January 20, 2021

Easy Guide for Growing Clumping Ornamental Bamboo in the Landscape

By Amanda Rose Newton

Can do Bamboo!

Bamboo effortlessly transforms a landscape into a peaceful retreat screened from distracting outside visuals and noise. While this look takes a bit of time and effort to achieve, it is easily within grasp of the average gardener if using the right clumping bamboo.

Clumping vs. Spreading

Bamboo is essentially a giant grass! This might be difficult to wrap your head around, but think of the old grade school rhyme: “sedges have edges, rushes are round, and grasses are hollow and go straight to the ground”. Bamboo certainly fits into the last category! When you consider how quickly they grow and their simple leaf structure, it all starts to fit into place.

Like all grasses, they grow on an underground stem or a runner, and with spreading types, this can be a major issue in terms of control. For clumping bamboo, this is less of a big deal as they grow centristically (outward in circular patterns) which is much easier to stay on top of. If greater control is desired, all you need to do is pop some metal a few feet underground to blog the rhizome. Remember, they are a grass, so there will not be an intense root system. Control can also be achieved by cutting the underground stem with a sharp shovel.

Planting and Caring for Your Bamboo

Bamboo is prized for its ability to quickly achieve the look of a full screen in a short time frame. To help aid in this process, consider planting each clump 3 to 5 feet apart for a dense, full screen. If you are a bit more patient, you can get away with spacing them much further apart, with the notion that it will eventually fill out.

See the list of varieties below for more insight into your best bests for this practice. Most bamboo will reach mature height within 6 years, gaining about 1 to 2 feet of height per year. Make sure the hole you dig is 2 times as wide as the root mass and mix compost-rich soil in when backfilling you’re planting. Water it thoroughly and feel free to add a dash of liquid seaweed for added nutrients. You can plant bamboo any time of the year, just be sure to protect it on cold days as it does best in warmer temperatures.

Keep in mind that like all grasses, bamboo grows best when they are getting at least 6 hours of full sun a day. They also are going to have similar fertilizer and water needs, as well as protection from competitive plants such as weeds. In the spring, new growth will be apparent and almost fill the void of a flower for those missing that! This new growth can also be edible (that is where bamboo shoots used commonly in stir-fries come from), depending on the variety.

Bamboo in Containers

Restricted root space is going to restrict the height your bamboo will get. Keep this in mind if you want to keep yours in a container. It’s best to select a dwarf variety, such as Buddha belly for this purpose, selecting a large plant to support a final height of at least 8 feet.

Bamboo Types

Here is a rundown of some of our bestselling varieties to help you select the best fit for your home.

Timor Black: The dark coloration not often seen on bamboo makes this a showstopper. Getting 35 feet in height with 3-inch canes, it is also cold hardy to 27 degrees.

Dwarf Buddha Belly: This bamboo you can get away with using in a container to make for a regal entryway display. It has a unique appearance, with the canes taking on a bloated knobby appearance.

Dwarf Buddha Belly aka Wamin

Hawaiian Stripe Bamboo: this beautiful bamboo grows to over 50 feet tall and features green stripes on golden canes. It also goes by the name “painted” for this reason. It has a beautiful musical quality to it and makes an excellent screen.

Hawaiian Stripe Bamboo

Asian Lemon Bamboo: If cold is a concern for you, this bamboo is cold hardy to 15 degrees. As the name suggests, it is a beautiful yellow color at maturity and creates a lovely natural screen at 25 feet tall.

Asian Lemon Bamboo

Alphonse Karr: This bamboo reaches 20 feet tall with smaller canes at 1.5 inches in diameter. It can vary in color, offering a rainbow-like pattern of striping unique to each clump. It is fairly indestructible and can actually be hedged (maintained at the desired height) with ease.

Graceful: Wispy and beautiful, this understated bamboo grows to 25 feet tall and is easy to maintain. Offering more of a feminine look, it adds regal elegance to any home.

Seabreeze: Those living beachside can rest easy knowing Seabreeze is a salt-tolerant variety. Growing to 25 feet, it does not take away from a coastal beach vibe while still offering an attractive screen.

Vivax Timber: Not as common but oh so delicious, this beautiful bamboo species produce edible new shoots, essential for tasty stirfry dishes. Those seeking an interesting choice to round out their edible landscape project should seek out this variety.