One of the fastest-growing plants in the world, famed for being a favored panda food, and synonymous with being one of the most exciting sustainable materials there is - bamboo is taking the world by storm. This miracle plant is actually a grass, and there are over 1500 different species that fall under the umbrella of bamboo. While in our modern world, we are turning towards the benefits of using it in bamboo clothing like in bamboo rayon or for construction purposes, this plant has been around for centuries, especially in Asian cultures and Chinese cultures, and has been used in everything from medicine to food, crafting and building, papermaking, and so much more. With so many different types of bamboo out there, we are here to introduce a few common bamboo species.
One of the best things about bamboo is its impact on the environment. Bamboo is considered to be one of the most sustainable and eco-friendly plants there is, which is why it's so celebrated as a savvy alternative in the timber and textile world. Bamboo is a renewable resource as it grows incredibly fast and doesn't strip goodness away from where it grows. It's also a hardy growing plant meaning it can grow across the world in many different climates and countries without relying on carefully constructed circumstances. From bamboo forests to standing tall in hilly regions, from North America to Central America, South America, Asia, Africa, and beyond - bamboo isn't afraid to thrive. As bamboo requires less water than other plants and is a dab hand at absorbing carbon dioxide, it actually gives back to the planet more than it takes.
Different Types of Bamboo Species
There are many different kinds of bamboo, but all species will either fall under the clumping bamboo type or the running bamboo type. These terms refer mainly to the way in which the root system takes hold. Under the umbrella of clumping or running, there are also a ton of different species that bring their own pros and cons to the party. Whether you want timber bamboo that grows tall and strong or dwarf bamboo to pretty up your garden, here's a quick guide to all the different kinds of bamboo.
- Easy to contain
- Slower growing
Taking its informal name from the formation of clumpy-looking grass, clumping bamboo is often used as an ornamental grass as it looks pretty and doesn't spread across the garden, instead pouring its energy into individual bamboo culms. This sympodial type of bamboo grows close together with its stalks out of the soil. They tend to have a short root system, although they can be very dense. These types of plants can grow from 3-10ft in diameter each year. Clumping bamboo is a great choice for creating natural screens in the garden. A third of all bamboo species tend to be clumpers meaning that there is a significant amount of choice - although less than with runners.
- Speedy growth
- Can take over quick
- Lots of variety
Running bamboo plants are known for spreading quickly. Also known as a monopodial type of bamboo, this plant sends out underground shoots and shoots known as rhizomes. Because running bamboo can take over a space with speed and ease, it is a popular type of plant for open groves and for creating screens and hedges when you want something that crops up fast. The height will vary, but in some tropical climates, running bamboo can reach up to 60+ feet. Two-thirds of bamboo species are of the running variety, which gives you lots of variation when picking the perfect type of bamboo for you.
- The tallest bamboo type
- Mega strong
- Popular in construction
The giant of grasses - Timber bamboo refers to those species of bamboo that grow as thick and tall as trees. Often a native species to India and South America, these kinds of bamboo can grow to a whopping 50+ feet and boast a thick diameter between 3-5 inches. As you may have guessed, they earn their name and reputation by sharing a similar structure and stance to a tree. Timber bamboo is an excellent building material thanks to its strength and flexibility, but it can also be a great ornamental addition to large gardens too.
- Can reach 60 ft
- Thick diameter
- Multiple uses
Moso bamboos are also high climbers. This species of bamboo can hit up to 60 feet and are known to be one of the hardiest types of bamboo out there. They also boast a thick diameter with fat culms that can spread out to 8 inches. Mosos tend to be tropical bamboo that loves warmth and humidity, and you tend to find them around Japan, China, and other areas of East Asia. In the right conditions, Moso can grow up to 2 feet a day. There are many uses for Moso bamboo as it's so strong and hardy - from construction to clothing and even as an ornamental addition to gardens.
