Bamboo in the Landscape

Bamboo can serve many uses in the landscape. Different sizes and growth habits make this a versatile family and useful in many sites. The form and texture of a mature planting is unusual in the modern landscape and provides a welcome contrast to existing plantings. A wide choice of leaf shapes and sizes can create a delicate look or have a tropical appearance. Variegated leaves can add to the bold effect.

The range of heights of bamboo is also an asset to the landscape. Taller species can form dense hedges or open groves, creating a boundary or enclosed area. Shorter varieties make handsome hedges or borders. Dwarf bamboo can be used as groundcovers and can tolerate dry, shady conditions.

All hardy bamboo can tolerate deep freezes, outlasting annuals and tender perennials in the fall garden. Many species are evergreen, providing interest for both the gardener and wildlife. A dusting of snow in mid-winter yields a delicate scene that is unmatched in the plant world.

The length and severity of winter affect both the height and rate of growth of bamboo. Simply put, the milder the winter, the more robust a plant will grow. Because of this, the same plant grown in the Ozarks and in Southern Arkansas would differ in how fast it spreads and how tall it will grow.

This makes it difficult to predict the exact height of a bamboo in a particular zone. The American Bamboo Society has collected data for years, now published yearly as a Source List. The listed height of a species often reflects its performance in ideal conditions.

Various northern growers are also compiling data: how tall bamboo will grow in less than ideal conditions. In the Ozarks and further north, the mature height will usually not be as tall as in the south. To further complicate the situation, a new planting can take years to achieve mature height. Only by closely observing bamboo year after year will growers be able to obtain and publish useful information that is specific to the species and the climate in which it is grown.

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