Bamboo is a fast growing plant from the subfamily Bambusoideae of flowering perennial evergreen plants in the grass family Poaceae.[1]

It is a useful material for construction of buildings and other uses such as flooring, fencing, furniture, utensils, cutting boards, bowls, fabric, scaffolding, etc. Also, shoots (sprouts) of some varieties of bamboo are edible.

FA info icon.svg Angle down icon.svg Material data
Availability 4
Wikidata ID Q670887
Biodegradable Yes

Uses[edit | edit source]

Construction[edit | edit source]

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Bamboo can be utilized as a building material for scaffolding, bridges, houses and buildings. Bamboo, like wood, is a natural composite material with a high strength-to-weight ratio useful for structures. Bamboo's strength-to-weight ratio is similar to timber, and its strength is generally similar to a strong softwood or hardwood timber.

Bamboos are some of the fastest-growing plants in the world, due to a unique rhizome-dependent system. Certain species of bamboo can grow up to 91 cm within a 24-hour period, or nearly 4 cm/h.[2]

Crafts[edit | edit source]

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Bamboo crafts are craft items made from bamboo. A range of items can be handcrafted from bamboo, often needing few or basic tools. Here are some items as examples:

  • Bamboo furniture
  • Bamboo placemats and coasters
  • Bamboo clothing and other bamboo fabric items
  • Bamboo toys
  • Bamboo bowls and craft boxes
  • Bamboo wind chimes
  • Bamboo birdfeeders and nesting boxes
  • Bamboo lamps and lanterns
  • Bamboo craft ladders (for hanging towels and quilts)
  • Bamboo clocks
  • Bamboo planters or plant containers
  • Bamboo instruments
  • Bamboo decorations
  • Bamboo whistles
  • Bamboo candleholders
  • Bamboo room and window screens (and window shutters)
  • Bamboo garden fountains and water features
  • Bamboo baskets
  • Bamboo mats
  • Bamboo miniature furniture and models
  • Bamboo joints for house
  • Bamboo demonstration motor
  • Bamboo boards for walls
  • Bamboo bicycles

Fabric[edit | edit source]

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Bamboo pants

Bamboo fabric is the material made from the bamboo plant. The fabric is made from the pulp of bamboo grass. It's a versatile, soft and long-wearing fabric. As a fabric, bamboo is sustainable from its growth and harvesting through to using and disposing of it.

Other[edit | edit source]

  • Many varieties are edible as shoots
  • Dried, can be used in construction
  • Some varieties have medicinal properties
  • Fencing

Non-Traditional Uses[edit | edit source]

What about making a labyrinth out of live bamboo plants ? If you had a cheap enough supply of 24" flexible metal (galvanized sheet metal comes in 4'x8' and 4'x12' sheets) you could lay out the paths, then plant the walls with bamboo. After it gets going well, cover the walks with a non-decomposing mulch. What do you think ? How much metal would you need ?


Sustainability[edit | edit source]


Bamboo is the largest member of the grass family and is considered to be the fastest growing woody plant in the world. It can thrive in a diversity of climates, with much of it being grown in Asia. This fast growth rate of bamboo and its ability to grow in many different areas and climates makes it a sustainable product, harvested quickly and easily replaced. It has enormous versatility when used for the textile industry.

Growth of bamboo minimises carbon dioxide emissions and generates more oxygen than a stand of trees. In addition, bamboo can help prevent soil erosion (it is not uprooted when harvested), helps to slow deforestation (as an alternative source of timber or in place of cotton) and, in general, can be grown without irrigation, thereby saving water.

Species[edit | edit source]

Buying and Growing Bamboo[edit | edit source]

Bamboos prefer moist and rich soil for best growth. However, many bamboos can tolerate a range of soil and climate conditions, you just need to select the right one. Some bamboos are invasive but there are non-invasive, smaller varieties of bamboo that can be grown in the garden without having them take over. Some of these include:

  • Miniature sacred bamboo (Nandina domestica "Nana") - this is a dwarf variety
  • Hedge bamboo (B. multiplex) – this variety is great for containers and can also be grown as a hedge
  • Giant timber bamboo (Bambusa oldhamii) - this is a good screening plant that can be trained as a hedge
  • Buddha's belly bamboo (B. ventricosa) – with the right care, this bamboo can be kept small and non-spreading

There are between 1,020 and 1,070 species of Bamboo worldwide and around 200 of the hardier species are sucessfully grown in the UK and Europe. Almost all of the species sold in the UK are fine for growing outside, all the year round, provided they are situated in a suitable place in the garden. Some like a little shade whilst others like full sun. If you have no room in your flower beds they can be grown in large tubs, providing you have a cool greenhouse or conservatory to keep them from the frost in winter. The leaves can withstand very low temperatures, but the roots cannot. Also when keeping bamboo in containers you must be careful that the soil never dries out, as this can be fatal for the plant.

