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7 plants – bamboo lookalikes

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There are more than 1400 different bamboos all over the world and they have huge differences between them. Some are tiny some are wide and tall.

It is no wonder that because of the big variety of actual bamboo plants some non-bamboo plants often are mistaken for being bamboo.

Let`s see which ones cause the confusion the most often! 

Lucky bamboo

Dracaena sanderiana commonly known as lucky bamboo is the most confusing plant for most people when it comes to knowing it`s species.

For many people Lucky bamboo is the first thing that comes to mind when you say “bamboo” but despite what its name may suggest – it is not bamboo and is not even related to them.

There is no surprise about the confusion – the popular houseplant does look a lot like bamboo: jointed stalks with a tuft of strappy leaves sprouting either from their tops or from the side of their upper joints. 

However,  Lucky bamboo or Dracaena sanderiana is a species of plants in the Lily family or Liliaceae.

Lucky bamboo is a common gift for good luck. It`s easy to care for. The plant grows best in soil but is often sold with the roots in water and can be kept in water as well. 


Equisetum hyemale commonly known as horse tail. It is also called Snake Grass and Puzzle Grass. 

Another plant that has a green segmented stem that may lead people to think it is bamboo.

The plant has many varieties, some have more “branches”, some have less, and some are unbranched. Depending on the looks the plant has 

Giant reed

Arundo donax also known as Giant reed is a tall perennial cane that resembles bamboo in appearance with its long stems and lush leaves. 

It is native to the Mediterranean region and is invasive reed grass in places like southern California where it is spreading vigorously. Because for an untrained eye it looks like bamboo it is sometimes mistakenly referred to as Arundo bamboo.

The rapid growth has made it a popular planting for energy and cellulose crops in many markets, and it is used as a cover crop in certain regions as well.

Heavenly bamboo

Nandina domestica also known by the names of Sacred bamboo or Heavenly bamboo is a shrub of the Barberry family (Berberidaceae). It can attain a height of 6 to 8 feet tall with evergreen foliage and can resemble a bushy clumping bamboo. 

The plant is categorized as poisonous because of high concentrations of hydrocyanic acid.

Japanese knotweed

Fallopia japonica commonly known as Japanese knotweed belongs to the Polygonaceae family of plants. It has the bamboo appearance of raised nodes with a hollow stem structure. 

Japanese knotweed is not a bamboo and is considered one of the world’s top 100 most invasive species. 

In the north of the USA it is also sometimes called Michigan bamboo. It is illegal to grow in many states, including Michigan, because of how fast-spreading and aggressive it is. It can grow through sidewalks and building foundations and is very hard to kill.

Bamboo palm

Chamaedorea seifritzi or Bamboo palm is a clumping palm that can grow to about 1o feet tall. It looks similar to bamboo – it has long stems and lush green leaves. 

It grows well in tropical and subtropical environments. Bamboo palm is ypically used for container plantings to achieve a tropical landscape feeling.

Dumb cane

Dieffenbachia or Dumb cane looks similar to bamboo to very untrained eyes because it has a straight stem with simple alternating leaves. When the lower leaves drop you can see the dark green stem, and some people think it resembles a bamboo stem.

It is a tropical flowering plant that is typically grown as a houseplant in most climates. 

Featured image: Japanese knotweed; by Public Affairs, Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0