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Growing Bamboo in Gainesville and North Central Florida

Royal Bamboo (Wong Chuk) Bamboo
Royal Bamboo (Wong Chuk) Bamboo
Brian Harfe

The North Central Florida climate is ideal for growing many different types of bamboo. Horror studies regarding the ability of bamboo to quickly spread throughout your and your neighbor’s backyard are common, but do not be scared! This is completely avoidable, IF the correct type of bamboo is chosen.

There are two types of bamboo, clumping and running. Clumping bamboo will not spread from the location in which it has been planted and is the type of bamboo that most homeowners should use in the Florida landscape. Running bamboo will spread rapidly underground and pop up at a distance from the original planting site. It can be very difficult to locate and remove the runners. Be prepared to deal with irate neighbors (or loss of open yard space) if you decide to plant running bamboo, as this type of bamboo is extremely difficult to constrain to a small area.

The Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville, Florida displays the state’s largest public collection of bamboo species, including all the varieties listed below. They also have numerous examples of running bamboo, many which have escaped the two-foot deep brick walls that were constructed to contain them and have formed dense and extensive thickets.

Below are listed some of the more common clumping varieties for sale in the Gainesville area.

1. Green Multiplex (also called Hedge Bamboo) – An excellent choice for creating a visual screen and is usually the cheapest variety sold in the North Central Florida area. This type of bamboo also comes in an attractive green striped version called Alphonse Karr.

2. Royal Bamboo (Wong Chuk) – The crown jewel in the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens collection. Canes grow to 50 feet, are about two and a half inches thick and have no branches the first 15-20 feet. If you have room to grow only one type of bamboo and want a striking display this is an excellent choice.

3. Buddha’s Belly – similar in height and size to Royal Bamboo but the canes tend to arch downward. The canes are also not as straight as Royal Bamboo.

Bamboo is not cheap. Most varieties are grown by dividing existing plants, which can be an extremely labor-intensive process. Locally, plants can be purchased at the Annual Winter Bamboo Sale at the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens. While the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens usually has a large number of different types and sizes of plants, prices at Florida Bamboo are generally lower (plants can also be purchased year-round from this nursery). In addition, Florida Bamboo’s plants are grown in pots, which can greatly aid in successfully growing healthy plants.

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