Bamboo is one of the hardiest fastest growing plants on the planet. While many people associate it with being the famed food of pandas, bamboo is enjoying a boom. This precious and eco-friendly plant can be used for everything - from medicine to mealtimes, building and construction material, and even as a fiber for making fabrics, bamboo has a thousand and one uses. Bamboo is actually not a singular plant - it is a perennial type of plant that has three different tribes under its banner and over a thousand different species sharing the same umbrella. There are loads of bamboo types and each has its own vibe - some are ornamental whereas others are typically used in the place of wood. Some indoor bamboo plants are also beautifully beneficial for health and the feng shui of the home. Here, we take a look at all the different kinds of bamboo plants, sketch out some of our fave species, and look at some of the best qualities to look for when it comes to your ideal bamboo plant.
Bamboo plant types
There are two main types of bamboo plants that each species can be categorized into. These are clumping and running. To help you understand bamboo that little bit more, we take a look at these two different types and what each means.
Clumping Bamboo(Sympodial type)
The name clumping bamboo is a less formal way of saying its true type name - Sympodial. This kind of bamboo looks closer to grass as it often grows in large clumps. You can plant it and it will stay relatively chill in clumps that won’t run riot across your garden. This kind of bamboo can be popular as an ornamental species as it is easier to control.
Running Bamboo(Monopodial type)
As the name suggests, running bamboo (AKA the monopodial type) can take over your whole garden if it goes unchecked. It has a hardy root system called rhizomes that sends out new shoots all over the place. There are ways of taming running bamboo - or at least making sure it doesn’t go too wild and swallow up the whole neighborhood, but it will take a little more care and precision to keep it under control in comparison to the clumping kind.
Common Varieties of Bamboo Plants
Bamboo is characteristically quite a hardy plant despite being a member of the grass family. It can withstand and thrive even in some tough conditions. It tends to need less water than some other plants and has a variety of species that can be planted in hot or cold countries depending on your local weather forecast.
There are several cold hardy types of the bamboo plant and while there isn’t one hard fast rule for all the different species, these are the kinds of bamboo plants that do well in chillier climates - even when planted outdoors.
The three above are running types of bamboo. If you are looking for clumping bamboo that is cold resistant, you can look to Chinese Mountain Bamboo and Umbrella Bamboo.
Warm climate types
As a lot of bamboos tends to thrive in warmer climates such as parts of Africa and Asia, you have plenty more choices when it comes to bamboo that suits this type of weather. Here are a few species of bamboo that will do well in warm weather climates.
Again, the species outlined above are running bamboo. If you want to choose clumping bamboo that thrives in the heat, you can look to species like Hedge Bamboo, Silver Stripe, Chinese Goddess, and Fernleaf.
20 best bamboo species
1. Buddha Bamboo - This kind of bamboo is full of fat nodes which aren’t too dissimilar to the shape of the belly of the Buddha - hence the name - buddha belly. It is native to China and tends to be used as an ornamental plant. Despite its ornamental style, it can still reach staggering heights of up to 55 ft.
2. Bambusa Bambos - The giant thorny bamboo is all thick trunk-like stalks that are synonymous with the bamboo forests of Southern Asia. With its swift growth rate and its iron-clad strength, its common for this kind of bamboo to be used in building and construction.
3. Umbrella Bamboo - Clumping and with slender elegant stalks and soft and gentle style leaves, the umbrella bamboo is great for when you want a style of bamboo that won’t swallow everything in its wake. It can still reach up to 15 ft in height but doesn’t spread too wide and also doesn’t take much maintenance to thrive.
4. Japanese Arrow - Beautifully named and native to Japan, this kind of bamboo has thinner stalks (so thin they would be used to make arrows for the Samurai). It is also a bamboo that thrives in colder temperatures. It can grow up to 13 inches and the leaves are golden brown and delicate.
5. Japanese Cane Bamboo - Long smooth canes that come dressed in a gorgeous dark green are a hallmark of Japanese Cane Bamboo.
6. Burmese Bamboo - A kind of clumping bamboo that is native to parts of southeast Asia, the Burmese Bamboo is known for its tropical vibes and its large and heavy setting. It grows easily and can even thrive in a home space with just a pot. Because of its thicker makeup, it is popular for use in construction.
7. Slender Bamboo - This thin bamboo also goes by the name of weavers bamboo as it is commonly used to make fabric. This is one of the bamboo types that can soar to staggering heights reaching up to 50 ft and is also highly durable.
8. Bambusa Vulgaris - Also known as common bamboo, this is the poster child of the bamboo world. Native to Southern China, it is one of the most popular and most highly cultivated kinds of bamboo around the world. Super adaptable, this kind of bamboo is easy to grow and thrives in a multitude of places.
