Phyllostachys nigra
Common name: “Black Bamboo”

Expected Height: 20 to 35 feet
Diameter: 2.25 inches
Hardiness: 5° F
USDA Zone recommended 7 through 10

With jet black culms and feathery green leaves, this is perhaps our most sought after bamboo. Under ideal conditions Black Bamboo will grow to 35 feet in height with culms over 2 inches in diameter, but 25 feet is its average height in most climates. There has been at least one instance where Black Bamboo has been measured at over 45 feet, but this appears to be very rare. In most residential gardens here in Portland, Oregon, we usually find Black Bamboo to reach a plateau of about 25 to 30 feet in height.
New culms emerge green every spring and gradually turn black in one to three years (see photos below). There is always a contrast of light and dark culms balanced by slender, dark green leaves. This bamboo is initially slow to spread, through when mature, it can be quite vigorous. If planted in poor soil it tends to grow in a tight cluster, producing mostly thin, weepy culms.

P. nigra should be given a generous layer of rich topsoil, composed of compost or aged manure and mulch, and space to grow unimpeded. It makes an outstanding specimen, if well cared for, and can be the focal point of any garden. It can also be shaped to form a dense hedge for privacy.
Black Bamboo and P. nigra ‘Bory’ are among the most prized bamboos for decorative wood working. Both will retain their dark or mottled colors when dried.

Photos copyright: Noah Bell, Bamboo Garden 2019
Progression of cane color: 1 year old and new shoot on top left, 2 year old canes on top right, 3 year old canes on bottom.

Black Bamboo Information: Tips On Growing Black Bamboo

Bamboo holds the world record for being the fastest growing plant. This is welcoming news for the impatient gardeners amongst us – or is it? While bamboo provides the instant gratification of being a fast grower, some varieties of bamboo can become very invasive and grow out of control. But is black bamboo invasive? Read on for the answer and learn how to care for black bamboo plants in the garden.

Is Black Bamboo Invasive?

There are several varieties of bamboo with black culms (stems) and over 1,200 species of bamboo in general. Phyllostachys nigra, referenced herein as ‘black bamboo,’ has the potential to be very invasive because this Chinese native is classified as a running bamboo, meaning it spreads quickly by underground rhizomes. However, do not let that discourage you from planting it. With some black bamboo information in hand, you will know how to minimize its invasiveness.

How to Care for Black Bamboo Plants

Running bamboo types, such as black bamboo plants, are ideal for creating a dense hedge or privacy screen. You will want to plant your plants 3-5 feet (.91-1.5 m.) apart for this purpose. However, you will probably only want to consider growing black bamboo if you have a very sizable area for it spread out.

There are many strategies you could employ to contain the size of a bamboo grove, such as root pruning or even a root barrier. If opting for a root barrier, install the barrier at least 36 inches (91 cm.) deep between the bamboo grove and the rest of your property using materials in the trench that are impenetrable, such as rolls of fiberglass or 60 mil polypropylene. The barrier itself should protrude 2 inches (5 cm.) above the ground to discourage any wayward rhizomes.

If all of this seems too daunting or if you have little garden space, then remember this black bamboo information: black bamboo, like other types, can also be enjoyed as a container plant.

Black bamboo plants are considered highly ornamental for their culms, which transition from green to ebony black by the third year of growth. Therefore, some patience is required to witness this bamboo in its full black splendor. Black bamboo is also regarded as being the most hardy of all the black bamboo species with a USDA zone rating of 7-11.

In terms of size, black bamboo is capable of reaching heights of 30 feet (9 m.) with the girth of its culms being at least 2 inches (5 cm.). The leaves of black bamboo are evergreen, bright green and lanceolate in shape.

Black bamboo can grow under varying light conditions, from full sun to partial shade. New bamboo plantings should be watered regularly until they are established. The addition of mulch around the base of bamboo plants should also be considered to retain moisture.

Black bamboo prefers soil that is characteristically moist and loamy with a soil pH ranging from highly acidic to slightly alkaline. Fertilizing is not mandatory for growing black bamboo, but you can opt to do so in mid-late spring with a fertilizer high in nitrogen.

Scientific name

Phyllostachys nigra (Black Bamboo)

Phyllostachys nigra (Lodd. ex Lindl.) Munro


Bambusa nigra Lodd. ex Lindl.

Common names

Bamboo, black bamboo, timber bamboo


Poaceae (Gramineae)


Native to southern China.

Naturalised distribution (global)

Locations within which Phyllostachys nigra is naturalised include Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and La Réunion.

Introduced, naturalised or invasive in East Africa

Phyllostachys nigra is invasive in parts of Tanzania (Tropical Biology Association 2010). The editors are not aware of records of the presence of P. nigra in Kenya and Uganda, though this does not necessarily mean that it is absent from these countries.


An occasional weed of riparian zones (banks of watercourses), disturbed sires, waste areas, roadsides, gardens and urban bushland in subtropical and warmer temperate environments.


Phyllostachys nigra is an upright (erect) bamboo with stems growing 3-7 m tall. Plants spread rapidly forming loose clumps via creeping underground stems (rhizomes) that produce upright stems (canes) from their joints (nodes).

The upright stems (erect canes) are greenish when young but turn blackish or purplish-black in colour as they age. These stems (usually 1-4 cm thick) are banded with horizontal rings at the joints (nodes) and are grooved lengthwise (longitudinally) between the joints (the internodes).

The leaves are alternately arranged, but clustered on short shoots which grow from the branches. They have a sheath surrounding the stem and the base of the leaf blade is very narrow, and stalk-like in appearance (pseudo-petiolate). The leaf sheaths are mostly hairless (glabrous), except near their margins. Where the leaf sheath meets the leaf blade there is a tiny membranous structure topped with hairs (the ligule is a ciliate membrane). The leaf blades (6-12 cm long and 9-15 mm wide) are oblong or elongated (lanceolate) in shape, have entire margins, and are mostly hairless (glabrous).

Flowers and seeds are very rarely, if ever, produced and so are not described here.

Reproduction and dispersal

This plant mainly reproduces vegetatively via suckers from its elongated creeping underground stems (rhizomes).

It spreads laterally from deliberate garden plantings into nearby bushland areas and its creeping underground stems (rhizomes) may also be dispersed in soil and dumped garden waste.

