A pathway through a bamboo garden featuring ornamental bamboo species

15 Ornamental Bamboo Species

While some species of bamboo are grown to be harvested as food or building material, others are grown to beautify a landscape or garden. Of the many known species of bamboo, some are so unique that they are cultivated around the world for this reason alone. We refer to these as ornamental bamboo species.

Whether you’re looking to elevate your space or add to your growing collection of bamboo species, there are plenty of unique ornamental bamboos to choose from. Are you a fan of uniquely-shaped culms? Then Phyllostachys edulis may be the one for you. Or would you prefer a bamboo with wispy, weeping foliage such as Chusquea culeou?

Ultimately, the best ornamental bamboo species for you depends on your aesthetic preferences as well as what will thrive in your environment. In this article, you’ll find some of the most beautiful ornamental species of bamboo from Chilean Weeping Bamboo to Thai Silk Bamboo. With our help, you’ll be able to pick which species is best for your conditions and preferences.

Green bamboo stalks growing in a forest, 
with a text in the middle: 15 Ornmanetal Bamboo Species

What are ornamental bamboo plants?

In horticulture, ornamentals are typically plants that provide color or other unique features to a landscape or garden. When it comes to bamboo, there are some species that are so unique or rare that they are cultivated for the visual interest they provide. With that in mind, what is considered ‘ornamental’ can be subjective.

What you find beautiful, someone else may not. Certain colors, textures, sizes, and shapes may be more appealing to some than others. Not only that, but some ornamental bamboo species can also be useful for other purposes.

Things to consider when choosing ornamental bamboo

If you’re looking for a new ornamental bamboo plant to accent your garden, you’re in luck! There are many beautiful ornamental species to choose from. However, if you want your new bamboo plant to continue looking beautiful for years to come, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, consider your environment and ensure that the bamboo you choose will do well there. After all, it won’t be as beautiful if it suffers in the heat or dies back in the cold. For example, if you experience cold winters, make sure that the bamboo you choose has a high cold tolerance (known as hardiness).

Next, think about your space and compare that to how large a particular bamboo species will grow or spread. When it comes to spreading, there are two primary types of bamboo: running bamboo and clumping bamboo. Running bamboo can spread far and wide, whereas clumping bamboo is a bit more compact.

You’ll also want to consider factors such as sunlight exposure, soil quality, and surrounding buildings or trees. If you’re growing bamboo on a patio or balcony, make sure to pick a shorter species. 

Lastly, consider what you find to be beautiful. Do you prefer delicate foliage or large statement culms? Do you have a color preference? Are you hoping the aesthetic fits your current garden, or would you rather plan your garden around your bamboo? Keep these questions in mind as you explore the ornamental bamboo species in this list.

15 ornamental bamboo species

This list features 15 hand-picked species of ornamental bamboo that will grow well in a range of climates:

Dense bamboo forest featuring Chusquea culeou, with tall, slender stems reaching towards the sky and a lush of leaves
Chusquea culeou ‘Chilean Weeping Bamboo’

Chusquea culeou ‘Chilean Weeping Bamboo’

  • Type: Clumping
  • Average height: 16-20 ft (5-6 m)
  • Average diameter: 0.75-1 in (2-2.5 cm)
  • Hardiness: 0-15°F (-17 to -9°C)
  • USDA zones: 8-9

Chilean Weeping Bamboo is an ornamental species that would make a beautiful addition to your bamboo garden. It has delicate foliage that cascades in a weeping pattern, resembling giant feathers. The culms are a lighter, lime-green color with contrasting dark green nodes and white culm sheaths. Like other Chusquea bamboo species, the culms of Chusquea culeou are solid rather than hollow!

Originating in Southern Chile, this bamboo species prefers temperate conditions, where temperatures remain below 80°F (26°C) in the summers and stay above 5°F (-15°C) in the winter. Chilean Weeping Bamboo can tolerate warmer temperatures in the Southern U.S. if provided partial shade during the day.

