Types of bamboo

Walkway in bamboo forest, the grasses that reach the largest size.

Among the grasses (family poaceae) we find the grass, the grass, the reed... and of course, the bamboo. Bamboos are plants that leave no one indifferent, either because they transport you to Japan, to a tropical climate or simply because it catches your attention to see a grass that is taller than many trees. Something very interesting about these plants is that there are many types of bamboo, of all sizes, shapes and colors. Among them are the largest herbaceous plants.

Many people believe that they cannot have bamboo in their plot because they get too big or too invasive. This is not true at all, since there are species that do not exceed 10cm in height and others that do not move from where the plants. Read on to find the bamboo that best suits what you are looking for.

Types of bamboo by rhizome morphology.

Types of bamboo by the type of rhizome

Image - lewisbamboo

This is the main differentiation of these plants, and the one that it will always be the same within the genres. That is, a Phyllostachys will always have a leptomorphic rhizome and a Bamboo always pachymorph, although the rest of the characteristics will vary depending on the species. Knowing the rhizome does not necessarily tell us how the plant will grow (although it does give us clues), but it does tell us how to reproduce it.

To vegetatively reproduce a leptomorph we need long pieces of rhizome, while for a pachymorph, the base of a cane or cuttings from the cane itself is usually sufficient. Leptomorphs are completely incapable of forming rhizome from reeds, hence we do or do need rhizome to reproduce them in this way.

Leptomorphic rhizome bamboos (running) leptomorph rhizome

These bamboos have a horizontal rhizome that always grows underground, and from whose lateral buds the canes emerge (or more rhizomes). This causes many species to develop a large network of rhizomes from which hundreds of reeds appear everywhere a few years later. They can also lengthen them several meters without producing reeds, these eventually coming out at the other end of the garden. This causes many people to be afraid to plant them and feel a rejection of bamboo. The truth is that not all leptomorphs do that, but it's hard to make sure they don't, so if you don't want to risk it, don't buy from this type. It is the same type of rhizome that the reed has (Phragmites australis). Something very interesting about this type of bamboo is that all of them are very resistant to cold.

The most common genera with this type of rhizome are:

  • Phyllostachys
  • Semiarundinary
  • Sasa
  • pseudosasa
  • indocalamus

Pachymorphic rhizome bamboos (clumping)

These bamboos have a vertical rhizome (with a horizontal part) that lengthens until the canes are formed, producing more rhizomes or fine canes from the lateral buds if the main ones are damaged. This means that even in invasive species, you can clearly see where the plant is growing and can control it. It is the same type of rhizome that the common reed has (arundo donax). In general, these bamboos will not occupy an area greater than a couple of square meters, but some tropical and American species break that rule. Even so, If you have a rhizome of this type, you know that with a little control the plant is never going to get out of hand.

The most common genera with this type of rhizome are:

  • Bamboo
  • fargesia
  • dendrocalamus
  • chusquea
  • Guadua

Types of bamboo by the development of the rhizome.

Here we are going to differentiate invasive from non-invasive, but it is not as easy as it may sound. The reason for this is that what for some is invasive, for others it may not be. It is undeniable that a robust Phergesia is not invasive and that a Phyllostachys aureosulcata Yes i wait gigantic snapper it could be placed in either group.

invasive bamboos

Here we are going to consider invasive those that in a single year can send rhizomes more than 1m away. The vast majority are leptomorphs, but the good thing about this is that the canes are produced all at once at the same time and their rhizomes are very superficial, so their control is quite simple. Invasive pachymorphs are considerably more difficult to control because they produce canes throughout the year, but virtually all are tropical and rarely cultivated. These bamboos can form forests, as in the case of Phyllostachys edulis. They do not grow well in pots.

Phyllostachys

En general, all bamboos of this genus are invasive, but only under the right conditions. The two most manageable species for being the least vigorous are Phyllostachys aurea y Phyllostachys nigra. These two can be placed in any garden, as long as we take care of eliminating the canes (and possibly the rhizomes) that they produce where we do not want, which luckily there will not be many. Phyllostachys edulis y Phyllostachys aureosulcata they are almost uncontrollable and I only recommend them for large gardens. Phyllostachys bisseti is one of the most common, but it is also very vigorous, so it will need more control than a P. aurea.