Similar species

Phyllostachys nigra is very similar to Phyllostachys bambusoides (madake) and Phyllostachys aurea (golden bamboo), and relatively similar to Arundo donax (giant reed). These species can be distinguished by the following differences:

  • P. nigra has blackish or purplish-black coloured mature stems that are usually 1-4 cm thick. These stems have a distinctive groove running lengthwise from above where the side branches are produced. Its relatively small leaf blades (up to 12 cm long) have a short stalk-like (Pseudo-petiolate) constriction at their base and sometimes a few bristles (Setae) are present near the top of the leaf sheath. Flowers are very rarely produced.
  • P. bambusoides has greenish or yellowish coloured mature stems that are usually 6-20 cm thick. These stems have a distinctive groove running lengthwise from above where the side branches are produced. Its relatively small leaf blades (up to 10 cm long) have a short stalk-like (Pseudo-petiolate) constriction at their base and several black bristles (Setae) are present near the top of the leaf sheath. Flowers are very rarely produced.
  • P. aurea has greenish-yellow or golden coloured mature stems that are usually 2-3 cm thick. These stems have a distinctive groove running lengthwise from above where the side branches are produced. Its relatively small leaf blades (up to 15 cm long) have a short stalk-like (Pseudo-petiolate) constriction at their base and sometimes a few bristles (Setae) are present near the top of the leaf sheath. Flowers are very rarely produced.
  • A. donax has greenish coloured stems that are up to 4 cm thick. These stems are rounded and do not have any lengthwise grooves. Its very large leaves (up to 80 cm long) are not constricted at the base of the leaf blade. Flowers are regularly borne in very large, feathery, whitish coloured open panicles at the tops of the stems (Culms).

Economic and other uses

Widely cultivated as a garden ornamental.

Environmental and other impacts

Phyllostachys nigra forms dense stands, excluding other vegetation. It has been listed as a noxious weed in New South Wales Australia.


The precise management measures adopted for any plant invasion will depend upon factors such as the terrain, the cost and availability of labour, the severity of the infestation and the presence of other invasive species. Some components of an integrated management approach are introduced below.

The best form of invasive species management is prevention. If prevention is no longer possible, it is best to treat the weed infestations when they are small to prevent them from establishing (early detection and rapid response). Control is generally best applied to the least infested areas before dense infestations are tackled. Consistent follow-up work is required for sustainable management.

Mechanical clearing can be effective followed by chemical treatment as plants regrow. Spraying is very difficult for tall plants but basal stem application can be effective. When using any herbicide always read the label first and follow all instructions and safety requirements. If in doubt consult an expert. Fire can be used as a management tool.

The editors could find no information on any biological control agents for this species.


Not listed as a noxious weed by the state or governments in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

Global Compendium of Weeds. Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk Project. Accessed March 2011.

Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, National Genetic Resources Program, Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Beltsville, Maryland, USA. Accessed March 2011.

Lazarides, M., Cowley, K. and Hohnen, P. (1997). CSIRO Handbook of Australian Weeds. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Victoria.


Agnes Lusweti, National Museums of Kenya; Emily Wabuyele, National Museums of Kenya, Paul Ssegawa, Makerere University; John Mauremootoo, BioNET-INTERNATIONAL Secretariat – UK.


This fact sheet is adapted from The Environmental Weeds of Australia by Sheldon Navie and Steve Adkins, Centre for Biological Information Technology, University of Queensland. We recognise the support from the National Museums of Kenya, Tropical Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI) – Tanzania and Makerere University, Uganda. This activity was undertaken as part of the BioNET-EAFRINET UVIMA Project (Taxonomy for Development in East Africa).


BioNET-EAFRINET Regional Coordinator: [email protected]

Nigra Black is a part of our premium bamboo range. These beautiful species of bamboo are ideal for high-end landscaping to make your garden stand out.

Nigra is a small running black bamboo perfect for contained garden beds or pots and troughs. Nigra will naturally grow up to 6mtrs in the ground but is promoted as between 3-4mtrs in height in pots. It can be easily trimmed down in height if need be (read maintenance tips here).

It has a weepy growth habit, not vertical, with attractive bushy green foliage. The natural spread of a running bamboo has no limit, so they are wonderful for creating groves or forests in acreage or large blocks. They are not recommended for planting uncontained in suburbia. Nigra is the best choice for a black bamboo in a pot, as the clumping black bamboo species won’t grow long-term in pots or troughs. It can be grown as a beautiful feature bamboo or light privacy screening. Nigra is also useful for dam or creek wall stability and to prevent soil erosion.

Black bamboos send up their shoots green and they turn transition to black over 6-9 months. Eventually these black stems will fade to a white/grey as they die off, so these can be trimmed out of the bamboo to freshen up the look and encourage new shoots.

The narrower the contained garden bed, pot or trough, the closer you plant the bamboo together. For more information, talk to one of our helpful and knowledgable staff members for professional advice on your garden circumstances. Different circumstances have different solutions!

Nigra is fast growing and can be fully grown within 2-3 years, or quicker if you purchase more established sizes! Nigra is low maintenance & drought tolerant once established in the ground. However in pots and troughs it will require regular watering.

Follow our bamboo planting guide (provided with your purchase) to achieve the best results. The guides are helpful and easy to follow, and assist you in achieving the best results in the shortest amount of time. Most of the effort in growing your bamboos is preparation and the first few months after planting.


What To Know Before You Buy Black Bamboo

Posted on Aug 22, 2014. 1 comment

Everyone wants and loves black bamboo, that is everyone but the people who bought the wrong kind of black bamboo and had it take over their yards or die during the first frost. The truth is that black bamboo is spectacular when its in the right setting. That’s why its good to know the differences between the types of black bamboo before you buy, and definitely before you plant.

Black is a color and not a type of bamboo. There are several varieties of black bamboo and yes there are both clumping and running varieties. They each have there own very unique growing conditions and they are not interchangeable.

2 Major Differences

The 2 major differences in black bamboo are either clumping or running. Clumping bamboo like its name suggests, forms tight clumps and don’t extend more than a few feet away from where they were planted. we call this type of bamboo, bamboo that behaves. We love clumping bamboo because it does what is expected of it with no huge surprises. Running bamboo on the other hand will take over whatever size area it can. it is common for running bamboo (if not properly contained) to take over an entire city block! This is definitely not my idea of behaving!

