Frequently asked questions

The following are questions that our customers ask on a regular basis about many bamboo related topics. Growing tips, maintaining, fertilizing, watering, growth habits, etc. The summary of questions is in the right column.

General Bamboo Care

What's the difference between running bamboo and clumping bamboo?

Clumping bamboo spread very slowly.  They have a pachymorph rhizome system, which means that the underground buds turn upward and become canes immediately compared to the running types which can travel several feet outward, producing canes along the way each season. This causes them to gradually expand outward at a modest and predictable pace. They are considered non-invasive and are very easy to maintain. 

Temperate clumpers increase 1-3 feet in height per year and average about 10-15 feet tall at maturity. We carry a few tropical clumpers which can grow much larger, but we specialize in cold hardy temperate clumping bamboo. We carry about 40 different kinds of temperate clumping bamboo. For photos showing an example of the 5-year growth progression of a clumping bamboo, please see:  Clumping Bamboo Growth Rate

Running bamboo spread at moderate to fast paces. They have a leptomorph rhizome system, which means the rhizomes don't usually turn up and become canes. Instead, as they push through the soil the lateral buds produce either canes or new rhizomes perpendicular to the parent rhizome. Because of this dual growth system runners are able to cover more ground per year than clumpers. Mature plants spread 3 to 5 feet on average, (most will also increase 3-5 feet in height per year as well). In some extreme cases, runners can spread over 15 feet in a season. Running bamboo include many different genera and species, ranging in size from 1 foot tall to 80 feet tall, and can be either slow or quick spreading, and either open or dense growing, depending on the species and where it is planted. We carry over 100 different types of running bamboo, in all shapes and sizes.

There is a rare third form of rhizome system called Amphimorph, which is both running and clumping at the same time; however only three bamboo are known to have this type of growth habit (most noticeably several members of the South American Chusquea genus).

How do I maintain a running bamboo?

Edging twice a year is best, both for the health of the bamboo and to keep it fully under control. Edging involves cutting back the rhizomes as they expand to the edge of the designated growing area. See a full list of maintenance methods, details, and photos on our Bamboo Control and Barrier Installation pages.

Will bamboo grow well in containers?

Bamboo is an excellent container plant. It provides an upright, evergreen screen for many applications. We have developed a specialized container for growing bamboo called the Sugi Bamboo Planter, as our flagship offering (60" x 24"). Other options include galvanized metal stock tanks, cedar boxes, and large fabric pots (Root Pouch).  

The following are key points to consider for long term health and maintenance:

Smaller runners will generally grow better in containers than larger ones; clumpers can do very well in containers but they need partial shade to stay healthy. Good runners for containers include Pseudosasa japonica, Phyllostachys aureosulcata, P. nigra, and P. aurea. For clumping bamboo, most Fargesia will make a nice container plant, with a fountain shaped plume of foliage. Groundcovers like Sasa make nice short, bushy container accents. The Fargesia and most of the Sasa will definitely need afternoon shade, or the leaves will burn. Use well draining potting soil and make sure the container has good drainage at the bottom.

Expected height/culm diameter  

Restricted root space = restricted height & smaller diameter. In general, the expected height would be 1/2 to 3/4 of the maximum height. For example,

Black Bamboo (a Running Bamboo) can grow over 30 feet tall in the ground but often won't top 15 feet when grown in a container. Clumping Bamboo will often achieve 10 feet in a planter, as opposed to 12 to 15 feet in the ground. Clumping Bamboo are shade loving.


Bamboo grown in containers are less hardy than if grown in the ground. Container bamboos, especially those that are not well adapted to hot sun and cold winters, require more care in placement, as they can be damaged if the pot overheats or freezes. A bamboo hardy to 0 F in the ground may suffer cold damage at 10F when grown in a container. The larger the container, the more cold hardy your bamboo will be.


We recommend watering your containers when the top of the soil appears dry, until water comes out the drainage holes at the bottom. Always monitor your plants for signs of dehydration such as curling leaves. We often water our bamboo every day during extreme heat, but in normal weather, we water 2 to 3 times per week during the summer, or during extended dry periods. 1 to 2 gallons of water per session is usually sufficient, but this amount increases if the container is larger or the bamboo is root bound.  


Bamboo is happiest in a neutral to slightly acidic, well draining but moisture retentive potting soil. We recommend fertilizing 3x per growing season (Spring - Summer) with a high nitrogen grass fertilizer, for example: 20-5-10 (NPK) with added iron. We also offer an 8-2-2 organic Bamboo Fertilizer (this is a custom blend we have developed at Bamboo Garden) for mixing in with the potting soil. Always follow package directions in regards to how much & how often to apply. 


