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Best Bamboo Plants for Japanese Zen Gardens

Japanese Gazebo with rock and bamboo


Japanese and Zen gardens have many benefits. From a calming place to retreat from the stress of life to aesthetic beauty to gaze upon. Adding these Japanese elements to your landscape can add to the betterment of your personal environment. A beautiful Japanese garden can promote relaxation and stress relief.

Benefits of Japanese Zen Gardens

The Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture routine cites the benefit of Japanese Gardens. In one study, they found the Japanese Tea Garden to be superior to a natural forest or French Garden:

Psychological and Biological Response to Three Landscapes in Japan: A Pilot Study
By: Seiko Goto, Naveed Kamal, Helene Puzio, Eijiro Fujii, and Karl Herrup

In this study, the mood, aesthetic preference, and heart rate of observers who viewed three different landscape spaces – a tea garden, a French garden, and a few acres of a campus forest – were compared. Thirteen subjects ranging in age from 17 to 52 participated in the study. Mood was assessed using the POMS/Profile of Mood States before and after viewing the spaces. Cardiac output was assessed using a portable fingertip pulse monitor before and during the viewing. It was found that the tea garden evoked greater responses in all outcome measures. The results indicate that exposure to the tea garden had a soothing effect on the mood of the viewers and, after a delay, lowered their pulse rate.

Why Bamboo?

Bamboo can be a crucial design element to Japanese Gardens and Zen Gardens. Bamboo as an accent plant or privacy screen can provide a serenity of flora accompanied with a beautiful rustling of leaves. It is the fastest path to add Japanese design to your landscape. The bamboo can be used to create depth and privacy with it contrasting vertical lines and lush foliage. Along with function and form, it can help incite thought and relaxation into your landscape making it the perfect Japanese garden plant.

Isn’t bamboo invasive?

Japanese Rock Garden with BambooBamboo is a plant that can easily be contained in specific areas. With the addition of Bamboo Shield, you can define a shape or pattern on the ground in which the bamboo will grow. This aspect can allow you to grow bamboo down to the finest detail and obtain the exact form and composition that you desire from bamboo in a Japanese Garden design. It can easily be incorporated in a rock garden or utilized with rock mulch to compliment traditional Zen gardens.

Bamboo Varieties

Bamboo is not your typical plant or regular Japanese garden tree. Bamboo is a species of plant that has a multiple of sizes, colors and shapes. Here are the top recommend bamboos for Japanese gardens by category..

Giant Bamboo

Phyllostachys nigra ‘Henon’ – Giant Gray. This bamboo is cold tolerant and can get 4.5″ diameter by 65′ tall. Mature canes have a ghostly pale gray appearance. The contrast of the green foliage on the gray canes makes a striking appearance.

Shrub Bamboo

Shibataea Lancifolia. This little jewel can get up to 7′ tall but is usually much shorter. It has a long leaf with a velvety underside. This bamboo is also very shade tolerant.

Colorful Bamboo

Phyllostachys Aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis. This is a bamboo that has so many enduring characteristics. It is far from your typical bamboo. The canes are yellow with an alternating green stripe, the leaves have an occasional variegation and about 5-20% of the canes will have a distinct bend in the bottom portion.

Cold Hardy

Phyllostachys Bissetii. This is your normal appearing green bamboo. The aspect that makes this bamboo a winner is its ability to take adverse growing conditions. This is the most durable bamboo available. It can tolerate cold temperate, windy conditions, salt sprays and poor soils.

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Cost Analysis of 7 Privacy Screen Options

Neighbors looking over privacy fence in backyard

Most of us do not want to sit on our patio with neighbors looking over one’s shoulder. In over 20 years of selling bamboo, we have noticed that most all of our customers seek a privacy screen. We have seen all the reasons from apartments to office buildings, highways, power lines, nosy neighbors. There are many viable options when it comes to privacy screening. It is important to consider all categories before committing time and resources into a screening approach. The methodology describes the most popular screening options and compares the relevant categories in terms of cost, effectiveness, and longevity. Pricing is based on current market research and may vary on specific materials, location, installers, and market conditions.

