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Bamboo is an incredibly versatile and sustainable plant that has been used for thousands of years. There are over 1,000 different species of bamboo that grow all over the world.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common types of bamboo and their unique characteristics and uses.
Major Categories of Bamboo
There are two main categories that all bamboo species fall under – clumping bamboo and running bamboo.
Grows in tight clusters or clumps that don’t spread out underground like running bamboo.
Types include Bambusa, Dendrocalamus, and Fargesia.
Benefits: Easy to contain, less invasive. Good for landscaping and privacy screens.
Spreads aggressively via underground rhizome root systems.
Types include Phyllostachys and Pseudosasa.
Benefits: Forms thick groves quickly. Good for creating natural fences and barriers.
Types of Bamboo plants
The bamboo species you find are divided into two main types clumping bamboo and running bamboo. Your clumper bamboo trees expand slowly while the runners can produce several shoots from the parent plant.
Clumping Bamboo Plant Varieties
The clumping bamboo is a popular plant, and the best part is they are not an invasive species. The bamboo remains in the spot where you plant it. These types of bamboo grow underground rhizomes that differ from your running bamboo.
The foliage forms a U-shape that spreads horizontally, and you see new clumps forming on the mother plant. Here are some excellent examples of clumping bamboo.
If you have a deck garden the umbrella bamboo will feel right at home. It is a cold-hardy plant and very leafy with a slender stem that can withstand high winds. Fargesia rufa is a perennial bamboo with yellow-green arching canes that are soft yet pointed.
The bamboo gives any garden an exotic look with a clump-forming shape. It is also a food source for pandas cultivated in many Chinese gardens. You can plant it as a screen or as a hedge.
Furthermore, it grows well in container gardens, including urban and courtyard spaces. It thrives in partial shade to full sun in well-drained soil. You can feed it monthly in the growing season and remove the damaged or diseased stems.
It is also one of the hardiest plants found globally and is not invasive.
Multiplex Hedge Bamboo
This hedge bamboo has a short height compared to timber bamboo types. Yet, it can reach up to 15 feet tall in less than two years when planted. The original name is Bambusa Multiplex and has a deep green color with thin culms.
It is also cold and hardy with low maintenance, and the exciting thing is when you cut the culm, it will stop growing taller. Instead, the branches will hedge out wider. The bamboo plants also come from China and grow fast yet dense, ideal for creating a hedge.
These bamboo varieties thrive in full sun and are drought-tolerant, but more water provides more growth. Still, the clumping bamboo does not like wet feet as it can result in the rhizomes rotting.
The only concern with the hedge bamboo is that it can get damaged easily by the wind.
Here we have a thorny clumping bamboo from the Neotropical genus. It is a large species known as the most significant Neotropical type of bamboo found globally. Bamboo is also food for the Amazon and Atlantic Bamboo Rats.
You find the Guadua bamboo growing in Uruguay through to northern Mexico and Trinidad. The largest group of these bamboo plants is in the Amazon and Orinoco basin. And no, it does not come from China but is an essential American bamboo used in construction.
Still, as it is used in manufacturing, it is becoming an instinct plant, and growing it in the garden will ensure that it keeps thriving.
Giant Cane Bamboo Plants
Another clumper bamboo is the Dendrocalamus giganteus found growing in Southeast Asia. The bamboo grows with a grayish-green color in close clumps reaching 98 feet tall. It can multiply, and the culms are straight and powdery.
When the bamboo plants dry, it becomes brownish to green and has a smooth surface. Still, the young shoots grow in a black-to-purple hue. In India, they use these bamboo plants to build bridges or as reinforcement in ladders, scaffolding, concrete, frames of walls, etc.
Chusquea culeou is a flowering plant and part of the Poaceae grass family. It is an evergreen found in South America and frost-tolerant. Furthermore, these bamboo plants play an essential role in forest dynamics.
As the bamboo grows fast, it helps with the regeneration of tree species to not grow too fast or die off from cold. The bamboo forms a big clump when it grows in favorable conditions. With the lanceolate, hairy leaves, it has a spine at the tip, and the flowers are a light brown.
The bamboo plants can bloom for 60 years, and after they release the seed, it dies. Compared to other evergreens bamboo-this one has a solid cane.
Buddha Belly Bamboo
The bamboo tree has a catchy name with bulbous-shaped internodes, giving it Buddha belly bamboo. The Bambusa vulgaris is a species you can easily recognize, and this pole bamboo can sometimes grow in a zigzag form instead of growing upright.