Depending on the size of the container, you will need to re-pot or divide every 5-10 years to maintain optimal health & vigor of the bamboo. With our Sugi Bamboo Planters, bamboo can grow well for up to 10 years. If not maintained, root bound bamboos may escape or even break their container. Repotting/dividing is best done in the springtime. Dividing means cutting the bamboo root-mass in half and re-potting the divisions into separate containers.  Smaller divisions can be made at this time as well. With our Sugi Bamboo Planters, the bottom can be detached so that the bamboo can be pushed out from beneath which is a big advantage for ease of transplanting.


We recommend using our Sugi Bamboo Planter because it offers good insulation from heat and cold, and ease of maintenance because of the trapezoidal shape and Bamboo Barrier lining. If metal stock tanks are used for bamboo, we recommend insulating the inside with Bamboo Barrier. Metal stock should have extra drain holes (1/2 diameter and ~2 per square foot) as well to provide adequate drainage. We suggest placing any container on brick footings to avoid the eventual blocking of the drainage holes or degradation of the container.

Bamboo Barriers:

Bamboo rhizomes can adhere to porous surfaces, such as wood or clay. Therefore, we recommend lining any container with Bamboo Barrier to help when removing your bamboo, and to increase the life of the planter. Bamboo Barrier also provides additional insulation from heat and cold.

What size container does bamboo need?

The bigger the better. If you are planning to use planter boxes, 18x18 inches and 18 inches deep is the smallest you should go. Bamboo can be grown in smaller pots temporarily. If you are planting indoors in smaller pots, keep in mind that you will have to divide the bamboo fairly frequently to keep them healthy, 1-2 years. Also keep in mind that bamboo can blow over fairly easily, so avoid vase-shaped containers and use caution when placing tall bamboo in a windy area.

What time of year is a good time to plant bamboo?

Generally Spring is best, March through June. Fall is also a good option, September through the end of October. A well rooted bamboo can be planted in the summer, as long as it is watered regularly. Avoid planting fresh dug bamboo in the summer. All of our bamboo in regular stock are rooted out in pots, so they are hardy and versatile. Bamboo that is hardy 0° F or lower, can be planted in the winter, barring extreme temperatures.

If you live in a mild climate you can plant year round, barring severe weather, as long as you supply the bamboo with enough water in the summer and a layer of mulch for insulation in the winter.

If you live in USDA Zone 5 or Zone 6, spring is definitely the best time to plant bamboo.

When do you fertilize?

Bamboo is dormant in the winter, so the best time to fertilize is in the spring and summer. We usually fertilize our groves in February, about 1-2 months before the bamboos shooting period, and again in July or August, as the rhizomes are expanding. Fertilizing isn't usually necessary if the bamboo is in the ground, but often will promote larger growth with greener foliage. If the bamboo is in a container, it may need to be fed more often to maintain good appearance. The application rate depends on the type of fertilizer used.

Are bamboo drought tolerant?

Clumpers are more drought tolerant than runners because they root fairly deep, but runners have higher tolerance of dry, hot air. In particular, Semiarundinaria fastuosa, Phyllostachys decora, P. aurea, and P. glauca Yunzhu are very tolerant of dry, desert climates.

Bamboo planted in dry climates needs to be watered regularly for the first 3-4 years until it becomes well rooted.

Do deer eat bamboo?

Not usually, however in the Southeastern US, bamboo is native, so sometimes the deer will recognize it as a food source. Sometimes they will discover the new shoots and eat a few, but it has never been a serious problem for us.

How do I get rid of bamboo?

Bamboo isn't complicated to remove, but it is physically demanding. Especially if you're dealing with a Semiarundinaria or a Bashania, which can run deep, and have very brittle rhizomes that break easily.

Phyllostachys are easier to remove, as the rhizomes are flexible rather than brittle, so its easier to pull the whole rhizome out of the ground in one go. They also prefer to keep their rhizomes very shallow, which makes them easier to locate.

Try to follow every rhizome and get it out of the ground. If not possible, you can leave fragmented rhizomes in the ground which will produce small, wispy new shoots if they are no longer attached to a mature plant. Cut off the new shoots after they start to produce new leaves. This will deplete the rhizomes' energy if they cannot photosynthesize. They will gradually rot out of the ground.