Clumping Black Bamboo

There are 3 known varieties of clumping black bamboo, which are:

Bambusa Lako – Common name: Timor Black, Black Lako – This one grows about 15′ in pots and works this is a beautiful clumping variety and the most popular and best landscape black bamboo. it is absolutely amazing and looks great in the TROPICAL landscape. No the cat did not step on the caps lock button, ALL clumping black bamboo is tropical, and all of it will die to the ground at around 28F. If it just gets 28F for a few hours it might come back with new shoots next year, but if it gets to 28F for more than a few hours, your black bamboo will be dead! It is a shame because everyone wants this plant, and hardly anyone lives in an environment where it can be grown outdoors. Dont worry, I have some solutions and suggestions coming up.

G. Atroviolacia – Common Name: Java Black, tropical Black – This is another clumping black bamboo, but it is a good bit bigger (at 70′ overall) and somewhat less upright than the black lako described above. Atro as it is called for short has a very similar minimum temperature as the lako black and frost should be avoided at alll costs. You can tell Atro from Lako by the nodal bands, or the rings between the bamboo nodes. Lako has black think bands and Atro has thick white bands. Atro is much more of a flat black bamboo where Lako is much more of an eggplant purple/black color.

Black Asper (betung hitam) – Common name- Black Asper – This is the big one at over 100′ when grown in ideal conditions. This is a black version of the famous Asper bamboo and is absolutely amazing but extremely rare and extremely cold sensitive. I tried growing this one in SW Florida and the occasional cold spells were too much for it. this is a true collectors bamboo and is way to big for the landscape (unless you have acreage).

Running Black Bamboo

Running Black Bamboo – I only know of one major variety Phyllostachys nigra. This is an aggressive running bamboo and must be contained. this bamboo takes the cold down to about 5F and prefers a real winter to go dormant. This is a nice landscape bamboo if you have the ability to contain it. Not preferred for the tropics.

Let us help you choose the right bamboo for you. I am a professional grower of over 60 varieties and am right here in SW Florida, serving the bamboo community since 2002. If you need any help choosing the correct variety, dont hesitate to call Scott at 8554769420

5 Reasons Not to Plant Bamboo in Your Yard

Bamboo is a trendy star of the eco-friendly construction movement, with a wide variety of flooring, furniture and other items being manufactured from the strong, fast-growing grass. However, bamboo production should be left to commercial growers. Bamboo’s hardiness and rapid growth make it a problematic plant for most yards. Here are the top five reasons not to plant bamboo in your garden.

1. Bamboo can spread into neighboring yards.

Many homeowners plant bamboo to create a fast-growing privacy screen around their home. Ted Jordan Meredith, author of Bamboo for Gardens, notes that some bamboo species grow more than three feet per day. Bamboo can spread as quickly as it grows, and it doesn’t respect fences or property lines.

Bamboo grows particularly vigorously when adjacent to irrigated lawns and gardens or in low-lying areas that collect water. Instead of just blocking the view of nosy neighbors, you could be turning your property line into a war zone by planting bamboo.

Some bamboo species may even be categorized as noxious weeds, meaning a neighbor could legally force you to remove your bamboo. You could also be liable for the cost of any damage to the neighbors’ property caused by your bamboo, and for the cost of removal from their property.

2. Bamboo can be an invasive threat to biodiversity.

Bamboo that spreads and escapes your yard may cause ecological problems as well. Many spreading bamboo species are categorized as invasive exotic plants that crowd out native plants and threaten biodiversity.

The best ways to contain spreading bamboo tend to be expensive and complicated, and may not be worth pursuing for many homeowners. Moreover, they are not foolproof. Experts at the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension recommend burying thick 60-mil polypropylene or fiberglass about three feet deep, and leaving another two inches of material above the soil to inhibit surface spreading. Morgan Judy of Clemson University Cooperative Extension suggests creating a solid barrier made of concrete, metal or pressure-treated wood at least 18 inches deep around the bamboo.

Any of these barriers should stop shallow bamboo rhizomes from spreading, but Judy still recommends closely monitoring the area for escaping shoots, particularly during the early summer peak growing season.

3. Getting rid of bamboo can take years.

Bamboo is a long-term relationship that should not be entered lightly. It may take years and vigorous effort to remove unwanted bamboo. The first step in removing bamboo is to remove all the root mass and rhizomes. This is easier said than done, and many homeowners with bamboo-loving neighbors complain they can’t get rid of the spreading grass. No matter how much they dig, the shoots keep coming back.

Judy suggests frequent mowing can deplete and starve the bamboo, but it take at least two years of regular mowing to see any results.

4. Getting rid of bamboo may require herbicides.

Moreover, Judy notes that chemical herbicides are often necessary for controlling bamboo. This can be a problem for those trying to maintain organic gardens and avoid herbicide use.

Judy recommends Roundup Original, Quick Kill Grass and Weed Killer and other herbicides containing glyphosate. This broad-spectrum herbicide has minimal residual soil activity and typically only kills the plants that are directly sprayed. Mow or chop the bamboo and let it regrow until new leaves expand. Then spray the herbicide on the leaves.

Again, this could take years. One application will not solve your bamboo problem. Also, Judy warns that specialized glyphosate herbicides should be used near creeks, ponds and other surface water. Eraser AQ, Pondmaster and other products are approved for use near water.

5. The right bamboo can be hard to find.

Bamboo’s defenders will argue that not all of the more than 1,000 bamboo species are equally invasive. They recommend clumping bamboo species rather than spreading types. The problem is that even clumping species spread, albeit not as vigorously. It also can be hard to differentiate between the types, and some are mislabeled. Moreover, other similar invasive species may be confused with bamboo. For example, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension officials warn against transplanting or encouraging the giant reed (Arundo donax), a bamboo look-alike that has invaded parts of their state.

Bamboo may seem like an attractive garden option, but it poses serious problems. Stick to a lucky bamboo in a small indoor pot, or avoid growing bamboo altogether. Moreover, do your homework before buying bamboo flooring and other products. It may not be as eco-friendly or durable as you think.

For expert help in removing bamboo, hire a professional landscaper.

How fast does bamboo grow?