Chusquea culeou ‘Caña Prieta’

  • Type: Clumping
  • Average height: 12-15 ft (3-4 m)
  • Average diameter: 0.75 in (2-2.5 cm)
  • Hardiness: 0°F (-17°C)
  • USDA zones: 8-9

Formerly known as Chusquea nigricans, Chusquea culeou ‘Caña Prieta’ is a relative of the Chilean Weeping Bamboo above. This unique variety features reddish culms with white-colored sheaths, creating beautiful contrast, particularly during the growing season.

In winter, the dark green foliage looks absolutely stunning in contrast with the reddish culms. Like Chilean Weeping Bamboo, Caña Prieta prefers temperate climates and can tolerate relatively cold winters down to 0°F.

A Bambusa chungii ‘Tropical Blue Bamboo’ tree with its characteristic blueish hue, standing tall beside a house
Bambusa chungii ‘Tropical Blue Bamboo’ [Image Source: Flickr]

Bambusa chungii ‘Tropical Blue Bamboo’

  • Type: Clumping 
  • Average height: 20-25 ft (6-8 m)
  • Average diameter: 1.5 in (3.8 cm)
  • Hardiness: 21°F (-6°C)
  • USDA zones: 9-11

Tropical Blue Bamboo is the first of several blue ornamental bamboos in this list, a feature that is unique in a world of mostly green bamboos. Native to China and Vietnam, Bambusa chungii contains no lower branches, displaying dusty blue culms and long, elegant internodes.

This stunning species has become popular because of the added visual interest it brings to your garden, and it could easily be a centerpiece feature. Tropical Blue Bamboo grows relatively well in containers, so you can keep it on a balcony or patio. If grown in the ground, it can grow quite tall, but you don’t have to worry about it taking over your garden as it is a clumping type.

Keep this bamboo species happy by protecting it from extreme weather and giving it moist, well-draining soil and either full sun or partial shade (preferably a bit of shade in the afternoon). Tropical Blue Bamboo won’t do well in temperatures below 21°F (-6°C).

A Borinda fungosa ‘Chocolate Bamboo’ displaying its unique dark, chocolate-colored culms.
Borinda fungosa ‘Chocolate Bamboo’ [Image Source: Bambooweb.info]

Borinda fungosa ‘Chocolate Bamboo’

  • Type: Clumping
  • Average height: 10-12 ft (2-3 m)
  • Average diameter: 1.0 in (2 cm)
  • Hardiness: 10ºF (-12ºC)
  • USDA zones: 8-9

Chocolate and bamboo, what more could you ask for? If you’re a fan of that warm chocolate color, Borinda fungosa is a must! This beautiful ornamental bamboo will steal the show with its delicate, reddish-brown culms that are abundant in dainty leaves, giving it a nicely compact appearance. Those leaves will occasionally trail in a weeping pattern, making the bamboo appear fluffy and feathery. Its compact growth makes Chocolate Bamboo a great option for container growing.

While Borinda fungosa (formerly Fargesia fungosa) is slightly less cold-hardy than other Fargesia species, it’s more cold-hardy than other clumpers, making it an excellent option for the Pacific Northwest. Give Borinda fungosa plenty of water, shade, and soil with lots of drainage, and you’ll be able to enjoy this deliciously ornamental bamboo for years to come!

A field filled with Pleioblastus variegatus ‘Dwarf Whitestripe Bamboo’, showcasing its distinct white-striped green leaves
Pleioblastus variegatus ‘Dwarf Whitestripe Bamboo’  [Image Source: Flickr]

Pleioblastus variegatus ‘Dwarf Whitestripe Bamboo’ 

  • Type: Running
  • Average height: 2.5 ft (0.75 m)
  • Average diameter: 0.25 in (0.6 cm)
  • Hardiness: 10°F (-12ºC)
  • USDA zones: 7b-10

If an ornamental groundcover is what you are looking for, Dwarf Whitestripe Bamboo is a great way to lighten up your garden and create visual interest with its unique foliage. In the summer, the leaves darken to a blueish green, but this ornamental bamboo species looks best in the spring when the leaves feature bold white stripes.

Pleioblastus variegatus grows to a manageable size and despite being a running bamboo type, it does very well in containers. It will tolerate part-shade with at least 4 hours of direct sunlight, though a bit more light will bring out the leaves’ variegation. Occasionally Pleioblastus variegatus may need pruning to prevent it from getting unruly.