Be sure to use a heavy-duty, all-steel shovel (the King of Spades shovels we carry, for example) as shovels with wooden or fiberglass handles will most likely break. Stump grinders, if you can get one into the area, are a good method for removing a dense mat of rhizomes quickly and effectively.

Another method is to cut the bamboo to the ground, and continue to remove all new growth as soon as it comes up. This eventually starves the bamboo out, but can take as long as three years to complete. Unfortunately, this also leaves the rhizomes in the soil, which makes replanting the area difficult.

If you're local you can call us for on site consultation.

What types of clumping bamboo do you carry?

We grow many different kinds of clumping bamboo. For cold hardy clumpers see this link: Hardy Clumping Bamboo
For subtropical clumping bamboo for the south, see cold -sensitive clumping bamboo

How does bamboo grow?

Simply stated, bamboo grows up in the spring and out in the summer and fall.

Bamboo is a grass, and as such, grows much the same way your lawn grasses grow, just on a much larger scale. (Think of the runners as the warm-season spreading grasses and the clumpers as the cool-season tufted grasses.) Basically, the bamboo increases its height and diameter by putting up new, larger canes each growing season until it hits its max height for the area it's planted in. The new shoots grow to their full height in about 2-3 months. The shooting period for most species is April through June. Please see the Growth Rate section of our Bamboo Care page for details and photos showing the growth of new shoots.

Older canes will never increase in height, but will simply put on a new crop of leaves each year. Individual canes can live for 10+ years, unless they get shaded out or are somehow compromised. This is why thinning a bamboo grove becomes important once the bamboo has become established. A mature grove of bamboo has a mixture of canes with different size and age.

Outside of the shooting season, in the summer and fall for most types, most of the growth occurs underground where it is not visible. The bamboo is hard at work though, pumping water to support all the leaves, and expanding the root mass for next season's new shoots.

Can I keep my running bamboo from spreading by not fertilizing or watering it?

To some extent yes, but if a bamboo feels too neglected it may decide to head for greener pastures, so use this technique with caution. It often depends on the location. Lack of nutrition and water will often result in less healthy looking bamboo. During the first three years, as the bamboo is getting established in a new area, it is important to water regularly, 1-3 times per week, during the summer.

What is the best choice for growing a large bamboo in a container?

Members of the species Phyllostachys aureosulcata are very cold hardy and grow tall and upright in containers, to heights of 15 to 18 feet. Phyllostachys aurea wont get as tall (10 to 15 feet) but it will produce interesting, compact nodes at the base. Bamboo that can achieve attractive, larger diameter canes in a pot, include Phyllostachys dulcis, P. vivax, P. vivax Aureocaulis, and a few others. They can reach heights of over 20 feet, with canes over 1.5" in diameter.

If you want the best chance of getting big canes in a container, you need to buy a mature plant.

How far apart should I plant my bamboo and what size should I plant?

If you want to produce a dense screen quickly, plant 5-gallons or larger (we have bamboo up to 35 feet tall in containers) 3-5 feet apart and they will fill in 1-2 years. If you are willing to wait, plant the bamboo 6 to 10 feet apart and they will fill in within 3-5 years. Bamboo can be "trained" to run where there is a layer of loose, loamy topsoil and regular irrigation.

Planting our smallest size starter Phyllostachys (1-gallon) about 5 feet on center will provide you with an 18 to 30 foot tall, solid screen in 4-5 years. It is usually not advised to plant bamboo closer than 3 feet apart, however some bamboos can be planted back to back, if an immediate screen is desired. This may hinder the growth rate. Contact us to discuss the details and timeline of your project.

What kind of fertilizer do you use?

For bamboo in the ground, organic fertilizer, such as mushroom compost, aged horse manure, fish meal, feather meal, or blood meal are all good options. Composts will break down into a layer of rich topsoil which provides the bamboo a premium growing area and a source of food. For a commercial fertilizer that can be broadcast on top, and for bamboo in pots, we use a slow-release turf fertilizer. 21-5-6 is the formulation we use (21 nitrogen, 5 phosphate, 6 potash). The formulation is not critical, but bamboo will respond well to high nitrogen. Follow the application rate specified on the fertilizer package. Over fertilizing bamboo is difficult to do, but excessive amounts of nitrogen can lead to aphid problems or weakened canes.

How much water does bamboo require?

Ideally, about an inch a week, the same as a law (in 1-3 applications per week). In many climates, after the bamboo has been in the ground for 3-5 years, water is no longer necessary for survival. Keep in mind, bamboo that doesn't get a regular watering during the summer wont look as good as bamboo that does.

