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I just purchased some property, and I'm interested in growing bamboo to use for various projects on the property ( hoop houses, tripods ). So I'm looking for fast growing, large, non - invasive species that is suitable for some structural application. Does anyone know a species that fits that criteria.

  • Where are you in the world - not all bamboo species grow well everywhere – Bamboo Aug 14 '17 at 16:44
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    Zone 5 I believe, upstate NY – user379468 Aug 14 '17 at 17:53
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    Phyllostachys atrovaginata is a running bamboo. – CloneZero Aug 14 '17 at 20:24
  • I suppose running is fine, I have no problem being more diligent about the Rhizomes, but what about seeds? I'm most worried about the bamboo spreading to someone else property accidentally. Also, what if grew giant bamboo plants from seed each year? I'm interested in using them as a cheap hoop house material. – user379468 Aug 14 '17 at 20:47
  • Seed formation is rare and simultaneous around the word for a particular species. Then they all die. Might be 100 years or so between flowerings. Large bamboo requires a substantial existing stand to have the resources available to grow a large stem. Bamboo from seeds will not be particularly large for many years, until the colony builds up adequate resources to support that. Just Ain't Gonna Work in the location you have chosen. – Ecnerwal Aug 15 '17 at 1:12
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Ain't no such animal. Well, Plant. I've looked...

Clumping bamboos (cold-climate tolerant) do not grow particularly "large and structural".

For that matter, in zone 5, about the best you can hope for IME is "garden stake size" and that's with a running bamboo (Phyllostachys). The big stuff won't survive the winter, and the stuff that will survive the winter won't even get as big as it will in warmer climes.

A root barrier, moat (water) or wide mown area will keep running bamboos in check. In Zone 5 they won't run all that hard anyway.

You might do better with hardwood saplings (or coppiced trees) for the uses you want, in that climate. Alder is one (of several) options that coppices well (and grows well in wet spots that might be otherwise difficult to use productively.) You may need to thin the coppice a bit to get better pole material.

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    I have to support Ecnerwal answer whole heartedly; there is no such thing. I designed an ultra minimalist backyard awhile back and read up bamboos that would grow in Zones 5 & 6. There is no large bamboo that doesn't spread like wildfire. We ended up putting in a bamboo barrier, but the owner has to check the barrier twice a year and rip out escaping runners. You could do a large container, or pour concrete to create a large trough to plant it in. You can control bamboo as long as you mow around it or have a barrier, but you run the chance of it escaping. – CloneZero Aug 14 '17 at 20:22
  • I have heard, though I have not researched it, that one can slow the running by thinning the clump by a 1/3 every year, and adding fertilizer to the center. The person who told me this me had worked with bamboo for years. – Ben Aug 15 '17 at 10:36
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Typically any fast growing species is going to have invasive tendencies. Bamboo however is not invasive like most plants. We do a good job of explaining the opposite in fact... Is Bamboo Invasive?

As you will find on that page, bamboo is a very poor producer of seeds. The seeds that is does seldom produce (seldom being every century or so) are not very viable for reproduction and hurt the bamboo more than help. The energy required to produce the seeds can kills off the entire grove.

Now, since we know seeds do not contribute to the invasive nature of bamboo. This only leaves the roots which typically only run around 18 inches deep in the soil. You can use a bamboo barrier to block the spread and keep everything contained. The product we recommend is Bamboo Shield.

When using Bamboo Shield this allows for a fast spreading running bamboo instead of a slow spreading clumping bamboo. Producing more canes and biomass for use in a shorter amount of time.

Disclaimer: I work for Lewis Bamboo which is the parent company of Bamboo Shield.

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  • ...which is all very well, but it still won't get you a bamboo that will achieve "structural" size in Zone 5, to the best of my knowledge. I have a 18 year old grove of P. Auerosulcata (best guess ID) and tomato or pea stakes is about the limit on size, here. Where it came from in zone 6 or so it got up to 1.5 inches or so, but here it generally gets killed every winter and so it is very limited in size...The lawnmower contains it quite easily. – Ecnerwal Aug 15 '17 at 14:06
  • Bamboo is certainly not going to be anywhere near as productive in such a cold zone (5 a/b), but still could produce 1/2" canes or so. My recommendation would be Phyllostachys Bissetii. Mulching well in the winter will be important, but once it gets a larger established root mass it should do alright. – Lewis Bamboo Aug 16 '17 at 14:43

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