Also known as Water Bamboo, Phyllostachys heteroclada is the jack of all trades of bamboo: beautiful, versatile, and easy to care for. It’s one of the few bamboo that can thrive in wet conditions where other types of bamboo suffer. One cultivar known as Solid Stem Bamboo is prized for its solid, strong canes.
- Common name: Water Bamboo, Solid Stem (cultivar)
- Botanical name: Phyllostachys heteroclada, Phyllostachys purpurata
- Type: Running
- Average height: 25-30 ft (7.6-9 m)
- Average diameter: 2 in (5 cm)
- Hardiness: -10°F (-23°C)
- USDA zones: 6-10
- UK Hardiness Zones: H7-H2
- Light requirements: Full sun to partial sun
- Best use: Hedges, windbreak, woodworking, crafts, erosion control.
Phyllostachys heteroclada is a running bamboo native to China. Its rhizomes and roots have unique air channels that allow them to thrive in wet conditions usually not tolerated by other varieties of bamboo. Additionally, Water Bamboo can survive in relatively cold conditions, down to about -10°F!
Most bamboos have hollow culms, a feature of being a member of the grass family. While this is true of regular Water Bamboo, its cultivar Solid Stem Bamboo has uniquely solid culms! Solid Stem Bamboo is strong, flexible, and resistant to splitting, making it particularly useful in construction.
The avid bamboo gardener can find many uses for Water Bamboo, though you’ll find no better bamboo for creating a solid privacy screen or windbreak.
What does Phyllostachys heteroclada look like?
Phyllostachys heteroclada is a stunning bamboo with unique culms that grow in an upright pattern and can reach a height of up to 30 ft in the right conditions. Water Bamboo first emerges with light green culms and dusty white edges, an attractive ornamental feature that will brighten up any garden. Once mature, the culms of Water Bamboo are beautifully dark gray-green.
The Solid Stem Bamboo looks a little different from Water Bamboo. While the colors are the same, the internodes are rather irregular and distorted. Water Bamboo, on the other hand, has very long, regular internodes.
This gorgeous bamboo features leaves that are narrow, triangular, and light green in color. As with most bamboos, it flowers randomly and unpredictably, though it’s a very beautiful occurrence.
What are the best growing conditions for Phyllostachys heteroclada?
Phyllostachys heteroclada is a sun-loving bamboo that grows best in fertile, humus-rich soils. As a running bamboo, it can grow rapidly, so you’ll need to use a barrier to control its spread. You can also keep the growth of Water Bamboo in check by pruning its roots regularly.
Once mature, Water Bamboo can survive periods of dry conditions. However, as a water-loving bamboo, it’ll grow best with regular watering and feeding. If you notice its leaves curling and turning yellow, it could be a sign of drought stress.
Established Water Bamboo is easy to maintain and doesn’t require much watering and attention. However, it’s important to pay attention to the roots of this bamboo to prevent root rot. Prune out any rotting parts of the plant as you find them.
Phyllostachys heteroclada gets bright, vibrant foliage when grown in full sun. Although it can survive in partial shade, it probably won’t reach its maximum height or vibrance. For the best results, plant your Water Bamboo in a spot where it’ll get at least 6 hours of full sunlight each day.
Water Bamboo is best grown in fertile, well-draining, moist soil. It’s tolerant to most soil types, including clay, sandy, or loamy soil.
As a water-loving bamboo, Phyllostachys heteroclada can also survive poorly drained soils, however, this increases the likelihood of disease and fungal infection. Additionally, the pH of the soil should fall between 4.5-7.5. To boost root growth (especially after planting) you can supplement your soil with phosphorus.
If you’re not sure what pH level your soil has, you can simply test it with a tool. It’s the easiest way to find out if you need to work on your soil before planting your bamboo.
How to care for Phyllostachys heteroclada
Phyllostachys heteroclada is native to a temperate to subtropical climate, so it’ll flourish best in similar conditions. Although it’s cold-tolerant to temperatures as low as -10°F, it’ll suffer if exposed to freezing conditions for long periods of time.
To keep your Water Bamboo healthy, there’s a few things you can do. For example, keep a regular watering schedule, feed the plants regularly each year to encourage new growth, and keep an eye out for common pests and diseases so you can treat them early.
As its name suggests, Water Bamboo needs a lot of water to thrive. This is particularly important for young or newly transplanted bamboo plants. In most climates, you can plan to water your bamboo at least once weekly. If you live in a hot climate or your bamboo is still young, you may need to water it twice weekly, especially in summer. Watering should be reduced in winter.
Regardless of your climate, you can check the moisture content of your soil by digging down a few inches and feeling the soil with your bare hands. As a rule of thumb, the soil should be moist, not soggy. If soggy, stop watering until the soil drains. If dry and crumbly, give your bamboo a good watering.
Pest and diseases
Phyllostachys heteroclada is naturally resistant to honey fungus. However, your bamboo can become more susceptible to pests and diseases of all kinds for a number of reasons including improper or irregular watering, harsh growing conditions, or long periods of cold exposure.
Although Water Bamboo thrives in wet conditions, excessively moist soil can increase the likelihood of the spread of disease. For best results, ensure that your bamboo is well aerated and in a sunny area.
Phyllostachys heteroclada can be propagated from seeds, but the seeds are rarely available and it can take a long time for the seeds to germinate. The difficulty of growing bamboo from seed (and the subsequent limits of its genetic breeding) is why most bamboo species are grown from divisions.
You can take divisions from mature clumps of this bamboo and plant them directly in the soil or into pots for propagation. Note that small divisions often grow faster than larger, more established clumps. Make sure to provide your new divisions with plenty of water and nutrients to promote root growth!
Uses of Phyllostachys heteroclada
Water Bamboo is a vigorous grower especially well-suited for privacy screens or windbreaks. Its strong culms can tolerate extreme winds. Phyllostachys heteroclada can be used for erosion control given its extensive root growth.
Despite its rigid culms, Solid Stem Bamboo is flexible and resistant to splitting, making it useful for all kinds of crafts and woodworking. The culms of this bamboo are solid enough for making furniture and even for use in various construction projects.
Mature Water Bamboo can grow to be quite tall and extensive, so we don’t recommend trying to grow this bamboo indoors or in containers.
As with most other types of bamboo, you can harvest new shoots for use in cooking. They are healthy and sweet.