What kinds of pests and diseases can bamboo get?

Bamboo is usually pest-free; however some species are prone to aphids. There is also a bamboo mite, an import from Asia, that can damage the leaves. However, as the mite is not native and is spread only by bamboo-to-bamboo contact, as long as your bamboo doesn't have them and your neighbors bamboo doesn't have them, odds are you'll never have any problems. Both of these issues are usually more cosmetic than a real threat to the plant.

In the South, in a coastal climate, Phyllostachys can develop brown spots on the canes due to a harmless fungus. There have also been reports in the Southeast of a disease that top kills bamboo, but nothing has been discovered as to the cause.

Does Roundup work on bamboo?

Not really. It will often cause the new shoots to abort, but the rhizomes can continue to spread underground. You need heavy applications of seriously toxic chemicals to spray bamboo out and have it be effective. We do not recommend this, with regard to protection.

How many plants are in each pot?

One plant has multiple canes connected by a root system. If you try to separate the canes, especially with our 1 and 2 gallon sizes, there's a good chance you’ll kill the plant, especially if done in the summer or winter. It is not necessary to pull the roots apart to promote faster growth, usually manipulating bamboo roots is counterproductive. It is possible to make divisions of your bamboo for future plantings elsewhere, but we recommend waiting at least 3 years before digging starts from your original plant. Removing pieces of the plant when it is still young will drastically slow down the growth rate.

How fast does bamboo grow in height?

This is a tough question to generalize because there are so many different types of bamboo and different climates in which to grow bamboo. It depends on if they are runners or clumpers, how old they are, and where they are planted.

Temperate clumpers, like Fargesia, average about 1-3 feet in height per year.

Taller running types, like Phyllostachys, usually grow 3-5 feet in height per year.

Older, more established plants, usually at least 3 years in the ground, will grow faster than newly planted ones.

Placement and care will influence how fast and tall a bamboo will grow. The temperate clumpers grow best in partial shade, and in places with drier summers and a significant cooling-off period at night, Such as NE and PNW USA. (so a Fargesia grown in the South will most likely never be as big and healthy as one grown in the Pacific Northwest).

On the other hand, the tropical clumpers, as well as some of the larger runners, prefer exactly the opposite climate: full sun and hot, humid summers. (In fact, the tropical clumpers wont grow well in anything colder than USDA Zone 9, and most will perish in Zone 8.)

A timber bamboo, such as P. edulis Moso that averages 35 to 45 feet at our nursery in the PNW, can reach heights of over 60 feet in the south east, but under 30 feet in colder climates like zones 6 and 7. (NE and midwest). Consistent irrigation during the dry months, 1-3 times per week, will produce faster, healthier growth.

Most shorter runners such as Sasa veitchii, and Pleioblastus pygmaeus, prefer partial shade and tolerate a wide range of climates, as long as they aren't planted in full sun. In climates Zone 6 and colder they may be deciduous or even herbaceous, and so will be shorter overall. Most of the small groundcover grows 1-2 feet in height per year and spread outward at the same pace.

Can I plant my runner in a pot and put the pot in the ground to contain the runner?

No! This is the number one way to have bamboo get out and cause havoc. Pots, tupperware containers, garbage cans, metal feeding troughs, are all too small to contain bamboo for longer than a couple years. In order for the bamboo to survive, the containers must have adequate drain holes at the bottom. The bamboo rhizomes spiral down the container, go out the drain holes, and then burst the pot walls within a couple years. By that time, instead of bamboo rhizomes being shallow like they usually would be, they are running deep, which means they will be more difficult to dig up and prune back into shape.

If you wish to plant bamboo in a small area, the best option is to create a pruning trench/sand trap around a small bamboo grove: Bamboo Control. If one or more sides of the grove is inaccessible for pruning, install an 80 mil barrier and check the inside of the barrier yearly for circling rhizomes. Using the three sided barrier technique is best for this application. For smaller running type bamboo, 60 mil barrier is adequate.

Can I plant bamboo in a raised concrete planter?

Yes, but to provide a stable, long lasting container, the concrete should be reinforced with rebar. But keep in mind that fresh concrete initially leeches lime into the soil, which may raise the pH beyond what bamboo prefers. To keep the bamboo healthy and happy, check the soil pH level once per year, and use a bark-heavy soil mix, which raises the soil acidity. Aim for a pH of 5.5 to 7, in general.

However, please note that there are challenges associated with raised concrete planters and raised planters in general - please inquire for details.

How much space do I need to give bamboo to grow in?

