Bamboo is a member of the grass family and a tropical, sub-tropical, or temperate perennial. Luckily, there are hardy bamboo plants that can be grown in areas where snow and severe winter ice occur annually. Even zone 6 residents can successfully grow an elegant and graceful bamboo stand without worrying their plants will succumb to cold temperatures. Many bamboo plants for zone 6 are even hardy into USDA zone 5, making them perfect specimens for northern regions. Learn which species are the most cold hardy so you can plan your zone 6 bamboo garden.
Growing Bamboo in Zone 6
Most bamboo grows in temperate to warm Asia, China, and Japan, but some forms occur in other regions of the world. The most cold tolerant groups are Phyllostachys and Fargesia. These can tolerate temperatures of -15 degrees F. (-26 C.). Zone 6 gardeners can expect temperatures to drop to -10 degrees F. (-23 C.), which means some bamboo species will thrive in the zone.
Deciding which hardy bamboo plants to choose from these groups will depend upon what form you require. There are both running and clumping bamboo, each with its own pros and cons.
Northern gardeners can harness the exotic, tropical feel of bamboo by choosing winter hardy varieties or providing a microclimate. Microclimates are found in many areas of the garden. Such areas may be in protected hollows of natural or created topography, against the protective walls of the home, or inside a fence or other structure that minimizes cold winds that can dry out plants and enhance the freezing temperatures.
Growing bamboo in zone 6 that is less hardy may be done by containerizing plants and moving them indoors or to sheltered areas during the coldest periods of the winter. Choosing the hardiest bamboo plants will also ensure healthy plants that can thrive even when temperatures drop below freezing.
Zone 6 Bamboo Varieties
The Fargesia group are the desired clumping forms that are not as invasive as running types that colonize through vigorous, tough rhizomes. Phyllostachys are runners that can become invasive with no maintenance but can be kept in check by cutting back new shoots or planting inside a barrier.
Both have the capacity to survive temperatures below 0 degrees F. (-18 C.), but leaf loss may occur and possibly even shoots will die back. As long as the crowns are protected by mulching or even covering during severe freezes, in most cases, even shoot death is recoverable and new growth will occur in spring.
Selecting bamboo plants for zone 6 within these groups that are the most cold tolerant will increase the likelihood that plants will survive freezing winters.
The cultivars ‘Huangwenzhu,’ ‘Aureocaulis’ and ‘Inversa’ of Phyllostachys vivax are hardy to -5 degrees F. (-21 C.). Phyllostachys nigra ‘Henon’ is also reliably hardy in zone 6. Other excellent cultivars to try in zone 6 are:
- Shibataea chinensis
- Shibataea kumasca
- Arundinaria gigantean
Clumping forms like Fargesia sp. ‘Scabria’ is specific for zone 6. Other options include:
- Indocalamus tessellatus
- Sasa veitchii or oshidensis
- Sasa morpha borealis
If you are concerned about cold pockets or want to use bamboo in exposed areas, choose plants hardy to zone 5 to be on the safe side. These include:
- Fargesia nitida
- Fargesia murielae
- Fargesia sp. Jiuzhaigou
- Fargesia Green Panda
- Fargesia denudata
- Fargesia dracocephala
- Phyllostachys nuda
- Phyllostachys bissettii
- Phyllostachys Yellow Groove
- Phyllostachys Aureocaulis
- Phyllostachys Spetabilis
- Phyllostachys Incense Bamboo
- Phyllostachys Lama Temple