Our Analysis

Fence TypeMaterial Cost
per linear foot
Install Cost
per linear foot
Total Cost
per linear foot
in years
Privacy Height
in feet tall
in years
DIY Factor
Easy to Expert
Easy to Hard
Low to High
Wood$12$12$2408ft or less10IntermediateIntermediateMedium
Vinyl$17$7$2408ft or less25 +IntermediateEasyLow
Brick$40$40$8008ft or less100 +ExpertEasyHigh
Metal Panels$60$40$10008ft or less60 +ExpertEasyHigh
Hedge Tree$10$2$121020ft or more15EasyIntermediateLow
Bamboo w/
Bamboo Shield
$15$8$232-420ft or more75 +IntermediateEasyHigh
Bamboo wo/
Bamboo Shield
$10$2$123-520ft or more75 +EasyIntermediateHigh

*Lifespan can be greatly affected by the durability of the material. | *Timeline Height is the amount of time required to create an effective screen. This category only applies to natural or living screens. Timeline for a non-living screen is the length of time required to complete the project. | *Privacy Height is the typical height of the screen. Both cities & neighborhood covenants often have an 8ft limit for fences. Living screens are typically maintained at heights of 20ft or more depending on species and climate. | *Lifespan can be greatly affected by the durability of the material. | *DIY Factor should be considered when looking at the total cost of the project. If the installation is done by the owner, the costs could be considerably lower. | *Maintenance represents the level of care required to properly maintain your privacy. | *Durability is the screen’s ability to withstand environmental stress ranging from weather events, animals, pests, etc.

Pros & Cons of Privacy Screen Options

Wooden Fencing

Wooden fences are the “go-to” of most privacy screen installations. Wood has a large range of applications which enhances its versatility. However, most fences tend to be 6ft tall with dog-eared layouts.


  • The materials are readily available and contractors are easy to find.
  • Damaged areas can be easily replaced fairly.

  • It is not very unique.
  • It has a short lifespan with high maintenance to maintain a suitable appearance.

Vinyl Fencing

Vinyl has a huge range of colors and finishes. Good quality materials can have a very long lifespan, but being plastic can be easily damaged. An advanced vinyl PVC can create new finishes and more selections.


  • Yearly maintenance on vinyl is low.
  • It can be pressure washed easily.
  • It allows for large selection of finishes.

  • It can be cracked or broken easily with environmental stress.
  • It has low durability.
  • Lower quality materials can result in an ill-favored way a few years after installation.
  • See: The Disadvantages of Vinyl Fencing

Metal Panels

Metal is very versatile and has been a popular choice for modern privacy screens. It has a laser cut designs for more appeals. A very premium choice metal panels will have a useful duration of a lifetime.


  • It is durable and long lasting.
  • It can achieve very unique appearances from ultra-modern to contemporary.

  • It is difficult to achieve unique designs.
  • It requires labor and heavy equipment to install in most cases.
  • The sourcing of materials can be challenging and expensive.
  • Rust can stain concrete and nearby walls if water flow is not controlled. If painted, may require future maintenance.

Brick & Stone Walls

This is a popular choice for thousands of years. Well-built brick walls have passed the test of time. A vast variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and finishes allows the homeowner to achieve a rustic or modern look.


  • It is very durable and long lasting.
  • It has a wide range of materials to fit a multitude of designs and styles.

  • Installation is labor intensive.
  • If damaged, it is very costly to repair.

Privacy Trees

Trees are a great way to achieve taller privacy. Local governments and HOAs often limit fences and walls to 8ft. This does not apply to trees, making Leyland Cypress, Cypress, Willow, Oak, and Crape Myrtles very popular choices.


  • Taller privacy screenings than hardscape options. Some are evergreen for a year-round privacy.
  • It is easy to install.

Bamboo without Bamboo Shield

Bamboo is gaining popularity in landscaping works because of its fast growth and development of a privacy screen. It attains tall privacy in less time than others. Bamboo is an easy plant to install and has a high ability to withstand environmental stress.


  • It is a fast-growing, tall and evergreen privacy screen.
  • It is not susceptible to pests, fungus, and disease.

  • Maintenance is required to prevent spread to undesired areas. (areas without Bamboo Shield)

Bamboo with Bamboo Shield

Bamboo Shield is installed with the Bamboo which keeps it in place and accelerates the growth. The use of Bamboo Shield offers a fast evergreen privacy that requires little maintenance.


  • It is a fast-growing, tall and evergreen privacy screen.
  • It is not susceptible to pests, fungus, and disease.
  • It has a very low maintenance.

