Choosing the Right Bamboo Species for Washington: A Comprehensive Guide



Bamboo, a versatile and sustainable plant, has increasingly gained popularity in landscaping and gardening in recent years. With its fast growth rate, natural beauty, and ability to provide privacy, bamboo is an attractive option for many Washington gardeners. This article provides an overview of how to grow and maintain bamboo in Washington, considering the state's unique climate and soil conditions.


The Ideal Climate for Bamboo in Washington


Washington's climate is diverse, ranging from oceanic in the west to semi-arid in the east. The western part of the state, characterized by mild temperatures and abundant rainfall, is particularly well-suited for growing bamboo. Many species of bamboo, particularly those from the genera Bambusa and Phyllostachys, can thrive in Washington's climate, providing lush greenery throughout the year.


Selecting the Right Bamboo Species


When choosing a bamboo species for your Washington garden, consider factors such as size, growth habits, and cold tolerance. Some popular bamboo species for Washington include:

  1. Bambusa multiplex: Commonly known as Hedge Bamboo, this species is ideal for creating privacy screens or hedges. It is a clumping bamboo that is cold hardy down to 15°F, making it suitable for most areas in Washington.
  2. Bambusa textilis 'Gracilis': Also known as Slender Weavers Bamboo, this species has an elegant, upright growth habit and is cold hardy down to 15°F. It is perfect for adding a touch of tropical beauty to any landscape.
  3. Phyllostachys rubromarginata: This running bamboo species, also called Red Margin Bamboo, features strong mechanical properties, making it an ideal choice for various construction and crafting applications. Cold hardy down to 0°F, it is suitable for creating tall privacy screens or as a focal point in the garden.
  4. Phyllostachys nigra: Known as Black Bamboo, this running bamboo has striking black culms that contrast beautifully with its green leaves. It is cold hardy down to 0°F and makes a stunning addition to any garden.

Planting and Maintaining Bamboo


  1. Site Selection: Choose a well-drained area with plenty of sunlight. While some bamboo species can tolerate partial shade, most prefer full sun for optimal growth.
  2. Soil Preparation: Bamboo grows best in slightly acidic, well-draining soil. Amend heavy clay soils with organic matter to improve drainage and aeration.
  3. Planting: Dig a hole twice the width and depth of the root ball. Place the bamboo plant in the hole, ensuring the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Backfill the hole and water thoroughly to settle the soil around the roots.
  4. Watering: Bamboo requires consistent moisture, especially during the first two years of establishment. Water deeply once or twice a week, depending on rainfall and soil type. Once established, bamboo is relatively drought-tolerant.
  5. Fertilization: Apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in the spring and fall to promote healthy growth.
  6. Controlling Running Bamboo: If you plant a running bamboo species, install a root barrier around the planting area to prevent unwanted spread.
  7. Pruning: Regularly remove dead or damaged culms and thin out older culms to promote new growth and maintain a tidy appearance. 

Winterizing Bamboo 

Winterizing bamboo plants is an essential process that safeguards their health and longevity during the colder months. Bamboo, a versatile and fast-growing plant, can thrive in various climates, but its resilience can be tested by harsh winter conditions. Taking the appropriate steps to winterize bamboo can help ensure its survival and continued growth once the warmer seasons return. To winterize bamboo, begin by pruning any dead or damaged culms in the late fall, thus promoting stronger growth in the spring. Mulching around the base of the bamboo is another vital step, as it insulates the roots, retains moisture, and provides nutrients to the soil. Additionally, wrapping the culms with burlap or using windbreaks, such as a fence or a row of evergreens, can protect the bamboo from the harsh winds and prevent desiccation. By following these simple yet crucial winterizing steps, bamboo enthusiasts can safeguard their plants and enjoy their lush green presence for years to come. 

Controlling Bamboo Growth with HDPE Barrier in Washington


When growing bamboo in Washington particularly running bamboo species, it's essential to manage their growth to maintain an organized and well-kept garden. One effective method of managing bamboo growth is by using an HDPE (high-density polyethylene) root barrier, such as Bamboo Shield. This barrier helps guide the growth of bamboo rhizomes, ensuring the plant remains within its designated area.

     Benefits of Using an HDPE Barrier like Bamboo Shield:

  • Guiding bamboo spread: The HDPE barrier creates a physical boundary that gently directs the growth of running bamboo species, keeping your garden orderly and maintaining a healthy balance between bamboo and other plants.
  • Protecting other plants: By guiding bamboo's growth, the HDPE barrier ensures the protection of other plants in your garden, allowing them to flourish without being overshadowed by the expanding bamboo.

It's important to note that clumping bamboo species generally do not require an HDPE barrier like Bamboo Shield, as their growth habit is more compact and less expansive. However, implementing Bamboo Shield or a similar root barrier can provide peace of mind and help maintain an attractive, well-organized landscape when growing running bamboo species in your Washington garden. 


Bamboo Examples Found in Various Washington Locations


  1. Washington Park Arboretum: The Arboretum, located in Seattle, has a beautiful bamboo grove with various species of bamboo. Visitors can take a walk through the bamboo forest and enjoy the peaceful surroundings. (
  2. Seattle Chinese Garden: This traditional Chinese garden, located in the South Seattle neighborhood of Beacon Hill, features a stunning bamboo grove. The garden is open to the public and offers a peaceful escape from the city. (
  3. Bellevue Botanical Garden: The Bellevue Botanical Garden, located in Bellevue, has a beautiful bamboo garden with various species of bamboo. The garden is open year-round and admission is free. (
  4. Kubota Garden: The Kubota Garden, located in the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle, is a Japanese garden with a bamboo grove. The garden is open year-round and admission is free. (
  5. Bloedel Reserve: The Bloedel Reserve, located on Bainbridge Island, has a bamboo garden with various species of bamboo. The garden is open to the public and offers a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. (



Washington's diverse climate offers a suitable environment for many bamboo species to thrive. By considering factors such as size, growth habits, and cold tolerance, gardeners can choose the perfect bamboo species to enhance their landscape and create a lush, vibrant garden in Washington.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.