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Growing Bamboo: A Complete Guide for Gardens

bamboo on walkway in front of home

Are you interested in adding bamboo to your home garden? Then you’ve come to the right place! We’ve put together a comprehensive guide that covers everything you need to know about growing bamboo at home.

Whether you’re looking to plant some bamboo with your early spring flowers or are wondering how to care for that overgrown bamboo planting at your new home, you’ll find the information you need. We’re going to cover popular types of bamboo, proper care, and even a few garden design tips.

Choose the Type of Bamboo

If you thought all bamboo was the same, think again! There are all sorts of different bamboo species and varieties. Before you add bamboo to your garden, do your research and find a variety that matches what you’re looking for.

Clumping Bamboo

As the name suggests, clumping bamboos grow in a contained clumping form. Although the clumps may grow larger over time, they will max at anywhere from 4 to 20 feet in diameter.

Umbrella Bamboo

Umbrella bamboo features light green canes and long, wispy leaves. These plants prefer part shade since full sun can damage their delicate leaves. Along with their lovely appearance, umbrella bamboo plants are easy to maintain, as long as the temperatures aren’t too hot. While these plants can survive temperatures below 0ºF, they do not do well when nighttime temperatures stay above 70ºF.

Golden Goddess

This variety has yellowish shoots, aka culms, and can grow up to ten feet tall. It prefers full sun and can survive temperatures as low as 20ºF. The ‘Fernleaf’ variety of bamboo is very similar to the Golden Goddess variety.


In its native habitat, Silverstripe bamboo can grow up to 45 feet tall! However, this variety rarely gets this tall when grown in the United States. Since it’s a cold-hardy variety, it can survive temperatures down to 15ºF. What really sets this variety apart are its variegated leaves and the silver stripes on the culms.

Running Bamboo

Have you ever heard of bamboo engulfing a garden or even a neighbor’s yard? Chances are high that it was running bamboo. Although bamboo roots don’t grow very deep, they can spread out over a large area. Along with the roots, running bamboo grows via underground rhizomes that can grow over a hundred feet long. If you want to keep a bamboo root system contained, use a barrier that is at least two feet deep.

Black Bamboo

This variety stands out from others due to its black culms. It’s also an extremely cold-hardy bamboo and can survive temperatures as low as 0ºF. If you seed a plant marked as black bamboo, it’s a good idea to check the species. While most plants labeled black bamboo are the running species Phyllostachys nigra, some clumping species may also be referred to as black bamboo.

Kuma Bamboo

While many types of bamboo are known for their tall culms, Kuma is a dwarf variety that grows only two to eight feet tall, so it can act as an alternative to flowering ground cover plants. This variety is also known as Nagasa bamboo. During the spring and summer, the leaves are light green. However, during the fall and winter, the leaves’ margins turn white and the leaves’ interiors darken.

Fishpole Bamboo

Also known as monk’s belly bamboo and golden bamboo, this running bamboo is a popular variety across the United States. However, like most species of running bamboo, it can quickly take over if it isn’t properly managed.

The lush bamboo leaves and knotty culms distinguish fishpole bamboo from other bamboo varieties. It prefers full sun and can survive cold weather with temperatures below 0ºF.

How to Grow Bamboo

fragesia rufa or dragon head bamboo planted in the pot along the wall

After you’ve found a good bamboo variety for your garden, it’s time to plant! Fortunately, growing bamboo is easy, as long as you pick a suitable variety and provide the proper care.

Is it Easy to Grow Bamboo?

Generally speaking, bamboo is easy to grow both outdoors and indoors. Make sure to choose a variety suited to your environment’s light and temperature, and water regularly.

Where to Grow Bamboo

Before you add bamboo to your garden, think about how much it will spread and how big it will grow. And remember that growth habit and full size depends on the variety!
Once you’ve made sure you have room for the bamboo’s growth, you’ll want to check in on light requirements. Some types of bamboo grow best in full sun while others prefer shade. Fortunately, you should be able to find a variety that works in your environment.

Finally, check the bamboo’s hardiness! Some varieties can’t survive extreme cold while others suffer in the heat.

After you’ve found a variety of bamboo that’s suited to your area and environment, let your mind run wild! Bamboo can work as a great privacy screen, living hedge, garden plant, or container plant.

When to Plant Bamboo

The best time to plant bamboo is in the spring. At this point, you don’t have to worry about frost, and your plant will have time to become established before hot summer weather arrives.
You can also plant bamboo in the fall. However, plant in September or early October so your plants have the opportunity to form strong roots before winter.

