Do Bamboo Plants Need Sun?

Given that the bamboo group is so large – more than 1,000 species – it’s not surprising that plants may have preferences for different growing conditions. Although the majority of bamboo plants prefer and do best in full sun, some normally grow in the forest understory, where they receive dappled shade. Five hours of sunlight seems to be the minimum requirement for bamboo.


Bamboo Cultural Requirements

In addition to adequate light, bamboo has other growth requirements. It prefers fertile, well-drained soil that is slightly on the acid side. Regular watering is required, but water should not stand in the bed or pot. Soggy roots lead to root rot and will kill the plant. A high-nitrogen fertilizer three or four times a year will keep plants growing well.

Varieties for Full Sun

As a general rule, bamboos nearly always do well in full sun. Good varieties include:

  • Bambusa malingensis – seabreeze bamboo; USDA Zones 8 and above.
  • Bambusa oldhamii – Oldham’s bamboo; semi-evergreen in USDA Zone 8.
  • Fargesia murielae – umbrella bamboo, tolerates cold weather down to -20°F (-29°C).
  • Sasa hayatae – good for containers in USDA Zones 5 to 10; 18 inches tall.

Varieties for Shade

Some bamboos are more shade-tolerant, although most really won’t do well in very deep shade. These tolerate low-light conditions:

  • Fargesia robusta “Pingwu” – Green Screen umbrella bamboo; USDA Zones 6 through 9.
  • Pleioblastus fortunei – whitestripe bamboo; 30 inches tall, tolerates cold snaps down to -5°F (-21°C).
  • Sasa veitchii – Kuma bamboo; USDA zones 6 through 9.
  • Pleioblastus viridistriatus – dwarf greenstripe bamboo; USDA Zones 7 to 10.

Plants with Too Little Sun

Bamboos grown in areas where they don’t receive enough sun will become leggy as they strive to reach the light. Leaves will be concentrated at the top of the plant rather than evenly dispersed at all levels as they are when grown in the proper light conditions. Encourage leafiness by thinning the clump so more sun can reach lower levels of the culms or by topping – cutting off the end of the culms.

Plants in Too Much Sun

Young plants and plants that have recently been transplanted or repotted cannot tolerate as much sun as mature plants. In desert conditions with very hot midday temperatures, even mature bamboo may suffer. Shade young plants and recent transplants with lath or shade-cloth. If your bamboo looks like it’s getting too much sun – browned, dried leaf tips are one sign – you may need to dig it up and move it.