  • Bamboo produces new canes (culms) in the Spring. These shoots emerge out of the ground and grow in height and diameter for around 60 days. During this 60 day period, it will produce limbs and leaves.
  • After the 60 day period of growth, the bamboo cane never grows in height or diameter again. Bamboo doesn’t experience secondary growth like trees or most flora. It will put on new foliage every year, and a cane typically lives for 10 years.
  • Bamboo is a member of the grass family. It is a colony plant, so it uses energy from this existing plant to produce more plants and expand the root structure. The new plants will grow in the same manner. New shoots emerge to turn into a cane with limbs and leaves within a 60 day period.
  • Bamboo takes about three years to get established. Once established the new shoots that emerge in the Spring (they will still only grow for 60 days) will continue to get bigger and more numerous from year to year as the colony grows towards maturity. It takes a varying number of years (4-15) for different species to reach their maximum size. This is dependent on species selection, soil, sunlight, climate and watering conditions.

This may seem lengthy, but it is important and interesting to understand your new bamboo. Every year we have customers contact us because their bamboo is just sitting there and not taking off. Bamboo grows differently than most other plants. It is difficult to grasp what is happening. It did not get the title of “fastest growing woody plant on earth!” for nothing!

How to start growing bamboo

Use a plant and not seeds! Temperate bamboo typically seeds on 75-year cycles and the viability of the seeds are very short. If true seeds can be sourced, they are typically not viable and an ill advised use of time and funds. More about seeds

It is very important to realize that the bamboo division you begin with is only going to grow underground. The culms (cane) attached to the rhizomes or roots has finished growing and will only support the rhizome system. So do not expect the culm to take off and get larger or taller. Each Spring the culm emerges the diameter it will be and grows to the height it is going to be in a couple of months. The growth of the entire life cycle of the cane will be completed in just a couple of months.

Bamboo Growth Cycle


  • Initial bamboo never grows in height or diameter again.


  • New shoots emerge during spring and can grow up to 4 feet per day.


  • New growth cycle usually lasts 60 days.


  • After the 60 day growth period, this cane will never grow again.


  • The bamboo grove uses energy from existing canes to produce larger & more numerous spring growth.


  • The bamboo grove continues producing larger canes until maturity is reached, usually 7-10 years after planting.

Size of initial planting, species, the age of grove and environment are all factors that influence new shoot size.

Your starter plant should be a healthy division from an established bamboo grove. The bamboo you start off with, should not be thought of as an individual plant but one that will become a colony. This colony or grove is mostly underground (50% of its mass). The culms or canes provide nourishment for the underground colony of rhizomes. These rhizomes are roots and are similar to the culms in appearance. They have nodes and internodes. The area between the nodes (swollen area) is the internodes. From the node area, new roots and rhizomes will grow. The increase of rhizome growth allows the bamboo to store nutrients and therefore, produce larger plants until a mature culm size is obtained throughout the grove.

A baby girl and boy may have some similar characteristics to its parents, but it will not look just like them at an early age. As the baby matures it will look more like the parents. The same goes for your new bamboo division. The canes or shoots and leaves will most likely not have all the characteristics of the mature size bamboo such as stripes or leaf size. Just keep in mind all the bamboo characteristics, just like a newborn, may take some time to present proper characteristics. Because of this latency, it is advisable that you buy bamboo from a reputable source.

New growth

During the springtime, new culms (canes) will emerge upward from the rhizome nodes. These new shoots are very tender and can be broken by the slightest bump. The culms emerge from the ground with the diameter that it will always have and will grow at an amazing rate for 40 to 60 days.

Bamboo has an amazing growth rate. It is much like a telescope in its growth habit as it emerges. Its growth has been measured at almost 4 feet in a 24 hour period during the Spring shooting period. When the new shoot reaches its height, it will unfold its branches and new leaves. Even though the culm will never increase in diameter or height the rest of its life.

When does new growth emerge?

New plant growth or shoots will initiate around March and extend through May for Phyllostachys bamboo in the Northern Hemisphere. This period will vary a little with different species and local ecological conditions.

How to grow bamboo faster?

Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on earth but have you ever wondered how to make it grow faster? Here are the key points to help maximize and accelerate bamboo’s growth…

Start with big established or stabilized plants

The larger the plant you begin with, the larger the rhizome system and the faster it will begin to produce larger and numerous shoots. Bamboo is a colony plant so the plant with more numerous and larger rhizomes are capable of producing better growth. You can not take a short cut in the amount of time that it takes a species to establish it’s rhizome system but starting with a health division is crucial. Avoid sellers who provide freshly dug plants because this is the most unstable time when they have been recently separated from their energy source.

Best soil conditions

Bamboo is not picky about soil conditions, but optimal soil conditions are a pH=7 or neutral, sandy loam with high organic content. Bamboo like most plants performs better with an adequate layer of organic matter and loose soils to allow for drainage. However, bamboo will work well in clay and less advantageous soil conditions.

Bamboo roots are not deep and source most of their nutrient in the first 12 inches of soil. Bamboo will not grow in standing water, the soil has to be capable of drainage. The root system can deteriorate if submerged for water for weeks. Bamboo should not be confused with “Lucky Bamboo” which is technically a lily and can grow in water.

Sunlight conditions

The more sunlight, the more energy available to photosynthesis and growth. Most bamboo requires at least 4 hours of filter sunlight or better to have a successful planting. There is a smaller group of species with a larger leaf and smaller canes, 20 feet or less, that prefer partially shady growing conditions but this is not the norm for bamboo.

Use multiple plants

Bamboo has compounding growth. Starting with several bamboo divisions and this will dramatically increase the amount of bamboo you have each year and shorten the time it takes to make a privacy screen or grove. However, you can establish a grove of bamboo with just one good division, it will just take longer.

If you are wanting a screen or grove rapidly, we suggest planting on 5′ foot centers or closer. This will hopefully provide a screen in 3-5 years. The larger your initial size, the taller your screen will be during the time frame. Closer spacing will accelerate a dense screen or grove faster. You cannot over plant bamboo.

Fertilize to encourage growth

Fertilizing can accelerate growth by a year or more. Fertilizing is the best way to increase growth! Bamboo can benefit from the extra energy provided by additional fertilization and not all soils are created equal. Because of common soil deficiencies and bamboo’s desire to grow, we recommend using a well balanced time-release fertilizer.

