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How to Identify Running Bamboo Cultivars?

5 ways to find out running bamboo

In this article, you’ll find out how to successfully identify the common running bamboo cultivars. This group of bamboo is common in the temperate region and includes the Phyllostachys and Pleioblastus bamboos.

The common bamboos that grow in the UK, US, Canada and Australia are grouped into either clumping or running bamboo plants.

How to identify running bamboo?

Comparing running and clumping bamboos can give you a better idea about these two varieties. However, it is also best to know their standout features. So, what is running bamboo and how can bamboo growers identify it?

Generally, a running bamboo has ‘running rhizomes’. The rhizomes are underground stems that grow (or run) along the ground, hence the name running bamboos or runners.

Ominously, it is quite challenging to identify the exact type of running bamboo unless you have enough time, and botanical knowledge and are curious to find out. Also, it can be tricky to identify most of the bamboo cultivars by their appearances.

To help you, here are 5 rhizome facts for beginners to use when selecting a running bamboo or identifying one that you may inherit.

5 distinct parts of a running bamboo

For any beginner bamboo grower, the 5 distinct parts will help you work out if the bamboo is a runner or not. Pay particular attention to the area where the culms meet the rhizomes.

Use this diagram to help you.

Parts of a Running Bamboo

  1. Rhizomes: the running rhizomes are long and thin with long pointy tips.
  2. Rhizome internodes: The underground internodes are hollow and long.
  3. Shoots and tips: The new shoots and rhizome tips grow from dormant rhizome buds on the rhizome nodes, often further away from the parent bamboo.
  4. Base buds: These buds are potential new shoots and rhizomes (in 3) and are spaced further apart unlike the buds in clumping bamboos.
  5. Culms: The culms (also called the stems or canes) are much thicker in diameter than the rhizome from which they grow.

  Running bamboos have running rhizomes

All in all, the bamboo rhizomes and underground parts are vital for identifying a bamboo as clump-forming or running. So, take a closer look at the rhizome of bamboo to work out if it is running bamboo or not.

Read about How to Identify a Clumping Bamboo using a similar 5-point identification strategy.

As mentioned, look closely at the parts that are underground, especially the areas around the rhizome of the running bamboo. This is because it literally gets its name from the habits of its rhizomes – running!

One way to know the different parts is to use the diagram as a reference point. Alternatively, read to this article, it gives a clear comparison of the parts of running vs running bamboo.

What are the common running bamboos?

We featured over 30 running bamboos and wrote numerous articles detailing their garden features and qualities such as the uses; growth requirements; and care & maintenance.

Here are the top 5 running bamboos that we handpicked for you. Click on the link to read about each bamboo in detail.

Scientific/Common name

Guided price range

Phyllostachys aurea (Fish-pole golden bamboo)

£30.00 - £70.00

Phyllostachys nigra (Black Bamboo

£30.00 – 100.00

Phyllostachys vivax (Golden Stem Bamboo)

£20.00 – £100.00

Pleioblastus variegatus (Dwarf White-striped Bamboo)

£12.00 – £50.00

Phyllostachys Humilis (Scottish Bamboo Plants)

£15.00 – £60.00

Where to buy running bamboos?

We work with some big UK 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

Phyllostachys Bamboo Plants

Fargesia Bamboo Plants

Black & Golden Yellow Bamboo Plants

Bamboo-based Eco Products

Best Hand Tools for Removing Bamboo

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.

Pros and cons of growing running bamboo

Generally, there are lots of bad stories about growing running bamboo in the garden because of its invasiveness. But they are great plants if you look after them well.

Many bamboo growers prefer the runners because they are the option for a quick and long-lasting solution for hedging and privacy screening, as well as pot plants or for planting in contained spaces.

Their evergreen dense foliage, different options for height and spread and fast-growing habits make them the ideal choice.

It will require care and attention, either as new plants or in Spring when the new growths are prominent. In addition, mature plants can be difficult to remove when left unchecked for 2 to 3 years.

The growing benefits of growing running bamboo definitely outweigh its invasiveness. Here are some great tips to help you pick the right running bamboo.

Best bamboo features and qualities

Phyllostachys and Pleioblastus varieties are popular running bamboos. They have a spectacular stem and sheath colourations. One of them is the spectacular Phyllostachys nigra – the Black Bamboo.

We feature many of these bamboos here at G.B.P. Here are some names that you may be familiar with.

  • 1. Phyllostachys nigra (4 Cultivars of P. nigra)
  • 2. Phyllostachys nuda (Snow Bamboo)
  • 3. Phyllostachys humilis (Scottish Bamboo Plants)
  • 4. Phyllostachys aurea (4 Cultivars of P. Aurea)
  • 5. Phyllostachys vivax Aureocaulis (Golden Chinese Bamboo)

Find out about the unique features and garden qualities of these bamboos from our Phyllostachys Bamboo Collection.

Identifying runners vs clumpers

The Phyllostachys nigra Black Bamboo, though an invasive bamboo, can also behave like clumping bamboo in the cooler temperate area of the UK, US, Canada and Australia.

Like other running bamboos, the Black Bamboo can spread quickly if left unchecked. Here is how and when to provide the right care they may need.

Furthermore, such occurrence shows that some of the common bamboo species can be tricky to identify. So, pay closer attention to the parts of the bamboo around the joint where the culm meets the rhizome.

Phyllostachys nigra running bamboo

What to do when buying bamboo?

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 bamboo 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 plant descriptions before making a purchase.

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

Identify bamboo successfully

The 5 facts will help you to identify the running bamboos successfully. They are based around the rhizomes and determine the growing habit of these stunning bamboos. Knowing the parts and their general behaviours can be useful when finding out about bamboo that you want to buy or have inherited.

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 or YouTube.

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