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We live on Long Island in NY (USDA zone 7a) and want to use bamboo in planters near the front of our house. It would need to be cold hardy as we can't bring them in in the winter. Form would follow function here, as we are fairly flexible about what the bamboo looks like as long as it is recognizable as some kind of bamboo.

  • Do you know your USDA hardiness zone? There's a lot of New York out there, and some parts get much colder than others – GardenerJ May 26 '15 at 21:16
  • Hi! There are a few choices that would work for you. I'll be back to give you a complete answer. In the meantime would you tell me what the lighting conditions are where the plants will be, in terms of hours of sun/shade, and also what size containers you'll be using? Thanks! – Sue Saddest Farewell TGO GL May 27 '15 at 0:24
  • @sue 22" diameter and 23" tall. Not great light. Perhaps 4 hrs direct and another 2 dappled shade. – That Idiot May 27 '15 at 0:41
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    All bamboo are vulnerable to cold through their roots when in pots, so you will absolutely need to insulate the pots well throughout winter and keep your fingers crossed. – Bamboo May 27 '15 at 9:40
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Based primarily on cold-hardyness and "looks like bamboo to me" (I find the low-growing types unsatisfying.)

Phyllostachys nuda

Phyllostachys bissetii

Phyllostachys aureosulcata

You should have it easier than I do - I have one of those three (best I can ID - not as unambiguous as you might hope) which came here from CT, where it was managing 35 feet - here my outdoor (in the ground) stuff finally got to 8 feet or so last year. The stuff sheltering in a 16 quart pot inside is up around 15 feet tall. It does like sun, so that may be an issue for the spot you have, but might as well try it.

Some site I went to when I was starting out made much of having a secret process for getting feild-grown bamboo ready to pot in the fall. My non-secret process is to pot it in the spring, whether that was also their "secret", I know not.

You may need to plunge the pots for the winter, or pile compost or hay around them, or something - not sure what they think of being frozen in a pot, as my pot is inside and my outside stuff is not potted.

You might be on the hairy edge of being able to grow P. nigra (black bamboo) which can be very striking - I haven't a hope up here.

  • Someone suggested one of the Fargesias? What do you think of these? – That Idiot May 27 '15 at 18:50
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There's no substitute for experience, but in addition to the answers you got, it's worth taking a look at The Bamboo Garden. They provide a wealth of information about bamboos in general, as well as specific choices for your application.

The two main types of bamboo are Clumping and Running. (There are a few ground cover types, but they're less common.) Runners look like traditional bamboo, and include the Phyllostachys varieties recommended by @Ecnerwal. Clumpers, of which Fargesia is the most popular, grow into more of a mounding shape, but are not as easily recognizable as a bamboo, so they may not be acceptable to you.

There are varieties of both types which can be grown outside in pots, however, you need to subtract a growing zone. Since the absolute minimum zone is 5, you do have options, but, as others have told you, success isn't guaranteed. Containers need to be, at the very least, 16"x 16", so your planters are small but adequate, especially if you provide excellent drainage, lots of water, and split the plants as they grow, to keep them from getting root bound. The clumpers are a bit more container-friendly and can sometimes tolerate lower temperatures. They also require at least four hours of shade per day, which better matches your conditions, whereas runners do better in full sun. For overwintering, make sure to follow the advice given by @Bamboo and @Ecnerwal.

This chart offers a good comparison of types and their cold hardiness.

I hope you find something that works for you. Come back and let us know!

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