Can You Grow Bamboo in Ohio?

Can You Grow Bamboo in Ohio?

Can you grow bamboo in Ohio where the temperatures during winter go way below freezing? Yes, you can! But make sure to choose the right variety. 

The majority of bamboo prefer warm subtropical and tropical climates but luckily there is a lot of diversity among bamboos and you can find cold hardy bamboo suitable for Ohio.

Plant hardiness zones and choice of bamboo

To grow bamboo, first you need to know what is the plant hardiness where you live and plan to grow it. 

It is crucial to choose a seedling that is meant to survive the local temperatures during winter. There is no point in planting tropical bamboo if you live in the north. The further north you live, the less bamboo species for you to choose from.

When shopping for plants, usually you will find information about their cold hardiness and other important details. Plant hardiness tells you what is the lowest temperature that the plant can tolerate without damage. 

Let`s look at the USDA plant hardiness map for the state of Ohio.

As you can see in the map, most of Idaho falls in Zone 6 with patches of Zone 5 in certain spots. 

There are dozens of varieties of cold hardy bamboo to consider growing in Zone 6. If you live in those Zone 5 parts – then the choice is smaller but you can still get yourself a beautiful bamboo.

I wrote a separate article on cold hardy Zone 5 bamboo here. I have listed bamboo species that can grow there. You can grow all of the Zone 5 bamboos in Zone 6 as well  if you want.

Best bamboo species for Ohio – Zone 6

Distinguishing between clumping and running bamboo is one of the most common ways to divide bamboo into large groups.

That is a useful division and the first step when choosing the type of bamboo you want to get.

Running bamboos are great if you wish to fill large areas quickly.

Clumping bamboos are awesome as ornamental specimens but also make beautiful privacy screens. And they are a better choice if you are not willing to take the steps to contain running bamboo.

After you have chosen between these two categories, then you can decide on colors, sizes and other differentiating qualities. 

Clumping non-invasive bamboo

Fargesia robusta ‘Wolong’

Beautiful as a garden specimen or privacy screen. 

It looks very interesting in spring – the new shoots are rusty red and hairy then they first come up. The hints of orange and red are later visible on branch sheats for more mature culms. The leaves are shiny dark green.
Root Hardy to Zone 6 – will drop leaves during winter but will shoot up again each spring.
Can grow in sun or shade, but preferably should be protected from afternoon sun. 

Fargesia dracocephala ‘Rufa’

Wonderful bamboo to use as the main ornamental specimen in a landscape the clump eventually grows to be 6 to 10 feet in diameter.
Also great for a hedge or privacy screen and does well in containers.
Grows 6 to 10 feet tall. Prefers full sun or part shade in Zone 6. 

Running bamboo

Before choosing to buy and plant running bamboo on your Ohio property, please, check the local regulation.
There are some municipalities in Ohio that allow all bamboo but there are also municipalities where running bamboo is illegal and you may get fined for growing it. If that is the case go for clumping bamboo or avoid the plant altogether. 

IMPORTANT:  To contain running bamboo, especially in suburban areas, use a root barrier, for example, this Deep Root Barrier available on Amazon. 

Sasa veitchii Dwarf bamboo

A really good running bamboo to use as an evergreen groundcover. It has dark green leaves with eye-catching bold, creamy white bands around the margins. Reaches 3 to 5 feet in height. Does well in containers both outdoors and indoors. Too short for a privacy screen. 

Indocalamus tessellatus  – Giant Leaf bamboo

A running but slow spreading dwarf bamboo with very large long leaves. Grows 7 to 10 feet tall. Light: Shade or part sun.
It may lose foliage the first couple winters but will stay evergreen after its well established and mature. 

Does well in containers both outdoors and indoors. The giant leaves look nice in flower arrangements. In Asia – its big leaves are used to wrap food in before steaming. 

Phyllostachys Aurea – Golden Bamboo

Also known as Golden Fishpole bamboo. It`s one of the most popular bamboos in the USA. Grows about 15 feet tall in Zone 6.
A beautiful bamboo with golden yellow stalks that stand straight upright. It is excellent for hedges or privacy screens and also looks amazing as ornamental specimen in large containers. The shoots are edible.
Can spread aggressively, make sure to take measures to control it. 

