Bamboo for zone 3

Cold Hardy Bamboo: Choosing Bamboo Plants For Zone 5 Gardens

Bamboo is a great addition to the garden, as long as it’s kept in line. Running varieties can take over an entire yard, but clumping varieties and carefully maintained running ones make great screens and specimens. Finding cold hardy bamboo plants can be a little tricky, however, especially in zone 5. Keep reading to learn more about some of the best bamboo plants for zone 5 landscapes.

Bamboo Plants for Zone 5 Gardens

Here are some cold hardy bamboo plant varieties that will thrive in zone 5.

Bissetii – One of the toughest bamboos around, it is hardy down to zone 4. It tends to grow to 12 feet in zone 5 and performs well in most soil conditions.

Giant Leaf – This bamboo has the largest leaves of any bamboo grown in the U.S., with leaves reaching 2 feet long and half a foot wide. The shoots themselves are short, reaching 8 to 10 feet in height, and are hardy down to zone 5.
Nuda – Cold hardy to zone 4, this bamboo has very small but lush leaves. It grows to 10 feet in height.

Red Margin – Hardy down to zone 5, it grows very fast and makes for an excellent natural screen. It tends to reach 18 feet in height in zone 5, but will grow taller in warmer climates.

Ruscus – An interesting bamboo with dense, short leaves that give it the appearance of a shrub or hedge. Hardy to zone 5, it reaches 8 to 10 feet in height.

Solid Stem – Hardy to zone 4, this bamboo thrives in wet conditions.

Spectabilis – Hardy down to zone 5, it grows to 14 feet in height. Its canes have a very attractive yellow and green striping, and it will stay evergreen even in zone 5.

Yellow Groove – Similar in color to the Spectabilis, it has a yellow and green striping coloration. A certain number of the canes have a natural zig-zag shape. It tends to grow to 14 feet in a very dense pattern that makes for a perfect natural screen.

Can I grow bamboo outdoors in Chicago?

Yes, you can grow certain varieties of bamboo in Chicago. Chicago happens to lie in the Zone 5 planting zone, and there are several varieties that are likely to survive our harsh winter weather.
Shibataea kumasaca
More commonly known as Ruscus Bamboo
A very different looking bamboo with small, oval shaped leaves and tiny, 1/8″ diameter culms. With time it will make a good screen. Very cold hardy and it can tolerate somewhat acid soil. When planted every 5 feet you should have a decent screen in 2 to 4 years. Fertilizing regularly, watering during dry spells, and mulching is the fastest way to get a dense screen of bamboo. Recommended for zones 5, 6, 7, and 8.
Phyllostachys aureosulcata
More commonly known as Yellow Groove Bamboo
This bamboo will get to a height of about 10 to 15 feet in zone 5, 20 feet in zone 6, and 30 to 40 feet high in zone 7. As always, fertilizing, mulching, and watering will make a big difference. One of the best choices for a screening bamboo that is super cold hardy. Although this bamboo can grow to over 35 feet in the souteast, it will be smaller in the colder Chicago climate. In extremely cold climates (zone 5 or colder) it may be killed back in the winter, sending up new growth in the spring. This bamboo is named for the yellow sulcis or groove on each internode. This is quite distinct in the spring on new culms. Many culms have zig-zags in the lower section. In a natural state, or pruned, it makes a great screen. Planted every 5 feet you should have a decent bamboo screen in 2 to 4 years. Fertilizing regularly, watering during dry spells, and mulching is the fastest way to get a dense screen. This bamboo is recommended for zones 5, 6, 7, and 8.
Phyllostachys atrovaginata
More commonly known as Incense Bamboo
Another giant bamboo, this has canes that are very large in diameter in proportion to their height. The shoots are some of the best for eating, should you choose to do so. Supposedly, this bamboo is one of the few that will grow in damp areas. This is also one of the more cold hardy species, staying green down to -15 F.

