Non-Invasive Bamboo - What Bamboo Does Not Spread?

Non-Invasive Bamboo – What Bamboo Does Not Spread?

We often hear that people say bamboo is so invasive. This doesn’t go for every kind of bamboo though.

Clumping bamboo is the non-invasive type. There are specific techniques on how to prevent bamboo from spreading.

Now you are probably thinking: “Ok, clumping bamboo. But what is it, what species are clumping bamboos, and what techniques can I use to prevent spreading?”. We hear you!

Bamboo roots are mostly superficial. Rhizomes commonly develop within the initial six inches underground. They create feeder roots that stretch further underneath the soil. Normally, the roots do not spread any more than 20″ inches beneath the ground. Bamboo rhizomes develop in two different ways. Some develop in a clumping or running form. Bamboos are determined either as clumping or running bamboo.

What is a clumping bamboo?

Clumping or sympodial bamboo is the non-invasive type. It has Pachymorph or U-shaped rhizomes that develop upwards and grow into a fresh culm then brand-new rhizomes appear from shoots on a present rhizome and so on and so forth. This chain effect generates the woods to increase moderately throughout the boundary. This maturity course gives the bamboo a ‘clumping’ way and further extension is expected and manageable. They may attain a maturity height in four to six years following optimal growing circumstances. Due to the anticipated germination pattern, a restriction is not required anymore. But specific maintenance still needs to be understood.

Clumping bamboos can survive drought better than runners. They burrow reasonably deep. Most hardy clumpers are shade admiring plants, but there are also some species that are sun-loving. There are also many bamboos that possess dark canes and some that are cold-hardy. Some of them never grow big.

The compact and solid roots develop in a compressed clump and increase gradually. Clumpers are just confined in the fields they grow. As a matter of fact, clumpers are not natively adapted to increasing more than several inches in one year. They maintain a pretty short root system. They are genetically incapable of extending more than a few inches per year and will usually produce discrete clumps. Every brand-new rhizome offers only a sole culm, found so close to its parent culm.

They go higher, growing canes quickly, and are easy to control. Sadly, not many of them are cold hardy. So, these bamboos are challenging to produce outside of zones 8 to 10. The cold-hardy clumping species which are chiefly mountain bamboos are very restricted in the climate zones they exist in.

The south clumpers are giants and progress so quick just like running bamboos. The obstacle is the restricted climate zones and the distribution of the canes in the clumper. The spaces within the canes are so small that most parts are very deformed due to a large number of dead canes and branches in the center of the clump. These impenetrable dead canes and branches are so hard to reach except if any of the outer canes are cut off first. Some tropical clumpers are badly managed and are hideous which gives bamboo a poor image.

What are the advantages of clumping bamboos?

  • Have a superficial, non-invasive root system
  • They will not break away from containers
  • A quick growing grass type
  • Great wind protection, sound barriers, and privacy protection
  • Some can be raised in containers, gutters or raised beds
  • Drought tolerant
  • Some can be grown in confined areas
  • They can be trimmed or shaped
  • They develop in several attractive and interesting patterns, colors, and measurements
  • Prevent soil erosion
  • They can cool your garden especially in summer
  • They purify air compared to other plants of its size

What are the different techniques of planting non-invasive clumping bamboo?

Culm planting

Culm planting has several benefits like easy, high survival and maturity rate. Aside from the variety of culm with or without its end, the entire culm or portion of it can be utilized. The last-mentioned with stump is the safest method because that part can increase the node shoots to germinate.

This process defeats the problem that most shoots on the culm don’t grow in developing culm plantings. The internodes of the stump and culm are not skipped off entirely, and the stump can furthermore be carried for sowing throughout its initial maturity days.

Layering

This is appropriate in the scattered bamboo platforms placed on smooth grounds.

Rising from the center of chosen parent bamboos, dig a straight channel.

Cover the soil in the base of the trench, feed with compost, and stir the manure and soil completely. Slice a chunk at the base and at the backside facing the trench.

Put the twigs and leaves of the initial node in the top part of culm, for other internodes just keep the central branch with two to three internodes and buds on every node and split off the other branches throughout the culm.