9. Gigantochloa Apus - Tall bamboo is one of the largest kinds of bamboo on the planet and is good for all kinds of construction, building, and industry. It is also super fast growing which makes it a good eco-friendly alternative to wood.
10. Hedge Bamboo - A gorgeous evergreen with upright canes and quick growth, hedge bamboo thrives in a warmer climate and can spread to 20ft in width making them a solid choice for when you want to create shade or privacy in the garden.
11. Black Bamboo - Black Bamboo is all slender canes that are dark green when young and then turn black when they reach 2 or 3 years old. Smooth and glossy and considered to be a beautiful ornamental plant, Black Bamboo can reach up to 25 ft tall which makes it a good choice for creating shade and privacy.
12. Moso Bamboo - An impressive kind of bamboo, the Moso variety can reach up to 60 feet in height and has hugely thick stalks that can spread to eight inches or so. This kind of bamboo thrives in warmer conditions as it is native to East Asia. It is Moso Bamboo that tends to be used for paper production.
13. Giant Bamboo - Giant Bamboo also goes by the name of Dendrocalamus giganteus and is considered to be one of the tallest types of bamboo in the world. This species can hit a staggering 100ft with shoots even reaching up to 12 inches in a single day.
14. Dwarf Green Stripe Bamboo - These pretty species of bamboo is often used in edging gardens as it offers good ground coverage but doesn’t grow too tall. It has pretty leaves that are lined with yellow and green. As this kind is a running variety, you should be sure to keep watch.
15. Dragon Head Bamboo - This kind of bamboo is famed for being the perfect panda food option. They are native to China but tend to grow across the world as long as they skip out on afternoon sun and stay in partial shade. Along with being used for panda food, it is also a pretty plant for garden planting especially if you want to create a privacy screen as it has lush leaves.
16. Chinese Fountain Bamboo - Heavy foliage and slender canes come together to create the Chinese Fountain Bamboo. It takes its name from the arched canes bearing the weight of the leaves. It’s a tough plant and can grow in hot and cold conditions along with thriving even in poor soil. It can reach up to 15ft.
17. Fish Pole Bamboo - Iron straight canes that change from green to gold earn this species of bamboo its name - although the real name is Phyllostachys aurea. This kind of bamboo can shoot up to 25 feet in height and 15 ft in length. It is used to make walking sticks and umbrella stands in parts of the world.
18. Rivercane Bamboo - This kind of bamboo thrives around the rivers and is commonly found in the Southern states of the USA. This bamboo can grow up to 33 feet high and thrives in wet places and moist soil.
19. Guadua Bamboo - A thick thorny bamboo that comes out of Uruguay but is also found across the Amazon Basin, this kind of bamboo grows at low altitudes and is essential to the diets of many jungle creatures. It is also used in construction as a timber bamboo it makes for a strong and watertight material.
20. Green Glaucous Bamboo - Easy growing and gloriously dense, the Green Glaucous Bamboo is popular in places and gardens that crave a privacy screen. Tall green color canes can rise up to 30ft and the foliage of green leaves comes through thick and fast. The canes are also striped and come with white nodes which add to the pleasant aesthetic.
Selection criteria for bamboo plants
One of the most important aspects of choosing to grow bamboo plants and picking the right species can be down to utilization. What the plant can be used for - whether ornamental, privacy, low ground coverage or construction is well worth taking into account.
How bamboo is cultivated and grown around the world will also play a role. Some species of bamboo are easy to cultivate in certain settings whereas others may need a little more care. One of the major benefits of many bamboo species is the fact that it can often grow well even in depleted soil, in smaller spaces, and in spots that are either waterlogged or don’t receive enough water or drainage.
Products and processing
The processing of the bamboo will also play a role along with what products it can be used for. Of course, if you are using bamboo as an ornamental feature this is less important. Bamboo can be used for building materials, paper, textiles, medicine, and food.
Germplasm and genetic resources
How available a bamboo species is and the need for conversation also factors into selecting the right kind of bamboo plant for the right environment.
Speaking of the environment, this is another leading factor when choosing the bamboo species. Some bamboo will thrive in wetlands whereas others may need a drier set-up. Some can bring nutrients back to depleted soil and others can grow well even on mountain slopes. The environment and agroecology should also be taken into account.
What are the three types of bamboo?
The three different types of bamboo styles are Olyreae (herbaceous bamboo), Bambuseae (woody bamboo), and Arundinarieae (temperate woody bamboo).
What is the difference between clumping and running bamboo?
Clumping bamboo won’t run wild but tends to stay in a smaller area, whereas running bamboo can spread quickly thanks to its intricate and fast-growing root system.
What type of bamboo is the fastest growing?
Moso bamboo is considered to be the fastest-growing of the different varieties of bamboo you can find. It completes its growth cycle within 35-40 days after the shoots have started to pop up out of the ground.