Bamboo Winter Hardiness Observations

There are a number of web sites and resource books that offer bamboo hardiness data, but I find that the information can be confusing, conflicting and often misleading. Some list temperatures at which leaf damage will begin to occur while others list temperatures at which culm death will happen. These temperature estimates also generally assume that the bamboo is exposed to the listed temperature for only a matter of hours, as opposed to a lengthy exposure to extreme temperatures. There are many variables that affect bamboos response to winter conditions including extreme temperatures, cold dry winds, prolonged periods of below freezing temperatures, and the ‘suddenness’ of the cold snap. I have seen bamboo that is generally considered to be hardy to subzero temperatures, exhibit serious leaf damage when temperatures suddenly drop to subfreezing after a period of late fall warmth. WTF when a bamboo listed as hardy to -15F suddenly shows serious leaf damage at +23F?

Phy atrovaginata 2009 after a brutal winter

Phy atrovaginata 2009 after a brutal winter. Some culms were dead, lots of top damage, some culms leafed back out.

 

I prefer to avoid using specific temperature ratings in terms of bamboo hardiness and am instead grouping together species that exhibit similar performance in winter conditions. Keep in mind that my observations are just that – my observations in my climate.  I would expect performance here to be similar to bamboo grown in the southern portions of Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the northern part of Kentucky. I grouped these areas together because not only are our winters similar, we also share similar annual precipitation amounts, summer temperatures, and length of growing season. Other areas of the US listed as USDA zone 6 might observe similar results but local climactic factors may result in somewhat different performance.

The groupings below are for the species that I have trialed in-ground and represent the degree of cold damage one can expect in an average zone 6 winter.  For winters which are colder than an average year, the ability of the bamboo to hang in there with some green leaves will be vastly compromised.  Young plantings are especially cold sensitive so my groupings assume that the bamboo is well-established (at least 4 years in-ground) and healthy going into winter.

 

Post ice storm...clogged paths & driveway

Post ice storm…wet snow & ice can break culms, make them lean into & block paths/driveways.

 

This first group of species should see only minor leaf burn with little culm damage. These are the best performers in my climate and surely are the ones to consider in areas colder than here.

Arundinaria gigantea  – ugly as a rule but native Indiana forms are quite hardy
Indocalamus victorialis – should get to 2 meters, broad leaves
Phyllostachys bissetii   – top notch screening bamboo here
Phyllostachys bissetti  – same as above but shorter
Sasa oshidensis  – attractive 2 meter bamboo with broad leaves
Phyllostachys angusta – green culms 7-8 meters
Phyllostachys atrovaginata – a large diameter bamboo, forms more of an open grove
Phyllostachys aureosulcata  – great screener & ornamental green w/yellow striped culms
Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Harbin Inversa’ – great yellow culm screener
Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’  – very ornamental screener
Phyllostachys glauca ‘Notso’ – green culms 8-10 meters
Phyllostachys heteroclada ‘Solid Stem’ – hardy but slow, unique, good for walking sticks
Phyllostachys mannii ‘Decora’ – beautiful spring shoots
Phyllostachys nuda -very slow to become hardy but ornamental culms
Phyllostachys nuda ‘Localis’ – as above
Phyllostachys parvifolia – hardy and BIG, may be my largest over time
Phyllostachys propinqua ‘Beijing’ – veritcal, very solid culms good for pathways
Phyllostachys rubromarginata – tall, wide culms to 13-14 meters
Phyllostachys varioauriculata – short perhaps 3 meters
Phyllostachys virella – good screener
Pleioblastus shibuyanus ‘Tsuboi’ – ornamental white striped leaves, 2 meters
Sasamorpha borealis  – 2 meters, broad lance shaped leaves
Shibataea chinensis  – very pretty, 2.5 meters
Shibataea kumasaca  – as above

 

This group will hold leaves many winters but will burn in severe cold, the leaf buds should remain undamaged and will produce new growth in the spring. Minor to moderate culm damage may occur, still worth growing for ornamental purposes.

