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Clumping and Running BamboosThe difference between non-invasive clumping bamboo and running bamboo explained, with links to methods of bamboo containment and price lists for available plants.clumping bamboo, running bamboo, open clumper, non-invasive bamboo, noninvasive bamboo, bamboo runners, runner bamboo, bamboo clumper, clumper bamboo, clump bamboo Print this page    Previous topic Next topic

There are two main types of bamboo: Noninvasive clumping bamboos (sympodial or pachymorph) have short roots and form discrete clumps. There are also a few species of clumpers which have slightly longer roots (6-18"), and we refer to these as open clumpers. Running bamboos (monopodial or leptomorph) are the ones that spread through the growth of long, horizontal roots, called rhizomes. With a little knowledge and proper materials, running bamboos and open clumpers can be effectively contained. The information in this catalog will enable you to grow beautiful, well-behaved bamboo.

Clumping bamboos have a very short root structure, are genetically incapable of expanding more than few inches a year, and will generally form discrete circular clumps. The clumps slowly enlarge as new culms emerge every year, but may ultimately need to expand to anywhere from a 3 to 10 ft. diameter (or more, especially for taller types) in order to reach their mature height, depending on species. The dense root system can exert strong pressure on structures in contact with it, and thus clumpers should be planted at some distance from fences, sidewalks, retaining walls, etc. Clumpers make excellent specimen plants and will also form very dense screens, but more slowly than runners. Except for the Fargesias, clumpers tend to be less cold-hardy than runners.

Running bamboos spread variously, sending out underground runners (rhizomes) which sometimes range far from the parent plant. Runners fill in the spaces between plantings faster, making them ideal for fast screens, hedges, and the popular open grove look. Bamboo runners may be easily contained, since the rhizomes grow sideways at a depth of only about 2-18 inches. Most are also very cold-hardy.


We provide here some tips and criteria for choosing between runners and clumpers for a given purpose or planting location. These are very general guidelines and there can always be exceptions, depending on the situation.

Runners are recommended for:

Runners are not recommended for: Clumpers are recommended for: Clumpers are not recommended for (again, these are very general guidelines and there can always be exceptions, depending on the situation):

Please see Containment of Bamboo for a complete explanation of methods of containment. And see our Price List for the many available clumping bamboos (designated by the code "C"), open clumpers ("O"), and running bamboos ("R") that we offer.

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