Golden Goddess Bamboo: An Exotic Grass

Bamboo is a member of the grass family. Species vary in height from 6 inches to 120 feet.

By Mollie Luze
Reiman Gardens
Iowa State University

In an effort to slow down and counteract our stressful lives, society has taken cues from the Asian culture including exercise techniques such as Yoga and the Feng Shui decorating style. Golden Goddess bamboo (Bambusa multiplex ‘Golden Goddess’), is the perfect plant to add a sense of tranquility and an exotic flair to the garden.

Bamboo is often associated with the Asian culture, and for good reasons. China is the largest producer of bamboo with over a third of all known species native to the area. The uses of bamboo as a raw material are quite diverse, including furniture, flooring, accessories, musical instruments, paper, food and even the leaves have certain medicinal purposes.

Harvesting bamboo has been practiced for centuries with bamboo artifacts dating as far back as 7,000 years. In fact, before the invention of paper, bamboo strips were used as writing material. Because it is a hardwood, bamboo has stood the test of time as a raw material because it is strong and also quite beautiful. Plus, bamboo has a much faster regeneration rate, making it more ecologically friendly than timber.

Bamboo is a member of the grass family Poaceae, with species that vary in height from 6 inches to 120 feet. Its jointed, often hollow stems, known as culms, grow from underground stems called rhizomes. There are two types of bamboo: clumping, compact growth close to the plant’s base, and running growth, growth that spreads from its rhizomes. Since bamboo is a tropical plant, it will not overwinter well in Iowa; however, the industry is working to develop hardier varieties for our Midwestern climate.

Bamboo adds summer interest to the home garden as a specimen planting or as a living screen. The bamboo chosen this summer for Reiman Gardens’ display, Golden Goddess, has yellow culms with attractive, contrasting green foliage. Golden Goddess is a clumping form admired for its graceful, arching growth. This variety only grows to 6-10 feet tall, making it quite manageable for the home gardener. Golden Goddess does best when planted in full to partial sun.

Golden Goddess Bamboo is featured this summer at Iowa State University’s Reiman Gardens in the Japanese Rock Garden, one of eight outdoor displays featuring plants and designs from around the world.

Jean McGuire, Continuing Education and Communication Services, (515) 294-7033, [email protected]

One photo is available with this week’s article: 62705BambooTall.jpg

5 Reasons Not to Plant Bamboo in Your Yard

Bamboo is a trendy star of the eco-friendly construction movement, with a wide variety of flooring, furniture and other items being manufactured from the strong, fast-growing grass. However, bamboo production should be left to commercial growers. Bamboo’s hardiness and rapid growth make it a problematic plant for most yards. Here are the top five reasons not to plant bamboo in your garden.

1. Bamboo can spread into neighboring yards.

Many homeowners plant bamboo to create a fast-growing privacy screen around their home. Ted Jordan Meredith, author of Bamboo for Gardens, notes that some bamboo species grow more than three feet per day. Bamboo can spread as quickly as it grows, and it doesn’t respect fences or property lines.

Bamboo grows particularly vigorously when adjacent to irrigated lawns and gardens or in low-lying areas that collect water. Instead of just blocking the view of nosy neighbors, you could be turning your property line into a war zone by planting bamboo.

Some bamboo species may even be categorized as noxious weeds, meaning a neighbor could legally force you to remove your bamboo. You could also be liable for the cost of any damage to the neighbors’ property caused by your bamboo, and for the cost of removal from their property.

2. Bamboo can be an invasive threat to biodiversity.

Bamboo that spreads and escapes your yard may cause ecological problems as well. Many spreading bamboo species are categorized as invasive exotic plants that crowd out native plants and threaten biodiversity.

The best ways to contain spreading bamboo tend to be expensive and complicated, and may not be worth pursuing for many homeowners. Moreover, they are not foolproof. Experts at the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension recommend burying thick 60-mil polypropylene or fiberglass about three feet deep, and leaving another two inches of material above the soil to inhibit surface spreading. Morgan Judy of Clemson University Cooperative Extension suggests creating a solid barrier made of concrete, metal or pressure-treated wood at least 18 inches deep around the bamboo.

