Small bamboo plants make wonderful additions to any home, apartment, condo, or backyard. They are ideal for anyone looking for a low-maintenance indoor or outdoor plant. But with over one thousand different bamboo species to choose from, how do you know which small bamboo plant is best for you and your home?
We consider all plants below 20 feet (6 m) in height as small or short. This still may appear very high to you. But, taking into account that some bamboos can grow 100 ft (30 m) tall, this seems pretty fair.
Things to consider before growing small bamboo plants indoors
Although the following bamboo varieties can grow and be maintained indoors, it is important to note that many house bamboo plants thrive best when they are occasionally placed outside to receive full sunlight and moisture. In addition, quickly growing species of bamboo will need to be transplanted into a bigger pot after some time to accommodate spreading roots.
Things to consider before growing small bamboo plants outdoors
If you plan to grow any of these small bamboos outdoors, you should pay attention to their actual needs. Some of them are good for containers, whereas others grow better in-ground. If you choose a running bamboo, you have to prevent them from spreading to neighboring properties or to areas you don’t want them. This will take more time for maintenance.
Three small bamboo plants for indoors or outdoors
If you are struggling to find the right bamboo to keep in your home or garden, here are some small bamboo species you should consider. The suggestions below are no taller than 15 ft (4.5 m).
1. Fargesia Rufa
Fargesia Rufa is a small bamboo variety that is also known as the Dragon Head Bamboo, Green Panda, or just Rufa. It is a very versatile plant, which thrives in warm climates as long as it has access to shade. Achieving heights between 6 to 8 feet (1.8-2.4 m), this plant is ideal for households with a little more room to see it grow into its fully mature, fountain-like state. However, even in smaller homes, this flexible plant will be able to grow into whatever space you give it.
Fargesia Rufa bamboos are usually seen in their fountain-like form, with clumping culms at the root which extend into a wide arching shape at the top.
Rufa is a very popular privacy screening plant that can grow well in containers and in the ground. It is easier to manage because it is a clumping bamboo. This means it will not spread as invasively as running types.
Unlike other plant species, Rufas are very tolerant to both cold and warm temperatures. As a result, they can effectively grow in the shade and the sun without trouble. These plants also grow well in areas with drier summers and cooler nights, such as the U.S. Pacific Northwest.
2. Bambusa Vulgaris
Bambusa Vulgaris is also known as Dwarf Buddha Belly Bamboo. It is native to Southeast Asia, specifically Vietnam and Southern China.
Its primary feature is its ornamental culm or stem, which is well-rounded (like Buddha’s belly) in every segment. It is a beautiful plant to have in any small to mid-sized home!
This plant’s distinct shape with its rounded culms rather than straight makes it a very unique bamboo variety for those looking for something different.
Vulgaris is a small low-maintenance bamboo reaching a modest max height of 3 to 6 feet (0.9-2.4 m) tall. It is a clumping bamboo which makes it easy to handle. Its small, manageable size makes it appealing to new house plant owners.
This bamboo variety can survive with partial to full sunlight. It will need to be located in an area that receives some sunlight throughout the day, rather than direct sunlight. It’s recommended that you choose to place it near a window that offers both functional lighting and fresh air when open.
Dwarf Buddha Belly Bamboo can survive in temperatures no lower than 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-7°C). Make sure it is placed in an area protected from the cold and wind, especially during the wintertime.
3. Fargesia Nitida
Fargesia Nitida is also known as Fountain Bamboo or Blue Fountain. It originates from China and is a bit taller than the previous species.
Like Fargesia Rufa, it has its name from the top-heavy bending appearance with feathery evergreen leaves. It develops a purple color on the culms when it matures. That’s why it got called Blue Fountain.
Nitidas can grow up to 15 feet (4.6 m) tall, although they tend to be smaller when kept in containers indoors.
This clumping bamboo is cold-hardy but it doesn’t do well in humid and hot areas like the Southern United States. It grows best in the shade or partial sunlight.
Although most people think of bamboo being tall and vibrant it actually comes in many sizes. These groundcover species are truly the smallest bamboo plants because they are below 5 feet (1.5 m)!
1. Pleioblastus Akebono
This plant is known as Japanese Dwarf Bamboo. Its leaves are small and dainty. They start off white and slowly turn green as the plant matures. It is a truly small bamboo plant that mostly only reaches 1 ft (0.3 m). It grows best in full shade and not below 10°F (-12°C). Although it is a running bamboo, it grows very slowly.
