Roger’s Pick: The Bamboos of the World

Since the dawn of civilization, man has cultivated and harvested bamboos and used them in many forms. Certain species of bamboo can grow very well here in Fallbrook.

Bamboo is in the grass family and has hundreds of species and cultivars, be it in the clumping or the running category, so choose wisely and plan your selection before planting.

Bamboo has a vast range of variables; from the short ground covers to towering timber giants of 100 feet or more, in time. They combine very nicely with other exotics like palms, flaxes, and a wide spectrum of ornamental grasses. As a landscape designer, I like to use bamboo to set a particular theme or to cover up an eye-score or an unwanted view.

Assorted bamboo species are grown at the Wild Animal Park in San Pasqual valley. These bamboos are grown, cultured, cut, cleaned and transported to the San Diego Zoo for the panda colony, which can eat up to 30 pounds of bamboo per day and that’s a lot of bamboo.

Bamboos enjoy good soil drainage and can be in their glory out in full sun to dappled light and beneath the understory of other trees with the right species. Once a bamboo is established many species can be fairly drought tolerant and can make a spectacular statement in the proper landscape setting.

The bamboo has fibrous strands in its canes and is used in home construction as decorative adornments, bamboo flooring, musical instruments and they are excellent for trellis and screens out in the garden. Bamboo shoots are also a culinary novelty eaten with various veggies and are great in a stir fry, so look for them in your local market.

Some of my favorite bamboos are the clumping types such as:

Bambusa “Alphonse Karr” which grows to about 25’ + and the stems are brilliantly striped green on yellow canes.

Bambusa olhamii is a timber bamboo which forms a thick clump 20-40 feet with dense foliage and is good for screening, and the most common timber bamboo in Southern California.

Bambusa tuldoides, known as punting pole bamboo is a very prolific producer of slender erect stems from 20 feet +. I like using it as a focal point out in the garden.

Bambusa ventricosa or “Buddha’s belly” bamboo forms swollen nodes in time, hence its name, and grows 15’ to 20’.

Some bamboo runners are:

Chimonobambusa quadrangularis is valued for its unique square shape and vertical effect. It’s a runner to about 20 + and hardy to about 15 degrees F.

Phyllostachys bambusoides or Japanese timber bamboo is also a runner but will develop 6” diameter canes in time and looks best when some of the lower side shoots off of the main cane are trimmed. It’s one of my large bamboo favorites in the garden where a grandeur statement is wanted.

Phyllostachys nigra, a black bamboo, is a runner, so give it room. The first year the canes come up green but the second year they mature into pitch-black canes and the contrast from one year to another is a real show-stopper. I have several clumps in my botanical garden and when the canes dry, I use them out in the garden as upright plant-stakes, so they get a second life.

Pleloblastus species is a wide selection of dwarfs, some with variegated foliage, used in erosion control in some instances, but use them carefully for they can become invasive.

Roger Boddaert, Maker of Natural Gardens, can be contacted at (760) 728-4297.

One Response to "Roger’s Pick: The Bamboos of the World"

  1. Bambooer in Fallbrook   March 1, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Thanks for highlighting this useful and beautiful plant. Actually many varieties can grow right here in Fallbrook. I like the short (about 6-8′ tall when mature) runner, Chimonobambusa marmorea, for a semi-shaded beautiful hedge. It has maroon canes. You can install a barrier material to corral the invasive kinds. I got barrier (and plants) at Bamboo headquarters in Vista.


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