Plant an Enchanting Outdoor Room: Potted Bamboo Gardens

Plant an Enchanting Outdoor Room: Potted Bamboo Gardens
  • Posted August 27, 2014

It's hard to put a finger on exactly what allures us about bamboo. Is it the sound of the leaves rustling in the wind? Is it the way it encloses us in greenery? Or is it the intriguing form of the hollow canes?

No matter the reason we love bamboo, the pleasure of its presence is undeniable; and, it is just as easy to grow on a balcony or patio as in the ground. In fact, its invasive habit in the ground is about the only thing not to like about bamboo and an excellent reason to grow it in a pot. There are few other plants that rival its ability to form an instant privacy screen.

Bamboo Culture

Bamboo is actually a tall, woody grass, though cultivating a clump or two is much easier than growing and maintaining a lawn. There are only two requirements: moisture and nitrogen. It's hard to overdo it with either, but a deep drench every other day in summer and a dose of manure-based fertilizer once per month is sufficient for maintaining the lush appearance of potted bamboo. Bamboo thrives in full sun and is also quite shade-tolerant, making it a feasible choice for a north-facing balcony or deck.

Keeping it Contained

The most common problem with growing bamboo is an excess of growth. Its powerful rhizomes have been known to bust out of plastic pots and thin ceramic planters. To be safe, use heavy-duty ceramic urns with walls at least 1-inch thick or rectangular wooden planters built with 1-1/2-inch-thick lumber and reinforced corners. A half wine barrel has relatively thin slats, but the circular shape is extra sturdy, making it a suitable home for bamboo. In general, use containers that hold at least 15 gallons of soil to avoid cramping the roots of these gentle giants.

Species Sampler

Greenstripe Bamboo

Greenstripe Bamboo (Pleioblastus viridistriatus)

Golden yellow canes with vertical green striations give this variety a quirky personality.

Black Bamboo

Black Bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra)

The canes take a couple years to turn black, but when they do, there is nothing classier to include in an Asian-themed landscape.

Red Bamboo

Red Bamboo (Fargesia nitida 'Jiuzhaigou')

The thin rust-colored canes are very striking when combined with black bamboo. It happens to be one of the most cold-hardy bamboo varieties, surviving temperatures down to -20 degrees.

Buddha's Belly Bamboo

Buddha's Belly Bamboo (Bambusa ventricosa)

This horticultural oddity has swollen bulb-shaped nodes that are evocative of a certain Eastern saint. Curiously, the effect only occurs when the roots are constricted by a barrier (as they are in a pot).

Related Pages

Black Bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra)

Black Bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra)

This unique plant is sure to attract attention! Worth growing for beautiful foliage alone. Dependable color and texture looks great all season. Easy to grow and very rewarding.

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Hardy Bamboo (Pleioblastus )

Hardy Bamboo (Pleioblastus )

Bring the meditative sounds of gently rustling foliage to the garden with Hardy Bamboo. Quick growing Bamboo provides fine texture and vertical interest. Most hardy varieties will survive to U.S.D.A. zones 6 or 7 and a few to zone 5, so be sure to check the label.

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Golden Bamboo, Fish Pole Bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea)

Golden Bamboo, Fish Pole Bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea)

A dense, fast-growing bamboo that spreads via underground runners. Produces beautiful lance-shaped leaves that mature from green to gold. This stiffly upright variety brings vertical interest and the soothing, breezy rustle of foliage to the garden. Also known as Fishing Pole Bamboo.

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Brian Barth
About the Author

After 15 years as a professional landscape designer and horticulturalist, Brian Barth embarked on a second career to share his passion—and the knowledge he's accrued—through writing. His love of plants is all-encompassing, but he has a particular soft spot for culinary crops.

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Plant an Enchanting Outdoor Room: Potted Bamboo Gardens
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Bamboo Trivia Bits

  • Bamboo is a grass
  • Pound for pound it's stronger than steel
  • Some species can grow over 3 feet per day
  • It grows on every continent except Antarctica