Phyllostachys bissetii Bisset bamboo

Grows up to 18 feet tall in Zone 6. It is exceptionally adaptable – can grow in dry and moist soils, in sun and shade and grows in a wide variety of climates ranging from Zone 4 to 11. Great for privacy screens and hedges. Does well in containers indoors and outdoors. 

Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’

Grows 16 feet tall in Zone 6. Forms a very dense screen with unusual yellow and green striped canes. Does best in full sun but can grow in part shade as well.
Great for privacy screens and hedges, does good in containers outside but is too large to grow indoords. The shoots are edible. 

Shibataea lancifoliaLancifolia Dwarf Bamboo

A slow-spreading bamboo ideal for shady areas as a small shrub, hedge, or groundcover. Typically grows 1 – 7 feet in height, depending on pruning.  It is excellent for containers indoors and outdoors.
Grows well in shade or part sun.

Semiarundinaria fastuosaTemple bamboo

A bamboo with interesting stalks of purple or dark reddish color. Because of the beautiful and unusual color it makes for an excellent ornamental specimen in a container. Edible shoots. Prefers full sun or part shade. 

Phyllostachys atrovaginataIncense Bamboo

One of the few Phyllostachys species suited to wetland sites. Reaches 12 to 18 feet in Zone 6. Great as ornamental specimen and grows well in containers. Not the best for privacy screens and hedges. Edible shoots. Grows best in full sun to part shade. 

Phyllostachys vivax 

Reaches about 30 feet in Zone 6. Wonderful as an ornamental specimen but not so great for hedges and privacy screens. Too large for containers. Has edible shoots. Grows best in full sun. 

Care tips

When you grow bamboo in northern regions, the main thing is to make sure it is protected well enough to survive the winter. This means it need to be established before the cold season and has protection from cold and winds. 

In summer: 

  1. During the first season after planting make sure the bamboo has enough water and if it’s not raining water it about once a week. 
  2. Let the old leaves fall on the ground, do not rake them. They protect the roots and keep moisture in the soil.

Winter: 

  1. Mulch generously to protect the roots. A heavy layer of mulch maintains the temperature in the soil higher for longer.
  2. Protect your bamboo from cold winter winds.
  3. If there is ice on bamboo branches, let it be. Trying to break it off will do more damage than good. 
  4. Fertilize after winter, in spring.

In ground vs container bamboo

Bamboo demands commitment from you. You will have a hard time trying to kill it once it’s established on your property. Running bamboo can take years of regular effort of mowing, digging, applying chemicals until they are gone. Clumping bamboo are easier to get rid of but still take some work.

If you are someone who likes to change up your landscape design on a regular basis, in-ground bamboo may not be the best plant for you. However, you could plant bamboo in containers that way it would be simple to move them as often as you wish. 

Bamboo control

As mentioned before, there are 2 general categories of bamboo – running and clumping. 

Clumping bamboos do not cause any trouble so that`s a reason why many homeowners prefer having clumping bamboo. 

Running bamboos can spread aggressively in good conditions and definitely need to be contained to stay in place. This is important to keep up the relationships with neighbors as well as stay within the law since many municipalities have or are considering regulations on bamboo growing.

However, there are so many beautiful running bamboo that make wonderful privacy screens, and it is a good reason to choose them for your property.

There are several ways to prevent unnecessary spreading of rhizomes. 

60 mil by 30 inch deep HDPE (high density polyethylene) root barrier is very effective for rhizome control. 30 mil by 24 inch will do in many cases, especially in colder climates like Ohio because the bamboo grow smaller and less powerful here. 

The bamboo rhizomes are usually in the top few inches of soil. But you should avoid loose soil or air pockets next to the barrier just in case the bamboo goes deeper to look for a way out. 

When you fill the hole after placing the barrier in the ground, tightly compact the soil next to the barrier and that will be enough to ensure no “bubbles” in the soil. 

Another option is digging a shallow trench (8 to 10 inches deep) around your bamboo and checking a couple of times in the summer and fall for any rhizomes that try to cross the trench. When you find any – cut them off. 

A King of Spades root cutting shovel is  an excellent, professional grade tool, for cutting rhizomes and digging bamboo. Comfortable and easy to use. Check Amazon for current price.