It depends on how big you want the bamboo to grow. Dedicate at least 3 feet by 3 feet for the Clumpers (12 feet circumference), and 3 feet by 10 feet for the Runners (26 feet circumference), to get reasonably close to mature height. The more space the better. Bamboo can grow to conform to whatever space it is given; a long narrow planter, will produce a long, narrow screen, of moderate height, but most likely not full height.

You can maintain bamboo in a smaller area, for example, a runner contained within a 3x5 foot planter, but it can be tricky to keep the bamboo healthy after 4 or 5 years. Transplanting or dividing every 3-5 years is recommended for small containers or planters. Bamboo in a small area will grow shorter, with thinner canes, than if they are given more space to spread. Irrigation is critical for bamboo that has been in the same container for 3-5 years.

Good bamboo for containers indoors can be found here: Interior Bamboo

If I dump salt on my bamboo will that kill it?

Most likely not; the amount of salt needed to seriously harm or kill a bamboo is massive. But in areas of extensive salt build-up, such as roadsides, the part of the bamboo exposed to a large amount of salt probably won't flourish.

How big will my bamboo get?

That depends on the species you plant, the amount of care it gets, and where you plant it. For example, sun-loving bamboo such as Phyllostachys, planted in USDA Zone 8, in full sun, will grow larger than the same bamboo planted in Zone 6, or in a small area with only part sun.

On our website, the heights listed for each species are average heights for zone 8. Subtracting 3-5 feet of height per zone decrease is a safe assumption generally.  For example, Phyllostachys decora will achieve 30 feet in zone 8, 25-27 feet in zone 7, 20-22 feet in zone 6, 15-17 feet in zone 5, with die back in a hard winter. Not recommended for zone 4.  For Fargesia, or other shorter bamboo, subtract about a foot per zone.

In general, bamboo will get as big as it can depending on how much space it has to grow, kind of like a goldfish in a goldfish bowl. If you want the bamboo to reach its full height, you need to be prepared to donate the space, an area at least 30 feet in circumference. Bamboo can grow to conform to whatever space it is given; a long narrow planter will produce a long, narrow screen, of moderate height, but most likely not full height.

Some bamboo will size up better in small areas; for example P. vivax and P. dulcis can grow over 20 feet tall in a 30 inch wide planter. It is also possible to start with a more mature plant to encourage larger canes.

Can metal be used as a bamboo barrier?

It's a little better choice than cement, but metal conducts heat and cold, which means it will bake the bamboo roots in the summer and freeze them in the winter, which will hurt the bamboo; it also can rust and leach chemicals. It also is difficult to join together effectively enough to avoid the bamboo breaking it open.

How deep should you plant bamboo?

No deeper than it is in the pot already; bamboo needs to be shallow to be healthy. When done digging the hole, till in loose, loamy soil, wood chips, potting soil, or compost in the bottom to promote good drainage and encourage deep rooting. Apply a thin layer of loose mulch over the top of the bamboo when finished planting.

How much do the runners spread per year?

On average, 3-5 feet per year.

This is always a hard question to generalize because it depends on the species, where it's planted, how much water you give it, and how long it's been in the ground.

If bamboo is planted in dense clay soil, without a loose layer of topsoil, it will spread more slowly. Competition with other plants will also slow its spread rate, especially in places where the sunlight is blocked from touching the ground.

In colder climates, many runners will spread slower than in warmer climates; the same is true for drier climates. In shade, many of the larger runners, especially the Phyllostachys, will spread slower than in a sunny area; on the other hand, many of the smaller runners prefer shade. Defer to the pages about the specific bamboo species for individual light preferences.

The larger runners will spread farther each year; 3-5 feet on average but over 10 feet in extreme cases. The smaller runners, such as Sasa, will cover less ground, usually around 1-2 feet, but also in some cases they can spread as far as 5-8 feet in a season. The less water you give an established bamboo, generally the slower it will grow, although watering during extreme heat is recommended and often essential for survival. However, a very large bamboo, if not watered with some regularity, will spread out to search for a steady water supply.

A new planting will take two to three years to get established; before that the bamboo is still acclimatizing to its new home, and will spread slowly.

Can a retaining wall act as a barrier?

If the foundation is well constructed and made of concrete, it will block bamboo. It needs to be deeper than 30 inches, otherwise the bamboo can possibly get under the wall. Bamboo can find its way through stone retaining walls.

What kind of soil does bamboo like?

Loose, well-draining, and slightly acidic: A pH of 5.5 to 7, in general. If you're keeping the bamboo in containers, any regular potting mix will do.