As a running type, Dwarf Whitestripe grows very fast and can get invasive unless you install root barriers or mow it regularly.

Fargesia scabrida 'Scabrida Bamboo', with its clumping growth and green leaves
Fargesia scabrida ‘Scabrida Bamboo’ [Image Source: Bambooweb.info]

Fargesia scabrida ‘Scabrida Bamboo’

  • Type: Clumping
  • Average height: 12-15 ft (3-4 m)
  • Average diameter: 0.5-0.75 in (1-2 cm)
  • Hardiness: 0°F (-17°C)
  • USDA zones: 6-9

Scabrida Bamboo is a rare ornamental bamboo species with lots of color! The young culms of Fargesia scabrida start with dark orange sheaths covering a strikingly deep blue and slightly lavender culm that will eventually age into a softer olive green. As the culms age, they change colors again to a pale, whitish color.

For additional contrast, the dark green leaves of Scabrida Bamboo are wispy and airy. Depending on your light conditions, the lance-shaped leaves can range from a blueish green to lavender color. With all of those beautiful contrasting colors, it’s no doubt that this ornamental bamboo plant will make a glorious addition to your garden!

Like many of the other ornamental bamboo species in this list, Fargesia scabrida prefers full sun or partial shade conditions and has a high threshold for colder temperatures, making it a hardy and low-maintenance species.

Phyllostachys edulis 'Heterocycla', with its tall, thick culms and lush green foliage
Phyllostachys edulis ‘Heterocycla’ [Image Source: Bambooweb.info]

Phyllostachys edulis ‘Heterocycla’

  • Type: Running
  • Average height: 15-25 ft (4-7 m)
  • Average diameter: 4 in (10 cm)
  • Hardiness: -4°F (-20°C)
  • USDA zones: 8-9

We can’t go through the best ornamental bamboo species without mentioning the beautiful Phyllostachys edulis! This is by far one of the most unique and beautiful species of bamboo, beloved by collectors and admirers alike.

Its famous nickname “Tortoise Shell Bamboo” comes from the unique shape of the thick culms. The alternating compressed and inclining internodes create a zig-zagging pattern that resembles a tortoise shell. The culms start out a silvery-gray color and mature into a vibrant yellow-green, sometimes even orange-green. Its delicate foliage allows those unique culms to stand out even more! In addition, new shoots of Phyllostachys edulis are covered in fine, velvety hair.

This species is very cold hardy, but you will need space as it is a larger, running bamboo. Phyllostachys edulis will be happy in full sun or partial shade with well-draining, moist, fertile soil. Unlike its namesake, this species grows and spreads quickly, so if you want to avoid it taking over, installing root barriers may be the best course of action.

Fargesia nitida 'Blue Fountain Bamboo', an ornamental bamboo species, growing in a neat backyard
Fargesia nitida ‘Blue Fountain Bamboo’ [Image Source: Bamboo Garden]

Fargesia nitida ‘Blue Fountain Bamboo’

  • Type: Clumping
  • Average height: 10-12 ft (3-4 m)
  • Average diameter: 0.75 in (1-2 cm)
  • Hardiness: -20°F (-29°C)
  • USDA zones: 5-9

The beautiful Fargesia nitida or Blue Fountain Bamboo is a great ornamental option for those struggling to keep beautiful plants in colder climates. It’s called Blue Fountain Bamboo because the dark purple and blue culms support cascading evergreen foliage like a beautiful fountain. The culms themselves are upright, but they tend to lean and give this species a weeping aesthetic. It grows in a circular clumping pattern, adding to the attractive decorative appearance.

Native to North Sichuan, China, Fargesia nitida prefers temperate climates and doesn’t do well in high humidity. It does best grown in dappled sunlight or partial shade. It’s non-invasive and can be used for privacy or simply to enjoy its beautiful foliage.