Bamboo plants can be purchased from a variety of outlets including specialised nurseries (can be expensive, but you are assured of a good healthy specimen), garden centres (usually only a few species available), market stalls (usually a lot cheaper), and occasionally, for just a few pounds each, at Car Boot Sales! I have noticed that this year there are more and more outlets selling bamboo, and consequently the price has at last started to come down. There is no point in buying a large expensive specimen from a specialist bamboo supplier if you just want one of the common species and don't mind waiting a year or two for it to mature. If the species on sale is not named, and cheap enough (only a few pounds) take a chance. As long as it looks healthy it will probably make a good plant, and you can always try to identify it later. Small specimens are sometimes hard to identify until they are a few years old, and a good mature culm is visible. Most small leaf bamboos will tolerate a lot of sun, although Fargesia/Sinarundinaria species like more shade. A good guide with small leaf ones is to observe them when in full hot sun. If the leaves fold up they are probably shade preferering species. If the leaves stay open they probably enjoy full sun. Large leaf species usually prefer some shade.

When buying bamboo plants look for a good healthy specimen. Plants in very small pots 3" or 4" are likely to be recently taken divisions (cuttings) and may not have matured. These take a lot more nurturing than larger established specimens. Look for a plant in a 7" pot or larger. Always try to choose a plant with new shoots emerging from the soil, as this will indicate that they have an established root system. Avoid plant with lots of dead leaves and no new shoots, as these could be last year's divisions which have not quite made it! If possible (and a serious nurseryman will not object to this) tap out the plant from it's pot and examine the root ball. If the plant is pot-bound don't worry, as this is a good sign and shows vigourous growth. A good sign is shoots (rhyzomes) encircling the pot trying to travel or get out; this indicates an established root system. Pot bound plants should of course be replanted into a larger pot (two or three inches larger in diameter should suffice) if you intend to keep them as container specimens. If not they can be planted into a suitable place in your flower bed. They are best repotted in spring or summer (their normal growing period) but should be left in their original pots over the winter.Warning... when you plant a bamboo into your flower bed allow plenty of space for it to spread. A few species are fairly compact, but the majority will spread and try to take over your garden. Don't be put off by this, as they will take several years to become large stands (the name for large areas of bamboo), and can be kept in check by removing the straying shoots and runners each year. Another way of keeping them in check is to plant them in a contained area. A large container (minimum 18" across by 24" deep, with drainage holes in the bottom) can be sunk into the ground, or large concrete drain and sewer pipes (at least a metre deep) can be used. This will confine the plant to a small closely knit clump. A recent innovation in my own garden was to use thick plastic shuttering between and around separate species. Take care to water them regularly in hot summers as they can still dry out.

Figure 1: Bamboo Plot

You don't have to have a large garden to grow bamboo, as Figure 1 shows. This plot is just 10ft wide by 4 ft deep and contains 4 large species at the back and 4 small species at the front, as well as a few small ornamental grasses. The larger species bamboos are separated in the ground by thick plastic dividers, and the smaller species are in pots hidden below the surface of the soil. When, evetually the plants become too big for their individual plots they can have the outer regions cropped and used for divisions for growing on.

Growing From Seed[edit | edit source]

A difficult, but not impossible, excercise. You cannot buy (as far as I know) bamboo seeds in a garden centre or nursery, as they are a bit of a rarety. The Bamboo Society has had a scheme up and running for a year or more now, and members are distributed seed that is sent to the Society from all over the world. I have managed to raise over half a dozen varieties myself, in a cool greenhouse; but they do seem to do best on the proverbial 'kitchen windowsill'. They take several months to get to a few inches high, and several years to make a good plant. It is essential that they are planted as soon as possible after receiving or put into cold storage in the refridgerator if conditions are not suitable due to the climate. The best results are with seed planted in the Spring, but you can get results at any time of the year. I managed to germinate some on the windowsill in November. The germination rate can be very low, from only a few percent, to up to 80 percent, so don't be dissapointed if you only get a few to sprout. If you are interested in this please contact the Bamboo Society, below, join up and get your free supply. All it costs is a supply of S.A.E's for your seeds to be sent to you as soon as they are available. If on the other hand, you live abroad, or in a climate where bamboo is seeding, save the seeds and contact the society. Remember, some bamboo only seeds every 150 years!

For details of the European Bamboo Society (Great Britain), email the Membership Secretary, Colin Ellis at

Warning[edit | edit source]

WARNING!!! Bamboo can be very invasive. Even in temperate climates, it can take over a yard in no time at all. I can only image how fast it would grow in the tropics. A solid steel barrier at least 24" tall burried in the ground is one way to stop the spreading. Do not plant uncontained bamboo as a living fence. It will take over your yard, as well as your neighbors'.

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Original Content courtesy of Mike J. Goodall, Used with permission

FA info icon.svg Angle down icon.svg Page data
Keywords plants, gardening, bamboo construction, alternative building, construction and materials, construction, materials, built environment
SDG SDG11 Sustainable cities and communities
Authors Felicity
License CC-BY-SA-3.0
Language English (en)
Related 0 subpages, 44 pages link here
Impact 898 page views
Created February 4, 2009 by Lonny Grafman
Modified April 8, 2024 by Felipe Schenone
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