Bamboo Short, Short List

by philinshelton on February 26, 2009

in Bamboo Basics,Bamboo Plants

Ready to begin your bamboo search?  If you aren't up to wading through the stats of over 400 bamboos listed on, here's a more manageable list of just a few wonderful bamboos that are evergreen in USDA Zones 7a-8a to get you started.  Note that the sizes are common for Western Washington, but may be different depending on your location.

Running Bamboos

If you want a fast-spreading bamboo, or one with giant canes, or one with huge or variegated leaves, you will have to get a running bamboo.  Here's the short list by category.

Large & Timber bamboos (over 25') for Full Sun

Phyllostachys vivax grows to 50', the fattest culms of any of the bamboos we can grow in Western Washington, remaining a rich evergreen over winter.  It spreads and sizes up quickly in good growing conditions, and has very tasty shoots.  Huge bamboo for a creating a bamboo forest. Expect minor to severe breakage from wet snow or ice,  due to the thin culm walls of this bamboo. Phyllostachys nigra 'Henon' grows to 40', wonderful for a bamboo forest or giant screen.  Upright culms bear a canopy of billowing, tiered foliage, remaining lush over winter.  Mature culms at grove interior have a green-grey cast.  Stronger than Vivax, but still expect some snow breakage. Phyllostachys atrovaginata grows to 30', with strongly tapered culms that have the "big bamboo" look.  Known as Incense Bamboo for the distinct aroma of the canes (esp. in full sun, or rubbed).  It has a strongly upright habit once established, and the new shoots are very ornamental, as well as tasty.  One of very few bamboos that tolerates truly soggy soil, and is the best of the  "big" bamboos under snow load. Phyllostachys aureosulcata 'Spectabilis' grows to 30', and features yellow culms with a green stripe.  New shoots are blushed burgundy-magenta when exposed to full sun, fading over the growing season.  Culm leaves also have wonderful color.  Spreads quickly.  Great for a tall screen or stand alone specimen.

Small Bamboos w/Bold Foliage for Shade

Pseudosasa japonica grows to about 15', and is know as Arrow bamboo for its straight, thin culms.  Use it as a thick, wild-looking hedge, or transform it into a transparent screen, or in containers as an accent plant in theme gardens.  The very large, (nearly a foot long) deep green leaves make it one of the best bamboos for creating coarse, tropical effects.  Grows well in nearly full sun (w/ample water) to nearly full shade. Holds up well in containers in a shaded areas. Indocalamus tesselatus grow to about 7', and has the largest leaves of any bamboo.  Best in shade, protected from high winds.  Use it for tropical effects, or to contrast with finer textured foliage plants. Also makes a unique accent plant near a water feature.  Unlike most of the smaller bamboos, this one is very mite resistant. Pleioblastus shibuyanus 'Tsuboi' grows to 7', but can be maintained much shorter by annual pruning.  This highly ornamental, variegated bamboo can be used as a ground cover, shrub, low screen/hedge, or a stand alone specimen.  It spreads quickly once established, but needs moisture in dry months, or foliage will desiccate.  Does best in a somewhat sheltered environment.

Clumping Bamboos

These three bamboos are all suitable for screening, in plant compositions, or as a stand alone specimen.  Each will grow in full sun to nearly full shade, but will do best with morning sun and afternoon shade.  All need moist soil to reach full potential, especially in full sun. Fargesia robusta grows to about 15' (to 20' reported, but I haven't seen it yet) is the current darling of the clumping bamboos, and made the Elizabeth Miller Great Plant Picks list in 2008.  Roughly vase-shaped with arching perimeter stems, it sustains a little leaf damage over winter in the colder micro climates of Western Washington. Fargesia denudata grows to 12', with a very wide canopy of delicate foliage.  Older culms arch dramatically, creating a fountain of foliage.  Stunning!  Best use of this plant is a stand alone specimen in a focal point of the landscape. Fargesia rufa grows to about 6', with wide spreading form that makes it great for a low hedge or screen.  The toughest of the Fargesia genus, it is also fast-growing and easy to propagate.

{ 2 trackbacks }

Fargesa scabrida - THE ONE Clumping Bamboo You Should Own | Bamboo Bits and Pieces
March 17, 2009 at 8:40 pm
You’re Golden with Golden Bamboo | Bamboo Bits and Pieces
April 10, 2009 at 10:41 pm

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

.justin March 28, 2009 at 3:19 pm

hi there Phil.
i think i purchased my bamboo from you a few years ago, and i’d like some help identifying it. you’re out cole road, right?
i was looking for a tall “timber” bamboo. for my price range, you recommended one that has a black stripe on one segment of the canes.
i really like how it’s establishing. last year i counted and got excited over each new shoot- i’m sure you can remember what that was like!
this winter i shook off the snow so it didn’t sag. i also did my first pruning of the scraggly, small, and bushy branches and now both of my two clumps are looking real good!
i’m subscribed to this blog and am following you on twitter. []

philinshelton March 28, 2009 at 9:33 pm

Hi Justin. Glad your bamboo is doing well. Sounds like you’re doing all the right things! That name of that bamboo, for what good it will do you, is Phyllostachys nigra ‘Megurochiku’. It doesn’t have a common name, like Black Bamboo or Golden Bamboo have, so you’re stuck with that mouthful of botanical name to work with.

So you know, I have relocated. I am living at our nursery now, right off SR-3 across the road from the park and ride. Just a couple miles from the old place. Thanks for following me!


Jim April 13, 2009 at 2:24 pm

I have a 60′ section of 6′ cedar fence with a 30″ wide planting bed at the base. I saw some nursery containers online that are 30″ in diamater and 20″ deep, with drain holes. Could I put the containers in ground and plant Fargesia Robusta in them without the plants suffering too much? I have a small lot and can’t really expand the width of the planting bed. I’m hoping for a minimum screen height of 10′ at maturity – higher is okay.


philinshelton April 13, 2009 at 9:26 pm

Hi Jim. I would answer “yes” with some qualifications. First, I am not sure where you are located, but I’ll guess that you are in a suitable climate for this bamboo. As for the containers, if you start with some healthy, full plants in a #3 container, it will probably be about 3 years before the plants start stressing because they are crowding the pot. At that time, you will have to pull the plants and divide them, or they will start to decline. You would be better off planting them in the ground, but you will have to remove part of the plant every so often or it will overgrow the bed/go under the fence.

elmo July 22, 2013 at 1:15 pm

looking for a clumping bamboo for my mid Napa Valley location to 15′ or so for barrier/privacy hedge purposes, so want to plant clumps in a row. do you have a suggestion?
thank you!

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