A time release fertilizer helps by reducing leaching and provides nutrients on a timeline that correlates closer to the bamboo ability to uptake the nutrients. Fertilizing can help accelerate growth and greatly reduce the time it takes bamboo to create a privacy screen or achieve a mature size.

This may not sound like a lot of growth for three years, but at a five-year level, you should have 20 to 40 culms (canes) 3/4 + inches in diameter and 20+ feet high, under good growing conditions, from a single bamboo planting. Of course, this varies with the species selected and some species can be over 3-inch diameter and 40 feet high in just 7 years.

What to expect from the bamboo grove?

It takes bamboo about three full years, in the ground, before the mother plants really take off and start producing multiple shoots providing a bamboo grove appearance. Here are the typical results under normal growing conditions: From a 3 gallon size Phyllostachys species you should have a couple of new shoots the first spring. Then next spring those canes are capable of producing a couple more canes each. By the third year, the effects of compounding growth really become evident when all those canes produce more growth. It gets quite impressive after about three full years because the new culms (canes) that emerge each Spring will be larger and taller than the last year’s growth.

First 3 years of bamboo growth

  1. Sleeps
  2. Creeps
  3. Leaps

The mother plant ( no matter what size that you begin with) is finished growing in diameter and height, but the rhizome will grow outward underground. Bamboo is a (grass) colony plant and most of the bamboo grove will be underground. Each Spring, the new culms will begin to emerge larger in height and diameter than the previous Spring’s growth, until the mature size of that species is reached after several years.

As a bamboo grove develops, the new culm (canes) become larger in diameter and the height increases in each NEW cane until the grove reaches maturity. The oldest culms are usually the smallest in size. The new culms, produced during the Spring of each successive year, will emerge larger than the previous year’s growth, as a general rule. This is due to the increase in the underground system of rhizome or roots.

Controlling the bamboo

Temperate running bamboos typically seeds on 75-year cycles with a very low seed set. It is very hard for bamboo to propagate by seeds. The main mechanism of propagation is root (rhizome) expansion and new culm production.

If you control the roots, you control the bamboo. You can do a root pruning twice a year or Bamboo Shield is a great option. Bamboo Shield provides a worry-free way of containing bamboo. With Bamboo Shield, you can define the specific area in which you want the bamboo to grow. It can be used to form long privacy screens or even unique patterns in the ground. It is easy to install as long as you are able to dig in your soil. A trench is dug around the desired containment area and the Bamboo Shield is installed vertically to prevent the spread of bamboo roots (rhizomes). Bamboo does not have a tap or deep vertical roots. It has a superficial root system that runs parallel to the ground typically in the first 14″ of the topsoil.

You can also cut down any undesired new shoots to prevent the bamboo from spreading. This has to be done diligently but is a good method of containment if you have access to the areas in which the bamboo shoots. New shoots are fragile when they first emerge and can be easily mowed or cut with a string trimmer.

Bamboo is a grass and can be controlled to provide privacy screening or nice contained groves. Bamboo will not take over the world, it would have already done so thousands of years ago if that myth were true. Thousand and thousands of gardeners have enjoyed and used bamboo for thousands of years. With just a little bit of maintenance or installation of the Bamboo Shield, you will be able to enjoy the fast-growing, evergreen privacy that only bamboo can provide.

Bamboo Anatomy

Bamboo is a monocot because of hollow stems with scattered vascular bundles and parallel vein leaves. The woody ringed vertical stems are called culms or commonly referred to as canes. The most prolific species of temperate bamboo is of the Phyllostachys genus. They will have a groove or sulcus above each branch attachment with two alternating limbs at each nodal ring. This is the species that most people think of when images of bamboo are conjured up. However, there are many species with various characteristics. Some species have a colored groove or sulcus. The internodes may be green with a yellow stripe in the sulcus. On the other hand, some have yellow canes with green stripes in the sulcus. Others are green with black coloring, solid black, spotted with burgundy or purplish colors. Many species have 3 limbs or more at each node. The list of different bamboo goes on and on. That is not even getting into the different color of leaves and their variegation. See more about bamboo anatomy here

Bamboo are evergreen and put on new leaves each year. This new leaf growth happens during the Springtime. This process is gradual and is highlighted by the appearance of a new carpet of golden brownish leaves within the grove. It is important not to remove this carpet of leaves from the groves for it provides mulch and nutrients for the colony. Since bamboo is an evergreen, it is capable of providing privacy screening in all seasons. Find out more about bamboo leaves here.

Cold weather hurting bamboo

The cold hardiness of our temperate bamboo are taken from the American Bamboo Society’s Source List and are as accurate as possible. Any variations listed are from our own personal or business experience and we will constantly study and observe bamboo in order to provide you with the most up to date and accurate data possible.

Many of the bamboos will live even after being exposed to temperatures lower than those listed. While it may be distressing to see your beautiful foliage or culms die due to extreme cold or wind chill, it is comforting in most situations to see the bamboo bounce back, the following Spring with new culms and often new foliage on what appeared to be dead culms. Again, this only happens when the bamboo has been exposed to temperatures below those suggested for that species or extreme wind chills.

It is always important to choose an appropriate species for your climate zone and application. Important application note… Containers and planters do not provide the same amount of insulation as the ground does. If you are utilizing a planter or container it is crucial to choose a species that is more cold hardy than is typically required for planting in the ground.

How long does bamboo last?

A bamboo grove can last for a hundred year or more. An average cane may live up to 15 years depending on the species, but to generalize, 7 to 10 years is more common. The starter plant and smaller plants will begin to die off a little faster as the grove matures because of sunlight absence. The goods news is that several years down the road when the starter plant starts to expire, you will be well on your way to having a grove or screen of mature size canes emerging each Spring and Summer.

Bamboo applications

There are over 200 species that can be grown well in North America, this will be determined by your climate zone. Bamboo can add greenery to your garden during the winter, it can stabilize the soil of embankments and control the worst of erosion problems. This plant can provide privacy or windscreens and can be trimmed to the height you desire.

We carry a species of bamboo for almost all application with a multitude of sizes, colors, and cold hardiness.

We primary sell bamboo for:

  • Privacy Screens
  • Ornamental
  • Accent plantings
  • Indoor plants
  • Zoos and Botanical Gardens
  • Bamboo products
  • Biomass applications

Please let us know if we can help you select or provide you with any of our beautiful bamboos.