Sasa veitchii 'Kuma-Zasa Bamboo', displaying its broad, vibrant green leaves and distinctive growth pattern
Sasa veitchii ‘Kuma-Zasa Bamboo’ [Image Source: Flickr]

Sasa veitchii ‘Kuma-Zasa Bamboo’

  • Type: Running
  • Average height: 3-5 ft (0.9-1.5 m)
  • Average diameter: 0.5 in (1.2 cm)
  • Hardiness: 5°F (-15°C)
  • USDA zones: 6a-11

This running groundcover bamboo has undeniably unique foliage that changes with the seasons. The broad leaves of Kuma-Zasa Bamboo may not be as delicate as some of the other species on this list, but they start out dark green and develop a cream-colored margin during fall and winter. As a result, they add a pop of vibrance to your landscape or garden throughout the year. While the foliage is the star, the culms are also colorful with a slight purple tint.

This species is quite cold-tolerant and will enjoy a range of light conditions from full shade to partial shade and even full sun. It is about as easy as it gets when it comes to care and maintenance. It prefers moist, well-draining soil and will even do well in containers. If you plant Sasa veitchii directly in the ground, you may want to use root barriers to contain them since they grow very fast.

several Fargesia rufa 'Dragon Head Bamboo' plants, exhibiting their compact and bushy growth, placed in black pots
Fargesia rufa ‘Dragon Head Bamboo’ [Image Source: Bambooweb]

Fargesia rufa ‘Dragon Head Bamboo’

  • Type: Clumping
  • Average height: 10 ft (3 m)
  • Average diameter: 0.25 in (0.6 cm)
  • Hardiness: -10°F (-23C°).
  • USDA zones: 5-9

Light, delicate, and feathery foliage combined with reddish brown culms that are hardy in very cold climates make for a gorgeous year-round ornamental bamboo. Fargesia rufa or Dragon Head Bamboo is an elegant clumping bamboo with distinct coral brown ligules capable of growing in various environmental conditions, making them ideal for beginners who want a beautiful bamboo plant in their garden to enjoy. The narrow culms tend to sway gently with a nice breeze, giving a sense of peace and tranquility.

Popular in places like Canada and the Northern United States, this species is cold-hardy and can tolerate some heat. The rhizomes of this ornamental bamboo species are hardy in much colder temperatures if the culms are mowed back in the fall. They tolerate full sun but prefer some afternoon shade and would do better without extreme heat conditions.

Phyllostachys aurea 'Koi' with distinctive yellow culms and green stripes
Phyllostachys aurea ‘Koi’

Phyllostachys aurea ‘Koi’

  • Type: Running
  • Average height: 20 ft (9 m)
  • Average diameter: 1.25 in (3 cm)
  • Hardiness: 0°F (-18°C)
  • USDA zones: 7-10

The culms on the beautiful Phyllostachys aurea or Koi Bamboo are fascinating! They are yellow with a prominent green stripe along the succulus grove. The nodes are also very prominent in Phyllostachys auera and tend to bulge out at random angles. The yellow culms may develop a stunning blushy-rose highlight in certain light conditions, and the leaves may even develop some variegation!

While Koi Bamboo can grow up to 27 feet tall, you’re unlikely to achieve such heights in the home garden. Rare for a running species, you can even grow your Koi bamboo quite well in containers. It’s much slower growing than other runners, particularly within the Phyllostachys genus, but it still has the capacity to take over a space if there’s no root barrier in place.

Provide Phyllostachys auera with full sun or at least partial shade to encourage plenty of growth. The rhizomes for this ornamental bamboo are quite tolerant to colder temperatures, so even if the culms die back in winter, new shoots will emerge the following spring.

A group of Bambusa vulgaris 'Dwarf Buddha Belly Bamboo' plants growing in a field
Bambusa vulgaris ‘Dwarf Buddha Belly Bamboo’

Bambusa vulgaris ‘Dwarf Buddha Belly Bamboo’

  • Type: Clumping
  • Average height: 8-15 ft (2-5 m)
  • Average diameter: 4 in (10 cm)
  • Hardiness: 25°F (-3°C)
  • USDA zones: 9b-11

Now this is an ornamental bamboo that will be a conversation starter for years to come! Bambusa vulgaris, or Dwarf Buddha Belly Bamboo, gets its famous name for the unique swelling around the culms’ internodes, giving the appearance of little bellies. They are an incredible specimen for bamboo collectors and will make a beautiful statement plant for your garden.

