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Is Bamboo Always Evergreen?

All bamboos are evergreen plants in their native environments. They continuously shed some leaves all throughout the year but it is not a significant amount. You can barely notice it because while it is shedding some leaves all year it is also growing new ones at the same time.

That’s one of the many reasons people choose to add bamboo to their landscape projects.  When most things die back during the winter bamboo remains vibrant and green even in climates where winters come with snow. 

There are exceptions to the rule though. In certain situations and climates, bamboo can shed the leaves during winter or drought. It mostly happens if the bamboo is not the best fit for the environment it`s planted in. 

Being evergreen does not mean that there is no season when the dropping of leaves gets a bit more intense. For bamboo, as it holds its leaves throughout winter, its springtime. 

Bamboo starts shedding more leaves as temperatures rise and it starts growing new shoots and leaves.  It is very common to have both older, yellow leaves and newer, green leaves on a culm in the springtime.

Because the new growth and falling leaves happen almost at the same time it`s easy to not notice the moment when it can be less luscious. On some varieties of bamboo, it can be obvious but others do this process of changing to new leaves almost unnoticeable.

Impact of extreme weather on bamboo

In some climates, certain bamboo species behave as semi-deciduous plants, which in simple words means – plants who lose their foliage for a very short period and then quickly the new growth is starting. Typically this happens if an especially cold winter hits the area or there is a severe drought for a prolonged period. 

Now, this does not mean that all bamboo will lose their leaves if the winter is cold and snowy, there are quite a lot of bamboo growers in USDA zones 5 and 4 who have seen bamboo successfully survive harsh winters in freezing cold buried under snow. However, it is not going to be the case for all bamboo.

The main thing to remember is – to successfully grow bamboo you must choose a plant that is well adapted and hardy in your climate. You can not expect a bamboo that is typically hardy down to zone 8 to thrive in zone 5. 

If you really cannot resist, you can, of course, get a bamboo species that is not exactly meant to be grown in your climate but then you will need to take extra care for it and be ready that it may grow slower, be smaller or grow more like a perennial rather than an evergreen plant. 

Featured image: bamboo, Flickr, CC BY 2.0