Fargesia denudata – weeping clumping bamboo to 3 meters
Fargesia dracocephala ‘Rufa’ – even weepier clumping bamboo to 2 meters
Fargesia murielae – tough to keep happy but pretty when it is, clumping
Fargesia nitida – to 3 meters, deciduous clumping bamboo
Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Alata’ – mine has been lousy but is poorly sited
Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Aureocaulis’ – very beautiful golden culms
Bashania fargesii  – 4-6 meters, larger leaves than Phyllostachys
Bashania qingchengshanensis – pretty form to about 3 meters
Brachystachyum densiflorum  – mine remains short and may be culled
Indocalamus latifolius – broadleaf to 2 meters
Indocalamus latifolius ‘Solidis’- broadleaf to 2 meters
Indocalamus tessellatus – very large leaves to 2 meters
Indocalamus longiaritus - broadleaf to 2 meters
Phyllostachys arcana – black’ish lower culms, to 3-4 meters
Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Harbin’- interesting, ornamental
Phyllostachys dulcis – open grove, pretty form, to 8 meters
Phyllostachys glauca – blueish culms
Phyllostachys glauca ‘Yunzhu’ – green spotted culms to 11 meters
Phyllostachys heteroclada ‘Straight Stem’ – short, slow but spreads
Phyllostachys hispida – may be hardier than I think, stunning shrub
Phyllostachys humilis – vigorous but stays under 4 meters
Phyllostachys makinoi – sturdy, vertical, blue’ish new culms
Phyllostachys Shanghai 3 – dulcis/vivax like
Sasa megalophylla – broad leaves, 1.5 meters
Sasa nagimontana - broad waxy leaves to 1.5 meters
Sasa tsuboiana - very pretty shrub bamboo to 2 meters
Semiarundinaria okuboi – moderately interesting bamboo

I tesselatus showing leaf burn

I tesselatus showing leaf burn

 

These species will usually suffer serious leaf and often culm damage in an average winter and may have to be cut down in the spring to make room for new growth – this means more maintenance so keep that in mind.

Fargesia robusta ‘Wolong’
Hibanobambusa tranquillans - to 3 meters with very broad leaves
Hibanobambusa tranquillans ‘Shiroshima’ - creamy/green big leaves dieback expected
Phyllostachys aurea
Phyllostachys aurea ‘Koi’
Phyllostachys bambusoides ‘Slender Crookstem’
Phyllostachys edulis ‘Anderson clone’
Phyllostachys elegans
Phyllostachys heteroclada ‘Purpurata’
Phyllostachys iridescens
Phyllostachys kwangsiensis
Phyllostachys lithophylla
Phyllostachys nigra – sorry, black bamboo no good here
Phyllostachys nigra ‘Bory’
Phyllostachys nigra ‘Hale’
Phyllostachys nigra ‘Punctata’
Phyllostachys nigra ‘Henon’
Phyllostachys nigra ‘Megurochiku’
Phyllostachys nigra ‘Shimadake’
Phyllostachys praecox
Phyllostachys viridiglaucescens – does well in Europe, may be different clone
Phyllostachys viridis
Phyllostachys viridis ‘Houzeau’
Phyllostachys viridis ‘Robert Young’
Phyllostachys vivax
Phyllostachys vivax ‘Aureocaulis’
Phyllostachys vivax ‘Huangwenzhu’
Phyllostachys vivax ‘Huangwenzhu Inversa’
Pleioblastus amarus
Pleioblastus chino
Pleioblastus gramineus
Pleioblastus hindsii
Pleioblastus juxianensis
Pleioblastus kodzumae
Pleioblastus nagashima
Pleioblastus oleosus
Pleioblastus simonii
Pseudosasa viridula
Pseudosasa japonica
sasa hayatae
Sasa kurilensis
Sasa kurilensis ‘Shimofuri’
Sasa palmata
Sasa veitchii
Sasaella bitchuensis
Sasaella masamuneana
Sasaella shiobarensis ‘Sedenicola’
Semiarundinaria fastuosa
Semiarundinaria fastuosa ‘Viridis’
Semiarundinaria makinoi
Semiarundinaria yashadake ‘Kimmeii’
Shibataea lancifolia

Fried Sasa palmata

Fried Sasa palmata, had to mow flat in spring.

 

It will be risky to grow these species as damage may
be severe enough in an average winter that the rhizome system can be
damaged and the plant could possibly die in zone 6.

Arundinaria funghomii
Fargesia robusta
Fargesia scabrida
Fargesia utilis
Pseudosasa longiligula
Sarocalamus fangianus
Thamnocalamus tesselatus
Yushania anceps ‘Pitt White’
Yushania chungii

 

Finally the ground-cover species look best when mowed
down each February to get rid of the dead leaves and to showcase the new
spring growth. Since an annual mowing is best, these bamboo are grown as
herbaceous perennials without concern for winter damage. This group includes most Pleioblastus species, some of the Sasa, and Sasaella genus.

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