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Thin bamboo growing next to a thick bamboo wall screen
Clumping bamboo is one of landscaping’s “it” plants. Fast and easy to grow, and an incredibly practical problem solver, there’s a variety for almost every situation.

 

What you need to know about clumping bamboo

Name: clumping bamboo, Bambusa, Bambusa textilis gracilis (various common and botanic names).

Plant type: evergreen; large, upright grass.

Height: from 0.5m to 20m+.

Foliage: generally long, around 10cm, lance-like leaves, deep to lime green, some variegated forms.

Climate: tropical and sub-tropical, warm temperate, some varieties in cold temperate to –12˚C. 

Soil: most types except clay.

Position: full sun to shade.

Feeding: regular feeding for best performance.

Watering: regular watering at peak growth times and dry periods.

Appearance and characteristics of clumping bamboo

Mention bamboo and most old gardeners run a mile. But today’s switched-on garden designers know that clumping bamboo is a brilliant feature plant and a problem solver that can fill out and reach heights faster than any other type of plant.

Clumping bamboo is probably the best option for hedging and screening in many suburban situations, as it can easily screen out a two-storey building in less than two years, with only a relatively small garden bed required.

Clumping bamboo has a classic Asian-garden appearance. The plant has long, generally slender stems, technically called culms, with foliage emerging at intervals (the nodes) all or most of the way along the stem. 

As bamboo is a grass, its foliage has an appearance similar to oversized grass leaf blades. Some forms have variegated foliage, and many have culms that become a feature as they age – dark, almost black, yellows and even stripes.

Most bamboo varieties don’t like living in small, plastic nursery pots. This means that in the garden centre they can sometimes look a bit tired and sad. Don’t be put off – once in the ground they will take off incredibly fast, and will be sending up new shoots before you know it.

Bamboo plants with green leaves in a garden

Uses for clumping bamboo

Clumping bamboo makes an excellent fast hedging or screening plant – it can grow up to 8 to 10m in under two years, and is ideal for hiding walls or fences. It can also be used as a backdrop for other plantings, and can provide excellent height in relatively small garden areas.

How to plant and grow clumping bamboo

As clumping bamboo is a large group, there is variation in the requirements of individual varieties. Some like full sun, others at least partial shade, so make sure you research before you buy. Clumping bamboo prefers a quality, free-draining soil, however it can thrive in most soil types, although it may have trouble in very dense clay.

Clumping bamboo is very hardy and is drought tolerant, although once established, best performance comes with reliable moisture. Many species will tolerate occasional waterlogging. 

Wind tolerance varies with the species. Some make good windbreaks, others prefer a sheltered position.

Planting tips 

For best results when planting clumping bamboo: 

  • Turn soil over to a depth of around 20cm. 
  • Blend in quality compost or composted manures. 
  • Add a general-purpose controlled-release fertiliser or a quality slow-release lawn fertiliser at planting time. 
  • Mulch well after planting. 

Because clumping bamboo is generally shallow rooted, it is easy to lightly cultivate the surface of a clay soil and blend through soil improvers to create a suitable raised bed. 

How to care for clumping bamboo

Provide additional water during dry times and, if needed, at times of peak growth. 

Feed your plant at least twice a year, in early spring and mid-summer. It will respond well to generous applications of quality slow-release lawn fertiliser. 

Side-dress every spring with some bagged, composted manure, such as cow manure. 

Keep your plant mulched while it is young. As it ages, you’ll find it will become self-mulching. You can evenly spread lawn clippings around your bamboo as mulch. Bamboo is one of the few plants where it is OK to push mulch up against the stems.

How and when to prune clumping bamboo

Clumping bamboo requires very little pruning. Older stems will start to fall out of the main stand, especially when wet after rain. Trim these off close to the ground and remove. Any wayward shoots can be snapped off as they appear.

Diseases and pests

Clumping bamboo may occasionally be attacked by leaf-eating caterpillars or grasshoppers, however damage is generally minor and often won’t even be noticed.

How to propagate clumping bamboo

Clumping bamboo is difficult to propagate. The most reliable method is to lift and divide or excavate around the side of the plant and split shoots off established clumps. However, this can be challenging and cumbersome.

If you like this then try

Japanese maple: If you’re looking to achieve a true Asian-inspired theme, bamboo is the perfect backdrop for a Japanese maple.  

Water lilies: The ultimate Zen garden feature; nothing brings a water garden alive like a water lily.

Start planting today

Check out our huge range of plants now and get your garden growing.

 

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Health & Safety

Asbestos, lead-based paints and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber are health hazards you need to look out for when renovating older homes. These substances can easily be disturbed when renovating and exposure to them can cause a range of life-threatening diseases and conditions including cancer. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page.

When following our advice in our D.I.Y. videos, make sure you use all equipment, including PPE, safely by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Check that the equipment is suitable for the task and that PPE fits properly. If you are unsure, hire an expert to do the job or talk to a Bunnings Team Member.