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13 Different Types of Bamboo for Home or Garden

Bamboo photos

Introducing the Different Types of Bamboo

Welcome to the huge family of bamboo plants. The bamboo plant family is a super diverse group of perennial flowering plants that are also evergreen.

This means that they have stems and leaves that persist and remain green all year round. Bamboo is part of the subfamily bambusoidae, and they’re strangely part of the grass family!

Bamboo plants are absolutely fascinating in the way that they grow. They also have a super significant economic impact as well as cultural significance in the places that they are native to. Some may only know of bamboo for its ornamental use, but it has so much more to offer.

The bamboo plant can be used in ways that you may never have even thought of. Throughout this article we’ll go through some of their amazing uses, where they come from, how they work, and different varieties of bamboo as well.

While the majority of them are best grown as an outdoor plant, surprisingly there are also some that you can grow indoors as well!

What is a Bamboo Plant?

Line up bright green straight bamboo stalks

Bamboo is known as being one of the fastest growing plants on the planet, with some species growing an absolutely baffling 36 inches within a mere 24 hour period. This is thanks to their unique root system comprised of rhizomes.

A rhizome is basically an underground storage facility that contains all of the moisture and nutrients necessary to keep a plant alive and thriving.

There are two types of bamboo that grow based off of this underground root system, and they’re divided into clumping bamboo and running bamboo.

Clumping bamboo is a far more manageable bamboo type because rhizomes spread vertically and gradually, creating a super dense bamboo patch that tends to grow shorter than the other variety.

Running bamboo is a very aggressive type of bamboo because rhizomes spread horizontally and quickly, and new shoots quickly emerge from the spreading rhizomes. These types are hard to manage and are best kept contained before they take over an entire area.

With each type of bamboo, they grow by culms. A culm is basically a stalk of bamboo but that is hollow and rounded, basically like a reed. A bamboo stalk is super sturdy and grows incredible fast. Leaves will grow at the tops of these culms.

Where does Bamboo Grow?

Gorgeous and expansive forest of bamboo stalks growing tall

Bamboo grows pretty much all over the world. It grows very prosperously in regions that are warm and moist, all throughout tropical and temperate climates.

These are some pretty resilient plants and they can be found growing wild in all sorts of different climates, including hot tropical regions, highland cloud forests, and even colder mountainous regions.

Bamboos can be found all throughout east Asia, Australia, Chine, Central America, Indian, Japan, Korea, Mexico, and even in the southern United States. It is hard to name their USDA growing zone, because each bamboo can grow in a completely different type of climate.

How is Bamboo Used?

Ornamental Bamboo

The majority of people know of bamboo for its ornamental plant value. Because of its unique growth habit and quick growth rate, bamboo is often used to make natural fences, as a hedge plant, or to create a natural screen.

Bamboo shoots grow super closely together and create a dense screen so as to create some privacy on your property. Not only that, they have lovely leaves that create some movement and extra greenery.

Cooked bamboo canes sitting in a basket for cooking

Edible

Bamboo shoots are also edible and wonderfully nutritious. They can be eaten either raw or cooked, though the process of cooking usually helps take away some of the natural bitter flavor of the shoot.

The bamboo culm is a very popular ingredient in a lot of Asian cuisines, they can be fermented or used in broths. Bamboo leaves can be used as wrappers to make steamed dumplings, and the plant can even be tapped and sap is collected to make a sweet wine!

Fuel

Another nifty use for bamboo is through creating fuel! Much like you would use wood charcoal, there’s such thing as bamboo charcoal. It is made from a specific species of mature bamboo and chunks are burned at a super high temperature to create charcoal, which can then be used as fuel.

Material

Bamboo also has tons of uses as raw material. Way back in the date folks would use bamboo bark as a writing medium, much like you would use paper. Later on it was adapted to create bamboo pulp which was then made into actual paper.

Even further, young shoots were collected and basically turned into quills. The end would be cut at a super sharp angle and you would then dip the young shoot into ink. What a nifty way to invent a writing utensil!

Additionally, bamboo can also be broken down to its fibers and made into textiles. Young shoots were also often used traditionally as structural elements for women’s clothing, like in bustles and corsets.

Construction

Bamboo is also incredibly useful when it comes to construction applications! Bamboo culms have a very impressive strength to weight ratio, and they are extremely flexible; they can bend shockingly far without breaking.

