Bamboo in the Garden
Bamboo has earned a poor reputation in the garden due to the invasive habits of several species. However, this isn't a characteristic of all bamboo, especially for the non-invasive clumping selections. How the running types perform in the garden depends on how they're maintained; it is possible to keep them contained, although you must be vigilant. Here are a few bamboo selections, including clumping forms and those that spread by underground rhizomes, to consider for your garden.
Golden crookstem bamboo (Phyllostachys aureosulcata 'Aureocaulis') is hardy to -10 degrees F. It has an upright growth habit and reaches about 25 feet tall. The stems develop a golden yellow color and are topped off with green foliage. It spreads by underground runners. Hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 10.
David Bisset bamboo (Phyllostachys bissetii) also is a running type and grows to 30 feet tall. It has green canes that grow close together, forming a dense canopy. Hardy in USDA Zones 6 to 10.
Moso (Phyllostachys edulis) is one of the largest bamboo selections available and is used to make bamboo flooring. The culms, or stems, reach six inches in diameter. It grows to 80 feet tall in the right environment. Hardy in USDA Zones 7 to 10.
Umbrella bamboo (Fargesia murieliae) is a non-invasive clumping form. The culms spread about three or four inches a year. That's all they do, so it's a very easy one to maintain. It reaches about 10 to 12 feet tall. Hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 9.
Bamboo vine (Chusquea delicatula) is extremely rare. This native of South America isn't a climbing vine but a draping one. It grows 12 to 15 feet tall; the slender canes support delicate, lacy foliage. Hardy to only 30 degrees F, this bamboo needs to be treated like a tropical; bring it indoors during the winter.
Controlling Bamboo Runners
Although some bamboos spread by underground runners, the invading rhizomes can be terminated. Plant the clump of bamboo on a berm. Bamboo likes loose topsoil, so when the roots reach the edge of the berm, they poke out the side and expose themselves to the open. The rhizomes are a lot more visible that way, making it easier to spot them. Using hand pruners, cut the root tips off so they're flush with the soil surface. Scout for rhizomes two to three times from summer through fall. If you encounter large clumps of roots, cut them with a shovel.
Don't plant the running types, though, if you don't have a plan to contain them.
To easily propagate bamboo, cut the stems to about six inches from the ground. Remove a section of the stem with roots from the ground. Transplant the stem with roots to a container filled with soil. Leave the green end of the stem sticking above the soil, and it'll sprout up into a new bamboo in just a few weeks.