- Ornamental plant
- grows up to 9ft
Dwarf bamboo is a clumping kind of bamboo that is often native to the southern areas as it loves the sun and doesn't thrive well in frosty areas. Dwarf bamboo plants are pretty ornamental plant that is popular in gardens as it doesn't run riot and take up too much space - or is easily contained. It can grow up to 9ft in height but has dense foliage making it a good choice for creating screened areas. Common types of this plant include the Chinese Dwarf Bamboo, Tiny Fern, Mexican Weeping Bamboo, and Pygmy Bamboo.
- Low maintenance
Umbrella bamboo is a clumper 15 feet in height when it hits its stride. While it can hit 15ft in height, it doesn't spread too much, making it great for those who are looking for length over width. It's also a low-maintenance plant and one that almost appears delicate thanks to its slender stalks, even though it creates quite a bushy silhouette. Also known as Fargesia murielae, this style of bamboo is also highly adaptable, meaning that it will tend to be OK in both colder and warmer climates with a tolerance that even makes it able to withstand -20 degrees Fahrenheit. What makes umbrella bamboo stand out from the crowd is the fact that this style of bamboo doesn't rely on direct sunlight but can thrive in shade.
- Can reach up to 100 ft
- Good for construction
- Part of the timber family
Endemic to Central America and commonly found in the Amazon basin and the Orinoco Basin, Guadua Bamboo is part of the timber bamboo family and is famed for its fat stalks and lofty heights. This impressive species of bamboo can hit up to 100 ft, and its stalks can spread to a generous diameter of 6 inches. Thanks to its height and girth, Guadua bamboo is a solid choice of material for construction sites. It's common to see this type of bamboo used instead of wood or concrete as it shares the same strength but can flex a little making it a safer choice of material to use in buildings in areas prone to earthquakes or other natural disasters. It's also eco-friendly and easily renewable as it grows so quickly. Guadua bamboo is also used in furniture building and flooring, and particularly in the Americas, it's used for crafting cooking utensils, musical instruments, and weapons.
Japanese Arrow Bamboo
- Hardy in heat and cold
- Can grow up to 20ft
Native to geographic regions of Japan and Korea, this arrow-like slender bamboo was once used to make spears and weapons for Samurai warriors. Now, you are more likely to see it in someone's garden. Ready to shoot up to 20ft tall and with wide and long leaves, this kind of bamboo is great for creating shady spaces. This is also a plant that thrives in all kinds of conditions - come mild sunny days or cold snaps, it's a hardy plant that can't be killed off easily. As a non-invasive species, you can cultivate Japanese Arrow Bamboo without a care in the world.
Japanese Cane Bamboo
- Can grow up to 60 ft
- Used in construction
- Very hardy plant
Native to Japan, Japanese cane bamboo is tall and slender, with its strong canes hitting a healthy 4 inches in diameter and the plant itself reaching a staggering 60 ft in height. Japanese cane bamboo is a fast grower and a pretty plant. Its attractive and bright shades of green, long narrow leaves, white dots, and thick-walled bamboo poles give it glorious ornamental value for those wanting to create natural screens in their garden. But this species of bamboo makes for an excellent construction material as it is super strong and durable but also flexible enough to make it safe. It's also used to make furniture and flooring and is even used to craft traditional Japanese flutes. Japanese cane bamboo is also called Phyllostachys bambusoides. It's a hardy plant that can withstand everything from snow to fierce winds and direct sunlight.
- Good for screening
- Spreads up to 20ft
An easy spreader with speedy growth and strong upright canes, hedge bamboo, is great at doing exactly what its name suggests. This style of bamboo has an upright habit and excellent screening options. What makes hedge bamboo stand out is the fact that it can spread to 20ft in width without being invasive - giving you the best of both worlds. Its pretty turquoise-hued canes also add to their attraction. Hedge bamboo, also known as Phyllostachys glauca, adores warmer climates, and chilly temperatures can halt their growth.
- Pretty colors
- Good foliage
- Great for shade and privacy
All the most enchanting shades of green can be found in the Phyllostachys viridiglaucescens bamboo. Also known as Green-Glaucous Bamboo, you can expect emeralds, limes, and golden greens to appear as part of the life cycle of this lovely plant. Green Glaucous Bamboo can reach up to 30 ft tall, and thanks to its wide and thick green foliage with feathery-looking leaves, it's a great plant for welcoming shade or creating a private space in your garden as it grows so quickly. The green-glaucous bamboo is of the running bamboo variety, so you may want to take extra care in keeping it under control so it doesn't spread like wildfire. Despite its rapid spread, gardeners and green thumbs love this plant.