Is bamboo evergreen?


Most bamboo are naturally evergreen, but there are some that are naturally deciduous, or semi-deciduous. Also, in cold climates bamboo will often shed their leaves and even lose some canes in the winter, and in extreme cases will end up growing as perennials rather than evergreens. However, almost all of the bamboo we sell are evergreen to USDA Zone 7, and most of those are evergreen down to Zone 6, some even to Zone 5. Defer to our hardiness list for our most cold hardy bamboos.

Can I plant bamboo in a boggy area that has standing water in the winter?

Most bamboo would perish, but some can grow in seasonally boggy soils that are wet in the winter and dry in the summer (or vice-versa). Phyllostachysatrovaginata, P. heteroclada, P. nidularia,and P. parvifolia, as well as Arundinaria tecta, have air canals in their rhizomes that act sort of like snorkels, so as long as they get a dry period, they can take a seasonal wetting with no problem. We recommend importing a generous amount of loose potting soil to improve the drainage conditions for the initial planting.

Will bamboo go under the sidewalk?

Usually the clumpers wont, but the runners will if they use up the available space that is easily accessible.

Can I plant bamboo by my pool/pond?

Yes, but if you plant a Runner you should put a barrier between the pool and the bamboo, as well as edging the plant, because bamboo will actively seek water and so can damage the pool in some cases. You also should remember that bamboo sheds a lot, so you will have quite few leaves in your pool, unless you plant a bamboo species with larger leaves, such as Sasa or Hibanobambusa.

Will bamboo go under the road?

No. We’ve seen bamboo come up through freshly poured asphalt, where the rhizomes attached to a mature grove were not removed during site preparation. Concrete and asphalt often have a layer beneath them that is relatively soft, sometimes even sand is used to level the site, and the rhizomes can scoot along it. Most often though, especially for the smaller species, asphalt and concrete driveways are too dense for bamboo to penetrate. Dry, compact gravel roads are nearly impossible for bamboo to spread into.

Which bamboo makes the densest screens?

All Fargesia will grow in tight clusters, creating dense screens of foliage. The densest Phyllostachys include P. aurea, P. aureosulcata, P. nidularia, P. heteroclada, P. bissetii and P. stimulosa. Other bamboo that make good screens are Semiarundinaria fastuosa, Pleioblastus chino, Pseudosasa japonica, and Indocalamus latifolius. For a full list of bamboo for screens, see bamboo screens.

As a rule, bamboo with larger diameter canes will not have foliage lower down on the cane, so if you need dense screening all the way to the ground, choose a smaller species. A mature grove of tall bamboo, such as Phyllostachys nigra Henon, will not have foliage at the lower level, but there are usually enough canes to create a visual block from the ground up to where the foliage begins. Bamboo will naturally grow denser every year. Shorter bamboos such as Pseudosasa and Sasa, and Fargesia usually grow very dense.

Can bamboo grow indoors?

Most bamboo doesn't like the dry air indoor environments provide; still, some will grow fairly well. This page lists bamboo that will grow well indoors. Otherwise, some form of humidity is needed to make bamboo happy. Keep a misting bottle handy and spray the bamboo daily.

Will bamboo damage my retaining wall/house foundation?

Usually not, but it can if the foundation is old and already failing. In general, we recommend not planting bamboo too close to the side of the house; leave a couple of feet for maintenance. You can install a barrier along the foundation, keeping some space between it and the bamboo for maintenance. We have seen bamboo squished up against a house coming up through the siding. There was even one memorable occasion when a foundation without underground footing had been installed, and the bamboo came up inside the house through the heating ducts! These are extreme cases that can be easily prevented by proper annual maintenance, and not allowing the bamboo to grow tightly along the side of a house.

Does bamboo shed a lot?

Bamboo will drop a few leaves gradually throughout the season, but never all at once like deciduous trees. Some bamboo will have major shedding seasons, and otherwise not drop as many leaves. Fargesia murielae, for example, does a major shedding in the Fall as it prepares for the coming winter by dropping about 30% of its foliage. Phyllostachys edulis, P. aurea, among a few other runners, have a large shed in the Spring; as they are creating lush new foliage, they tend to shed the old foliage that passed through the winter.

On the other hand, the larger-leafed bamboo, such as Sasa, will hold their leaves for longer, sometimes several years. They also have fewer leaves to drop, so if you want a bamboo right by your pool and you don't care about height, consider one of these varieties: Smaller running bamboos

In addition to leaf litter, the new culms in the spring will shed their culm, leaf, and branch sheaths once they are done growing. Bamboo leaf mulch should be swept back into the grove so the bamboo can recycle the nutrients in the decomposing leaves.