Semiarundinary

Semiarundinaria fastuosa, an invasive bamboo widely used as windbreaks

The most common is Lavish semiarundinaria. They are quite invasive, but since the canes produce them very close together, it is very easy to see where the rhizomes go and control them. That, added to the fact that their canes are very vertical (and quite high, over 5m), makes them an excellent windbreak screen or hedge to give privacy.

Pseudosa japonica

Pseudosasa japonica, an invasive large-leaved bamboo

Very invasive and difficult to control due to how small the rhizomes are. Due to their large leaves, they are very good as an understory plant, especially mixed with other invasive bamboos, but if you have little space, there are other very similar species that are not invasive.

Guadua

Guadua angustifolia, one of the few invasive bamboos with a pachymorphic rhizome.

The first that comes to mind when thinking of invasive pachymorphs is guadua angustifolia, a species that inhabits the jungles of Central America and northern South America. It is highly sought after in frost-free climates for its construction uses and striking appearance, but you need a lot of space for it to develop well. In climates with frost it is perfectly manageable since its size will be much smaller.

Pleiobastus

Pleiobastus pygmaeus, a small invasive bamboo that looks more like grass

It is about dwarf bamboos that usually do not exceed half a meter in height, although some species can reach 2m. They form compact masses of reeds, similar to grass, and produce lots of fine rhizomes that can be difficult to remove. Even so, they are highly recommended for grassing shady areas where we are not going to step, and its small size allows it to be in small gardens as long as it is controlled.

Non-invasive or tussock bamboos

Here we include all those that are never going to get out of hand, because we will clearly know where the rhizomes go and therefore, where the new reeds will come from. That they are not invasive does not mean that we can plant them anywhere, since the largest bamboos in the world are found here, as well as the smallest. Most have pachymorphic rhizome.

Bamboo Bambusa, a genus of large non-invasive bamboos

The most typical genus of large non-invasive bamboos. They are the ones that nurseries usually recommend for areas without frost or at least without strong frosts. Although their canes grow piled up, there are always the odd ones that get further apart. Still, it is rare that they occupy more than a few 3 or 4 square meters. The most common is Bambusa oldhamii, which many people are not expected to grow into a monster over 10m tall and 20cm cane diameter in a few years (if you live in an area where it will not suffer damage in winter). Another quite common but expensive is Bamboo ventricose, the Buddha belly bamboo, which although it does not grow so large, its canes appear farther apart, so it occupies much more surface, and does not tolerate frost at all.

fargesia

Fargesia a non-invasive bamboo

It is a genus of bamboos that rarely exceed two meters in height and are not invasive at all. Normally its maximum width will be that of the pot in which you buy it, regardless of whether you put it on the ground or not. They are very resistant to cold, which is why they are usually recommended in all areas of Spain with strong frosts, but what they don't tell you is that they do not tolerate heat or lack of environmental humidity. This means that either you put it in the shade, where it doesn't grow, or it scorches. They also need a neutral or acid pH and lime-free water. In the north they grow very well, but I don't recommend it for the rest of the country, which is a shame because there are species with blue canes.

indocalamusIndocalamus tessellatus, the largest-leaved non-tropical bamboo.

These are the non-tropical bamboos with the largest leaves. They have a leptomorphic rhizome, but they are not very vigorous and do not invade anything. The species Indocalamus latifolius it is as minimally invasive as a Fargesia. Indocalamus tessellatus inside that it can invade a little more, it is very easily controllable and does not usually exceed half a meter in height.

dendrocalamus

Dendrocalamus giganteus, the largest bamboo in the world

Large tropical bamboos, with some species like Dendrocalamus sinicus (the largest bamboo in the world), which can exceed 20m high (reaching 46m if the conditions are right) and 37cm of cane thickness. This species tends to cast some reeds directly attached to the others, so they are apparently controllable. But if we take into account that to cut them you will need a chainsaw... you better have space for it to grow. Now, it will only grow that much in tropical climates. In a Mediterranean climate, even without frost, it will rarely reach 5m, and in one with frost it will not exceed a meter in height.

Other species like Dendrocalamus strictus They do grow well in Mediterranean climates, but although they acquire more manageable sizes, their canes are still very hard, so pruning them can be a problem.

