Clumping Bamboo and Running Bamboo

Article Posted By: Craig Allen

of Senior Editor, The Home Depot Blog

bamboo

Is that clumping bamboo or running bamboo? It kind of matters.

Bamboo is a tricky thing for gardeners. If the wrong variety sets its roots in your yard, you may be in for a huge struggle to get rid of the bamboo. But it’s a beautiful plant, and it can make a great natural screen, while being a lovely part of a backyard landscape.

That was what Community member aalicea was after when he sought bamboo planting advice on The Home Depot’s online Community Forums. He said he wanted to transplant potted bamboo plants into a bed to create a “little bamboo forest” in his yard. He wanted to know the best way to get the plants from container to bed.

He got some good advice. But first he got a warning.

“I have never heard of a ‘little bamboo forest,’ only a large, out-of-control bamboo forest. Therefore let me advise you against planting bamboo in your yard unless there is plenty of room. I would recommend getting new pots and repotting them,” wrote Community associate greengiant.

bamboo in containers

Another Community member, Shirley Bovshow, agreed that you can enjoy the feathery green loveliness of bamboo, without the headache of keeping it under control, by planting it in attractive pots. She posted a photo on the Forums, seen above, to show how she created a “container hedge” of potted bamboo.

Pick the right kind of bamboo

Community associate hortman pointed out that planting the right the type of bamboo is the key to avoid the bamboo taking over your yard (and possibly even the neighbor’s yard). It comes down to the two main types of bamboo.

[T]here are two types of bamboo: clumping and running. The difference is how far the rhizome (underground stem) travels before it sends up a vertical shoot (new plant). With clumping bamboo, the distance is very short, with the clump expanding from the outside in a circle. With running bamboo, the distance is greater … If they are clump types you are home free. Plant them anywhere along the bed, equidistant or in groups.”

If you happen to have running bamboo, the easiest way to keep it contained is to … keep it in a container. It’s when you plant it in a bed that you risk it getting out of control.

Different varieties of bamboo like different climates, but generally speaking they’re all pretty hardy. “For fast growth, water regularly and fertilize monthly with a high-nitrogen or lawn fertilizer. For controlling the growth, water and fertilize less,” said hortman.

The clumping varieties of bamboo are what you will normally find for sale, including at the Garden Center at your local Home Depot store (seasonally and regionally, of course). But if you’re not sure what type of bamboo you’re dealing with, you won’t go wrong if you keep the bamboo in pots. You can learn about the different varieties of bamboo and their characteristics with the handy plant search feature at The Home Depot’s Garden Club. Just type in “bamboo” for the plant name.

Top bamboo photo (cc) Ed Schipul

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