I want to try growing bamboo from seed. Where can I get some?

Bamboo is a very unusual plant in that most species don't set seed all that often. Phyllostachys aurea, for example, is on a 50-year flowering cycle, and Fargesia all seem to be on 100 to 120-year flowering cycles. There are even some bamboo that have not been seen flowering in Chinas 3000+ years of recorded history. Also, when they set seed, the seed is not always viable. For these reasons bamboo seed from specific species is usually not available.

We have grown over 20,000 seedlings from Fargesia murielae and F. nitida at Bamboo Garden. Young seedlings are very sensitive for 2-3 years before they finally stabilize; until then they do best in a controlled environment, such as a heated greenhouse, in order to flourish and grow on to a size that can be planted out in the elements.

That being said, there's always some bamboo in flower, so you can usually find supplies of seed online. Just be sure to purchase from a reliable source, or there's no telling what you could get. You can also contact the American Bamboo Society, as members could have some seed available for purchase. Growing from seeds will certainly not save time and effort to produce a bamboo grove or screen, but it can be a fun, educational process.

How deep do the roots go?

Bamboo roots are thin and fibrous (think big grass roots) and can go down 2-3 feet. The rhizomes, which is the part that actually spreads, usually stay fairly shallow, less than 12 inches. This makes them easy to locate and prune if done on an annual basis.

Can bamboo grow in USDA Zone 6 or USDA Zone 5?

There are several types of running and clumping bamboos that can tolerate colder climates. They are listed on this page: Hardiness list

Can bamboo grow in USDA Zone 4?

Usually not. Some types hardy to Zone 5, will be root hardy in Zone 4. You are at the mercy of the weather. Try growing bamboo in containers and moving them indoors from November through March.

Bamboo Inquiries

Is bamboo edible?

Many species have edible new shoots. All the Phyllostachys, for example, are edible, although some of them have a bitter or stringent after taste when eaten raw. Many Chusquea shoots are also very tasty.

Usually the canned bamboo shoots you buy in stores are Phyllostachys edulis (from China) or, if imported from Thailand, Dendrocalamus asper. The best tasting shoots from bamboo that can be grown in the US come from Phyllostachys edulis, P. vivax, P. dulcis, P. stimulosa, P. plattyglossa, P. nidularia, P. parvifolia, P. atrovaginata, and Qiongzhuea tumidissinoda.

The young leaves of bamboo in the Sasa genus can be cooked while still rolled up and eaten, as well. They are also used to wrap and cook rice.

Can I prune bamboo?

Yes. Bamboo canes will not grow any taller once they are topped, so it is a once-a-year process of cutting the younger canes after they leaf out. Cut the cane just above the node. Because bamboo cannot regain the lost height, it will get bushier in response to the pruning. Just be sure to leave some branches on the cane, otherwise the individual cane will die back to ground level . You can find a guide to pruning bamboo here: Bamboo care

Is there a clumping bamboo that has large diameter canes and is cold hardy?

No. At best, an inch diameter is the largest cane you can achieve from cold hardy clumpers. Borinda macclureana, Chusquea culeou, C. gigantea, and Fargesia robusta, and Thamnocalamus tessellatus are among the largest diameter of cold tolerant clumpers.
If you want fat canes in cold climates (Zone 5 through 8), you need to plant a Phyllostachys. (which are running) The biggest canes come from more aggressive runners, like P. dulcis, P. vivax, and P. edulis Moso.

Which bamboo has the strongest wood?

Phyllostachys edulis is usually used for flooring and scaffolding; P. bambusoides is used for furniture and instruments (as it is both strong and flexible), and Guadua angustifolia is used for building construction. P. nigra Henon and P. atrovaginata also have strong wood and straight canes. See this section of our website for information about bamboo canes.

Is bamboo harmful to pets?

No. Animals will often chew on it, but the leaves are actually rather nutritious and totally non-toxic (which is why, if you have horses, goats, cows, or sheep, you can use bamboo for a nutritious winter forage crop). Lucky Bamboo (growing in water and rocks), which isn't a bamboo at all but a member of the lily family, IS toxic to pets and should be kept out of their reach.

Will bamboo break in the wind?