While it lacks the straight canes, it makes up for its narrow poise and does well in warmer climates. This giant bamboo grows up to 45 feet tall and can clump up to 15 feet wide. One of the most beautiful bamboo varieties in the Budda belly is the Bambusa ventricosa kimmei.
It shoots up green shoots that turn yellow to take on a striped effect. You can also find it in a dwarf bamboo variety that remains compact and great to use as a bonsai tree. Another fascinating thing that gardeners do to encourage the bulge out of the culms they prune it once a year.
This prevents the bamboo from growing upward and outward in the zigzagged form.
Running Bamboo Plant Varieties
In running bamboo species, you can find two types of rhizome developments leptomorph and monopodial rhizomes known to grow underground stems. You can find these types of bamboo plants growing in different climates globally.
The Phyllostachys is an Asian bamboo native to central China and the northern Indochina regions. You can also find them in other parts of the world like America, Europe, and Australia. This running bamboo is unusual because the stem forms a central furrow known as the sulcus.
It runs along the inter-nod of the bamboo plant, and the rhizomes spread aggressively underground. As a result, the black bamboo in your garden can grow up to 100 feet tall with the right conditions and care.
A larger black bamboo, known as timber bamboo, is used to fabricate furniture and construction. While other black bamboo species people use as ornamental plants to grow indoors.
The problem is that these types of bamboo are invasive and best not to treat them as outdoor plants in your garden or front yard but in containers. Some you can even grow as a bonsai tree.
River Cane Bamboo
Arundinaria gigantea you find growing in the United States. The bamboo plant thrives in moist soil, and it is a perennial grass type. It has a thick rounded cane that can grow up to 33 feet tall.
It also has a huge and thick underground root system that spreads fast. The cane-shaped leaves have inflorescence with racemes or panicles. One cane can live up to decades and produces flowers and seeds.
The pole bamboo is also a support system for blue huckleberry, creeping blueberry, and wax myrtle in the forest. These bamboo plants can quickly flood, but they are wildfire tolerant.
Dwarf Green Stripe Bamboo
The Pleioblastus is an Asian genus of monopodial bamboo plants native to China and Japan. The evergreen bamboo has green stripes on the leaves that look gorgeous in spring and summer. Yet, it is partly deciduous in mild winters, and you can mow it in spring to remain attractive.
Furthermore, it is cold-hardy, and some dwarf bamboo plants can survive freezing temperatures. On the bottom side of the leaves, it has hairs and is highly resistant to mites. This bamboo is a vigorous grower with underground rhizomes running below and above the surface.
Japanese Arrow Bamboo
Pseudosasa japonica comes from Japan, and the samurai used the hard canes to make arrows hence the name. The bamboo grows well in the USA hardiness zones six to ten and can tolerate freezing temperatures.
You can grow Japanese timber bamboo in full sun to partial shade, and it has palm-like foliage. The leaves can grow up to 13 inches long and have a yellow-brown color to plant in containers. It can also survive salty air and makes for great indoor plants on the coast.
Before growing any bamboo varieties in the garden or home, seeing how much space you have available is essential. It helps decide if you want something compact yet decorative or something that will spread fast for privacy.
No matter what types of bamboo you choose, these varieties make for outstanding displays in the garden beds or your living space. You can then select a clumping or running bamboo based on your needs.
You can even select a few different types of bamboo to design a perfect spot in the backyard for privacy. Once you are finished planting your bamboo, you can choose a bamboo fountain to add some zen to your living space.
Frequently Asked Questions
Phyllostachys and Fargesia types of bamboo are typically the hardiest and most cold-tolerant. They can withstand temperatures down to -15° Fahrenheit.
Running bamboo types like Moso and yellow groove bamboo grow the fastest, up to 3-4 feet per day in ideal conditions!
Moso bamboo shoots and stalks are the most common edible variety. The shoots are harvested young and the stalks are used similarly to other vegetables.
No, while some bamboo is edible, including popular Moso and sweet shoot bamboo, eating most ornamental bamboo shoots can cause poisoning. Only harvest shoots are specifically sold for consumption.
Giant timber bamboo is the preferred type for furniture, flooring, and crafts due to its large, sturdy culms and pleasing visual grain patterns when finished.
Running bamboo like yellow groove bamboo grows quickly and forms dense thickets, making them excellent choices for privacy screens and natural fences around yards. Clumping tropical clumpers like buddha belly bamboo also creates thick visual barriers when planted in rows.