The Best Bamboo Plant Varieties

Bamboo plants, part of the grass family, have hollow evergreen stems or culms and come in two main forms: clumping and running. Clumping bamboos spread more slowly, as the growth pattern of their underground rhizomes is to expand the root area gradually, similar to ornamental grasses. They can be used effectively for ornamental or rock gardens or as container grown plants. Running bamboos, on the other hand, can be extremely vigorous, making them well suited for creating a spreading windbreak or hedge. The canes of running bamboos are also sent up from rhizomes underground, but they spread more rapidly and widely, sending up new shoots to break the surface in different places.

 

The Best Running Bamboo Plant Varieties

1. Phyllostachys aurea

 
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One of the strongest-growing evergreen bamboos available, making it ideal for hedging or screening purposes. It has light green canes which become a lovely, intense yellow when mature if they're grown in full sun. The swollen internodes at the base of each cane provide ornamental value and make it easily identifiable from other forms of bamboo. Growing rapidly upright, it is ideal for planting next to driveways and walkways, normally reaching about 5 or 6 metres tall. When mature the culms grow close together which, along with its thick foliage, provides an excellent visual and sound barrier.

 

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An unusual, elegant variety with tall, arching canes that are dark green when young maturing to polished, ebony-black after two to three years. These are slender and glossy, contrasting beautifully with the elongated, bottle-green, frothy evergreen foliage. It naturally forms a dramatically tall, upright shape that associates particularly well with water where it makes striking reflections. Perfect for a contemporary, minimalist or oriental style garden, it looks good grown alongside an evergreen shrub with leaves that will contrast against the black canes.

 

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A lovely, compact dwarf Japanese bamboo with tough, bright green evergreen leaves that fan out in neatly-arranged groups, giving the appearance of a palm or fern. As one of the smallest bamboos available with a spreading, carpet-forming growth habit, it's perfect for using as a groundcover plant where it can be clipped or mowed to keep it at an even height. It's also well-suited for use as a bonsai plant and makes a great choice for growing in a container in a Japanese-themed garden.

 

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A beautiful, spreading dwarf bamboo with elongated, dark green evergreen leaves that have a bold stripe of creamy-yellow down the centre. Perfect for using as a groundcover plant or fixing banks and slopes, it can be kept short by mowing or clipping back the foliage to ground level in spring before the plant sends up new shoots. During very cold winters the leaves may die back, giving rise to a fresh production of distinctively-striped foliage in the spring. We'd recommend mulching with well-rotted garden compost over the winter to help protect the roots from frost damage. A reliable and robust variety that's widely considered to be the most desirable groundcover bamboo.

 

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A vigorous, spreading evergreen bamboo with broad, glossy, dark green leaves that wither at the margins during the autumn. This produces a beautiful, pale bronze variegation effect that has the appearance of parchment and contrasts beautifully with the shiny centre of the leaves. It develops a strong, spreading root system making it useful for stabilising banks and slopes or growing as a medium-height groundcover plant. The purple-green canes give it a tropical appearance which is enhanced when it receives some afternoon shade. If you grow Sasa Veitchii as a groundcover plant we'd recommend cutting it back to a few inches above the ground in late winter or early spring.

 

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The Best Clump Forming Bamboo Plant Varieties

 

 
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A dwarf evergreen bamboo with a tight, clump-forming growth habit and low, arching branches. It has the freshest foliage of all the bamboos and forms a dense, bushy specimen growing no more than 2 metres in height. The bright green leaves emerge early when the other bamboos can look a bit dull, making it ideal for adding a splash of colour to smaller gardens in the spring. Although it prefers a sheltered location, it will tolerate coastal positions providing the conditions aren't too extreme. Having received the prestigious RHS Award of Garden Merit in 1992, this is a great variety which can be used to complement any other form of bamboo.

 

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A clump forming bamboo, excellent for screening and hedging purposes. ‘Jumbo’ has light green leaves and beautiful thin green stems which yellow with age. Non-invasive, evergreen and vigorous growing, suitable for growing in containers. Although it will eventually reach a height of 3.5m+, it will remain in a tight clump. Fargesia murieliae (umbrella bamboo) is a large, clump-forming evergreen bamboo, closely resembling Fargesia nitida, but with yellow canes. Fargesia murielae is native to the mountains of central China and was introduced by Ernest Henry Wilson in 1913. Its common name "umbrella bamboo" describes the graceful weeping habit of this plant.

 

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A newly introduced superb medium sized bamboo with narrow green evergreen leaves on light green canes sheathed in shrimp pink on new growth. Ideal for planters, architectural arrangements or can be used as a hedge. The more alkaline the soil, the brighter the sheath on new growth. Does tolerate shade well, but avoid windy, exposed sites, and waterlogged soils.

 

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A dwarf evergreen bamboo with a tight, clump-forming growth habit and low, arching branches. It has the freshest foliage of all the bamboos and forms a dense, bushy specimen growing no more than 2 metres in height. The bright green leaves emerge early when the other bamboos can look a bit dull, making it ideal for adding a splash of colour to smaller gardens in the spring. Although it prefers a sheltered location, it will tolerate coastal positions providing the conditions aren't too extreme. Having received the prestigious RHS Award of Garden Merit in 1992, this is a great variety which can be used to complement any other form of bamboo.

 

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An upright form of Fountain Bamboo with narrow canes that arch at the top to give a fantastic, graceful appearance. Canes start off green and turn a deep purple as the plant matures. It has a vertical visual pattern with dainty, glaucous evergreen leaves, making it perfect for use as an informal hedge in a partially shaded position. The strong, rigid canes make excellent stakes and can be cleanly removed from the plant without using any tools. An elegant, medium-sized bamboo with whip-like culms that shouldn't be exposed to too much hot, midday sun during the summer months.

 

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