Golden bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea) is a perennial "running bamboo" that is also sometimes referred to as fish-pole bamboo. Fast-growing and able to reach over 20 feet in height, it's a popular choice for providing dramatic ornamental interest or for creating a living privacy screen or noise barrier. Golden bamboo is best planted in the spring or fall and is easy to grow, often establishing itself in as few as two years.
Native to China, the woody and hollow stems of golden bamboo feature lush, lance-shaped green foliage, while the lower cane has a striking yellow-green tortoiseshell pattern and distinct compressed internodes (the stem section between two joints).
As with most bamboo species, golden bamboo rarely flowers, and seed production is exceptionally unusual. In fact, you may wait up to a decade or more to have a season where the bamboo displays any blooms at all. Running bamboo spreads rapidly through tuberous rhizomes and, consequently, this species is considered invasive in warmer regions of the United States. Once established, golden bamboo can be difficult to remove—if you don't want it to get out of control, it's best to grow it in containers or take steps toward preventing its spread.
|Common Name||Golden bamboo, fishpole bamboo, fairyland bamboo|
|Botanical Name||Phyllostachys aurea|
|Plant Type||Shrub, tree, rhizome|
|Mature Size||8–20 ft. tall, 12-25 ft. wide (clumps of canes), 1–2 in. thick (individual canes)|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun, partial shade|
|Soil Type||Moist but well-drained|
|Soil pH||Neutral, acidic|
|Hardiness Zones||6–10 (USDA)|
Golden Bamboo Care
Golden bamboo is low-maintenance, versatile, and hardy plant. Its attractive green foliage, golden-green canes, lush appearance, and fast growth rate make golden bamboo a great choice for a dramatic hedge or living privacy fence. Each cane has an upright growth pattern, so it's best to space the plants around 3 feet apart if you want dense cover. If you prefer a more airy, open look, space the plants 5 to 6 feet apart. Plant in the spring or fall if you live in a hot-summer area. Gardeners in more mild climates can plant golden bamboo any time of year. Young canes are green, but turn golden-green as they mature.
The plant's invasive properties become a concern when it's grown in hot and humid environments with mild winters. Gardeners in these areas should install a root barrier to help prevent aggressive spreading, or plant it in a tub or large container. However, in regions with colder temperatures, the running nature of golden bamboo is curtailed, and it's more likely to grow in clumps without excessive spread.
Golden bamboo prefers a position where it can receive ample sunlight. While a partial shade location will also be tolerated, a lack of light can impact the bamboo's growth rate. Ultimately, you should aim to plant your golden bamboo somewhere where it can get at least six to eight hours of bright light daily. In the hottest areas, however, the plant will appreciate a spot that provides some shade during the afternoon when temperatures are at their peak.
While golden bamboo isn't terribly particular about its care, it does prefer to be planted in soil that is moist, well-draining, and full of organic nutrients. If the soil is poor and infertile, golden bamboo may not work as well for privacy screening, as it tends to form in irregular clumps instead of hedges or fences when depleted of nutrients.
Golden bamboo does best with consistently moist conditions. In hot summer months without regular rainfall, you may need to water your bamboo a few times a week if grown in a container, and at least weekly in a garden environment. However, part of the appeal of golden bamboo is its easy-going nature—it's worth mentioning that the plant is surprisingly drought-tolerant once fully established, and can even cope in soggy (but not waterlogged) conditions, too.
Temperature and Humidity
Golden bamboo plants can grow successfully across a wide variety of temperatures, though they thrive best in areas that replicate the hot and moist tropical climates of their native China. This species is also relatively cold-hardy and can cope with temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit, though it won't grow nearly as tall or as quickly (especially during a prolonged cold period).
Bamboos are a type of grass, and as such, appreciate fertilizer that has a higher level of nitrogen to promote healthy growth of leaves and canes. In fact, you can use lawn fertilizer that doesn't contain weed killer to feed your golden bamboo as well. However, many gardeners prefer to use manure or compost instead. Either way, fertilize your bamboo in the early spring and then again mid-summer. For gardeners in mild-winter climates, add another feeding in early fall.
Types of Bamboo
Aside from golden bamboo, there are several other types of bamboo often grown in the home garden:
- Chinese dwarf bamboo doesn't grow much taller than 10 feet or so.
- Black bamboo has striking black canes.
- Dwarf green stripe bamboo is a lush ground cover that doesn't grow much beyond 1.5 feet high.
- Bambusa "Fernleaf" is a lovely green bamboo that grows to around 12 feet in height and makes an excellent hedge or privacy fence.
Pruning Golden Bamboo
As with any type of bamboo, you should prune your golden bamboo periodically, ideally in the spring, removing any stems that are performing poorly, have died, or are damaged. You can also remove canes to thin the overall growth of a hedge or living fence. The foliage on golden bamboo starts lower down the cane than on many other bamboo varieties, so if you want to show off the tortoiseshell pattern to its best effect, you'll need to cut off any branches and foliage that fall closer to the base.
