Does Bamboo Survive Winter? (Solved & Explained!)

Known as one of the world’s fastest-growing plants, you may consider planting bamboo in your backyard garden. But have you considered if bamboo survives the winters?

Bamboo will survive in a cold climate by going dormant but may never reach the plant’s total height in the following seasons. One variety survives as far north as USDA planting zone 5. To return the following year, you’ll need to protect the bamboo’s roots from frost and stalks from wind.

In this article, we’ll explore how to ensure your bamboo survives even the roughest of winters.

Can Bamboo Plants Survive Winter?

Different bamboo plants can survive in various temperatures and conditions. Mostly, bamboo doesn’t survive in USDA regions four or below unless you bring them inside. Planting bamboo in pots can be a great way to both maintain the plant and have an easy way to transport the entire grass.

There are ways to maintain bamboo plants outside if you’re willing to do the work. These methods include wind protection, wintering the roots, and planting locations.

The Different Types of Bamboo

There are two main types of bamboo: runners and clumping. Within clumping, you then see hardy clumping and tropical clumping. Their winter survival status will depend on which variety you have.

Runners

Runners prefer temperate climates and are the most popular throughout the United States. These plants are best known for surviving in a mixture of hot summers and cold winters.

Hardy Clumping

These bamboo plants prefer cool, misty conditions you may find at higher elevations or within forested areas. For most of the country, the summers are too hot, and the winters are too cold for this plant to thrive. It needs a more controlled temperature year-round.

Tropical Clumping

For this bamboo, you’ll want to live in an area that’s always warm. USDA zones ten and above are great for this plant, and regions like Miami, Florida, are perfect. Even if your summers are sweltering, your winters need to be decently warm for this plant to survive.

Winter Bamboo Wind Protection

Harsh winter winds can take their toll on all varieties of bamboo plants. Bamboo stalks grow within 60 days to their full height and width in a warm climate. Bamboo may achieve 60% or less of its maximum height and diameter in cold temperatures.

This leaves many bamboo plants looking like thin stalked, short perennial grasses. For the plant to begin growing again come spring, the bamboo must have intact leaves from the previous year. This can be tough to achieve in cold climates.

A great way to combat the winter wind is to rig up a protective barrier around the plants. Purchase gardening poles and tarps/canvas or burlap. If the bamboo is in the center of the garden or yard, arrange the poles around the plants in a rough circle.

Then, wrap the poles with the tarp the same way you would wrap a Christmas tree to bring it home. This creates a wind barrier for the fragile leaves and prevents you from crushing the plant by wrapping the stalks directly.

Wintering the Bamboo Roots

The roots are the central portion of the plant you want to protect during cold winters. Bamboo runs on a network of roots and runners throughout the ground to grow new plants nearby. This bamboo “family” relies on each plant to create fresh stalks because resources are shared.

There are a few ways to winter the roots, and it will change on whether the bamboo is in the ground or a pot.

Wintering the Bamboo Roots in the Ground

You’ll want to pile mulch up and against the bamboo stalks before the first heavy frost hits. Adding an extra 6 inches of ground cover protects the soft roots further down. You can always remove the mulch in the spring to expose the lower portion of the plant again.

If your bamboo plants are short and thin (less than 9 inches), you only need to cover half the plant’s height in mulch.

Wintering the Bamboo Roots in a Pot

If your bamboo garden is in separate pots, you’ll want to combine wind protection with root wintering. While bamboo roots need well-draining soil, it’s best practice to wrap the soil and roots in burlap for an extra layer of cold protection through the pot.

Because the bamboo is potted, there isn’t extra soil around the roots to insulate like there would be in-ground. If the plants are small enough, placing them side by side will minimize cold areas and wind damage.

Where to Plant Bamboo for the Winter

Thinking ahead can save you a lot of trouble come your first frost. Depending on your backyard, planting bamboo in a copse of trees or other plants is a great way to protect it during the winter. If you actively maintain the plant, you can plant bamboo close to your house to minimize wind damage.

Consider growing the bamboo near evergreen plants or decorative bushes that keep their leaves all year round, like yew or holly. Combining plants can be a great form of natural protection.

Great Bamboo Varieties for Cold Climates

As we mentioned above, some bamboo plants survive the winter. Runners, or Phyllostachys, are what we’ll focus on in this section.

Phyllostachys Heteroclada

This subspecies of “water bamboo” is often called “solid bamboo’ because the stalks are solid rather than hollow. This helps prevent the plant from freezing and can survive down to -10 F.

Phyllostachys Bissetii

Bissetii is a thick, dense-growing bamboo that grows around 20 feet. Will proper mulching and wind protection, this bamboo can survive down to -25 F.

Conclusion

It looks like bamboo can survive the winter if the suitable species is chosen, appropriately planted, and protected! Adding layers of mulch helps protect the roots, while a wind shield made of burlap keeps the leaves from dying off. Bamboo is a beautiful, quickly growing plant that adds to any outdoor landscape.