Back in the day bamboo was used to help construct bridges, to create housing, rafts, grates, and fencing, and it’s even used today for small scale scaffolding. This is because bamboo is super strong but has enough give so that the structure can withstand extreme weather conditions.

Different Types of Bamboo Plants

Now for the reason that you’re really here: the different species and types of bamboo. We’ve arranged it into two sections with subsections so that you can better navigate the species according to what you’re using it for.

Firstly, it’s been divided into running and clumping varieties, since this is the first and most important determinant. Then we’ve divided each of those sections up into plants that you can grow indoors and plants that you can grow outdoors.

Running Bamboo Types

Remembering that the vast majority of running bamboo types are super aggressive and even considered as being invasive in most cases, it is safe to assume that most of these bamboo varieties can only be grown outside because of their size and fast growth rate.

Even if you do have a yard big enough to grow them in, prepare to do some major crowd control since these guys spread very quickly and grow very tall.

A) Outdoor Bamboo

Long and thick reeds of golden groove bamboo

Golden Groove Bamboo (Phyllostachys Aureosulcata) – this bamboo variety grows happily in USDA growing zones 5 through 11, making it a plant that is pretty tolerant to both cooler temperatures and super hot temperatures as well.

Golden groove bamboo grows to be 15-25 feet in height on average and can grow up to 5 feet per year, making great for those who are looking for a super fast growing variety for hedging.

This is an evergreen plant that is easily identified by its super straight slender canes that are decorated with golden grooves along their length. At the top there are soft green leaves.

Lovely foliage of the kuma bamboo plant

Kuma Bamboo (Sasa Veitchii) – kuma bamboo will be happiest in USDA growing zones 6 through 9, meaning that it can tolerate a little bit of cold, but isn’t too fond of super hot temperatures either.

This is a variety that doesn’t grow too tall. It hovers around 2-3 feet tall (sometimes up to 5 feet if it’s growing in full shade) but its impressiveness lies in its spread: it can grow to be 30 feet in distance!

Kuma bamboo is a dwarf variety and doesn’t look like the standard bamboo plant. It has thick and short stems that are adorned with deep green leaves that become bicolored in the fall with straw colored margins. These are grown for their winter foliage.

Incredible tall reeds of the guadua bamboo plant growing into the sky

Guadua Bamboo (Guadua Angustifolia) – this is a bamboo species that is going to thrive in USDA zone 10-12, meaning that it strictly wants to grow in places that are warm all year round.

Guadua bamboo is an incredibly impressive plant that is the strongest and tallest bamboo type. These qualities make it the most important bamboo species in the construction industry.

In this application it is referred to as “vegetal steel” because of its strength and flex. They also grow super quickly and dominate forest colonies, turning them into “guaduales”.

Guadua bamboo culms grow to be 5 inches in diameter and sometimes as tall as 100 feet. They are also a species that can grow an absolutely baffling 36 inches within a day.

Bright green arrow bamboo growing in a stand

Arrow Bamboo (Pseudosasa Japonica) – growing bamboo in zones 7-8 will be the best for this ornamental variety. This means that it will be happiest when growing in a more temperate climate with less extreme conditions.

Arrow bamboo is mainly used as an ornamental variety because it is more manageable than most and is attractive looking to boot. It produces very tight clusters of thin bamboo culms.

Each arrow bamboo culm will only grow to be 10-20 feet in height, making it perfect for hedging. The bamboo canes are very dark green with light green leaves, creating a very lovely plant.

This plant gets its name because historically, Samurai warriors would harvest young arrow bamboo stems and use them to create arrows by sharpening the ends.

Beautiful yellow stalks of the bamboo plant

Chilean Bamboo (Chusquea Culeou) – Chilean bamboo will grow happiest if it is in USDA growing zones 7-8. This is a more strict growing range, and these are best grown in climates similar to that as Chile.

Chilean bamboo will usually grow to be 20-26 feet in height and each patch will be around 4 feet around. They have lovely solid stems that are olive green in color and they’re adorned with narrow, lance shaped green leaves.

Lovely yellow and green bamboo culms growing in a sunny forest

Giant Bamboo (Dendrocalamus Giganteus) – this is a very impressive evergreen variety of bamboo that strictly grows in USDA growing zones 9 through 11, meaning that they’ll do their best in tropical climates.