Force the parent bamboo gently into the trench, and coat it with a layer of 2 inches of soil and squeeze the covered soil firmly, simply exposing the leaves and branches of the end node.

Lastly, spread it with some straw and water it.

The nodes will grow roots and shoots throughout 100 days. In the following year saw off every internode into a self-supporting plant. Dig out those plantings and prepare them for planting new bamboos or transfer them into nursery ground for breeding plantings repeatedly.

Planting nodes

This scheme involves establishing one or two noded culms.

Slice the tip of a culm, saw it into one-node or two-node pieces. A two-node culm is planted horizontally and a one-node culm is somewhat slanted or erect. Leave about 4 inches above the node and up to 10 inches underneath the node when sawing a one-node culm.

The extent of the two-node culm may be smaller than that of the one-node culm. The parts can be horizontally sawed. Be careful not to damage the culm. Plant one-node culm horizontally and make the nodal shoots face upwards.

Planting stump

The end of the bamboo can be harvested together. Healthy stump is the best thing for the new generation.

Protect the roots from damage when digging. They can be divided into halves for reproduction, and every half will produce roots and shoots. Trench and plant the stump horizontally or vertically. Then wrap it with 1 inch of soil and push the soil tightly.

Lastly, cover it with some hay and water it. Usually, the stump can produce shoots and spread roots in 30-50 days. It can be harvested and transplanted in the next season.

Branch cuttings

Branch cutting has two types which are the main and the sub-branch. The central and sub-branch cuttings can be used for reproduction. They produce adventitious buds that germinate and spread roots. This doesn’t harm the parent bamboo. The branches are easy to move. The survival rate is guaranteed.

Select branches which are solid and strong, with small internodes, and with plump buds on its first to third nodes and huge branch support with roots sprouting detail.

They will grow into young plants in 3 months.

They can be transplanted in 4 to 5 months after. The best time to do this is from March to April. Growing plantings by branch cutting have advanced quickly.

Bamboo confinement

It is not required or even useful to enclose your clumping bamboo with a plastic root partition. But if unavoidable, they can be trimmed. Just remove further shoots at ground level. The root ball of a clump has to be left to occupy a particular size in order to produce culms of adult height.

The area needed may differ depending on the size of a variety. The extent of culms can be defined if too little space is left for its roots. These bamboos won’t be able to adjust their round aspect to a long, narrow scope, and its height may be restrained if there is limited room left for the roots. It is recommended to plant them for about 2 to 4 feet away from a wall to provide some opportunity for growth and area for managing between your bamboo and the wall.

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Bamboo plant with many culms and the text: What Bamboo is not invasive?
Photo source: Tony Rodd

Non-spreading clumping bamboo varieties for your garden project

The most genera are Bambusa and Fargesia. Let’s have a look at actual species that you could grow in your garden, in-ground or in containers.

Bambusa genus

Bambusa is a genus of clumping bamboos. They have several branches appearing from the nodes. These branches can grow as tall as 35ft (11m). These bamboos are indigenous to Southeast Asia, the Himalayas, Papua New Guinea, and the Northern Territory of Australia. According to some sources, they are also adapted in different countries like Africa and Latin America.

Bambusa textilis Gracilis or Slender Weaver’s Bamboo

Gracilis has gotten a quite popular choice for privacy screens. This doesn’t surprise me a bit. It’s a beautiful upright bamboo that has a lush green dense foliage. It’s simply perfect for privacy screens! It can grow as tall as 23 ft (7m) but it may be shorter depending on your climate etc. Bambusa Gracilis is also a hardy plant that can survive temperatures as low as 10°F (-12°C). Learn more about Bambusa textilis here!

Bambusa multiplex or Alphonse Karr

The evergreen Alphonse Karr variety is famous for fences or high screens and is non-invasive. They have charming stems that are radiantly striped green or yellow including fresh pinkish and greenish growth. It can be kept at around 8 to 10 feet height with random pruning.

Bambusa ventricosa or Buddhas’s Belly

Bambusa Ventricosa or Buddha’s Belly is traditional decorative bamboo for hobbyists. It is known for its unusual habit to produce protruding culms or bellies which is directly impacted by the plant’s water weight. It is additionally famous for its capability to adjust to altering signs of growing environment.

