a significant addition to the landscape as well as its incorporation into our culture. Bamboo Garden is on the forefront of introducing new and exciting species of clumping bamboo into the United States and promoting their multitude of uses. Though many are new to cultivation, clumping bamboo are gaining recognition for their landscape value as low maintenance alternatives to the larger, more vigorous, running bamboos. Fargesia sp. ‘Rufa’, with plumes of feather-like foliage, provide a wonderful accent to the small urban garden. Larger species, such as F. robusta, create dense evergreen privacy screens to over 15 feet. The gracefully weeping culms of Borinda angustissima and F. sp. ‘Jiuzhaigou’ support masses of tiny leaves with a delicate, airy texture. Outer culms can be topped to make the plant more compact and upright. New introduction F. sp. ‘Scabrida’ has outstanding colors: purple culms outlined by rusty-red culm sheaths contrasting with dark green leaves. Some species, such as F. nitida, are among the most cold hardy bamboo, surviving temperatures as low as negative 20° Fahrenheit.

Most thrive in a partial shade environment (depending on the climate), but there is enough variety to find a suitable clumping bamboo for just about any need. Our selection have special significance and unique qualities for the home garden or commercial landscape. We hope the pages of our website offer a new perspective of the possibilities and wonderful variety among clumping bamboo.

ATTENTION:  Most of the bamboo on this page prefer afternoon shade. For areas of USA such as the Midwest, Northeast, and East Coast, Hardy Clumping Bamboo require dappled sun to full shade or no more than a few hours of direct early morning sun. On the West Coast they can tolerate more sunlight, especially in mild coastal climates of the Pacific Northwest. For Southeast USA, where it is very hot and humid, try Bambusa multiplex or Bambusa ventricosa - see this link:  Cold-sensitive Clumping Bamboo
The most sun-tolerant Clumping Bamboo include:
Fargesia robusta,
Fargesia sp. Rufa,
Fargesia sp. 'Scabrida' and
Thamnocalamus tessellatus
but the amount of sun they can tolerate will depend on your specific climate (see above).

Fargesia (Far-gees-ee-uh) are very cold tolerant, shade loving bamboos from the mountainous region of western China. They can grow nearly anywhere in the USA, aside from Southern to South-East climate zones that are very hot or humid. They create beautiful evergreen hedges or "fountains" of delicate foliage. They will tolerate a fair amount of sun (depending on your climate) but prefer shade, especially during the afternoon hours, in order to look their best. Fargesia range from 8 feet to 16 feet, depending on the type. All are clump forming and typically do not spread more than 4-6 inches per year.

C. culeou and C. gigantea are native to Chile and are fully sun tolerant (depending on the climate). However, they need well draining soil and do not flourish in areas with high summer humidity. They can be very challenging plants.

T. tesselatus is our only hardy bamboo native to South Africa and it is sun loving and wind tolerant (depending on climate). T. crassinodus are native to the Himalayas and prefer mild, shady climates.

Borinda are native to Yunnan, China and other nearby mountainous areas. They prefer a mild, cool climate. Coastal Oregon, extended south the length of coastal California, is their preferred habitat. Shade loving. Some will exceed 20 feet in height.

Clumping Bamboo Root System
(Also known as a pachymorph rhizome)

Fargesia robusta 'Campbell' root system

Each bud turns upward to form a new cane close to the base of the plant. This is a different structure than the running type, which send out rhizomes several feet per year and produce new canes at varying distances. Clumping bamboo expand at the base by about 4 to 10 inches per year. The canopy flares outward with an arching canopy, as shown below.

See link for photos in the landscape: Clumping Bamboo Growth Rate


Growth Progression of Clumping Bamboo Root system.

Here is a close up of a clumping bamboo root mass. The base of #1 and #2 are the oldest parts of the rhizome system, where the cane has died back to ground level.  You can see the growth progress outward in a circular manner to #3, which is still attached to a live cane.  #4 and #5 were likely produced in the same year, during a spring and summer shooting phase. #6 was produced in the following spring shooting phase.  #6 has made three new shoots that are poised to grow into new culms in the next shooting phase.  Approximately 3 years has passed for rhizomes #1 - #6 to grow in a complete circle.  If we did not divide the plant at this time, it would overlap itself and become more dense.  This is all happening inside a 1 gallon container.  This particular Fargesia rufa was divided into three separate plants by cutting the rhizome neck at its narrowest point. This propagation technique has been gradually developed and near perfected by Bamboo Garden. This image provides a good illustration of the growth habit of clumping bamboo. Each rhizome extends out a few inches and becomes a new culm. This makes the growth rate and habit of Clumping Bamboo very predictable, hence easy to control. Click on the photo to see a larger image. Photo © Bamboo Garden

Photo © Bamboo Garden
Irma, washing and dividing a full grown Fargesia robusta

Get to know our varieties

While we specialize in hardy clumping species, we boast a wide variety of bamboo types that can serve a multitude of purposes. Additionally, we have been at the forefront of introducing new and exciting species into the horticulture trade. From timber bamboo to cold-sensitive bamboo, we’re sure to have the bamboo best-suited to your needs and growing conditions.