How to Plant Bamboo

If you’re planting directly in your garden, the first step is to lay out the entire space. Since all plants will grow larger over time, allow extra room for your bamboo and flowers for home gardens to spread out.

  1. After you’ve planned your garden, follow these steps to plant your bamboo.
  2. Dig a hole that is double the size of the bamboo’s root ball.
  3. Place the bamboo in the hole so the roots and rhizomes are below the soil line.
  4. Cover with soil and water well.

If you’re planting bamboo in a container, the process is very similar to the one outlined above.

How to Maintain Bamboo Plants

After your bamboo is comfortable in its new home, you’ll need to take steps to keep it happy.

How to Water Bamboo

Bamboo likes deep, infrequent watering rather than light, frequent watering. So don’t be shy when it’s time to water!

The frequency you’ll need to water your bamboo will depend on rainfall, temperature, soil type, and other environmental factors. However, in general, you’ll want to water your bamboo about once a week. You don’t want water to puddle, but you do want moist soil.

How to Feed Bamboo

While bamboo can grow fine without fertilizer for a few years, feeding you bamboo on a regular basis will boost its growth and improve its health. Compost is one way to provide your plants with the nutrients they need as well as organic matter that will improve soil texture. If you opt to use compost, add about one inch to the top of your soil each spring.

You can also feed your bamboo plants using a high-nitrogen fertilizer meant for lawns. In case you didn’t know, bamboo is a member of the grass family! Follow product directions to apply this fertilizer once in the early spring and again in mid-summer.

Growing Bamboo in Containers

bush of Dwarf bamboo in the circle pot on the round cobblestone with circle rattan chair for relax ,Banyan Tree fence at the garden and sunlight background.

If you don’t have a yard to plant bamboo or want to keep it from spreading, try planting bamboo in a pot. Not only will this keep the plants contained, but it will also allow you to move them around.

While you can technically grow both clumping and running types of bamboo in containers, clumping types are a better choice. Since their roots don’t expand as quickly as running types, you won’t need to repot as often.

No matter what type of bamboo you choose, you should still expect fast growth! If you plant your bamboo in a small pot, it will quickly outgrow its container. Therefore, you should plant your bamboo in a large pot with a volume of at least ten gallons.

When it comes time to choose your potting soil, look for a moist yet well-drained soil mix.

Pruning Bamboo

Perhaps you don’t like the thought of ten or fifteen-foot-tall bamboo towering over the rest of your garden. Or maybe you want to shape your bamboo in the form of a hedge or topiary. No matter the case, you can manage your plants through pruning.

If you want to limit the height of your bamboo, you can cut the plant’s culms. This is known as topping. However, be aware that bamboo culms will cease growing once they are topped.
You can also prune your bamboo to remove dead or diseased portions. Although your bamboo plant may outlive you, individual culms typically live for about ten years. To remove dead culms, use a pair of loppers or a saw to cut close to the soil base. Not only will they keep your plant looking healthy, but it will also encourage new growth.

One more way to prune your bamboo is to remove the branches that grow off the culms. This can help keep your bamboo stand looking tidy. To do this, use a pair of loppers of shears to cut branches close to where they connect to the culm.

Propagating Bamboo

The best time to propagate bamboo is in the early spring, right before growth resumes. Division is the easiest way to propagate bamboo, but it does take a bit of work! While a knife will be sufficient for cutting through roots and rhizomes, you may need to use a saw to cut through larger plants.

Once you’ve divided your bamboo, place each division in a new container or garden location. Make sure to plant after the danger of frost has passed but before the heat of summer arrives.

How to Create a Bamboo Garden

Japanese garden with bamboos and stone lantern

Bamboo is a versatile plant that can be worked into all sorts of gardens, as long as you plan ahead. Before you add bamboo to your garden, it’s important to think about how it will grow and spread. If you don’t want bamboo to overtake your entire garden, choose your variety wisely and/or plant it in a container.

Additionally, you should think about the sunlight requirements of both the bamboo and other plants. For example, if your garden already contains flowers that need direct sunlight, you may not want to plant a towering bamboo species. However, if your existing plants will thrive in partial shade, bamboo should be a great addition.

Complementary Plants to Grow With Bamboo

Since bamboo can grow quite tall, you’ll need to think about how it may shade other plants. With that said, here are some popular bamboo companion plants.

  • Japanese maple
  • Umbrella plant
  • Blue fescue grass
  • Hosta
  • Azalea
  • Camellia
  • Iris
  • Sawara cypress
  • Garden juniper

Keep Blooming in 2022

By filling your garden with bamboo, flowers, and other plants, you can create a personal retreat from the world. Not only will this space provide you with beauty, but it will also allow you to keep blooming in the days ahead.

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