Sasa

Sasa veitchii, a very striking dwarf bamboo

It is about usually dwarf bamboos, with leaves larger than the reeds. They have a leptomorphic rhizome and in their climate they can cover entire forests. Nevertheless, when grown outside their climate they grow too slow to be a problem. Generally they will occupy an area of ​​little more than 1 square meter, and even if it comes out of there, it produces few rhizomes so they are easy to control.

chusquea

chusquea couleou

They are American solid cane bamboos. They are not too invasive, but more invasive than most of the ones we have included here, so you have to be careful with them. The reeds can appear more than half a meter apart from each other, but this only in good condition. In Spain, generally the species of this genus do not grow well and grow dwarfed, throwing small piled up canes.

Types of bamboo by size.

giant bamboos

This is something that many people look at when deciding which species to buy, but the truth is that it is not reliable at all. It completely depends on the climate you live in and the care you give them. As we have said before, the largest bamboo in the world is only so in a tropical climate, while having it in one with frost, a simple Phyllostachys aurea you can overcome it. This makes making these lists complicated, since maximum sizes are usually combined in habitat with typical sizes in cultivation ...

Giants (>10m)

  • dendrocalamus giganteus (up to about 20m in tropical climates, making it the largest bamboo in the world)
  • Dendrocalamus asper (up to about 17m in tropical climates)
  • Phyllostachys edulis (15m if it grows in good conditions, which does the larger leptomorphic rhizome bamboo. In Mediterranean climates it rarely exceeds 5m in height)
  • Bambusa oldhamii (15m)
  • guadua angustifolia (15m)
  • Phyllostachys viridis (13m)
  • Bamboo vulgaris (11m)
  • Phyllostachys Bambusoides (10m)
  • Phyllostachys nigra 'Boryana' (10m)

Large (5-10m)

  • Lavish semiarundinaria (8m)
  • gigantic snapper (7m)
  • Phyllostachys aureosulcata (7m)
  • Phyllostachys bisseti (7m)
  • Phyllostachys aurea (6m, although in Mediterranean climates it does not usually exceed about 3m)

Medium (3-5m)

  • Chimonobambusa quadrangularis (5m)
  • Phyllostachys nigra (5m)
  • Hibanobambusa tranquillans (3,5m)
  • chusquea couleou (4m)
  • Pleiobastus gramineus (4m)
  • Phergesia papyrifera (4m)
  • Pseudosa japonica (4m)

Small (0,5-3m)

  • Indocalamus latifolius (3m)
  • Multiplex Bambusa (3m)
  • robust Phergesia (3m)
  • Chinese Pleiobastus (2m)
  • sasa kurilensis (2m)
  • Fargesia rufous (2m)
  • sasaella masamuneana (1,5m)
  • Indocalamus tessellatus (1m)

Dwarfs (<0,5m)

  • Sasa veitchii (0,5m)
  • Pleiobastus pygmaeus (0,4m)
  • Pleioblastus auricomus (0,3m)
  • Pleiobastus pumilus (0,2m)

Types of bamboo by the climate they come from

Although as a general rule all bamboos will endure a couple of degrees below zero, Knowing where they come from helps us get an idea of ​​how close they will be to their maximum size. This is due to the fact that those with cold climates do not grow well in areas with hot summers and the tropical ones, although they support frost, if they lose part of the foliage they usually spend a large part of the year recovering it and do not use their energy in producing new canes, so that are dwarfed. Here we have divided them into these three categories:

Tropical

Bambusa ventricosa, a very striking tropical bamboo

We refer to tropical bamboos as all those that come from tropical or subtropical climates and that although they can withstand frost, will suffer damage that will prevent them from sprouting with force. All of this category have Pachymorphic rhizome and large canes. With enough protection they can be grown in any climate, although the colder the smaller their maximum size will be. When the entire aerial part is frozen, these bamboos sprout as soon as the heat returns with numerous very small canes from the secondary buds of the rhizome.

