Bamboo plants are either runners or clumpers. The running bamboos are invasive and should be planted within barriers or in pots. Clumping bamboos are exotic plants that are not invasive.
Both bamboo types can thrive for many years in the garden, but how long do they really live? This article provides the insight into growth behaviour of bamboo plants and how long a bamboo grove can survive.
How do bamboo plants grow?
The growth behaviour of running and clumping bamboo plants, generally, determines how long they live. Whether in the garden or in pots they will grow in the same way, nonetheless.
Bamboo plants will give out new shoots every year in spring. These new shoots will be bigger in size and longer than the previous year’s shoots. Every year you’ll have a bigger and longer bamboo plant, and the bamboo grove will also increase in size.
In retrospect, the bamboo shoots do not expand in size as the trees and shrubs do. The size of the new shoot remains the same until it thins out at the top at maximum height.
A bamboo plant will reach its matured height anytime between 5 and 10 years depending on the variety.
The common bamboos in the UK often reach their maximum heights (and produce full-size shoots) within 5 years.
So, every year you’ll have a longer plant and bigger shoot as your bamboo grove takes shape.
How long do bamboo plants live?’
There are many different types of bamboo plants from the dwarf varieties to the giant timber bamboo plants.
They can live for many years in the garden. Some estimation puts them between 30 – 50 years, but they can live longer.
As mentioned, bamboo groves re-generate by putting new shoots out every year. This growth behaviour means that they can thrive for much longer than anticipated.
To put it in perspective, a single bamboo shoot will mature within 5 – 7 years and live for about 10 – 15 years within a bamboo grove. It will produce new shoots, resulting in an expanding bamboo grove.
This re-generative growth pattern means that bamboo plants can live and thrive for many years after they are planted.
However, bamboo plants that grow in pots and barriers do not last longer than those grown in open spaces. They’ll struggle to survive in the contained spaces.
Life expectancy of common bamboo plants
The growth and regenerative behaviours of bamboo plants, mentioned earlier, are important factors that determine the life expectancy of bamboo plants.
The table shows the general life expectancy of a garden bamboo plant in the garden or in pots and containers.
|Shoot||Garden||6 – 12 months to mature|
|Plant||Garden||5 – 7 years to mature (requires selective pruning)|
|Grove||Garden||30 – 50 years|
|Shoot||Outdoor Pot||3 – 6 months to mature|
|Plant||Outdoor Pot||2 – 5 years (requires selective pruning)|
|Grove||Outdoor Pot||5 – 10 years (requires repotting)|
The Giant Timber Bamboo plants take up to 7 years to mature and live for as long as 50 years in their natural environment. They are massive plants which reach above 10 metres in height.
In the UK, you can see the Giant Timber Bamboo in full growth at the Kew Garden Palm House.
If you want to find out about the running and clumping bamboo plants, follow these links:
How long does a bamboo plant last?
Generally, how long a bamboo plant lasts pretty much depends on the kind of bamboo.
There are about 800 different cultivars of running and clumping bamboo plants that thrive in the UK and US. However, worldwide there are about 1500 species of bamboo plants.
Above all, there are two important factors that contribute to the longevity of bamboo plants. The ‘growth behaviour of the new bamboo shoots’ and ‘the regenerative behaviour of the bamboo grove’.
The two growth behaviours make bamboo plants sustainable. You can grow and enjoy for as long as you want.
Where to buy bamboo plants?
Bamboo plants come in pots. You can remove the plants in the pot and grow them in the garden. If you want to get more plants from a pot, read about how to separate the bamboo plants.
Some bamboo plants are running whereas others are clumping. Before buying a bamboo plant, decide what type of bamboo you want to grow – running or clumping?
Here are some renowned UK retailers where you can get your bamboo plants and supplies.
Bamboo Plants, Tools & Roots Barrier
Black Bamboo Plants UK
Bamboo-based Natural Products
Hand Tools & Roots Barrier
To help you choose the right bamboo, we provide a complete Guide to Selecting Bamboo Plants. The neat sequence of 6 questions leads you to the right plant! Read and Download the guide.
How fast does bamboo grow?
The obvious advantage of growing bamboo plants is that they are fast-growing. You get the evergreen hedge or screen faster compared to the common hedge shrubs and plants.
We measured the growth of the Phyllostachys Vivax (Golden Yellow Chinese Bamboo) in the garden last summer. We took the length it grew every day and worked out the average growth rate.
It was an interesting finding.
How long do bamboo plants spread?
Always use the bamboo roots/rhizome barrier when growing the running bamboo plants. They are invasive. The rhizomes will spread to other parts of the garden if you do not have a barrier in place.
We recommend putting in a root barrier before growing the running bamboo. Alternatively, grow bamboo in heavy-duty pots.
The bamboo plants will start to spread in the first year of planting. In fact, the rhizomes are underground stems. The new (running) shoots growing above the ground indicate that new rhizomes are also growing underground.
The growth is prominent after 5 years. That means that bamboo can stay inactive underground until the condition is right for them to put out new shoots.
So, the running bamboo plants will spread after you’ve planted them or remain inactive until the condition is right. Either way, always use a bamboo barrier when growing the running bamboo.
Bamboo plants vs bamboo grove
How long bamboo plants last depend on the growth of the individual plants and the regenerative behaviour of the plants in the grove.
Some bamboo plants will live in the soil until the condition is right before they put out new shoots. Others will spread pretty quickly.
Generally, the common bamboo plants that grow in the UK, US and other cooler regions will last for 30 – 50 years. And, they will continue to grow as long as the condition is right.