Giant bamboo is exactly that: giant. It is known or being the tallest and fastest growing bamboo types, with stems reaching 80-100 feet in height. Not only that, they’re the thickest culms as well, with a single culm being 12 inches in diameter.

Giant bamboo has thick, dull green culms that are super thick. They can grow up to 12 inches every single day, and are therefore used for construction, for furniture, and pretty much any other application you can think of.

B) Indoor Bamboo

Beautiful black stalks of the black bamboo plant

Black Bamboo (Phyllostachys Nigra) – black bamboo tends to be the most happy when it has the chance to live in USDA zone 7-10, but since it’s a more manageable size, it can also be grown indoors!

Black bamboo shoots first emerge a yellow/green color and eventually mature into a stunning dark brown/black color if they are planted in direct sunlight. They’re accompanied by bright green leaves, creating quite the striking contrast.

Black bamboo if grown in a container can actually be quite manageable. They’ll grow to be about 6 feet tall if in a container, but up to 30 feet outside of a container. They can be confined in your garden as well.

Clumping Bamboo Types

Though clumping bamboo is far more manageable and doesn’t spread as far as running bamboo does, it is still has the potential to grow super tall! That being said, growing bamboo in a confined area is a way to control this variety, and they won’t be as outrageous to manage!

A) Outdoor Bamboo Plants

Hedge bamboo growing ornamentally

Hedge Bamboo (Bambusa Multiplex) – hedge bamboo is known as being the most popular and best hedge bamboo plant, and it will grow happiest in USDA growing zones 7 and 8.

Though this is a clumping variety, they still achieve a pretty impressive size. These narrow clumps of deep green, pencil thin culms can reach heights of 35 feet!

Small umbrella bamboo plants growing in containers outdoors

Umbrella Bamboo (Fargesia Murielae) – umbrella bamboo is one of the more cold hardy types of bamboo and can be happy all year long when growing in USDA zones 5 through 9, making them moderately cold hardy plants.

Umbrella bamboo is considered as being one of the most beautiful bamboo varieties. It has light blue stems that grow into a golden yellow color with narrow, bright green leaves.

Umbrella bamboo stems are a super manageable size as well, only growing to be 10-15 feet in height in clumps that are 3-5 feet wide.

Stunning giant japanese bamboo stalks growing into the sky

Giant Japanese Bamboo (Phyllostachys Bambusoides) – this is a wonderful type of bamboo that is very important when it comes to construction bamboo growing. They grow happily in USDA growing zones 7 through 10.

Giant Japanese bamboo is the second largest variety out there. Impressive evergreen canes grow to be 25-70 feet tall. They first emerge bright green and eventually fade into a glossy yellow green.

B) Indoor Bamboo Plants

Adorable panda bear snacking on large leaved bamboo

Large Leaved Bamboo (Indocalamus Tesselatus) – the large leaved bomboo plant will grow happily outdoors in USDA zones 5 through 8, but it is manageable enough to be grown as an indoor plant as well. (It is also famous for being the preferred food of  panda bears!) 

This is an evergreen variety that is a semi dwarf species, only growing to be 6-10 feet tall depending on how well you can manage it. They also grow narrow, glossy green leaves.

Gorgeous red and green foliage of the heavenly bamboo plant

Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina Domestica) – heavenly bamboo is also known as sacred bamboo, or Chinese bamboo. It will be happiest when growing in USDA zones 6 through 9, making it a temperate climate lover.

Heavenly bamboo is a semi evergreen shrub that brings ornamental interest all year round with beautiful foliage throughout the spring and summer, and red berries in the late summer and fall.

Heavenly bamboo is also very reasonably sized, only growing to be 4-8 feet tall and about 2-4 feet wide. It can very easily fit in a large pot in your home, or you could grow it outdoors in the garden.

Amazing swirly stems of the lucky bamboo houseplant

Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena Sanderiana/Dracaena Braunii) – though d sanderiana isn’t actually a true bamboo species (it’s strangely part of the asparagus family) it is commonly known by the names of Chinese water bamboo, curly bamboo, or friendship bamboo.

The lucky bamboo plant grows in water, making it the perfect house plant that is actually small enough to fit on the counter. It is called friendship bamboo because it is a common house warming gift to give as its meant to encourage feng shui in a room.

