Running Bamboo And Clumping Bamboo

Runing Bamboo

Some people are afraid to use bamboo in their landscapes because they fear that the plant will spread wildly out of control.

They must not be aware that there are two kinds of bamboo.

Bamboo is the world’s fastest-growing plant.

Some varieties are known to grow up to two inches per hour in optimal weather!

Running bamboo does spread vigorously and needs to be constantly maintained. Clumping varieties grow within a predictable footprint.

Bamboo is really a grass, not a tree, and there are two main types – the clumping variety (sympodial or pachymorph) and the running variety (monopodial or leptomorph).

Clumping bamboos have a very short root structure and will typically form distinct circular clumps. The footprint is not genetically capable of expanding more than a few inches per year.

The running varieties, on the other hand, send out underground shoots (rhizomes) which may spread as far as 20 feet or more from the parent plant. 

At Palmco, we specialize only in growing non-invasive clumping bamboos only. 

Our clumpers  are well-suited to the Southeaster US climate and are cold hardy to about +20° F, primarily those of the genus Bambusa and Dendrocalamus.

There are some reasonable applications for planting a running bambo and for the purposes of educating the public we will address these applications below:

  • Ideal for fast-growing, dense, vertical privacy screens and hedges
  • Beautiful for bamboo groves
  • Good for ground covers and erosion control
  • Excellent container plants
  • Grow up to 50 feet, or 60 to 70 feet in tropical climates
  • Cold-hardy; there is a species for nearly every climate zone

Running varieties are not recommended on steep slopes where barriers cannot easily be installed or in areas where rapid spreading is undesirable.

We strongly caution against planting a runner in a small yard in a warm climate, without a barrier around it.

Advantages of Clumpers:

  • Slow-growing, dense privacy screens and hedges
  • Beautiful ornamentals and specimen plants
  • Effective backdrop for other plants or sculptures
  • Grow up to an average of 30 feet, or to 55 feet in tropical climates
  • Controllable behavior, even without barriers
  • Non-invasive and generally stay in close proximity to the main plant

Tropical clumpers are generally less cold-hardy than runners. We do not not recommended our clumping bamboos for zones lower than 8. 

Also, depending on the species, we do recommend giving clumpers from two to ten feet of space if you want them to reach their maximum height.

Can the Spread of Invasive Runners Be Controlled? While ponds and streams make effective barriers for runners, we highly recommend placing rhizome barriers all around the plants to prevent them from spreading. These root barriers can be plastic, concrete or metal, and should be two or three feet deep and extend an inch or two above ground level, while slanting outward at the top.

A well constructed barrier will deflect the rhizomes and cause them to bend upward and then you will need to cut off any rhizomes that arch over the top of the barrier to keep them under control.

Can Running Varieties of Bamboo Be Eradicated?

There have been some success at removing small patches of runners by digging out each shoot. Pulling out as much of the plant and the rhizomes as possible. If runners have taken over, cut the grove to the ground, water it to cause new growth, and cut the new shoots down again. Without green leaves to produce energy, the rhizomes will eventually stop sending up new shoots and will die and rot away.

Palmco has hundreds of acers in production and is one of the largest palm and bamboo plantations in North America. We invite you to tour our plantation to learn more about the clumping bamboo varieties and to help you decide which of our 16 varieties of clumping bamboo will best suit your landscaping projects.

Call us today at (239) 283-1329 to get started!