Large green bamboo leaves with outline in white from Sasa veitchii Kuma-Zasa Bamboo

Sasa Veitchii ‘Kuma-Zasa Bamboo’

Sasa veitchii, or Kuma-Zasa Bamboo, is a beautiful, low-growing bamboo. It’s prized for its broad leaves which develop a graceful, milky-white border during the fall and winter. However, Kuma-Zasa is not only beautiful but also useful. For example, its leaves can be harvested to be turned into a stress-relieving bamboo tea.

Quick facts

  • Common name: Kuma-Zasa Bamboo, Veitch’s Bamboo
  • Botanical name: Sasa veitchii
  • 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
  • Light requirements:  Full shade, partial shade, full sun
  • Best use: Ornamental, decorative, container, culinary (edible shoots or tea)
USA States map with the USDA Zones 7-9 marked in green
USDA Zones 6-11

Kuma-Zasa Bamboo is a small yet mighty bamboo originating from Japan. As a fast-spreading, mid-height bamboo, Kuma-Zasa Bamboo can become invasive if grown without restriction. When left unchecked, it can spread quickly, but it never grows taller than about 3-5 ft (0.9-1.5 m).

Kuma-Zasa Bamboo is a highly sought-after bamboo species. Unlike any other bamboo, its broad leaves begin dark green and turn a creamy-white color during autumn and winter. This quality makes Kuma-Zasa widely considered one of the most beautiful bamboo species to grow.

Besides its stunning appearance, Kuma-Zasa has another highly desirable trait. For around 7,000 years, its leaves have been harvested to create a sweet bamboo tea. Sasa veitchii tea is known to have stress-relieving, anti-aging, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Keep reading to learn what Kuma-Zasa Bamboo looks like, how to plant it, and how to care for it.

What does Kuma-Zasa Bamboo look like?

It’s easy to identify Kuma-Zasa Bamboo thanks to its unique appearance. During spring and summer, its foliage is dark green and wide-spreading. In fall and winter, however, the leaves gain a stunning, milky-white border, giving the appearance of large flower petals.

Adding to its unique colors, Kuma-Zasa Bamboo boasts impressive, slender culms with a purple-green tint.

Kuma-Zasa is a bushy, shrub-like bamboo that never grows more than 3-5 ft tall. Despite its low height, it can spread far and wide like a ground cover. Without constraints, its evergreen foliage will grow vastly under a canopy of trees or another, taller bamboo.

How to grow Sasa veitchii

Sasa veitchii is best grown as a ground cover or in pots. As a running bamboo, it’ll spread quickly if given the space. When growing Kuma-Zasa Bamboo outdoors in the ground, you’ll need to restrict its roots if you don’t want it to take over or become invasive.

Depending on weather and growing conditions, it’ll take about 5-10 years for this bamboo to reach its mature height. By contrast, it’ll spread outwards much faster, at around 1 ft (0.3 m) per year!

Before growing Sasa veitchii, ensure you have enough space for it to expand. For container growing, make sure the pot has room for at least 3 ft (1 m) of expansion for a nursery plant. For ground planting, also ensure ample room to grow.

To prevent Sasa veitchii from becoming invasive, install a bamboo root barrier in the ground around 2 ft (0.6 m) deep at your desired width. This will keep your Sasa veitchii contained, but still allow the plant room to breathe.

Light requirements

Kuma-Zasa Bamboo can survive in nearly any light conditions. In its natural habitat, it flourishes in part-shade under the canopies of other trees or bamboos. For this reason, it’s best to grow Sasa veitchii in full shade or partial shade.

It can grow in full sun conditions, but doesn’t require it. In fact, Kuma-Zasa Bamboo is often planted as a ground cover underneath established trees.

Soil requirements

Bamboo is highly versatile, so it can survive in many soil types. It tolerates most soil pH levels, including slightly acidic, neutral, and slightly alkaline. Ideally, your Kuma-Zasa Bamboo should grow in well-draining, humus-rich soil.

Clay, loamy, or sandy soil is best. Although Sasa veitchii doesn’t prefer growing in rocky soil, it can survive in it. Wet conditions are tolerated, but well-draining soil is best for healthy root growth.

Sasa veitchii dark green leaves with creamy edges
[Photo credit: Flickr]

How to take care of Kuma-Zasa Bamboo

Kuma-Zasa Bamboo is easy to care for. It’s frost-tolerant, shade-tolerant, and thrives in USDA zones 6a-11. Warm temperatures and wet conditions are preferred, but it can even survive in cold temperatures as low as 5°F (-15°C)!

As a fast-growing bamboo species, it’s most important to keep the roots restrained and undertake regular pruning to prevent overgrowth.

Watering

Sasa veitchii has regular to moderate watering needs. Even though it prefers well-draining soil, it’s a robust species that can survive relatively wet conditions. For best results, allow the soil to dry out slightly between watering.

Being native to the dark, moist woodlands of Japan, Sasa veitchii can become invasive if growing conditions are moist, warm, shady, and spacious.

Pruning

Although Sasa veitchii is a low-growing bamboo, it can spread quickly. Therefore it’s best to control its underground growth using root barriers around 2 ft (0.6 m) deep.

To keep your bamboo patch kempt, prune dead or damaged canes in early spring or as needed. You can also cut old canes down to the base to thin out the clumps and give the bamboo more breathing room.

To keep it as a mid-height ground cover, take off the top few inches of foliage in late winter. By late spring/early summer, the trimmed culms will grow new, bushier foliage.

Sasa veitchii isn’t known to flower regularly, but if it does, it’s preferable to trim the flowering shoots to encourage more foliage to grow instead.

How to use Kuma-Zasa Bamboo

Kuma-Zasa Bamboo has many uses. Its stunning appearance means it’s most often grown as an ornamental bamboo, planted in pots or directly in the ground. Being fast-spreading, it’s mostly grown underneath other, larger bamboo species as a ground cover.

Because it spreads quickly, it maintains a strong, vast root system underfoot. It can also be grown in tough, rocky soil that doesn’t retain nutrients well. These qualities make it ideal for helping stabilize uneven ground, such as riverbanks or slopes.

When not grown for its aesthetic appearances, its leaves are harvested to make a mildly sweet bamboo tea. Sometimes mint and/or citrus are added for a stronger-tasting tea. Sasa veitchii tea has been known to relieve stress, improve skin health, and be anti-inflammatory.

How will you use your Kuma-Zasa Bamboo plants? Leave a comment to let us know!

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