The lucky bamboo plant is known for having all sorts of eye catching shapes, swirls, and it can be trained into any growth habit you can think of. They only grow to be anywhere from 1-5 feet tall!

How do you Grow Bamboo?

Beautiful forest of bamboo trees

There are a ton of different bamboo species and each one of them will have pretty different growing conditions, so it’s important to do your own research according to which species you have chosen to grow.

But still, we’ve prepared some pointers on how to try to keep your bamboo plant happy at home:

Soil & Potting

Let’s establish something right off the bat: bamboo plants are remarkably easy to care for. These plants really just want to grow, so there isn’t all that much you could throw at them that they won’t take in stride.

That being said, planting bamboo in soil that is loamy and slightly acidic is a sure fire way to ensure very quick growth. Amending soil with compost will also improve drainage and increase the nutrient content of the soil as well.

Watering

Watering your bamboo plant is going to take up a bit of time. Bamboo plants love moisture and they will especially need extra moisture if they are growing indoors as a houseplant.

It is best to water bamboo at least twice a week in the temperate months of the year, but that can be increased to 5 times a week in the hot months of the year. Bamboo also appreciates being regularly misted if growing indoors.

Younger bamboo plants are quite drought tolerant once they’re mature and established, but younger plants can be a little sensitive if they are deprived of moisture. Just look out for yellowing leaf tips, this is an indication they’re not getting enough water.

Sun Exposure

It is difficult to provide a general rule for how much sunlight a bamboo plant will prefer as this will vary according to bamboo species. Some types will prefer to receive direct sunlight for the majority of the day, whereas others tend to prosper in more shaded areas or indirect light.

Fertilizer

Another aspect of bamboo care involves fertilizing! If you’re really intent on encouraging your plants to grow quickly, you can provide them with fertilizer every couple of weeks during their active growing season.

Pruning

The biggest efforts that you will have to make when caring for bamboo is maintaining the size. If you would prefer to it stay a certain height, it will need to be pruned very regularly in order to keep that height.

*Pro Tip: if you are growing bamboo indoors and it seems to be struggling, try moving it outdoors! Since bamboo plants are naturally meant to grow outdoors, transferring it outdoors for a period of time will give it the boost it needs to get back on track.

FAQs

Can bamboo be eaten?

Absolutely! Bamboo has been eaten for much of human history. If you’re interested in trying it out, there are several bamboo species that are viewed as delicious. Don’t believe it? Ask any panda.

Does bamboo have flowers?

Yes, and depending on the species, it could be the death of them to do such. 

How long do bamboo floors last?

You can expect normal wear and tear to give you about 25 years of use. However, if maintained, bamboo floors could last half a century.

Does bamboo make good firewood?

If given a choice between bamboo and hardwood, you’d want to go with bamboo. The reason is that it gives out more heat. While it may burn faster, it keeps a room so warm that you end up using less in the long run. 

Does bamboo absorb water?

Yes, but not in the way you might imagine. In order for bamboo to take in fluid, it has to be super humid outside or underwater. Once bamboo has water in its grasp, it holds onto it for what feels like forever.

Where does bamboo originate from?

The belief is that bamboo came from China. However, it has been in neighboring Japan for about as long. So, as of today, you’re more likely to find bamboo in Asia. 

You can also find it in other tropical or temperate climates such as the southern United States, Australia, and parts of Africa.

Can bamboo floors be stained/sanded?

As far as staining goes, the process is much like that of hardwood. Depending on the specific type of bamboo flooring, however, you might want to avoid it. Be sure to consult with an expert. Sanding requires someone who has experience with the unique texture of bamboo. 

Can bamboo flooring get wet?

If you accidentally drop a beverage, there is no need to worry about permanent damage to the bamboo flooring. Generally speaking, bamboo is pretty water-resistant.

Problems start when the floors are wet for extended periods of time. That can cause water damage in the form of warping and discoloration. 

Is bamboo weather-resistant?

Yes and no, depending on the weather. Light rain and normal sunshine is the type of weather bamboo thrives in. Extended heavy rains and excessively hot summers can put stress on bamboo over time. 

Can bamboo furniture be left outside?

To get the most out of bamboo furniture, it would behoove you to get a protective cover in case of anything mother nature might throw at you. 