  • The Installation is labor intensive without using a mechanical trencher.
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Why we don’t recommend Leyland Cypress Trees…

damaged cypress trees


Leyland Cypress trees and similar like Thuja Green Giant trees can provide great privacy but have huge issues when it comes to offering privacy long term. Disease, drought, and natural disasters are the leading causes of damage to these trees. In many cases, you’ll have a few of them die which will create gaps in your screen rendering it almost useless. To fix the gap you will have to install more of them which could then damage the others around it. These have very large root balls so replacing one of them will likely damage the others in the process.

Leyland Cypress


Prone to disease which threatens the life of the plant.Resistant to pests and disease, while problems are rare it does not typically affect plant health.
Prone to drought damage or death.All bamboo is drought resistant and holds water very well.
Will up-root in natural disasters and are difficult to revive.Even in the worst of disasters broken canes will always be replaced by the next spring’s growth.
Expensive to replace.Bamboo will replenish damaged canes during the next spring growth cycle.


Seiridium Canker, Botryosphaeria Canker, and Cercospora Needle Blight are all common diseases that can affect foliage, stems, and branches. These are the common diseases that will cause branches or the whole tree to turn brown.  There are also some root diseases such as Phytophthora root rot caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi, and Annosus root rot caused by Heterobasidion annosum. These diseases spread quickly from tree to tree and can eventually kill off your whole privacy screen.


Possibly the most common reason for these cypress trees dying is drought. Unlike disease, a drought will quickly destroy your entire planting. With some of the recent record-breaking droughts across the USA, it’s safer to stick to plants with more tolerance for drought. Just look at our facebook post with a picture taken after 54 days without rain. The drought we had last year in Alabama greatly affected cypress trees around our area. A large majority of them showing partial foliar damage, or completely dead.

Natural Disaster

Leyland Cypress trees are prone to wind damage and have fell prey to tornadoes and hurricanes in the past. In storm-prone areas, it is not recommended to plant these near buildings or power lines. Not to mention once they have been uprooted from the ground it can be near impossible to secure them in the ground again, especially without damage to the tree. Many arborists recommend removing the tree and starting with a new one. (Losing your screen)

Why Bamboo?

Bamboo is resistant to disease, drought, and natural disaster. In just under 40 years of growing bamboo, we have never encountered any serious problems with any of these issues. As much of bamboos “life” system is underground, any damage above ground can be quickly replaced with the next springs new shoots. Eliminating costly maintenance and loss of your privacy screen.

If you are not familiar with how bamboo grows we highly recommend you read more here. How Bamboo Grows

Bamboo is an amazing plant that grows quicker than any other species and provides a lush, evergreen screen for you to enjoy. We love bamboo and hope you choose it as a feature in your landscape. We have over 150 species growing at our nursery and can choose the right kind for you.

What are you waiting for? See what bamboo plants we have for you.

Links: Mail Order Plants – Caring for Bamboo – Frequently Asked Questions – About our family owned company

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Bamboo in Snow and Ice

Our cold hardy bamboo does a great job of handling show and ice. Our bamboo is growing all across the country in all 48 continental states. We are located in Alabama and rarely see much ice, let alone snow. On the rare occasion we do it’s exciting for us and we love to take pictures to share.

Alabama Snow – December 8 2017

On this day our nursery saw the earliest snow we have experienced in 54 years. Those in northern states do not understand the joy snow brings to the south, it’s such a rare sight that we rarely get to experience.

Grove of moso and vivax bamboo overlooking wolf creek. Snow covering the ground. Focused on Buddha statue.
Our Moso and Vivax grove tends to do very well in winter weather. Due to the strong Moso culms and massive height they tend to stand well. Since the Vivax has a thinner culm they tend to flex more and are more likely to break. (Although this is rare)

Black stripe bamboo weeping down in background. Rufa bamboo containers in front.
The bamboo weeping in this picture is Black Stripe, similar to the Giant Gray… It has thick foliage high up on the canes and will sometimes the tip will bend to the ground. (Even the 55 footers!)

Grove of moso and vivax bamboo overlooking wolf creek. Snow covering the ground
Groves with less distance between canes tend to accumulate more snow on top of the foliage, causing them to lean. You can see with the Moso/Vivax grove the snow reaches the ground and the canes stay straight. On our thicker Giant Gray (Henon) grove, there was barely any snow on the ground floor!

Snow covered bamboo foliage
Cold hardy bamboos typically stay evergreen even through these rough conditions. This shows how versatile bamboo can be in any climate and landscape!

