Bamboo is a tropical plant in the grass family (despite its woody stems), with approximately 1,200 different species. Bamboo types are classified by growing types, including clumping types, running types and dwarf plants. Clumping bamboo is a slow-spreading plant that grows in large clumps, while running types are more competitive and spread quickly. Size can vary from a dwarf plant of 12 inches up to 60 feet.
Clumping types of bamboo are non-invasive, grow in clump patterns and are ideal for smaller gardening spaces. This type of bamboo can grow up to 25 feet and does well in a cooler climate. Clump bamboo flourishes in full to partially shaded areas and can be harmed or even burned in full sun or areas with high temperatures. Examples of clump bamboo include Chinese mountain, which is approximately 12 feet tall with vivid green leaves, and umbrella bamboo, known for its gentle arch-like shape.
Running bamboo is more aggressive than the clump type. Without care and proper management, some varieties of running bamboo can spread up to 100 feet from the original plant. A 3-foot deep barrier is recommended for controlling running bamboo. These plants are very attractive and great for creating natural screens. Golden grove bamboo is a running bamboo that grows in a zig-zag pattern up to 20 feet tall. Kuma bamboo is a smaller running bamboo, growing approximately 4 feet.
Dwarf bamboo plants are great indoor plants, only growing between 12 inches and 2 feet. This type is also used as a popular ground cover. Pygmy bamboo is a hardy dwarf bamboo with beautiful bright green and purple leaves.