Can bamboo be recycled?

Natural bamboo, yes. If it has been processed with chemicals or mixed with artificial materials, then no. If you have questions about a particular item, be sure to consult with a recycling facility before dropping it off. 

Does bamboo make a good privacy screen?

Bamboo is great for privacy because it grows quickly and thick. Growing tall and leafy also helps build a natural barrier. It’s eco-friendly and hard to see through. 

Does bamboo make good mulch?

Not only is bamboo good for mulch, but it might also be great to eradicate weeds. Moisture retention is also great for soil, overall. 

Does bamboo flooring increase home value?

Yes, in a very similar fashion to hardwood floors. Most buyers prefer either of those over the carpet, so it always drives up the value.

Does bamboo break easily?

Bamboo is solid. The tensile strength is stronger than steel. 

Does bamboo block noise?

It isn’t the same as an actual wall, in terms of noise blocking, but it can offer a significant reduction. Bamboo plants can act as a green wall. The more you have lined up in the direction of loud sound, the more likely you are not to hear it as much.

Luckily, bamboo grows so fast that it won’t take long before you can enjoy the silence, or as close as you can expect.

Can bamboo be composted?

Yes, natural bamboo that has no added materials or chemicals will break down in a compost pile. It takes about half a year for bamboo to completely break down. 

Can bamboo replace steel, wood, and/or plastic?

While the tensile strength is more than that of steel, it’s not enough to completely rely on it as a substitute. It can, however, be integrated into a structure that uses steel to lessen the need for it. 

As for wood, in many situations it already has. Bamboo is in a lot more products than people realize, including floors and paper towel holders. There is surely more to come.

Similar to wood, bamboo has already been replacing plastic. There are so many upsides to bamboo replacing plastic that it’s almost hard to imagine a world where it doesn’t happen. 

Ultimately, it’s a great option because it can help with climate change. That alone makes it worth investigating more. 

Are there any types of houseplant bamboo?

An indoor bamboo plant can be a tricky thing to care for, considering that they grow so quickly and to such great heights, but there are in fact types of houseplant bamboo available. A few worth mentioning are black bamboo, large leaved bamboo, heavenly bamboo, or lucky bamboo.

Is it hard growing lucky bamboo?

Lucky bamboo care is incredibly easy to do, which is why it makes the perfect house gift! Growing lucky bamboo only requires a couple of things: tray, water, and sunlight. Lucky bamboo grows in water, so it just needs to be placed above a tray that is filled with pebbles and fresh water.

What is special about tropical bamboo?

Tropical bamboo is known because of its speed of growth and its sheer size. Because of the direct sunlight, humidity, and heat, bamboo grows super quickly because it is experiencing its ideal growing conditions!

Is bamboo palm a true bamboo or a palm tree?

The bamboo palm is more of a palm tree than it is a bamboo plant. It has very thin green stems with nice lance shaped leaves, and gardeners love it because they prefer to grow in low light conditions.

Is a snake plant a type of bamboo plant?

The snake plant is not at all a bamboo plant, but coincidentally it is cousins with the lucky bamboo plant as they are both part of the asparagus plant family!

Can bamboo grow in indirect sunlight?

There are tons of different bamboo species and their preference of sun exposure will vary. Some will prefer low light, others indirect sunlight, and some direct sunlight.

Is giant cane a type of bamboo?

Giant cane (arundo donax) is also known as elephant grass, Spanish cane, or Colorado river weed. It is a reed species that has a similar growth habit to bamboo as it has hollow stems that grow to be 20 feet tall that grow from strong rhizomes.

So though arundo donax looks very similarly and grows in a similar fashion, it is actually a perennial grass and not a bamboo plant.

How often should a bamboo plant be watered?

Watering your bamboo plant is going to take up a bit of time. Bamboo plants love moisture and they will especially need extra moisture if they are growing indoors as a houseplant.

It is best to water bamboo at least twice a week in the temperate months of the year, but that can be increased to 5 times a week in the hot months of the year. Bamboo also appreciates being regularly misted if growing indoors.

Younger bamboo plants are quite drought tolerant once they’re mature and established, but younger plants can be a little sensitive if they are deprived of moisture. Just look out for yellowing leaf tips, this is an indication they’re not getting enough water.