What is Bamboo? Garden Tips 2023

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what is bamboo

There are so many amazing plants in the world and if you’re looking to add to your garden, the sheer number can be overwhelming. Let’s dive into bamboo plants, what types to use and avoid, and what benefits planting them can have.

What is bamboo: Bamboo is a plant native to tropical areas, such as Asia and South America. There are many invasive species that will take over your entire garden, thanks to the underground root structure called rhizomes. There are also varieties that fall under a clumping bamboo category, where the plants grow upwards and are easier to contain. If you live in a cooler climate, you may still be able to grow bamboo as there are some cold hardy varieties.

What is bamboo?

Despite its appearance, bamboo is not a tree but a flowering plant. Its stems are large stocks that grow up from the ground and the tops will have green leaves and intricate red and yellow flowers that only bloom once in their life cycle.

Bamboo has a series of roots called rhizomes that spread out underground. After you plant just one bamboo plant, you will quickly have a large area of bamboo, which can be either a pro or a con, depending on your garden.

Where does bamboo grow?

Bamboo is a plant that typically grows in warmer climates, varying from tropical to temperate areas. It is most common in Asia and South America but there are hardier varieties that can withstand colder North American temperatures.

Main Types of bamboo

types of bamboo

While there are different varieties of bamboo, there are two categories of the plant. It’s important to start with these two distinctions as they will determine whether you have an invasive plant or a manageable plant in your yard.

Clumping Bamboo

If you want to add a focal point to your garden, in the form or height, or texture, clumping bamboo is the way to go. This category of bamboo won’t spread out too far and is manageable so you can grow other plants nearby.

Clumping bamboo is great because it grows upwards rather than outwards. So, even though it will start to spread out after a few years, it grows slowly, allowing you to dig up any unwanted areas and maintain your bamboo area.

Running Bamboo

Bamboo has a bad reputation because of its running varieties. These plants will quickly spread underground and take over your entire garden if left unchecked.

The rhizomes grow in lines but because they are underground, you won’t know how far they go until the shoots start to form. Try to avoid running bamboo if you don’t want a major gardening headache.

Other types of bamboo

Cold-hardy

Even though bamboo is native to tropical and temperate climates, there are some varieties that can grow quite well in more northern regions. These are known as cold-hardy varieties and they can withstand a light frost in the winter.

Running varieties include Golden Grove and Black bamboo, although you should avoid these if you want a contained section of bamboo.

As for easier, clumping varieties, try Chinese Mountain and Umbrella bamboo. While there aren’t a lot of cold-hardy varieties of bamboo, there are some that you can get started with.

Warm climate

When it comes to bamboo that prefers warmer climates, it’s understandable that there are far more options. These plants will be common in most local gardening centers.

For running bamboo, try Red Margin or Giant Japanese Timber. As for clumping bamboo, popular varieties include Fernleaf and Silverstripe.

Uses of bamboo      

Garden accents

While bamboo is a very practical plant, which we’ll get into shortly, there’s no denying that it has amazing decorative functions. Bamboo can act as a privacy screen, provide depth contrast, and an interesting texture to any garden.

Food

Even those that don’t know a lot about bamboo will be aware that pandas love to munch on this plant. Bamboo is a food source for many wild animals, including lemurs and monkeys.

As for humans, there are some varieties that we can consume. Bamboo shoots, in particular, are the young, tender parts of the plant, and can be used in many culinary dishes.

Bamboo shoots are regularly used in Asian cuisines such as curries and stir-fries. If you’re looking for a new source of nutrients, such as fiber and vitamin C, bamboo shoots can be easily added to your diet.

Building materials

Bamboo grows quickly, making it a more sustainable building tool than other options. The plant is also very sturdy, so it can be used for floors, walls, and even roofs.

While bamboo offers a more rustic look than other options, it is perfect if you want your home or outbuilding to blend into the natural surroundings.

Textiles

Similar to building materials, there is a lot that bamboo can be turned into. Everything, from placemats to clothing can start from bamboo.

Common household goods that are made from bamboos, such as toothbrushes and cutlery, are now widely available. Local stores will sell these goods, as well as online shopping sites.

The only issue is that it can take quite a process to turn the thick bamboo fibers into something soft enough to use for clothing. If you want more bamboo products in your life, be sure to research their origins to ensure they truly are sustainable.

Biofuel

Whether you’re looking to cut costs on your energy consumption or lessen your impact on the environment, finding an appropriate fuel source is important. Bamboo, mainly because it can grow quickly in areas traditional fuel sources such as trees can’t, is a good source of fuel.

Bamboo has long been a fuel source for populations that live in tropical forests and if you have large acreage and want a better alternative to burning freshly cut wood electricity from dirty sources, bamboo may be the solution you’re looking for.  

Conclusion

Bamboo is a plant and while it will produce flowers, it only does so once in its lifespan. Native to tropical and temperate areas, you can find running bamboo that quickly spreads out or clumping bamboo that is better at containing itself.

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