Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Can bamboo grow in extremely cold temperatures?

Fellow garden blogger Kate from the very popular and very well written "kate smudges in earth, paint and life" and I somehow got on the topic of bamboo. She commented on one of my latest posts, "It's doubtful there is a bamboo that I could grow in my garden," Kate, hails from Saskatchewan, Canada, rightfully so with extreme cold and snow, held this reasonable assumption that bamboo was out of the question. But, in all my bamboo geekdom, replied back "oh contraire" and offered some suggestions. Kate then replied back expressing interest. So knowing a fair amount of fellow bloggers and loyal readers hail from regions of the U.S. and Canada that have extereme winters, I thought why not share this post with all.

OK, the toughest family of clumping bamboos that I have in my collection are the Fargesias. Fargesias come from the the alpine conifer forests of west and southwest China. These are beautiful in delicate sense (in appearance only) and some can be found in mountain elevations as far up as 8,000 feet. On average, these bamboo can take -20 f per the respected American Bamboo Societies source list. The toughest of them all is Fargesia dracocepela (also known as Dragon's Head Bamboo) that lists a minimum temperature at -23 f. Pictured above is the closely related White Dragon Bamboo (Fargesia dracocephela "White Dragon") growing in my garden.

For running varieties, here are some tough cold tolerant varieties:

Phylostachys bissetti at - 15f (very wind tolerant as well)

Phylostachys aureosulcata "Spectabalis" at -10f (yelow culms with green stripes and red at nodes - I have this in my collection, very pretty.

There are a few more that are at -5f to -10f cold tolerance.

So, check out the American Bamboo Societies source list online and you'll be amazed. Photos of these bamboos can be found at http://bambooweb.info/.
Many thanks to Kate for bring this question up, hope its useful or at least interesting.


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Melanie Vassallo said...

There are many Bamboo stands around here on Long Island (although not yet at my house). While we are listed as zone 6b or 7a (ha what a joke) we have a long cold winter with very little snow cover. So my limited experience agrees that certain varieties of bamboo are very hardy.

EdenMaker said...

I'm so glad you wrote about cold hardy bamboos. I was going to ask you the same question!

kate said...

Thanks, Sean, for your kind words about my blog. I am going to check out the links tomorrow because I like the look of the Fargesias and would enjoy the challenge of trying to grow bamboo here.

This post now has me asking another question ... how well do bamboo over-winter? If say I grew a bamboo in a large pot and transported it inside, would it survive until the following spring?

One of these days, I'll post a pic of my kitchen cupboards. I stenciled them in a bamboo pattern.

Mad Man Bamboo said...

Hi Kate,

I'm glad you saw the post and the kudos on you blog are well deserved. On your bamboo question, they would overwinter OK indoors, provided they just need several hours of direct sunlight, otherwise they lose their leaves and eventually die. I know your winters are brutal. I'd be curious how they would do in the outside in a somewhat sheltered spot. Great experiment, I suppose. If you get serious about wanting to get a plant, I can suggest some good mail order bamboo sellers you can try.

Bamboo stencil sounds cool, yes, please do share.....


Mad Man Bamboo said...


I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Please don't hesitate to ask any question about bamboo your are curious about. Happy to talk bamboo. I am the bamboo geek after all... : )


Benjamin Vogt said...

Yes! Finally an answer! I'm searching for a babmboo in a pretty shady location that faces north in zone 5, windy Nebraska, so that's -10 to -20. I've been searching, and haven't found the exact right thing, so a million thanks. Enjoying the rest of your blog too, by the way.

Laurie said...

I'm wondering what additional advice you could provide about spreading. We have a fairly narrow area in which we would like to have some privacy from a neighbor's pool and deck.

Tawnya said...

Do you know of any cold weather commercial grade bamboo species?

Mad Man Bamboo said...

Most of them are from the Phylostachys species. A really cold tolerant one that has medium sized culms is Phylostacys bissetti. Phylostachys bambusoides "Japanese Giant Timber" and Phylostachys edulis "Moso" produce very tall and large diameter culms, their temperature tolerance is 0 degrees and 5 degrees, respectively. Check out www.bambooweb.info, its a great source that can tell you all the stats including temperature tolerance.



Chuck said...

The temperatures here get as low as -40º or even -50º F, so even plants hardy down to -20º don't do so well here.

Snow cover insulation would be an option, but often it gets down to -40º before there is even enough snow on the ground to speak of, especially in a drought.

I think that bamboo is still out of the question for me, unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

Bamboo in zone 7 Eufaula Oklahoma.
Over 4 years P. Henon, P. Vivax, and two other species of P. Bamboo reach over 60 feet. My own do well in blizzards, ice storms, and tornados. Typicaly so far, the only mild trouble is leaf folding in mid summers when temps exceed 100 degrees and droughts become extended in some years. My groves are expanding rapidly and I hope they will out grow the stress of droughts. Localy the soil is clay bound by oak forest. Spings and natural ponds make run off a mucky problem so hopefuly the groves will control the run off. Cane brakes were once native here before the rise of the lake drowned the groves river side.

Mad Man Bamboo said...

Chuck - wow, that is the extreme of cold!

Reader from OK - Sounds like an interesting group of bamboo plants and good to hear that they can take the elements well there. Sure is a durable plant!

Mad Man Bamboo

Anonymous said...

so since it gets to -50, im thinking you cannot grow bamboo here in saskatoon. Maybe revise your post, with updated information.

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind the Celsius-Fahrenheit factor when talkin about temps

Faye Healey said...

There is a company in Ontario, Canada that lists 5 bamboos that can be grown in our harsh climate:

Melissa Jensen said...

We are talking -30 C and I think if you took care to make sure the plant was protected through the winter and if there was a healthy amount of snow before we hit our coldest temps it might work. I'm certainly going to try it out. Wind chill is not a factor in calculating a plants lowest temperature tolerated. Thanks so much for sharing this :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Sean my name is cory. I live in Saskatchewan Canada.
Our winters here can and have gotten -46c. I am very interested in bamboo and how it could thrive in my yard year round.perhaps an extreme variety. Any suggestions.
Thank you
cory from Saskatchewan.
May8 2014