Get started with your own bamboo…
We ship premium bamboo right to your door! Always Fast & Free Shipping, No Minimum!

Pruning Bamboo

Placement, Spacing, Growth Rate

Bamboo should be spaced 3 to 5 feet apart to form a dense screen. The faster spreading types can be planted farther apart, if you are willing to wait a little longer for the screen to fill out. OR, if you want an immediate screen, some types can be planted very close together as long as they have some space to spread in width. Consult with us about details. We are here to make sure you have all your questions answered and can make an educated decision. Most bamboo will not suffer from being planted nearly back to back, but their growth rate may be slowed. If you wish to make a full size bamboo grove with less emphasis on dense screening, planting at wider intervals is recommended (5- 10 feet apart, or even 20 feet in some cases) Starting from a small size, most bamboo will reach mature height within five or six years. As a very general rule, Clumping bamboo gain about 1-2 feet of height per year and the Running types gain about 3-5 feet per year, and spread outward at the same rate. Height and spread rate is variable depending on the species and climate. Feel free to contact us to discuss details about your project. See link for photos of Clumping Bamboo Growth Rate.
Although most people have a place in mind as to where they want to plant their bamboo, one should keep in mind that most large bamboos (Phyllostachys) do best with 5 or more hours of direct sunlight. They must be given ample water, fertilizer, and protection from competitive weeds. They will benefit from a windscreen and light shade when first planted as well. This is especially true of smaller plants. Fargesia, Thamnocalamus and Sasa do well with light to moderate shade. In fact the Fargesia and most Thamnocalamus are happier with some shade during the hottest part of the day. Fargesia and Thamnocalamus are the hardiest of the clump type bamboos. They can be planted without fear of spreading. See this link for a photo of the Clumping type rhizome. Most other hardy bamboos can spread by their underground rhizomes and this must be taken into account when planting them. We recommend annual root pruning as the first option for control. Also, barrier of 60 mil by 30 inch deep, HDPE (high density polyethylene) can be used for rhizome control. For helpful information and photographs about controlling and maintaining bamboo see: control methods

-one of the most fascinating things about bamboo is the exuberant growth of the new shoots each spring. For the bamboo grower, this is the equivalent of a colorful spring flower. Some bamboos can only be identified by the color and shape of their new shoots. Each year we hope for larger and more numerous shoots. Some types are edible as well, and large enough to provide a reliable vegetable crop each spring.

New shoots on P. edulis Moso

Bamboo is a giant grass and achieves new heights every year by sending up new and larger shoots each spring. Usually starting between April and June, the new shoots emerge from ground and reach their full height in 2 to 3 months. For example, a young bamboo that is about 8 feet tall with 4 canes, may produce 3 additional new shoots in the spring that grow to 10 feet, within two months time. Next spring those 7 canes will produce about 5 to 10 new shoots that could reach 15 feet. Fast forward 4 years: the same plant is now 60 canes strong and up to 30 feet tall. Because the canes are connected by rhizome, it is functioning as a single plant. Now it has the energy needed to produce larger and more numerous new shoots each spring that grow from the ground up to 35 feet in two months.
This is especially impressive when watching Timber Bamboo new shoots grow over a foot per day, from ground level up to 50 feet in the spring season. New shoots literally SPRING out of the ground! They need to be attached to a large grove to produce this caliber of growth. (see image on right) When starting from a new planting or small plant division you can expect to see new shoots grow only slightly taller than the previous years canes. If the bamboo is fresh dug out of the ground, the new shoots will likely be short and bushy the first year, until the plant gets established in a new area. The bamboo we sell are well rooted so you can expect to see strong new growth in the first season. If you purchase plants in the summer or fall, likely most of the growth will occur underground as the rhizomes spread outward. Once the new bamboo is well rooted in the ground, the shoots will be significantly larger than previous canes, usually gaining 3-5 feet of height each year. See this link to for a photo illustration of the growth rate for new shoots from a large grove of Moso growing at Bamboo Garden. Clumping Bamboo grow in the same manner but the canes are much smaller and only spread a couple inches out from the base of the plant each season.

Planting Your New Bamboo
Taking the care to plant correctly is very important for optimal growth and health.

Use garden compost or manure to work into the soil around your new bamboo planting. This is best done as you are digging the hole for the initial planting -work the new compost into the bottom of the hole to increase drainage, place the bamboo in the hole so that the top of the root-mass is level with the top of the soil. Make sure the hole is 1.5 to 2 times as wide as the bamboo root-mass. Mix the remaining compost in with the local soil when back filling the hole. This will provide a nutrient boost and improve the drainage in the soil around the bamboo roots. Put a 2-3 inch layer of compost over the top of the bamboo. Water the new planting thoroughly. We sell a blended organic compost, from Teufel Soil Products that has all the essential nutrients including active microbes, worm castings, kelp meal, and composted manure and bark shavings. We have been using this product for several years and it has been consistent in quality and has produced great results for our bamboo. $10 per 3 cubic foot bale ($8 each when purchased in packages of 5 or more bales). We also sell an organic fertilizer (read below for more info).
Most bamboos are happiest in a moderately acidic loamy soil. If your soil is very heavy you can add organic material. It can be dug into the soil where the bamboo is to be planted, but you can also mulch very heavily and let the earthworms do the work, building a berm of nutritious soil (this also helps with bamboo control). Spread two or more inches of mulch in the area around the bamboo, and where you want the bamboo to grow. Bamboo is a forest plant and does best if a mulch is kept over the roots and rhizomes. It is best not to rake or sweep up the bamboo leaves from under the plant, as they keep the soil soft, and moist, and recycle silica and other natural chemicals necessary to the bamboo. A low-growing shade-tolerant groundcover plant that will allow the leaves to fall through to form a mulch without being visible will work if you find the dry leaf mulch objectionable. Almost any organic material is a good mulch. Grass is one of the best, as it is high in nitrogen and silica. Home made or commercial compost is great. Hay is a good mulch too but hay and manure are often a source of weed seeds, so that can be a problem. Any kind of manure is good, if it isn’t too hot. Limited amounts of very hot manures like chicken are OK if used with care. At our nursery we use a large amount of chipped trees from tree pruning services. This can harbor pathogens that can affect some trees or shrubs, but the bamboo loves it.