Bambusa Multiplex

Bambusa Multiplex or Riviereorum is a heat-loving and deer-resistant bamboo. These species die when the ground temperature reached 8°F but will eventually grow back in summer. It can be raised as an ornamental grass. The leaves and stems stay green when the temperature is above 15°F.

Bambusa Ventricosa Kimmei or Yellow Buddha Belly Bamboo

The Bambusa Ventricosa Kimmei or Yellow Buddha Belly Bamboo is the most outstanding ornamental bamboo. Its tremendous flexibility and hardiness make it an exceptional alternative for various purposes like privacy screening, fences, windbreaks,  bonsai and a lot more. It is also recognized to be remarkably drought-resistant and more receptive to soaked soil forms than other species.

Fargesia genus

This bamboo genus is a pretty hardy one that doesn’t like heat and much sun. It’s a mountain bamboo genus from West and South-West China and it will thrive in shaded places with moderate temperatures. It’s not recommended for areas with hot and dry climates where the temperatures stay above 70°F (21°C) even during the night.

Fargesia Murielae or Umbrella Bamboo

This is a cold-hardy bamboo that can do well in cool temperatures (down to -20°F / -29°C). The foliage is so dense and heavy that the culms bend a bit. This is why it is called Umbrella Bamboo. It can grow as tall as 15ft (5m).

Fargesia Nitida or Fountain Bamboo

Like Umbrella Bamboo, Fargesia Nitida got its name from the shape. The lush and dense foliage makes it look like a water fountain because the culms bend outward. It’s very cold-hardy, resisting temperatures as low as -20°F / -29°C. It can get as tall as 12ft (4m). Read more about it here.

Fargesia Nitida ‘Jiuzhaigou’ or Red Dragon

This is a very special variety of the Fargesia genus. The culms turn red if exposed to the sun. They start in a greyish tone and turn dark red or purplish if not exposed to the sun. This variety does best in partial shade or with indirect sunlight. It is rather a rare and expensive bamboo that grows as tall as 12ft (4m). Read more about Red Dragon here.

Fargesia Robusta

This Fargesia variety looks as if it’s striped or checkered. The sheaths are cream-white and the culms are light green. Fargesia robusta is more tolerant to sunlight than the other Fargesias. It also grows a bit faster than the others. Learn more about Fargesia robusta here!

Borinda genus

This bamboo genus includes the largest temperate clumping bamboos. They all form quite long internodes, which makes them look a little stretched. The culms are large, strong and durable. This genus originated in the high altitudes of the Himalaya mountains.

Borinda Lushiensis or Yunnan 4

Borinda Yunnan 4 is a tall bamboo with the most amazingly colored culms of a vibrant blue. It is the highest of its genus that grows up to 25ft (8m). The characteristic of this variety is its dense green leaves. They are best located in semi-shade areas or a screened spot.

Tell us about your garden project! Where are you going to plant your bamboo plants?

15 Comments

  • Hi. I have a 4-5 foot dirt area between a redwood fence and the edge of my pool deck. I was thinking about planting bambusa textilis gracilis to start a privacy screen due to a 2-story neighbor overlooking the yard. It is approx. a 20 ft. stretch. 1) Would this bamboo be appropriate, and, 2) how many plants would go in this stretch….how far apart should they be placed? I think I am in Zone 9b, per a chart. Thanks! Very informative web site!

    Reply
    • Thank you for reading on my website, Linda! Glad you find it informative. 1) Yes, it would be appropriate. 2) How many plants you use depends on your own preferences and budget. Clumping bamboo doesn’t spread much (a few inches per year), which means you have to set them closer together in order to get a full privacy screen. If you want it dense as fast as possible, I’d go for 3-4 ft apart. If you have a bit more time, I’d go for a 6ft distance. However, keep in mind the culms will stay apart, so you’ll have empty space. The foliage is what will bring the privacy and Bambusa textilis gracilis has a specifically beautiful one. So, good choice! If you really want a patch where the culms are without much space, you have to separate the clumps carefully(!!) and plant them side-by-side. Young plants can get hurt from this, though, so really be careful. If you cannot imagine how it would look like. Do a quick Google Image search and check out how others planted this bamboo species. This way you get a better idea of how you want it for your garden.

