Running Vs. Clumping Bamboo
What are the differences between the two types of bamboo, and how each can be used to meet your bamboo needs.
How We Classify Them
Unfortunately, the classification running and clumping is deceiving. All bamboo spreads. Running bamboo sends rhizomes wandering around, and they may put up shoots anyplace they go unless contained properly. Clumping bamboo puts out rhizomes as well, but instead grows around itself, thus forming a clump. The root ball is solid like a tree and for most large clumping bamboo, the diameter of the root ball increases between two to six inches in diameter each year depending on the individual species. This growth is relentless, will break through barriers, and is very hard to manage if you're unfamiliar with this growing style. After ten years, a 25-gallon Bambusa may well be 20 feet in diameter at the base and spread to over 60 feet at the crown (see picture below). The center will be dead canes and thatch and be impossible to get near without a chainsaw.
The Advantages of Both
Running: Upright and manageable within contained space. Grows like redwood tree.
Clumping: naturally lean out from the center forming area of shade. Branches can touch ground. Grows like an oak tree.
Running: sparse or dense depending on situation, environment and maintenance.
Clumping: very dense near center rhizome ball. Will make gaps in hedges near clump (see clumping bamboo hedge picture below).
Running: spreads wherever allowed. Will not break through adequate barrier.
Clumping: doesn't spread rapidly. Can break through any barrier if not maintained well.
Running: cold-hardy. Native to more temperate climates.
Clumping: not as cold-hardy. Native to more tropical climates.
What We Would Recommend
In most circumstances, we would recommend using a running type of bamboo. Although runners have a bad reputation because of their spreading capabilities, they often are easier to maintain because they do not create as tight of a root mass as the clumpers. Additionally, runners create better privacy hedges and screens, typically come in more varieties, and are easier to propagate, which makes it easier for us to find the right size of bamboo for you!
Clumpers have a unique charm, however. They virtually grow like trees. Some clumpers like Oldhamii can look really majestic if you give them plenty of space. Other clumpers can be a nice accent piece for any garden. The main advantage of clumpers is their tendency to stay in one area. However like trees, clumpers tend to mess with foundations they are planted next to, and they are not optimal for creating privacy hedges, although they can work in certain circumstances.
Call or email us, and we can help find which type of bamboo is best for you!