  • Bamboo: most species support up to about -5ºC, although losing all the aerial part. The most resistant to cold is Bambusa oldhamii, whose rhizome holds up to about -10ºC. Its biggest problem is that several light frosts in a row will burn the leaves and buds, so it will not produce new canes that spring, only sprouts. Even so, this species reaches large sizes even in those cases, it simply takes much longer.
  • dendrocalamus: most resistant up to a few -3ºC as long as a good mulch is placed on them, but normally any maintained frost freezes the canes and causes that the following year they do not grow well. Interestingly, the most resistant to cold seems to be dendrocalamus giganteus, but since its main attraction is its size and in cold climates we will never be able to enjoy it ... it is not a plant that is marketed.
  • Guadua: It is difficult to determine its resistance to cold since it is not usually grown outside of tropical areas of South America. Probably around -2 or -3ºC, dying the aerial part with any frost.

Resistant to cold and heat

Various cold and heat resistant bamboos

Here we include all temperate bamboos that tolerate sun, low humidity and heat, as well as cold. The vast majority of these bamboos survive in temperatures close to -20ºC, although many will drop the leaves below about -5ºC and will lose the aerial part below about -10ºC. The good thing is that even if they lose the aerial part, they will recover in spring as if nothing had happened. Here we mainly find medium-sized leptomorphs. The bamboos of this group can be grown almost anywhere, as long as we give them the necessary care.

  • Phyllostachys: In general all genre Phyllostachys it can be included here, with one exception that we will see below. All the most common ones can withstand heat and cold without problems, so they are a safe choice. Of course, in cool climates they grow much better.
  • Pseudosa japonica: Prefers some shade, but giving it that, hold whatever. There are other species of the genus Pseudose, but they are not cultivated.
  • Semiarundinary: very resistant to everything and very striking.

Heat intolerant

Phyllostachys edulis forest

In this group we find bamboos that, because they come from very cold or humid climates, or because they form the understory of dense forests, they are unable to grow in hot climates, where dry air burns their leaves. We found mainly small pachymorphs and leptomorphs, but moso bamboo is also included here. All these bamboos perfectly withstand the cold (up to between -20 and -30ºC), but not the heat (they are not recommended in areas with temperatures above 30ºC).

  • Phyllostachys edulis: Moso bamboo, the invasive bamboo with the largest culms and one of the most beautiful, capable of creating a forest of a single individual. Sadly, we are not going to see these forests in a Mediterranean climate, since any heat wave will leave it to waste. It is a real pity, since it is one of the most spectacular bamboos, with its gigantic velvety gray culms and its tiny leaves, placed on branches that form horizontal planes…
  • Sasa, Pleiobastus e indocalamus: They are understory bamboos, that is, they usually grow under trees. This means that they do not tolerate well growing outside forests unless they are cool climates, such as the north of Spain. Some species of these genera form grasslands in Russia.
  • chusquea: Only suitable for cool climates, since they need full sun but do not like heat.
  • fargesia: These bamboos are some of the non-invasive ones that are often recommended for cold winter climates, but they need some sun and the heat burns them. They are usually able to survive in hot climates, but they do not grow and are in a sorry state.

Types of bamboo by flowering

Something that people don't count on is that most bamboos die after flowering, or rather, once they begin to bloom, they do not stop until they use up all their accumulated energy and die. Many of them can be saved if as soon as they begin to flower we remove all the flowering canes, we divide the rhizomes and cut all the new canes with signs of going to flower. The bad thing is that even if we save it and end up with several plants, it will be like starting over, since there will be numerous small plants. If we let them bear fruit, we will get thousands of little plants that will take years to grow to a decent size.

The good thing is that they usually bloom every 50 or 100 years, trying to match all of the same species, so hopefully you won't see yours bloom (and with bad luck it will flourish in a few years). The two types are:

Monocarpic

Bambusa blooming, after which it will die

Are the ones die after flowering, that is, those that under normal conditions when they begin to bloom stop developing rhizomes and only produce flower stalks, filling themselves with flowers. Here the vast majority of bamboos are included, except for the largest and smallest. The reason for this is that when they die, they allow light to reach those that germinate from their seeds, allowing them to grow. For this reason the smaller ones do not die (either they do not provide much shade or they grow directly in the shade), and the larger ones manage to disperse the seeds far enough so as not to have to compete with them. Although this is not entirely clear.

