Lucky Bamboos as an example for bamboo-like plants

5 Bamboo-Like Plants

There are several plants out there that are confused as bamboo or that act as “bamboo imposters”. Today, we thought we would go over some of the most common bamboo-like plants – just for the fun of it.

The most common plant that is mistaken for bamboo is Lucky Bamboo. Yes, it is confusing – we know. There are some other plants as well that have similarities with the fastest growing grass in the world. Before we take a look at them, let’s see what characteristics bamboo has in order to separate all these plants from each other!

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What characteristics have bamboo plants?

So, what makes bamboo bamboo?

Bamboo belongs to the grass family, also known as Poaceae. There are 91 genera of bamboo documented.

The stem, or culm, is jointed with solid nodes. The color of the culms depends on the species. It can be lush green, black, dark green, yellow, light green, or red.

The culms grow from rhizomes. There are two different types of bamboos, which is depending on the rhizomes. Running bamboo develops horizontal stems underground. This one spreads very far and fast. Then there is clumping bamboo, which only grows upwards from a simple rhizome.

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Lucky Bamboo, Heavenly Bamboo, and more - These plants are often confused with bamboo. We will tell you which ones and show you why they are mistakenly called bamboo. #bamboo #luckybamboo #bamboolikeplants

Most species grow branches on culm nodes. The number and position of branches depends on the species.

Although bamboo is called the evergreen plant, it still loses its foliage every year. This is another reason why people believe bamboos are trees. Bamboo leaves are lance-shaped and linear.

Bamboo flowers irregularly. There hasn’t been any scientific results when bamboo flowers because it can be anything from every year to every 100 years.

5 bamboo-like plants commonly confused with bamboo

So, what are bamboo-like plants? Why do people confuse them with bamboo? Let’s have a look at these plants that are commonly mistaken for bamboo.

Close-up shot of Lucky Bamboo Plant with 3 stems
Photo Source: Flickr

Lucky Bamboo

If you want to start a heated conversation with a botanist or bamboo geek, say that Lucky Bamboo is bamboo. Expect a long lecture about the characteristics of bamboo and how Lucky Bamboo is not part of this plant group. We’ll keep it short for you: Lucky Bamboo or million bamboo is a completely different plant. The scientific name is Dracaena Sanderiana. It grows on the bottom of the rainforest floor in Africa and it is typically a house plant used as a Feng Shui cure. It is also a typical “good luck” gift and the number of stems has a symbolism.

You can find this bamboo-like plant in different shapes: straight, curly, or heart-shaped stems. It grows best in soil and may flower if you grow it outside. It can get 2-3 ft tall indoors and even taller outdoors.

We really like Lucky Bamboo so we’ve included it on this website. However, we keep it mostly separate from the real bamboo. You can read all about Lucky Bamboo plants here.

Heavenly bamboo with white flowers
Flowering Heavenly Bamboo

Heavenly bamboo

This plant really doesn’t look much like real bamboo, maybe the leaves come close to the bamboo leaves. It is, in fact, a shrub that grows bright red berries after flowering white in spring.

Heavenly Bamboo, also known as Nandina Domestica, comes from Eastern Asia. It is now considered an invasive species in Southern states because it is very drought tolerant and tough.

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Although it is an attractive plant that has a beautiful foliage color, it is toxic to many animals, including birds (and potentially humans). In fall, the leaves will turn reddish-purple and the red berries stay until winter.

Giant Cane plants looks similar to bamboo
Giant Cane or Arundo Donax

Giant Cane

We totally get why people get this plant mixed up with bamboo (reeds, in general, kinda look similar).

Giant cane grows in damp soil and has a stalk much like real bamboo. It’s native to Asia and can grow up to 35 feet tall. Also, very much so like bamboo, the giant cane replicates via nodes on rhizomes.

Bamboo-like plants: Horsetail
Horsetail or Snake Grass

Horsetail

Horsetail, also known as Snake Grass and Puzzle Grass, is native to North America, Europe, and Asia. It grows well in swamp-like conditions (unlike bamboo) and looks very much so (to the undiscerning eye) like small bamboo plants. It has nodes like bamboo but no foliage. Horsetails are considered invasive in many areas as they spread by underground runners.

Bamboo Palm

Bamboo Palm

Chamaedorea seifritzii, commonly known as Bamboo Palm, looks similar to bamboo but has leaves that look like palm. The stem has stripes that look like the nodes of bamboo. It grows best in tropical and subtropical climates and is a typical understory plant in rainforests. You can grow Bamboo Palm in containers or in the garden. It can grow up to 20ft tall when planted outside and under perfect conditions.

There are lots of other plants that might be mistaken for bamboo, but these are big ones. We think, if you like a bamboo-like plant, there’s no reason you can’t grow it or cultivate it to your liking. Just be careful to properly identify the plant and make sure you are not spreading an invasive or toxic species! 

Which one have you mistaken with bamboo?

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Woman (Natalie) and man (James) in front of bamboo

We are James and Natalie – newly-weds & nature lovers!

We want to give you the best information possible on bamboo. Get inspired to grow bamboo or to switch to natural bamboo products!

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