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How to identify clumping bamboo?

Clumping bamboo and running bamboo are members of the grass family. There are several varieties of bamboo plants. They are common in the temperate and tropical zones mainly in Asia, Central and South America and the Pacific region.

The bamboos growing in the UK, US and Australia are either clumping bamboo or running bamboo. Sometimes referred to as clumpers or runners, respectively.

How to identify clumping bamboo?

Comparing clumping and running bamboos can give you a better idea about these two varieties. Check out this article for in-depth information on clumping vs running bamboos).

However, it is also best to know the standout features. So, what is a clumping bamboo and how can bamboo growers identify it?

Let’s find out what really characterise the clumping bamboo and how to use 5 distinct parts to identify it.

5 distinct parts of a clumping bamboo

Identifying the exact bamboo can be difficult unless you have enough time, botanical knowledge and are curious to find out. Also, it can be tricky to identify bamboo by its appearance.

For any beginner bamboo grower, the 5 distinct parts will help you work out if the bamboo is a clumper or not. Use this diagram to help you.

parts of a clumping bamboo
Clumping bamboo parts showing rhizome, shoot, culm base, Base buds, nodes etc.
  1. Rhizome: The rhizome is short, stout and thick forming a tight clump around the parent plant.
  2. Shoot and culm: New rhizome grows upright into a new shoot which eventually becomes culm close to the parent bamboo.
  3. Culm base: The culm base, also called the stem base, is much thicker, at the bottom, than the culm.
  4. Base buds: The base buds (the potential new shoots and rhizomes) are found very close together along the parent rhizome.
  5. Rhizome nodes: The node rings (or rhizome nodes) underground are close together.

All in all, the bamboo rhizomes and underground parts are vital for separating bamboo into groups.
So, take a closer look at the rhizome of bamboo if you want to work out if it is clumping or running bamboo.

Clump-forming bamboo habits

Decidedly, look closely at the parts that are underground, especially the areas around the clumps. This is because a clump-forming bamboo is extensively characterised by the behaviour of its rhizomes.

You will need to know the different parts of the clumping bamboo, so use the diagram to memorise the parts. Alternatively, here is an article that gives a clear comparison of the parts of clumping vs running bamboo.

Simba Small Umbrella Bamboo Fergasia Murielae
Simba is a popular clumping bamboo

What are the common clump-forming bamboos?

We featured over 50 clumping bamboos on Garden Bamboo Plants (G.B.P.) and wrote numerous articles detailing their:

  • uses & qualities;
  • growing conditions & growth requirements; and
  • care & maintenance.

This article features both the clumping and running bamboos that are common in the UK.

We can reliably say that there are over 50 common clumping bamboos that can grow well in the UK, including US and Australia.

Top 5 clumping bamboos in the UK

Here are the top 5 clumping bamboos that we handpicked for you. Click on the link to read about each bamboo in detail. (You can buy these bamboos from the UK retailers in the second table)

Click on the link to read more

Scientific name

Guided Price Range

Fargesia murielae Simba

£30.00 - £80.00

Fargesia murielae Winter Joy

£40.00 - £70.00

Fargesia murielae Jumbo

£40.00 - £90.00

Fargesia murielae Rufa

£20.00 - £60.00

Fargesia nitida Black Pearl

£30.00 - £70.00

Clumping bamboo Fargesia murielae group: A guide to help you find the right bamboo. (note that the prices range is indicative only. Please, check in-store or online for updated prices.

Where to buy clumping bamboos in the UK?

We work with some big UK’s home and garden brands. Check out the links to go straight to their website where you can find out the bamboo collections and read more about each one.

Bamboo Plants and Supplies

UK Suppliers

Bamboo Collections

Fargesia Bamboo Plants

Black, Green & Yellow Bamboo Plants

Bamboo-based Eco Products

Best Hand Tools for Digging Bamboo

Phyllostachys Bamboo Plants

Pros and cons of growing clumping bamboo

Generally, there are lots of good stories about growing clumping bamboos in the garden or in pots. Also, many bamboo growers like clumping bamboos because they are great for garden hedging and privacy screening.

Their clumping habit makes them the ideal choice for growing in small and contained spaces like balconies, terraces and apartments.

However, the clumping bamboos will demand care and attention, either as new plants or in Spring when the new growths are prominent. In addition, the mature bamboo plants can be difficult to remove when they expand out of the allocated space, or if left unchecked for 2 to 3 years.

The growing habits of these bamboos indicate that the pros of growing them definitely outweigh the cons.

If you want to grow clumping bamboo, but do not know how to pick them, this Complete Guide to Selecting Bamboo will help you. Download the PDF for Free.

Guide and ideas for selecting garden bamboo plants for hedging screens
Guided questions for selecting a bamboo.

Clumping bamboo collections

Fargesia group of bamboos are popular clumping bamboo cultivars. They have spectacular stem and sheath colourations. We feature many of these bamboos here at G.B.P.

To find out about the 5 clumping bamboo collections listed below, click here.

  • 1. Fargesia nitida
  • 2. Fargesia murielae
  • 3. Fargesia robusta
  • 4. Fargesia umbrella bamboos
  • 5. Award-winning clumping bamboos

Clumping bamboo vs running bamboo mix-ups

As a side note, the Phyllostachys nigra black bamboo, though an invasive bamboo, can also behave like a clumping bamboo in a cooler climate. This running bamboo can spread quickly if left unchecked.

Such occurrence shows that some of the common bamboo species can be tricky to identify if you fail to pay close attention to the rhizome formations.

Furthermore, it is difficult to tell a running bamboo from the clumping bamboo just by looking at its appearance. The best way to identify bamboo is by closer inspection.

Black Bamboo Plants UK
Phyllostachys nigra running bamboos, but can behave like clumping bamboos.

What to do when buying bamboos?

Bamboo plants from garden shops and online marketplaces like eBay and Amazon have clear labels. This makes it easy to identify the bamboo. However, mix-ups are likely when buying bamboos online and also in stores.

Whether you are buying bamboo seeds or bamboo in pots, it is always the right thing to read the labels properly. Also, read the reviews and plants descriptions before making a purchase.

What if you cannot find the bamboo you want? We suggest checking these renown UK garden shops. If they still do not have the clumping bamboo that you want, contact them directly. In most cases, they will find what you are looking for.


Clumping bamboo is perfect for any garden or outdoor space. The 5 parts will help you to identify these bamboos successfully.

The parts are based around the rhizomes and govern the way these bamboos behave. Knowing the parts and their general behaviours can help you work out if your bamboo is clump-forming or not.

If you have any questions or cannot find what you are looking for, leave a comment and we will get back to you. You can also follow us on Twitter and YouTube.

2 thoughts on “How to identify clumping bamboo?”

  1. Great information. I wonder how I can tell clumping bamboo from the running bamboo. This information helps.

    Thank you.

    BTW. Is it all in the roots?

    1. There are several ways to identify running and clumping bamboo plants. You can use the leaves, nodes, branches, etc. Yet, the rhizome bases or roots are the best way (and probably the easiest way) to ID bamboo plants.

      If you inherited a bamboo or have seen one at the nursery, take a close look at the base, the growth behaviours – as outlined in this article- will help you.

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