Bamboos are popular garden plants, grown for their fast growth and architectural stems (culms). Some bamboos are perfect for using in tropical planting schemes, while others are more suited to contemporary or urban designs. There’s a huge range of bamboo plants to choose from, ranging in colour from black to yellow.


Some clump-forming species work well as natural screening, adding structure or using as a focal point. However, other species can quickly outgrow their allotted space and they can look unattractive if not managed properly. If left to grow out of control they can be virtually impossible to remove.

How to grow bamboo

There are two types of bamboo: clumping and running. Clumping bamboo plants grow in clumps, while running bamboos bear long underground stems, or rhizomes, from which new growth appears, enabling them to colonise new ground.

Most bamboos thrive in moist, free-draining soil. They can be grown in the majority of soil types, but some do better in acid soil - the key is to avoid wet, boggy or dry conditions. Most bamboos prefer sun but some species, such as Sasa bamboos, can be grown in shade.

Plant your bamboo in spring to encourage it to develop good roots and canes before it becomes dormant in autumn. Feed with a balanced fertiliser throughout the growing season and allow some bamboo leaves to accumulate around the base of the plants, as they return nutrients, particularly silica, to the roots, which helps the plants stay strong and healthy.

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Where to grow bamboo

Bamboos can be grown in almost any situation. The best place to plant bamboo is at the back of the border to create height, in your lawn to make a focal point, against a fence or wall to create a screen, or as a contemporary hedge.

Bamboo can also be grown in pots – some compact varieties do well in large pots, while other 'running bamboos' are best grown in a container to prevent them from getting out of control.

How to plant bamboo

Running bamboos can be invasive, so it's best to control this characteristic by growing them in containers or digging a trench and lining it with paving slabs or other impermeable material, so the bamboo doesn't become unmanageable. Watch Monty Don's video (above) for more advice on planting bamboo in a container.

To plant clumping bamboo in the ground, dig a hole twice the size of the rootball. Position the bamboo so its rootball sits level with the ground surface. Backfill with soil and water in well.

Where to buy bamboo online

How to care for bamboo

Bamboo plants are hungry and do best when given a regular liquid feed from spring to autumn. Remove dead leaves from around the base of plants, although allow some to remain as they return the nutrient silica to the plant's roots.

It's important to carry out regular root inspections, particularly if you're growing running bamboo. Dig down around the base of the plant and remove stray root growth with a sharp spade to keep growth in check.

In the video guide, below, Tim Penrose of Bowden Hostas reveals his golden rules for growing bamboos, including the varieties to grow if you're worried about them spreading, what to do with fallen leaves and tips on splitting them.

How to propagate bamboo

Propagating bamboo is simple. Divide the clumps in spring by using a sharp spade to separate bits of root from the main rootball. Replant these in the ground and water well.

Growing bamboo: problem solving

Bamboos rarely suffer from pests and disease. The main problem associated with growing bamboo is when running bamboos grow out of control. Find out how to control the spread of running bamboo in our video, above.

How to contain running bamboos

If your heart's set on growing a running bamboo, then don't panic as there are ways to contain its growth and stop it getting out of hand. The key is to prepare well in the first place and be vigilant.

  • Dig a trench 40-60cm deep and line it with overlapping impermeable materials, such as paving slabs, sheets of corrugated iron or a strong root-barrier fabric. Ensure the barrier sits above soil level.
  • Plant the bamboo so the rootball sits below the top of the trench. Backfill with soil and well-rotted manure or compost, taking care not to damage the rhizomes. Water well and mulch to hide the barrier, which is proud of the soil surface.

Advice for buying bamboo

Here’s our guide to buying the right bamboo for your garden, which covers how to choose bamboos for screening, low-maintenance bamboos and where to buy bamboos. 
  • Bamboos are available from garden centres and nurseries. Bear in mind that you may get more choice if you buy your bamboo from a specialist nursery.
  • Research the height and spread of your bamboo, whether it's clumping or running, and if it will suit the size of your garden. Bamboos suitable for screening a wall or building will be labelled 'screening bamboo' or similar. 
  • Ensure the culms have a consistent colour. Look at the new growth and make sure the circumference of each new culm is greater than that of the previous year's – this will indicate a strong plant that's increasing in vigour as it grows.

Types of bamboo to grow

How to grow bamboo - types of bamboo to grow
Bamboo growing against a fence

Bamboos are popular garden plants, particularly in contemporary design schemes. There's a huge range to choose from. Here, we explain the different types of bamboo, how to grow and maintain them, and how to stop them getting out of control.