2. Pleioblastus Distichus
This groundcover bamboo is also known as Dwarf Fernleaf Bamboo. It doesn’t get taller than 2 feet (0.6 m) and is pretty hardy (-5°F/-20°C). This running bamboo doesn’t really resemble your traditional bamboo. It has long, erect and tough leaves that look similar to a fern plant.
3. Pleioblastus Fortunei
This plant has variegated leaves that are green with lovely white stripes. This is why it got its common name Dwarf Whitestripe. A beautiful and highly desired groundcover plant that can grow up to 4 ft (1.2 m) but often doesn’t exceed 2 ft (0.6 m). This running bamboo can be maintained by mowing or pruning the spring before the new growth happens. It grows best in shade but it can tolerate a few hours of direct sunlight. Dwarf Whitestripe is hardy to 10°F (-12°C).
4. Pleioblastus Kongosanensis
This running bamboo is beautiful with its dark green leaves that exhibit an occasional yellow stripe. Pleioblastus Kongosanensis is also known as Aureostriatus. You can expect a maximum height of 5 feet (1.5 m) while keeping it above 0°F (-18°C). It is resistant to bamboo mites because of the hairy underside of the leaves.
5. Pleioblastus Pygmaeus
This groundcover bamboo is also known as Pygmy bamboo. It is among the smallest of all bamboo plants, reaching a maximum height of 2 ft (0.6 m). Its stems and leaves are beautifully delicate and generally a bright healthy green. Pygmy bamboo would make a great bonsai plant.
6. Pleioblastus Viridistriatus
As its common name Dwarf Greenstripe suggests, this bamboo has dark green leaves with light green stripes. It is a beautiful small bamboo growing typically between 2-4 feet (0.6-1.2 m) tall. This bamboo is resistant to bamboo mites because of its hairy bottom side of the leaves. It should be mowed each spring to keep its attractive colorful leaves. Dwarf Greenstripe is a hardy plant to 0°F (-18°C). However, it’s also been doing well in Minnesota winters.
7. Pseudosasa Owatarii
Owatarii is another very small bamboo plant that doesn’t grow taller than 2 feet (0.6 m). It actually has an average height of only 1 foot (0.3 m). Pseudosasa Owatarii natively grows on a Japanese island called Yakushima. Its leaves are very similar to those of the Pleioblastus Distichus, but in a slimmer way.
8. Sasa Hayatae
This plant is quite hardy. Its leaves are dark green, but acquire a white edge by fall as the plant ages. They are fuzzy at the underside which makes them resistant against insects. Sasa Hayatae is a cold-hardy small bamboo that reaches up to 3 feet (0.9 m).
9. Sasaella Ramosa
This plant is one of the few groundcover bamboos that are pretty sun-tolerant. It thrives vigorously and almost anywhere, which makes it harder to keep under control. It’s best to mow this running bamboo in early spring for appearance and maintenance. Although it’s supposed to grow in areas that are above 0°F (-18°C), it can survive even lower temperatures. The leaves may die in colder winters but they will come back in spring.
Small bamboo-like house plants
When people are looking for small indoor bamboo plants, they often associate it with Lucky Bamboo. That’s why I include it in this article although it isn’t real bamboo. There is also another plant that is similar to Lucky Bamboo. It is called Lotus Bamboo.
Lucky Bamboo is one of the most popular house plants that are mistaken for bamboo. It’s very low maintenance (ideal for first-time houseplant owners), which makes a beautiful addition to any home!
Dracaena Sanderiana (botanical name) grows in water more often than in soil (although the plant can be maintained in either environment). Although Lucky Bamboo can grow up to 5 feet (1.5 m) tall in its natural habitat, it often only reaches 2 to 3 feet (0.6-0.9 m) as a houseplant.
The stems or stalks look similar to bamboo which is why it gets confused so often. They look slim and jointed.
This bamboo-like house plant is very similar to Lucky Bamboo as it belongs to the same family (Dracaena). Lotus Bamboo has its name from its leaves growth. They grow in clusters which look like a lotus or rose. As a result, it is also known as Rose Bamboo or Love Bamboo. The botanical name, however, is Dracaena Deremensis.
Unlike its sibling, it can get much taller and wider. Lotus Bamboo can grow between 6 and 10 feet (1.8-3 m) tall and 3-6 feet (0.9-1.8 m) wide.
The stems don’t look as similar to bamboo as the ones from Lucky Bamboo. There is less space between the lines or joints, which makes it look streakier. They are also thicker.
As you can see, there are quite a lot of different options for small bamboo plants out there. I hope this article helped you with finding the one you want for your house or garden.