Some species, especially those with weaker canes, like Phyllostachys vivax, can break in the snow, but it is rare for the canes to actually break on account of the wind. Most bamboo just bend in bad weather and then pop back upright. Overall the most upright bamboo during severe storms have been P. edulis, P. angusta, and P. atrovaginata. If the soil is too loose at the surface, or the bamboo roots have been compromised by voles and gophers, strong wind and snow may uproot individual canes.

Why is my bamboo leaning?

Small diameter canes will lean more, pulled down by the weight of the foliage. Bamboo in shade leans quite a bit looking for light. Snow, ice, and to a lesser extent, rain, can weigh down canes. Sometimes younger canes will have trouble coming back upright after a heavy snow load is dumped on them. Newly planted bamboo, during the first three years of life in a new location, will often produce smaller, weepier canes as it is getting established. Sometimes during the summer, rhizome tips emerge from the ground and try to become canes. These we call “whips” and usually remove from mature bamboos. If the plant is less than two years old, let it produce whips if it decides to do so ~the foliage from them may produce the extra photosynthesis needed for the bamboo to grow faster. Removing them is usually of little consequence other than cosmetics. They can also be tied or staked, if it seems important to you.

Which Clumping Bamboos are fully sun tolerant?

Most hardy clumpers are shade loving plants, but there are a few that can tolerate more sun than others.

Thamnocalamus tesselatus actually flourishes in full in the PNW, but may require some shade if grown in an area that commonly has high humidity in the summer. Fargesia robusta, Fargesia sp. 'Scabrida', and Fargesia sp. 'Rufa' can tolerate nearly full sun in the Pacific Northwest, but require at least a little relief from the afternoon sun if planted anywhere else in the country. The above cold hardy bamboos will not grow in the south. 

For sun loving clumpers in hot southern climates where there is minimal frost in the winter, use bamboo belonging to the Bambusa genus.

Is there a black cold hardy clumping bamboo?

There are several bamboo that have dark canes and are clumping that are cold-hardy, but they don't get very big. These are Fargesia Jiuzhaigou IV, F. nitida, and Chusquea culeou Cana Prieta. If you want large diameter, black canes in a cooler climate, the only option is Phyllostachys nigra which is a runner.

I want a very large diameter bamboo that is short (under 15’). Does that exist?

Not really. Cane diameter is directly related to height, so for truly massive canes you need taller bamboo. You can, however, grow a tall bamboo and keep it topped to a certain height. We have seen P. dulcis over 3 inches in diameter, but topped to about 15 feet in height. P. dulcis has fat canes, with compact space between the nodes, which give it the largest diameter in relation to height among the Timber Bamboos.

Is lucky bamboo a bamboo?

No. It's a Dracaena, usually Dracaena sanderiana, which is a member of the lily family.

Payment & Shipping

How large are bamboos you supply and ship?

Our standard shipping sizes for UPS Boxes are 1 through 5 gallon bamboos, with 10 gallons shipped on a pallet. The height of the individual plant varies depending on the species.  In general a 1 gallon size plant is 1-2 feet tall, 1-2 canes, sometimes 3-4 feet. A 2 gallon is 2-3 feet on average, 2-3 canes, but can be as tall as 5 feet.  A 5 gallon is usually 3-5 feet tall, 3-5 canes, but can be as big as 7 feet, but plants of this size are difficult to ship by standard UPS methods.  Fargesia tend to be shorter and bushier than Phyllostachys; a 5 gallon F. sp. Rufa might be 3 1/2 feet tall with 20+ canes, while a P. aureosulcata Spectabilis might be 5 feet tall with three canes that are a thicker diameter. Some kinds of ground cover bamboo only grow to 2 feet tall at maturity, so even a five gallon plant would be about 1 foot tall, but could contain as many as 40 + short bushy canes. You are always welcome to call to inquire about the specific height of the bamboo you wish to purchase. We guarantee our bamboo to arrive in healthy condition, ready to plant in the landscape.

We can ship 10 to 15 gallon bamboo on a pallet via UPS Freight or other LTL freight carriers. Call to inquire about details.

We also regularly ship very tall bamboo, 20 - 40 feet, in containers using a 53 foot refrigerated semi truck. We supply many commercial landscaping projects and even some larger residential jobs, or large retail garden centers. The main concern is that the unloading area can accommodate a truck of that size. If you want truly large bamboo delivered to your door, usually we can find a way to make it happen for a reasonable cost. Imagine an instant 30 foot tall screen, by 30 feet in length, to completely screen out your neighbors new 3 story monstrosity. With large timber bamboo, such as Phyllostachys, this is a very real possibility; we do it all the time, just give us a call to discuss details. 503-647-2700