Ice Covered Bamboo – Winter 2007

Several years ago we took some very cool pictures of bamboo after an ice storm. The photo resolutions are not quite up to today’s standards but they are still awesome! Always allow mother nature to melt the snow and ice. As it melts away the bamboo, in most cases without aid, it will spring back to its original up right position.

Bamboo after ice storm
Throughout our website we will try to pass our love of bamboo on. In doing this we all will make our world a better place for generations to come. When a gardener purchases bamboo from us, we try to tell them everything to expect with their new plants.
Ice shielding bamboo from wind
While it may look like it is hurting the bamboo, this coating will act as an insulation and protect it from wind damage which can cause defoliation of the culms. The ice and snow is a gradual build- up with the bamboo slowly bending to the weight. Always allow it to melt and return to its original position.
Iced bamboo leaning over completely frozen.
Always leave the ice and snow on your bamboo. Never try to shake the bamboo to remove ice and snow build up. This action causes a break in the ice at the leaf stem. When this happens, the weight of the ice on the leaf is too much for the now ice free stem to support. In turn, causing the leaves to fall to the ground. If the shaking action is severe the entire culm ( cane ) will snap like breaking a pencil.
Ice melting from bamboo
You can see the ice melting away here and the bamboo will be just as before.
This page and many others will help you to understand this marvelous plant. Please take time to read Growing Habits where you will find valuable information on how the bamboo will grow and provide your environment with lush foliage for privacy plus a natural habitat for birds.

Find the right bamboo in your climate with our Bamboo Finder, just enter your zip code and search!

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How to winterize bamboo


When growing cold hardy bamboos it is important to protect your plants from freezing. Keeping your bamboo healthy through the winter will bolster strong spring growth. When bamboo freezes this stops the flow of fluid and nutrients causing significant harm. Adequate insulation is key in colder climates, when planting in a container extra effort is necessary. 

New Plantings

During the establishment period (First 1-3 years) is when your bamboo is most vulnerable. Most bamboo once established can weather the winter season without any worries. During the first few years, your bamboo is just starting to establish a full colony of underground rhizomes. As your bamboo accrues more biomass, it will stay better insulated through the winter naturally.

Above Ground Containers

Above ground, containers do not benefit from the insulation the earth provides, further precautions are required in this case.

It is key to plant into a large container in order to provide more insulation for the rhizomes. Soil warming cables will heat the soil and stop freezing.

When the container is able to freeze, the nutrient transfer is impeded and winds can dedicate foliage and cause permanent damage easier.

In-Ground Planting

Ground temperatures are typically warmer than air which makes it less conducive to freezing. In-Ground plantings generally have a much larger root mass that can endure harsher conditions.

Applying heavy mulch will further prevent drying out and temperature loss.

Covering your plants with “mini” greenhouse tents is ok, however, this will block rain from entering, so watering will be necessary.

Additional Tips

  • Cutting back canes will not be any benefit to the health of the plant. Doing so will only reduce productivity next spring.
  • Any type of mulch for this application is fine. Bamboo is not picky and just wants to be warm. Even leaves and pine-straw will do great.
  • Anti-desiccant sprays have been known to work, but is not a substitution for our recommendations.
  • If your bamboo is covered in Ice/Snow it is best to leave it alone and wait for it to melt. Bamboo is very flexible, but shaking the canes at this stage will likely cause a break.

With minimal effort, your bamboo will be just fine through the winter. Our bamboo can be planted in most of the USA from zones 5a to 10+. Shop our Cold Hardy Bamboo to start growing your own! Not sure if you live in the right climate zone? Use our brand new Bamboo Finder!




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Is Bamboo Safe for Pets?

Yes! All of our bamboo is safe for pets. This only applies to actual bamboo species, not the look-alikes like “Lucky Bamboo”, or “Heavenly Bamboo”. There are lots of species that may have bamboo in the name, but are not bamboo at all. For true Bambusoideae species of bamboo, it is non toxic to dogs, cats, and horses.

Fun fact: Foliage of bamboo can contain up to 22% protein, so it’s even good for them! Protein content varies from species to species and even varies depending on the age of the leaves. Foliage later in the season contains much more protein than newly grown.

One worry with your bamboo is fertilization. We recommend fertilizing your bamboo once in the spring and once in the fall. Most fertilizers use chemicals that are harmful to your pets if ingested.