Polycarpic

Here we include those that after starting to bloom continue to develop rhizomes and new canes normally, producing only a few flowers at a time. The only one that seems to be totally clear that it is polycarpic is Phyllostachys edulis. We can see this from the seeds, which are always for sale, while the rest of the species appear very sporadically. Sasa y Pleiobastus they also appear to be polycarpic, producing the typical spikes of other grasses. dendrocalamus giganteus There seems to be discussion about whether it is or not, since it produces seeds for many years, but since it ends up dying, I would consider it monocarpic.

What do you think of the different types of bamboo? They can be organized in even more ways, such as by the uses that are given to them or the color of the reeds, but when it comes to their care, these are the most important groupings. I hope this article has helped you to learn something about these fantastic plants and I invite you to plant bamboo in your garden.


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  1.   Vicente said

    It is not true that the dendrocalamus giganteus grows only 20 m in tropical climates, reaches 30-35 m in height and exceptionally a group reached 42 m and it is not true that in Mediterranean climates it reaches only 5 m in height since in Valencia I saw some dendrocalamus giganteus that were over 10 m tall.

    1.    Monica Sanchez said

      Hi Vincent.

      Thanks, but in the article it is said that it can exceed 20 meters, and that in the Mediterranean climate it is rare for it to exceed 5 meters. But not that it only grows to 20m or that it cannot exceed 5m in the Mediterranean.

      Likewise, we have added that it can reach 42m, so that it is taken into account that it is a very, very large plant.

      Regards!

  2.   Vicente said

    It should also have more errors:
    dendrocalamus asper 25-30 m, not 17 m
    phyllostachys edulis 28 m, not 15 m
    bambusa oldhamii 20 m, not 15 m
    guadua angustifolia 20 m, not 15 m
    phyllostachys viridis 15 m, not 13 m
    bambusa vulgaris 15 m, not 11 m
    phyllostachys bambusoides 20 m, not 10 m
    phyllostachys aureosulcata 9 m, not 7 m
    phyllostachys aurea 14 m, not 6 m
    phyllostachys nigra 8 m, not 5 m

    1.    Monica Sanchez said

      Thanks Vincent.

  3.   Vicente said

    and also say that exceptionally a phyllostachys aureosulcata reached 25 m in height

  4.   July said

    I think you have exaggerated a bit the thickness of the giant dendrocalamus canes, they usually measure up to 30 cm thick although the maximum recorded was 36 cm

  5.   July said

    Also say that in my house I have 3 bamboo canes, one is 0,6 cm thick, the other 1,3 cm and the third 2,2 cm, bamboo canes over 2 cm thick seem thick to me , I took the canes from a phyllostachys aurea, the most common species in the area where I live

    1.    Monica Sanchez said

      Hi July.
      The Phyllostachys have thinner canes, yes.
      Thank you for the correction.
      A greeting.

  6.   July said

    The thickness of the bambusa oldhamii is also exaggerated, really the maximum is 10cm, not 20cm. In my area it is rare to find bamboo with a cane thickness of more than 2cm, so bamboo canes over 2cm seem thick to me, because I am not used to seeing them. Once in Madrid I saw some phyllostachys (I don't know what species they were) that had canes 5 cm thick and 6 m high, as Madrid's climate is frosty and the bamboo was quite large, I think it could be a giant species , And you do you think?

    1.    Monica Sanchez said

      Hi July.
      When writing the article, several sources were consulted, and in some it was stated that the maximum thickness of B. oldhamii was that, 10 centimeters. But depending on the weather and conditions, they can be thinner.

      Bamboos generally do best in tropical climates. This is where they can develop very thick canes. In Madrid there are frosts, so they are very limited by the low temperatures in autumn-winter.

      A greeting.

  7.   David said

    The information is very complete, only if I want to inform it so that it is updated, the Dendrocalamus Giganteus is not the largest species in the world in terms of Bamboos, that title goes to the "Dendrocalamus Sinicus" that they have found up to 46 meters high, so far it is the largest known, in 1980 it was barely discovered, maybe a bigger one will be found, but I don't think another one will be discovered anymore, I have tried to get it and it is very difficult

    1.    Monica Sanchez said

      Thanks a lot, David. We retouched the article 🙂

      A greeting!