Planting small starts

When planting smaller size starts (1 or 2 gallon), it is important to protect them from overexposure to the hot sun, especially Fargesia and other shade loving bamboo. This is most important in the summer and when the chosen site has concrete, or near a wall that could reflect light and heat on to the plant. In such a potentially hot spot, it may be best to use a larger more well established bamboo (5 gallon or larger), and/or plant in the spring or fall.

If you have a moment, watch this stop motion video made by one of our customers. She is planting CLUMPING BAMBOO (Fargesia robusta) as a very narrow screen between her and her neighbors. Taller Running Bamboo would not be appropriate for this location because the rhizomes can spread under the fence and concrete. Clumping Bamboo still need to be root pruned to control spread, but the are much slower, easier to manage, and predict where the pruning needs to be done. Root prune twice per year for Running Bamboo and once every two years for Clumping Bamboo. One can also install an open sided barrier along the property line to block the bamboo from growing under the fence.

This video was created by one of our customers. They do a great job of applying everything they learned from us about installing rhizome barrier in an open sided configuration, and planting the bamboo with the right blend of top soil. They have VERY rocky soil as well, so this job was particularly difficult. This is a great video, it covers all the basics. Thank you Eric, for the nice compliments about our nursery.

Timing and winter protection

Bamboos can be planted at any time of the year in areas with mild climates such as we have in the maritime Pacific Northwest. In colder parts of the world they should be planted outdoors early enough to become established and to harden off sufficiently to survive their first winter. If the bamboo is planted late in the year, one should mulch the plant heavily and provide extra protection from any cold and drying winds. In colder climates where bamboos may be marginal, successful growers usually protect their bamboos through the winter with a heavy mulch. Even in very cold climates in an established bamboo grove with a heavy layer of bamboo leaves covering the ground, the soil will be soft and friable during periods when the surrounding soils are frozen hard and deep. In very hot climates, where summers routinely get over 100 degrees, it is best to wait until Fall or Spring to plant bamboo, unless it can be given a shady area or some kind of protection from the sun.

  • We use a timed release (3-4 month), lawn fertilizer that is high in nitrogen for our bamboo in containers. 21-5-6 is the N-P-K formulation (that stands for Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, which are the basic elements of plant food). The exact number formulation is not important. The higher the number, the greater the concentration of each element. For example, fertilizer that reads 21-5-6, is 21% nitrogen, 5% Phosphorus, and 6% Potassium. In general, bamboo can utilize half a pound of nitrogen per 100 sq feet (two applications per year). In other words, if you have a grove that is 10′ x 10′, and apply 2 lb. of 21-5-6, the amount of actual nitrogen available to the plant is .42 lbs (2lbs x .21 = .42 lbs), which is plenty. You would need to apply 10 lbs of organic 4-3-2 to feed the bamboo .4 lbs of actual nitrogen. Sound confusing? Not to worry bamboo is not a finicky feeder. There is lot of margin for experimentation an error.

  • Our bamboo groves in the field are fertilized with an organic fertilizer (see below for brand) which is much less concentrated (4-3-2), but we apply it at a higher rate so that the amount of nitrogen available to the plant is about the same as a higher concentrate synthetic fertilizer. Organic fertilizer is a better choice for improving the long term health of the soil and the bamboo.

  • 1 pound of 21-5-6 synthetic fertilizer, is equal in nitrogen to about 5 pounds of 4-3-2 organic fertilizer.

Fertilizing is generally done in the spring, before the shooting season (usually Feb through April), and again in the summer.
To further improve the soil, provide a 2-3 inch layer of compost or aged manure around the base of the plant, and outward where you want it to spread, for a natural source of plant food, and good medium for the bamboo to spread into. You can control the direction of your bamboo spreading habit by providing it with rich, fertile soil.

New! 100% Organic Fertilizer for bamboo. We were excited to offer this fertilizer as it is fully organic and available at a reasonable price.

Edible bamboo shoots!

Controlling the spread of bamboo
See this link for an overview of control methods

We recommend annual root pruning as the first option for control. Also, barrier of 60 mil thickness by 30 inch deep, HDPE (high density polyethylene) can be used for rhizome control. If you plan to install a barrier to control the spread of running bamboos, it is important to install it properly to ensure its effectiveness. In other than very light soils, the bamboo rhizomes are usually in the top few inches of soil. However when the rhizome encounters an obstruction it will turn, and sometimes it will go down. It is important to avoid loose soil or air pockets next to the barrier or the bamboo may go deeper than you want and perhaps go under the barrier. When filling the hole after placing the barrier, tightly compact the soil next to the barrier. Any soil amendments must be added only in the top foot or so. You mustn’t encourage deep rhizome growth if you want to contain the bamboo. If the bamboo planting can be surrounded by a shallow trench 8 to 10 inches deep, this can be a cheaper and easier method to control its spread. See link for pruning trench technique. You just need to check a couple of times in the late summer and fall to see if any rhizomes have tried to cross the trench, and cut them off. Checking for spreading rhizomes is very important. It must be done each fall, whether you are using barrier or a trench.

King of Spades ™
We now sell the King of Spades root cutting shovel (13″ blade, long handle): an excellent, professional grade tool, for cutting rhizomes and digging bamboo. We have been using this shovel for many years at the nursery, highly recommended. (click link for pricing)

Learn more about Bamboo thinning, removing, and Grove Maintenance
Learn more about Controlling Bamboo Rhizomes

Growing bamboo in containers

Many people ask us if bamboo can be grown in containers. The short answer is yes. However, there are a few key points to consider. Every two to five years they will need to be repotted or divided. The Black Bamboo on the right, has burst through the thin plastic nursery container (click on photo for larger image). Repotting or dividing is best done in the springtime. If over grown and root bound, most bamboos can escape or even break their confinement. Tight spaces, including pots and barriers, will restrict the culm size. For example, Phyllostachys nigra can grow over 30 feet tall in the ground but will often not top 15 feet when grown in a container. The larger the space, the larger bamboo will grow. Bamboo in containers require more care because they are much more susceptible to environmental stress. They are more sensitive to heat and cold, strong winds tip them over, and the restricted root space allows them to dehydrate quickly. A well established bamboo in a container should be watered 3 to 5 times per week during the summer, ensuring that the pot drains well. In containers bamboos, especially those that are not well adapted to hot sun, require more care in placement as they can be damaged if the pot overheats. During winter, container bamboos are susceptible to freezing and if not protected may die. Bamboo in containers is not nearly as hardy as the same bamboo would be in the ground. Bamboo can be a fine container plant if its needs are met. We recommend using wood planters or containers that have some insulation for the root mass. If you use metal feed troughs, make sure they have adequate drainage and use only very hardy plants. We sell cedar planters which provides a decent home for most bamboos for about 6-8 years before they need to be transplanted.
We sell decorative cedar planters See more info…
New on right, 50″x 20″ rectangular cedar planters lined with rhizome barrier, $245.
The bamboo inside the planters on middle are P. iridescens in the 20 gallon size.

