From California to the Carolinas, there are thousands of backyard gardens with varying needs. Gardeners across the country must choose their plants not only for their aesthetic but also for their temperament to certain climates. Bamboo is no different. And while gardeners can choose a variety of bamboo plants to suit their needs, it’s important to factor in climate, sunlight and soil type. Today, let’s talk about the role of climate and the sunlight in planting a bamboo garden.
Because plants vary in the temperature extremes they can endure, it’s smart to start planning your bamboo garden by checking a hardiness zone map. Also referred to as climate zones, these zones are a handy guide to help you know which plants will grow the best where you live. Basic laboratory testing can determine the lowest sustained temperature a particular type of plant can withstand but assuming that most backyard gardeners are lacking lab access, keep the hardiness zone chart as a reference.
For any gardening history buffs out there, hardiness zones came about years ago when botanists and horticulturists started gathering weather records throughout North America to compile a database showing the average coldest temperatures for the region. Once these records were condensed into a range of temperatures, maps were made to show the lines between the temperature zones. While the original studies and mapping were conducted by the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University and the USDA, they have now been condensed into a uniform USDA map. The USDA map divides North America into 11 hardiness zones with Zone 1 being the coldest and zone 11 the warmest.
But even within the hardiness zones, there are varying climates to take into consideration. Most bamboo species will thrive successfully in tropical and temperate climates but it is possible to grow bamboo in adverse conditions such as deserts or colder mountain regions. Placement of bamboo within your growing area also plays a factor. While full sunlight seems like the obvious choice for these plants, many tropical species actually require shade during parts of the day. And surprisingly shade is most important during winter months. When frost combines with direct sunlight it accelerates the depletion of water from the plant. So if frost is common in your area, make sure that the bamboo is planted in an area that receives at least partial shade during part of the day.
Below is a partial list of bamboo plants that are recommended for various regions in the United States:
Far South (Tropical, semi-tropical, humid, warm year round, no frost)
Recommended: Bambusas, Chusqueas, Dendrocalamus, Drepanostachyums
Not Recommended: All Semiarundianrias, “Blue Bamboo”, Chusquea circinata
Southeast (Hot & humid summers, some winter frost and down to 10 F. in some areas)
Recommended: Almost anything will grow in this area if the minimum temperature rating of species is appropriate. Also one of the few areas that Phyllostachys heterocycla pubescens ‘Moso’ grows well.
Not Recommended: Chusquea circinata, Fargesias, “Blue Bamboo”
Southwest (Low desert area with hot, dry summers and very light or no frost in the winter)
Recommended: Bambusas, Otateas, Phyllostachys. Hibanobambusa, Borinda boliana
Not Recommended: Bambusa multiplex ‘Silverstripe’, Sasas, “Blue Bamboo”, Indocalamus
High Desert (Hot dry summers, cool nights, cold winters)
Recommended: Pleioblastus, Semiarundinarias, “Arrow Bamboo”, Hibanobambusas
Not Recommended: Bambusas, Fargesias, Sasas, Indocalamus, Phyllostachys nuda
North (Cold winters down to 0 degrees F)
Recommended: All Fargesias, Many Phyllostachys, Pleioblastus
Not Recommended: any plants not designated cold-hardy
Near Ocean (At least 200’ away from water with salt laden air, but not salt spray)
Recommended: Bambusas, Otatea acuminate, Pseudosasa japonica, Chimonbambusa quadrangularis
Keep in mind that this is only a partial list of recommended bamboo species. Keep visiting Green Earth New’s Bamboo Garden section for more detailed information on each climate zone as well as posts on how to prepare your soil for your bamboo planting. Understanding the basic nature of bamboo will make everyone a better bamboo gardener and with proper planning and upkeep, everyone in the United States can take advantage of the beautiful and environmentally friendly bamboo plant.