Types of bamboo to grow - Chusquea Culeou bamboo, Getty Images.
Chilean bamboo, Chusquea culeou, Getty Images.

Clump-forming Chusquea bamboos are native to the mountains of Latin America. Unlike most bamboos, their culms are solid, not hollow. Varieties include: Chusquea gigantea, a huge species that can grow up to 15m in height and 4m wide, bearing thick, green culms; and Chilean bamboo, Chusquea culeou. Chusquea bamboos are some of the best bamboos for screening and can be used as a focal point. Grow in large gardens only.


Fargesia murieliae 'Luca'
Fargesia murieliae 'Luca'

Clump-forming Fargesia make popular garden bamboos, usually developing into small clumps. Native to the mountains and alpine forests of East Asia, they're some of the hardiest bamboos available. Fargesia murieliae 'Luca' grows to only 50cm in height and is one of the best bamboos for growing in a pot.


Blue bamboo, Himalayacalamus hookerianus, Getty Images
Blue bamboo, Himalayacalamus hookerianus, Getty Images

Himalayacalamus is a genus of clumping bamboo, native to the Himalayas, and includes Himalayacalamus hookerianus (pictured). Its young culms are blue with a hint of red or purple, maturing to gold. Perfect for growing as a focal point to show off its colours.


Shibataea kumasaca, Getty Images
Shibataea kumasaca, Getty Images

Sibataea is a genus of short-growing bamboos, with dark-green leaves. Perfect for growing as tall ground cover or a short hedge, it include the ruscus-leaved bamboo, Shibataea kumasaca, a dwarf species with gold-tinged leaves.


Thamnocalamus crassinodus 'Kew Beauty', Getty Images
Thamnocalamus crassinodus 'Kew Beauty', Getty Images

Thamnocalamus bamboos are clump-forming and native to the Himalayas, Madagascar and South Africa. They include Thamnocalamus crassinodus, which has tiny leaves and pale-blue culms that become tinged with red as they mature.


Phyllostachys nigra
Phyllostachys nigra

Phyllostachys is a genus of Asian running bamboos, with most species native to China. Easily identifiable, the culms have a distinctive groove, called a sulcus, which runs along the length of each segment. Many species spread aggressively by underground rhizomes, which can cause problems in the garden. Some species grow to 30m in height.

Many Phyllostachys have decorative culms and are perfect for growing as a focal point or a screen. Phyllostachys nigra (pictured) is a popular choice for gardens due to its black culms and is often called black bamboo.


Sasa kurilensis
Sasa kurilensis

Known as broad-leaved bamboo, Sasa is a genus of running bamboos. It includes Sasa palmata f. nebulosa, a tropical Japanese bamboo with yellow culms, and Sasa kurilensis (pictured), which is the most northern bamboo in the world and is therefore extremely hardy. They're ideal for growing in shady gardens.


Hibanobambusa tranquillans 'Shiroshima'
Hibanobambusa tranquillans 'Shiroshima'

The only species in this genus is Hibanobambusa tranquillans, a variegated running bamboo with big leaves and a bushy habit. Hibanobambusa tranquillans 'Shiroshima' retains its variegation better than the species and is perfect for growing as a focal point.


Frequently asked questions

My neighbour's bamboo is spreading into my garden - what can I do?

Some spreading bamboos can be invasive and have the potential to grow into neighbouring gardens. They can even break through weed-suppressant fabrics and hard surfaces such as patios and conservatory floors. 

You can dig out whole clumps or sections of bamboo. If it's growing from the other side of your garden boundary, you will need to create a physical barrier to stop the bamboo growing back. The weedkiller glyphosate may also be used, but bear in mind that you will still need to create a physical barrier to stop it growing back into your garden. Glyphosate comes in several formulations including gel, ready-to-use spray or concentrate, which you dilute and apply in your own sprayer. Always follow all safety instructions as glyphosate is thought to be linked to various human cancers and has been banned for municipal use by many UK councils.

What are the pros and cons of growing clumping bamboo?

Clumping bamboos are considered less invasive than spreading bamboos, however, they can form large clumps if left unchecked for several years, and can spread in certain growing conditions. To err on the side of caution, never grow any bamboo near a boundary or building without a physical barrier in place and monitor your bamboo regularly to keep its growth in check.

How and when can I move a large bamboo?

It is possible to move bamboo, although larger clumps may be hard to dig out. The best time to lift and divide bamboo clumps is mid-spring. Water the clump thoroughly a few days before moving it, to reduce the risk of transplant shock, and then dig a trench around the rootball before lifting it out of the ground.