If you're looking to limit the spread of established golden bamboo (or trying to eradicate it from your landscape altogether), this could take some perseverance. To start, cut back or mow all the canes right to the ground periodically throughout the bamboo's growth period. This will eventually help to kill off the underground rhizomes, which will be starved for nutrients. It can take several seasons—and sometimes treatment with herbicides—for your efforts to pay off.
Propagating Golden Bamboo
Because golden bamboo rarely flowers and doesn't generally produce seeds, propagation should be done with cuttings. While success is not guaranteed, as bamboo isn't the easiest plant to propagate, you'll often have luck with the following method:
- Cut a section of cane that's around 10 inches long and contains at least three nodes (the rings around the canes). Make your cuts on a 45-degree angle.
- Dip one cut end of the cane into a powdered rooting hormone. Tap off excess powder.
- Plant the cane in a container of rich, well-draining potting soil, burying the end with the rooting hormone deep enough to cover the first node.
- Mist the soil thoroughly and press it down to remove air pockets. Mist the soil daily, or as often as required to keep it damp but not soggy.
- Fill the center of the cut cane with water. Check every couple of days and replace water as needed to keep the cane mostly full.
- Place the container in a warm area with partial sunlight, but not in intense, direct sunlight.
- You'll notice your cutting is beginning to grow taller within a few weeks. After three to four months, transplant your new golden bamboo plant to your desired growing location, whether that's in a larger outdoor container or in the ground.
Potting and Repotting Golden Bamboo
If you aren't planting golden bamboo to act as a privacy screen or noise buffer, growing it in a suitably sized container is the best option. This method will prevent it from spreading aggressively, and keep its sprawling height under control.
The container you choose should be at least 24 inches wide with a similar depth. It must have at least one drainage hole, although two or three are better. Make sure it's heavy enough so it won't blow over in the wind.
Fill the container with a rich, well-draining potting soil and plant your bamboo so the top of its root ball is even with the top of the soil. Don't bury the plant too deeply, as that can lead to rot. Fill the space around the root ball with more potting soil, gently pressing it down to remove air pockets. Leave an inch or two at the top of the pot for watering.
Be prepared to repot your golden bamboo every few years. To do this, lift the plant out of its container—you might need to use a shovel to loosen the soil around the edges first—and gently tease apart the roots and rhizomes with a garden knife or saw, cutting the root ball into two or three sections.
Replant one section in your container. You can discard the other sections, plant them in separate containers, or plant them in the ground as desired.
If grown in USDA garden zones 6-10, golden bamboo generally will survive the winter without any special care. However, if an especially severe cold snap is predicted, you can help your bamboo survive by covering the soil around it with a thick layer of mulch to help hold in warmth.
Common Plant Diseases
Though it's a fairly hardy plant, golden bamboo does have a few issues it must contend with. Root rot is one of the biggest issues for golden bamboo—it can start either at the root of the plant or within the cane, eventually killing the plant. Sooty mold is yet another problem for bamboo, a fungal issue caused by the presence of mealybugs, aphids, and scale on the plant.
Your best defense against disease is to maintain a proper distance between your bamboo plants for air circulation, and water the plants at the base instead of into the middle of the dense foliage.
Common Problems With Golden Bamboo
Pay attention to your watering schedule, and you'll head off most problems with golden bamboo before they begin. But the following are some common indications that something is amiss.
Leaves Turning Yellow
Yellowing leaves or excessive loss of leaves is usually due to either too much water or too little. Consider your watering schedule, as well as the condition of the soil around your bamboo plant. If the soil is very dry, lack of water is likely the issue. If it seems soggy, has a sour smell, or has become a home for small black fungus gnats, too much water is the likely problem. Adjust your watering schedule as indicated, and most likely the plant will recover.
If your bamboo's leaves curl and remain curled, it probably isn't getting enough water. However, if the leaves curl during the afternoon but smooth out again in the evening, too much heat or sunlight is the likeliest explanation. Adjust your watering schedule, move the container to a protected location, or provide a shade structure for the plant until the peak temperatures are over.
Foliage Is Thin
Bamboo is a hungry plant. If you do not fertilize it at least once per year, and ideally two or three times, it can become thin and skimpy, rather than lush and full. Revive your plant by fertilizing it yearly in the spring and summer, with an additional fall feeding in mild-winter climates.
What are non-invasive alternatives to golden bamboo?
What's the difference between golden bamboo and lucky bamboo plants?
Golden bamboo is a true member of the bamboo family. Lucky bamboo, on the other hand, is actually a dracaena, not a bamboo, although it has been trained to resemble bamboo. Typically, lucky bamboo plants are grown as interesting houseplants, while golden bamboo is an outdoors-only plant.
How fast does golden bamboo grow?
Like other bamboos, golden bamboo grows very quickly. In the right conditions, it can grow 2 to 3 feet per year, although some will grow faster than than, and other plants will grow more slowly. It is not unheard of for a golden bamboo to grow as much as 5 feet in a single year.