Frequently asked questions

Why should I grow bamboo in the Southwest?


In the desert few things are as precious as shade. Having a cool retreat from the summer heat, hearing the rustle of leaves in the wind, enjoying the scent of lush foliage after the rain and screening your oasis from the high rise apartments across the street, are all good reasons to grow bamboo. Add to that erosion control, carbon sequestration and a renewable source of useful poles.




Does bamboo really grow in the desert?


Yes, we've been growing many bamboo species since 1986 in Tucson.




Do bamboos need a lot of water?


Not really, though they do need regular watering. They are not swamp plants but neither are they like cactus. Bamboos, being grasses, have shallow root systems, so lengthy deep watering is not necessary. They don't have a taproot like trees do.




I read online that bamboos go crazy and can spread where you don't want them. Is that true?


Most of what you read or hear about bamboos does not apply in Arizona or other desert locales, as moisture is limited and most desert areas have poor soils. Bamboo is a woody grass and like other grasses, are mostly of two types: running or clumping. With a few exceptions to the rule, running bamboos have long rhizomes; clumping types have short rhizomes. (A rhizome is an underground stem.) Running bamboos are a good choice if you have a large area to fill or for planting a long stretch. Clumping bamboos grow in one spot like a tree or shrub with many "trunks." In either case they are limited to areas with regular watering.




I live in an area that freezes every winter. Do you have bamboo that can take freezing temperatures?


Yes, most bamboos can deal with temperatures below freezing. How well they tolerate freezing conditions depends on the species, minimum temperature, duration of the cold weather and soil moisture level. We recommend planting species that can withstand the record cold temperature for a given location.




When is a good time to plant bamboo?


You can plant most of the year. After or during the monsoon season is ideal in the Southwest. New plant starts will likely need shade if planted in the heat of summer.




Can I grow bamboo in a pot?


Yes, the smaller types can do well in containers. Avoid metal, narrow or dark colored containers.




Can I grow bamboo indoors?


Usually not. Grasses need good ventilation and sun to thrive.




When should I fertilize my bamboo?


Spring and fall are the best times.




Is it okay to grow them in desert soil?


No, desert soil must be replaced or well amended. Plant in rich soil with lots of organic matter. Avoid clay and caliche. Assure there is adequate drainage.




Do you sell "Lucky Bamboo" or "Heavenly Bamboo"?


Sorry, no. Some plants with "Bamboo" in the name which are NOT bamboo include: Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica), Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana), Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea costaricana), and Bamboo Muhly (Mulenbergia dumosa.) In the southwest, Arundo donax (Giant Reed, Carrizo, Cana Blanca) and Phragmites communis (Common Reed) are often mistaken for and incorrectly referred to as bamboo.




I have bad allergies. Do bamboos make a lot of pollen?


No. They seldom flower. They will help filter out windborne allergens.





For more information and help with choosing bamboo species, please contact Bamboo Ranch by email at bambooranch@juno.com or phone at (520)-743-9879. All text © 2003-2021 Bamboo Ranch.

All text and photos © 2003-2021 by Bamboo Ranch, Tucson Arizona.

Website design and photos by Ariel Finstrom.