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How to plant bamboo for a privacy screen

Bamboo can provide a lush evergreen privacy screen or hedge in a very short time if planted correctly. First, species selection is critical. Species should be selected based upon climate zone, desired appearance and height. Make sure you get a species cold hardy enough for your climate zone so that it will be evergreen and you can enjoy privacy year around. There are many species for climate zones 5 and warmer that will give great screening.


Soil can have an impact too. Most temperate bamboo will survive in range of soil conditions from clay to sand. This will really only effect the bamboo ability to spread. Most bamboo if you asked them (don’t let anybody see you do this) prefer PH neutral to acidic sandy loams.


Sunlight conditions vary great from deep shade to full sun. Most all of the good screening bamboos (the Phyllostachys genus) is tolerant of all sunlight condition. As long as there is 4+ hours of filtered sun or better, bamboo can grow. The more sun, the faster the growth and development of the privacy screen. Sunny sites require more water because of evaporation and feeding the higher growth rate of bamboo.

How Many Plants Do I Need?

One division of bamboo will start a grove or screen over time. However, if you want a privacy screen fast, I recommend planting 3 gallon sizes 3 to 5 feet apart, plant 2 gallon sizes 1 to 3 feet apart. This will hopefully allow you to have a good screen in three years. There are a lot of factors such as water, sunlight, and climate zones that speeds up or slows down the process. Three years is about the average on this spacing, closer planting will allow you to screen or develop your grove faster. You cannot over plant bamboo.

How Bamboo Grows

Bamboo grows a little different than most plants. The bamboo that you get initially never grows vertically again. It has babies that are taller, that has babies that are taller. Every generation should be taller that the previous year’s shoots. The intriguing aspect is that each year’s growth emerges and grows to it complete height in 60-90 days. They spread as they produce larger growth, filling in and providing a screen.

This link will help you learn how bamboo grows. It will give you an idea of what kind of growth to expect from your planting. It also goes over some methods of controlling bamboo and how to keep your bamboo healthy. It is a lot of information, but well worth your time.

How bamboo grows

Planting bamboo is also easy. You want to dig a hole about twice the size of the root ball. When you plant the bamboo amend your soil with composted manure and a good top soil. Bamboo can be planted at ground level or slightly deeper. It is not a picky about it conditions but this will help get it off to a good start. More details can be seen here:

Planting Instructions

Finally, I will share with you a tip that will really help your bamboo screen develop quickly. Watering is the key. Especially during the establishment period. Bamboo should be watered heavily but make sure that you allow the soil time to dry between watering cycles. This can vary greatly between soil conditions so you will have to monitor it at first until you find the correct amount and schedule.

The method of delivery can be very beneficial too. Soaker hoses are great because bamboo rhizomes tend to follow the path of least resistance. A soaker hose tends to help your bamboo screen develop much faster because it encourages growth along your screening axis. For best results align the soaker hose directly where you want your bamboo screen to grow and coil it around initial plantings to provide the most water to the plants.

With these elements in mind, developing a bamboo screen is easy and fast. In just a couple of years, you will be able to watch your screen grow and enjoy your privacy.

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3 mistakes to avoid when buying bamboo

1. Don’t buy seeds.

Bamboo seldom flowers. Temperate bamboo typically flowers in 75 year cycles. These seeds have a very limited viability and poor seed set. Bamboo need very exact conditions to propagate by seeds and the likelihood the seeds are still capable of growth is low. It should also be noted that many bamboo seeds you find online are imported from out of the country, this is prohibited by federal law.

Bamboo Seeds


2. Pick the Right Species for your climate

Make sure that you select a species cold hardy enough for your climate and application. Bamboo plants start receiving foliar damage about 10 degrees outside of their cold hardiness range. Selecting a species a little more cold hardy can allow you to enjoy bamboo as an evergreen. Also containers and the earth don’t provide the same amount of insulation. If you are planting in containers, make sure that you get a species recommend to survive a zone colder than your climate zone. Enter your zipcode into our Bamboo Finder for the right recommendations for your climate.

Bamboo Finder

3. Decide how to contain your bamboo.

A little for thought will go a long way. Bamboo is a beautiful plant but some species spread quickly. It doesn’t take but a little bit of effort and you can keep even the most aggressive species of bamboo contained. Click here to learn more about controlling bamboo.

Bamboo Shield