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Red Margin Bamboo – All You Need to Know

If you are looking for your first bamboo – it is hard to go wrong with Red Margin. It grows in so many different places and forms a beautiful lush pop of color even in the northern regions where there`s not much green in the winter. 

Main facts:

Type: Running

Grows in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 5 through 11

Light conditions: Full Sun or Part Shade

Culm Diameter: 3 inches

Average height by USDA Zone:

Zones 7-11:  50 to 60 feet

Zone 6:  20 to 30 feet

Zone 5: 12 to 18 feet


Red Margin Bamboo ( Phyllostachys Rubromarginata) is a very popular bamboo among homeowners. It is a great choice if you want a beautiful dense bamboo grove or privacy screen.  

Red Margin is one the fastest growing of the screening bamboos and it grows well under a wide variety of conditions: 

  • in cold and hot climates
  • in sun or shade
  • inland or along the coast with salt air and wind.

And the good news is  – the plant is not only super versatile it is also very attractive visually. 

This bamboo has beautiful green culms (canes) with long nodes. The space between nodes can reach up to 22 inches.  The culm sheaths are olive color with fine reddish striping. The culm sheath borders have a distinguished red margin. 

This is where the bamboo got its name – Red Margin. It`s Latin name Rubromarginata also means Red margin in translation. “Rubro” – red, “marginata” – margin (or border). 

The red margins are especially pronounced and obvious on the new shoots. Then they get less obvious as the bamboo grows tall and green. The culms gradually mature to alternating tones of green and yellow with time. 

It`s branches with emerald-green leaves often grow close to the ground for the younger canes thus offering you a beautiful way to hide from strange eyes with a lush thick privacy screen. 

Phyllostachys Rubromarginata is most used as a privacy screen that grows medium to tall depending on the climate. The size varies a lot – from as short as 12 feet in the harsh climate of Zone 5 to impressive 60 feet in Zone 11. 

The versatility and adaptability is one of the key reasons why Red Margin is so popular. Covering various climates from Zone 5 to Zone 11, being able to grow both in sun and shade, and even tolerating poorly drained soil, that most bamboo species don`t handle well.

This is the bamboo for almost any homeowner. 

Growing tips

As I already mentioned, Red Margin is extremely versatile and grows in so many different settings – climate, light, and moisture. But let`s look a little closer to its preferences for growing conditions. 

Red Margin Bamboo is easy to grow in many settings. 

During the first growing season after planting, water as needed to keep the soil moist, but not too soggy.

Red Margin will tolerate wet soils later when it`s well established and mature but it`s best if during the first year you can keep the soil decently drained. 

When established, it will also tolerate the opposite –  dry weather. But, please, don`t try to make it go in survival mode – it`s best if you do water it on a somewhat regular basis if you grow the plant in a dry climate. 

If you choose Red Margin for a privacy screen, then the suggested spacing between initial plants is 4 to 6 feet.

As a running bamboo, it will spread and fill in the spaces quickly. Once established, it grows very dense and produces hundreds of canes close together.

The bamboo will grow both in shade and full sun. But does it make any difference? Yes! 

Like most Phyllostachys bamboos, Rubromarginata grows best in full sun.  It grows taller with thicker canes and richer leaves.

It has proven to grow well in shade as well but the growth rate and characteristics will be affected. It will take a little longer to fill out and form a dense screen and it may grow a bit smaller than in full sun.

But no worries – it will still be a lush and beautiful plant, just somewhat slower and smaller than it`s relatives growing in abundant sunshine. 


It is important to note that  Red Margin is a running bamboo. And a fast runner as well. This means you need to take steps to control it, especially if you are in a suburban area with neighbors properties close to your house. 

It is important to keep running bamboos contained in a certain area because if they go out of hand it is very hard to eradicate from the property. 

There are several methods to keep your running bamboo where you want it to grow without spreading uncontrollably. 

One of the best and most effective ways is installing a root barrier around the planting. The bigger the bamboo the bigger the root barrier typically. 

A 60 mil by 30 inch deep HDPE (high density polyethylene) root barrier is very effective for rhizome control and will work great even if you grow Red Margin in Zone 11 where it reaches its maximum height of up to 60 feet. 

30 mil by 24 inch will do in many cases for smaller bamboo and will be enough in Zone 5 and 6.

Make sure to tightly compact the soil next to the barrier when you`re installing it. 

Alternative method – dig a trench (8 to 10 inches deep) around your bamboo planting and check every now and then for any roots and rhizomes that have tried to cross the trench. Cut any you find. 

Sometimes you may want to get rid of certain shoots even if they are kept in the place you allocated for them. Then you can simply mow or cut the new shoots during the shooting season. 

Red Margin bamboo has tasty edible shoots so you can harvest the shoots you want to get rid of. 


Red Margin bamboo is used in many ways – it is good for growing as a privacy screen, grows well in containers/planters, its shoots are edible, it has a good timber quality and is used a lot in crafts. 

It is too large to grow indoors, though. Choose another bamboo for that. 

There are many bamboos that make amazing privacy screens in warm climates. Red Margin is special in that it is one of the rare ones that make such a lush and thick evergreen screen as far north as Zone 5. It has incredible ability to survive cold dry winds.

When dried, it turns brown and can be used in arts and crafts in many ways. Most bamboo baskets are actually made of Red Margin.  It`s great for papermaking purposes. 

It is an excellent timber bamboo as well. 

It is also one of the edible bamboo species. You can make so many things – pickle it, use it in salads, stir-fries, dumpling, soups and many other dishes. But make sure you boil it before eating it. 

Feature image from:

Resources: Lewis bamboo, Wilson Bros Gardens