The lance-shaped, dense foliage is also beautiful, allowing you to admire it from near or far. However, the foliage is localized to the upper half of the bamboo, really letting those unique culms take center stage.

This species does best in southern states as it prefers warmer temperatures and more sunlight than most. They will grow well in containers if needed. If given too much shade, those culms will lose that bulge as the internodes stretch and become leggy, searching for more light.

A Himalayan Blue Bamboo plant displaying distinctive culms with a blend of blue and greenish hues
Himalayacalamus hookerianus ‘Himalayan Blue Bamboo’ [Image Source: Bambooweb.info]

Himalayacalamus hookerianus ‘Himalayan Blue Bamboo’

  • Type: Clumping
  • Average height: 10-12 ft (3-6 m)
  • Average diameter: 1 in (2.5 cm)
  • Hardiness: 10-15°F (-9 to -12°C)
  • USDA zones:  8b-9

This blue bamboo is often cited as one of the most beautiful clumping bamboo species to grow, truly ornamental in every way possible. It grows natively in the lower Himalayas in Nepal, Sikkim, and Bhutan. The blue culms are striking, but emerge first as emerald green before they age to blue and eventually yellow.

When you first see those blue culms, they can take your breath away. Combined with narrow vibrant green leaves, Himalayan Blue Bamboo is an absolute delight to the eyes and will be sure to make a great centerpiece in your garden.

Himalayan Blue Bamboo can tolerate full sun but prefers partial shade. The leaves may curl to protect themselves if they get too much sunlight. They don’t love extreme temperatures and will tolerate some frost but are especially sensitive to extreme heat.

A close up of Fargesia jiuzhaigou 'Red Bamboo' branches in the snow
Fargesia jiuzhaigou ‘Red Bamboo’

Fargesia jiuzhaigou ‘Red Bamboo’

  • Type: Clumping
  • Average height: 9-12 ft (2.7-3.7 m)
  • Average diameter: 1 in (2.5 cm)
  • Hardiness: -20°F (-30°C)
  • USDA zones: 5-9

If a pop of vibrant red is what you covet, this ornamental bamboo species is not one to pass over. Occasionally called Red Dragon Bamboo, this red bamboo is a unique Fargesia species known for its dynamic red culms. New shoots emerge green but change into a reddish-purple color as they age. Once they are older and more mature, that red color may fade into a more pale orange.

The light, thin, wispy leaves are delicate and beautiful, allowing the Fargesia jiuzhaigou to grow upright. This species prefers primarily sunny conditions but will grow well in semi-shade and doesn’t enjoy intense summer sunlight or heat. It also makes a great container of bamboo and is otherwise very easy to care for and non-invasive. Because it is so delicate, we recommend providing reasonable protection from the winds, especially in the winter.

Bambusa nana ‘Thai Silk Bamboo’, an ornamental bamboo species, highlighting its slender, graceful culms and delicate fine foliage
Bambusa nana ‘Thai Silk Bamboo’ [Image Source: Bambooweb]

Bambusa nana ‘Thai Silk Bamboo’

  • Type: Clumping
  • Average height: 20 ft (6 m)
  • Average diameter: 2 in (5 cm)
  • Hardiness: 29°F (-2°C)
  • USDA zones: 8-9

This ornamental clumping bamboo is jaw-droppingly beautiful and an elegant bamboo species for warmer climates. There are two variations of Bambusa nana: Thai Beauty and Thai Silk. Thai Silk Bamboo is more fern-like with very silky weeping foliage draping down its upright culms. Thai Beauty is slightly more broad-leafed but very majestic.

Native to Thailand, both varieties prefer more tropical or subtropical conditions, including warmer temperatures and plenty of sunlight. They may tolerate partial shade but are not very tolerant of frigid temperatures and will thrive in a moist, well-draining soil mix.

Which ornamental bamboo species is your favorite, and which would you love to plant in your garden? Let us know by leaving a comment below!
Woman (Natalie) and man (James) in front of bamboo
About the Author: Natalie Schneider

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