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The Best Bamboo Plants for Missouri

bamboo image by cyndi Claessens from

Growing in the tropics, subtropics and temperate climates worldwide, over 1,200 species of bamboo are known to exist, according to the Missouri State University. Varieties grow from 1 foot to over 100 feet tall. Bamboo hardy in Missouri is primarily of the clumping or clump-forming type. It slowly grows a clump of bamboo culms in contrast to the running type of bamboo, which spreads by underground runners and is generally less hardy.

River Bamboo

Hardy through USDA zone 5, river bamboo (Arundinaria gigantea 'Rivercane') is native to North America. It grows up to 20 feet high and is cold hardy to minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit. River bamboo produces culms that are about 1 inch in diameter and will grow equally well in sun or shade.

Rubro Bamboo

Rapidly growing to a height of 55 feet at maturity, rubro bamboo (Phyllostachys rubromarginata 'Rubro') will survive down to minus 5 degrees F and can be counted on to survive winter in virtually all of Missouri. It prefers full sun or partial shade and is tolerant of all soil types and growing conditions. Rubro bamboo is excellent grown as a living screen.

Nuda Bamboo

The most cold hardy variety of its species, nuda bamboo (Phyllostachys nuda) is a darker green with a smaller leaf structure than its relatives. Hardy to minus 20 degrees F, nuda bamboo can successfully overwinter through USDA zone 4. It will grow anywhere in Missouri, including microclimates in exposed locations. Nuda grows to a height of about 34 feet and its culms are 1 3/4 inches in diameter. Like all hardy bamboo varieties, it prefers full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil.

Care For Bamboo Plants

You may not think of your outdoor bamboo plants as part of your lawn, but maybe you should. Bamboo also gives an exotic touch to a garden or backyard. Hundreds of different bamboo species are out there, but they generally fall into two categories, running and clumping. Keep in mind that there are hundreds of types of bamboo with different genera. Generally, running bamboo is hardier than clumping, suited to USDA plant hardiness zones 8 and 9. Spring is the best time to plant bamboo. Trench planting is definitely the way to go if you are planting running bamboo, because that makes it easier to add material to contain its aggressive spread. The bamboo plant rootballs should sit slightly lower than their previous depth. The primary reason new bamboo plants die is insufficient water during hot or windy weather. Bamboo plants need extra nitrogen in spring, so scatter a high-nitrogen granular fertilizer on the soil according to label directions, watering it in well. Make pruning cuts just above a culm node or a branch node. For example, if you top a plant to maintain a desired height, that plant won't regrow to its former height. Snap it off close to the stem with gloved hands, or cut it off as close to the stem as possible. Prune to control height or to thin the stand in late summer or fall. Gardeners get off easy when it comes to treating bamboo pests and diseases. Try washing these off with tap water. As with outdoor bamboo, you'll need to water well in summer but reduce irrigation in winter.

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