Hardy Bamboo Varieties: Growing Cold Hardy Bamboo Plants

Bamboo Plant Covered In Snow
bamboo winter
(Image credit: ideeone)

When I think of bamboo, I recall the forests of bamboo on a Hawaiian vacation. Obviously, the weather there is consistently mild and, thus, the cold tolerance of bamboo plants is nil. Since most of us don't live in such a paradise, growing cold hardy bamboo plants is a necessity. What are some cold weather bamboo varieties suitable for the colder USDA zones? Read on to find out.

About Cold Hardy Bamboo Varieties

Bamboo, in general, is a fast-growing evergreen. They are two ilks: Leptomorph and Pachymorph.

  • Leptomorph bamboos have monopodial running rhizomes and spread vigorously. They need to be managed and, if not, are known to grow rampantly and willfully.
  • Pachymorph refers to those bamboos that have sympodial clumping roots. The genus Fargesia is an example of a pachymorph or clumping variety that is also a cold tolerant bamboo variety.

The hardy bamboo varieties of Fargesia are native understory plants found in the mountains of China under pines and along streams. Until recently, only a couple of species of Fargesia have been available. F. nitida and F. murieliae, both of which flowered and subsequently died within a five year period.

Cold Hardy Bamboo Plant Options

Today, there are a number of hardy bamboo varieties in the genus Fargesia that have the highest cold tolerance for bamboo plant cultivars. These cold tolerant bamboos create gorgeous evergreen hedges in shade to partial shaded locations. Fargesia bamboos grow to a height of 8 to 16 feet (2-5 m.) tall, depending upon the variety and are all clumping bamboos that do no spread more that 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm.) per year. They will grow almost anywhere in the United States, including the southern to southeast climactic zones where it is very hot and humid.

  • F. denudate is an example of these cold weather bamboos that has an arching habit and is not only cold tolerant but tolerates heat and humidity as well. It is suitable to USDA zone 5 through 9.
  • F. robusta (or ‘Pingwu') is an upright bamboo with a clumping habit and, like the previous bamboo, handles the heat and humidity of the southeastern United States. ‘Pingwu' will do well in USDA zones 6 through 9.
  • F. rufa ‘Oprins Selection' (or Green Panda), is another clumping, cold hardy and heat tolerant bamboo. It grows to 10 feet (3 m.) and is hardy to USDA zones 5 through 9. This is the bamboo that is the favorite food of the giant panda and will grow well in most any environment.
  • A newer varietal, F. scabrida (or Asian Wonder) has narrow leaves with orange culm sheaths and steel-blue stems when young that mature to an olive green. A good selection for USDA zones 5 through 8.

With these new varieties of cold hardy bamboos, everyone can bring a little piece of paradise into their home garden.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.