- Fast grower
- Can reach 60ft
- Arched spine
Stripey culms, pretty patterns, and an arched spine that can rise up to 60 ft, painted bamboo is one of the most cultivated and popular bamboo plants that comes from the tropical world. The fact that it attains its full height in just two months makes it a signature choice for those who want near-instant results. The leaves on painted bamboo are also attractive and can reach 7 inches in length. Another great thing about painted bamboo is the fact that it's non-invasive, making it a choice clumper for your garden.
- Grows to 20-40 ft
- Used in traditional medicine
Chilean bamboo takes its name from its native destination - found in the mountainous regions of the Andean Mountains that ripple across the giants of South America - Chile and Argentina. Chilean bamboo also goes by the name Chusquea culeou and is a form of clumping bamboo. The stems of this bamboo can shoot up to 20 feet, although some types can break this record and reach 40 feet in height. Chilean bamboo is a hardy style of bamboo and will thrive in different temperatures and soil types, making it an attractive choice for growing. It's popular as a planter in gardens thanks to its ease and adaptability. It's also used in building and construction as it's a strong material. In traditional Andean medicine, this kind of bamboo is also used to help ease digestion problems.
- Tall and slender
- Can reach 25ft
- Good for shade and privacy
Black bamboos, also known as Phyllostachys nigra, can bring fascinating and changing color schemes to your garden. Starting out with shades of brown before eventually turning black over the years, this type of bamboo is known for multi-colored fun. As black bamboos are also smooth with tall, slender, but sturdy canes that can reach up to 25ft, they are also an excellent choice for those wanting to introduce privacy screens or shade to their outdoor space. Tropical black bamboo is also commonly found in Indonesia and Java.
With so many different species of bamboo out there, it's no wonder that this plant scores big when it comes to being an invaluable resource for our planet. Its sustainable growth cycle, flexibility, and durability, not to mention the way it can be used in a multitude of ways, make it a most natural gift worth celebrating. From the soaring style and strength of timber bamboo to thorny bamboo, woody bamboo, and beautiful painted bamboo, there is a different species and types of bamboo to suit every style. Whether you want to plant bamboo in the garden for shade or if you are looking to know more about sustainable construction and textile opportunities, make no mistake that bamboo is going to play a part for many years to come.
How many species of bamboo are there?
There are over 1500 species of bamboo around the world. Most of these bamboo species can be found in Southeast Asia. Different varieties of bamboo are used for different purposes depending on their strength, size, and other individual characteristics. Some bamboo is used for construction and textiles and when it comes to bamboo vs cotton, bamboo can be a more sustainable solution.
What are some of the most common bamboo species?
Some common bamboo species include; moso bamboo, black bamboo, dwarf bamboo, timber bamboo, Japanese cane bamboo, umbrella bamboo, painted bamboo, hedge bamboo, and more. Different types of bamboo can be used for different purposes - such as creating shade and screens in the garden, construction, raw materials, and textiles, and for creating everyday items like instruments, utensils, and paper.
What are the differences between these species?
Different species of bamboo have different features. These features can include growing to different sizes, with some species having tall, thick stalks while others have thin bamboo poles. Some species of bamboo will be clumpers, while others will be runners. Different types of bamboo will also have varying strengths and a difference in the conditions they like to grow in. Bamboo will also have a difference in appearance and features on its leaves and stalks.
Is bamboo eco-friendly?
Yes, bamboo is very eco-friendly. It is eco-friendly because it is one of the faster-growing plants on the planet, meaning that it can easily be renewed. It also uses less water than other plants making natural plant fibres a good sustainable choice for natural bamboo fabric like tunics made from bamboo viscose . Bamboo forests are also excellent at absorbing carbon dioxide, and bamboo plants can help regenerate the soil.