Any of these barriers should stop shallow bamboo rhizomes from spreading, but Judy still recommends closely monitoring the area for escaping shoots, particularly during the early summer peak growing season.

3. Getting rid of bamboo can take years.

Bamboo is a long-term relationship that should not be entered lightly. It may take years and vigorous effort to remove unwanted bamboo. The first step in removing bamboo is to remove all the root mass and rhizomes. This is easier said than done, and many homeowners with bamboo-loving neighbors complain they can’t get rid of the spreading grass. No matter how much they dig, the shoots keep coming back.

Judy suggests frequent mowing can deplete and starve the bamboo, but it take at least two years of regular mowing to see any results.

4. Getting rid of bamboo may require herbicides.

Moreover, Judy notes that chemical herbicides are often necessary for controlling bamboo. This can be a problem for those trying to maintain organic gardens and avoid herbicide use.

Judy recommends Roundup Original, Quick Kill Grass and Weed Killer and other herbicides containing glyphosate. This broad-spectrum herbicide has minimal residual soil activity and typically only kills the plants that are directly sprayed. Mow or chop the bamboo and let it regrow until new leaves expand. Then spray the herbicide on the leaves.

Again, this could take years. One application will not solve your bamboo problem. Also, Judy warns that specialized glyphosate herbicides should be used near creeks, ponds and other surface water. Eraser AQ, Pondmaster and other products are approved for use near water.

5. The right bamboo can be hard to find.

Bamboo’s defenders will argue that not all of the more than 1,000 bamboo species are equally invasive. They recommend clumping bamboo species rather than spreading types. The problem is that even clumping species spread, albeit not as vigorously. It also can be hard to differentiate between the types, and some are mislabeled. Moreover, other similar invasive species may be confused with bamboo. For example, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension officials warn against transplanting or encouraging the giant reed (Arundo donax), a bamboo look-alike that has invaded parts of their state.

Bamboo may seem like an attractive garden option, but it poses serious problems. Stick to a lucky bamboo in a small indoor pot, or avoid growing bamboo altogether. Moreover, do your homework before buying bamboo flooring and other products. It may not be as eco-friendly or durable as you think.

For expert help in removing bamboo, hire a professional landscaper.

Blue Fountain Bamboo

Blue Fountain Bamboo

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Blue Fountain Bamboo foliage

Blue Fountain Bamboo foliage

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

* This is a “special order” plant – contact store for details

Height: 15 feet

Spread: 12 feet


Hardiness Zone: 4


This imposing selection makes a beautiful screen or accent in the garden; stems color is purple to gray-blue; this bamboo is even tolerant to full sun, but prefers some shade; a non-invasive but vigorous variety

Ornamental Features

Blue Fountain Bamboo’s narrow leaves remain green in color throughout the year. Neither the flowers nor the fruit are ornamentally significant.

Landscape Attributes

Blue Fountain Bamboo is an herbaceous evergreen perennial with a shapely form and gracefully arching stalks. Its relatively fine texture sets it apart from other garden plants with less refined foliage.

This is a relatively low maintenance plant, and can be pruned at anytime. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Blue Fountain Bamboo is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • Accent
  • Vertical Accent
  • Mass Planting
  • Hedges/Screening
  • General Garden Use
  • Naturalizing And Woodland Gardens

Planting & Growing

Blue Fountain Bamboo will grow to be about 15 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 12 feet. Its foliage tends to remain dense right to the ground, not requiring facer plants in front. It grows at a fast rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 30 years.

This plant does best in full sun to partial shade. It does best in average to evenly moist conditions, but will not tolerate standing water. It is not particular as to soil pH, but grows best in rich soils. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments. This species is not originally from North America. It can be propagated by division.

* This is a “special order” plant – contact store for details

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