Photo © Noah Bell, Bamboo Garden
Classic spring leaf fall, P. edulis Moso

Click on photo for larger image.

Yellowing and falling leaves

In the spring there is considerable yellowing of the leaves, followed by leaf drop. Some species do this more than others (Phyllostachys aurea, P. eduis Moso, see image on right, Fargesia murielae in the fall) This is natural and should not cause concern, as bamboos are evergreen and naturally renew their leaves in the spring. They should loose their leaves gradually as they are replaced by fresh new ones. In the spring on a healthy bamboo there should be a mixture of green leaves, yellow leaves and newly unfurling leaves.

Staking tall plants

When planting bamboo over 15 feet tall, it may need to be staked or guyed for the first year of growth or until well anchored by their root mass. This will prevent strong wind from uprooting them, or damaging new shoots and culms. Tall bamboo plants are best guyed with a rope tied to the same point on the culms, anywhere from about one third to halfway up the culm. Use three or four guy lines depending upon how much wind you expect. We recommend four ropes, one on each point of the compass. Drive two foot stakes one and one half feet into the ground at least 6 feet from the bamboo. Wood and bamboo stakes work well. If supporting very large bamboo, metal stakes are recommended. A useful method for supporting long, tall screens is to put a sturdy post at each end of the screen and run a strong line between the two posts. Each bamboo can be loosely tied off the main line. A fence can serve the same purpose for bamboo about 15 feet tall.


Photo © Noah Bell, Bamboo Garden
Turn on the sprinkler on a hot summer day, rainbow on the bamboo grove.

Newly planted bamboos need frequent and liberal watering. Twice a week during mild weather, and three to four times per week during hot or windy weather. Make sure that each plant under 5 gallon pot size gets at least ½ gallon of water. For plants over 5 gallon size more than 1 gallon is advised. Once a bamboo has reached the desired size, it can survive with much less irrigation. But until then you must water and fertilize copiously to achieve optimum growth. Lack of sufficient water especially during hot or windy weather is the leading cause of failure or poor growth of new bamboo plants. Watering newly planted bamboos every day, or for longer than a few minutes can cause excess leaf drop. Well-established bamboos are rather tolerant of flooding, but newly planted bamboos can suffer from too much as well as too little water. Make sure the area drains well and doesn’t tend to collect pools of ground water for long periods of time (more than 24 hours). Installing a simple drip system with a timing unit is a cost effective and efficient way to assure the watering needs are met, while minimizing the chance of overwatering. Where possible, use overhead or sprinkler systems to irrigate a wider area and encourage more rhizome growth, if you want the bamboo to spread into a large grove.

Maintenance pruning for large running bamboo

Bamboo, like other plants, requires some pruning to maintain its attractiveness. Individual bamboo culms live about 10-15 years, but a full grove producing many new canes each year can live for several decades. Once each year you should remove older, unattractive culms and cut off any dead or unattractive branches. You can prune most bamboo without fear of damaging it. Just trim so it looks attractive. Make cuts just above a node, so as not to leave a stub that will die back and look unsightly. If you cut back the top, you may want to also shorten some of the side branches so the plant will look more balanced, not leaving long branches at the top.
See this link for photos and descriptions of the
thinning process for a bamboo grove:

Thinning Clumping Bamboo

Clumping Bamboo can be pruned to maintain upright growth, or thinned to maintain an airy appearance. If the plant gets too wide, just clip some of the outer canes back to ground level. See this page for a photo illustrated
guide to pruning clumping bamboo.


Bamboo may be trimmed in topiary fashion. You may top the culms, remove some lower branches, and shorten some side branches and remove others. Any culms or branches cut do not grow back longer but only grow more leaves. The photo on the right is a Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Aureocaulis’, pruned to about 6 feet tall, highlighting the bright yellow canes and dark green foliage. It is a very unusual design, but it works in this space. Click on photo for larger image.

For Screens or Hedges

Bamboo may also be cut to form a hedge as one might do with boxwood or other traditional hedge plants if one wishes. This is best done after the new culms grow to full height in the spring or summer. (Most of the new growth on a bamboo plant happens at the same time of the year, usually late spring or early summer for temperate bamboos.) There should need be only one major pruning, with only minor touch up at other times of the year. If you want to control the size or height of your bamboo, and retain the natural look of the bamboo, this can be done by removing new shoots that are significantly larger in diameter than the culms that are the desired height. These shoots will be replaced by smaller diameter culms that will not grow so tall. This can be safely done with a plant that has been well established, not a newly planted bamboo.

Legging up

For display of colorful bamboos such as Phyllostachys nigra, Phyllostachys bambusoides ‘Castillonis’ and Phyllostachys vivax ‘Aureocaulis’ you can enhance the beauty by removing smaller culms and cutting off lower branches so that the beauty of the culms is visible.

Groundcover Bamboos

These low-growing (up to 5 feet) spreading bamboo cover large areas and have wonderful foliage. If looking ragged, they can be clear-cut at the end of the winter (before the onset of new growth) using a mower or shears. This rejuvenates them and when the new growth emerges the plants will look much fresher, plus they will remain shorter and more dense. They can be lightly trimmed after their shooting to retain their uniform short stature. In very cold climates (zones 4 through 6) groundcover bamboo are often deciduous and may die back to ground level, but the plants still shoot freely in the following spring if well insulated with mulch through the winter.

(click on link) Bamboo inquiries: General questions and answers from our customers.
Lots of good information about growing bamboo!
Bamboo Pests
see link for information about bamboo pests.

It looks like bamboo, but it ain’t see
Imposters: Not bamboos at all
also see
From Terra Viridis Nursery
Plants Commonly Mistaken for Bamboo

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