      Reply
  • Thanks James and Natalie,
    Great information .
    You don’t list Gracilis as non invasive and clumping.
    Is Gracilis OK to plant when you do not want spreading from the planting site?
    We have a bank fence area we want screen but do not want it to invade our neighbour?

    Reply
    • Hi John, thanks for pointing this out to us. Bambusa textilis gracilis should definitely go on this list. I made a note to add it soon. It’s a clumping bamboo and won’t spread much. So, it would be a good choice for your fence.

      Reply
  • I live in zone 9A in the Florida panhandle. Our yard has a lot of shade. At one time I could not see any of my neighbors houses. New neighbors have started cut their tree down and has taken away our privacy. What bamboo would be the best. I am looking for Height, privacy, non invasive, they can handle shade, heat, drought and the rain season.

    Reply
    • Hi Cynthia, you may want to check out plants of the Bambusa genus (e.g. Weaver’s bamboo or oldhamii) because they are tall clumpers. However, they usually require a half day of sun or semi-shade. Maybe also check out Chusquea gigantea. Before you get set on a species, you should check out what is available for purchase (locally or online store).

      Reply
  • Is the Yunan 4 bamboo cold tolerant? I live in zone 7, we get an occasional snow & temps down to 15 degrees.
    Will I need to re-plant it each year?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Mary, I wouldn’t recommend that species unless you can protect the plants more in winter. Yunnan 4 is recommended for USDA 8-10. If you want to move the plants indoors over winter, I suggest planters, not re-planting. Otherwise, I’d just try finding another species.

      Reply
  • Hello! and thank you for your informative site!
    I live in NY (zone 7) and want to plant a few clumping bamboos for privacy (and a little shade). I only have a one foot width space for them spreading over 12 feet. there is a concrete wall front and back and i paced a blanket to the side of the neighbors. Which species would be best to make sure they don’t run underneath my wooden deck (on the other side of the concrete wall) or to the neighbors? Which species is best for growing leaves at the bottom and low maintenance? Thanks so much for your guidance!

    Reply
    • Clumping bamboos will not run underneath anything. Those you are concerned about are running bamboos. If you get a clumping bamboo you really have a “clump of bamboo stems” that slowly grows outwards like many other plants. Fargesias have a full and dense foliage. Maybe that’s something you would like.

      Reply
  • Hello!
    Love your site. Great information. I’m new to bamboo but it seems the perfect answer to my privacy needs. I have a fairly large fenced backyard 60′ x 60′ offering no shade. I have neighbors on 3 sides. I live in California’s Central Valley zone 9b. I have a picture of Bamboo along with Lily of the Nile and I love it. Just don’t know what type of Bamboo is best. Prefer clumping and nothing higher than 8′-10′. Might you have a suggestion? Thanks!

    Reply
  • Hi, I am planning on planting bamboo in a raised planter to go behind a seating area. Will only
    Need to grow 2-3m, Any suggestions as worried about it blowing the planter out.

    Thanks jay

    Reply
    • Hi Jay, make sure the planters are big enough. If you expect a lot of wind there, I’d go for an even larger planter because the weight of the soil will give it more stability. We wrote another article if you want to check it out: Bamboo Planters.

      Reply
  • Hi,

    We live in NY (7B) and have an area 14 foot high x 14 wide (my neighbors eyesore) that we would like to hide with bamboo planters on our property line. We have a few questions and hoping you can help.

    1. What varieties of bamboo would work? We would not be able to take them in during the winter. And would like them to grow narrow and tall (14 ft tall coverage is optimum).
    2. What size pots and how many pots would you recommend for the 14 foot long space of needed coverage.

    Please note, our (im)possible wishlist , we prefer a species that does not droop nor grows too wide.

    Thank you in advance for sharing your time and knowledge.

    Reply
    • Hi John, have you read this article for privacy screens? It also indicates the USDA zones. As you are growing in a planter and can’t move them, get bamboo for at least zone 6. Fargesias are cold hardy and very dense, but they droop… For your second question, read this article. If you are going for a clumping bamboo, you should keep them 3-6 ft apart. Runners will spread more and faster, so you should leave more space in between.

      Reply

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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!