How to Grow Golden Bamboo

Golden bamboo plant with golden yellow-green tortoiseshell pattern and green branches

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

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 creating a living privacy screen or noise barrier. It's 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 towards preventing its spread.

Botanical Name Phyllostachys aurea
Common Name Golden bamboo, fishpole bamboo, monk's belly bamboo, fairyland bamboo
Plant Type Herbaceous perennial
Mature Size 12–20 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 to acidic
Bloom Time Rarely flowers
Flower Color Rarely flowers
Hardiness Zones 6–10 (USDA)
Native Area Asia
Golden bamboo with golden yellow-green stems standing together in shade

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Golden bamboo plants lined side by side with yellow tortoiseshell patterns and topped with green leaves

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Golden bamboo plant with yellow tortoiseshell patterns on stems and long branch with green leaves hanging in front

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Golden Bamboo Care

Golden bamboo is low-maintenance, versatile, and hardy plant. It will grow in a variety of temperatures and soil types, but you'll find the best results if you situate the plant under full sun in fertile, moist, and well-drained soil.

The plant's invasive properties become a concern when it's grown in hot and humid environments, and gardeners in these areas should consider a root barrier to help prevent aggressive spreading. However, in shadier spots or regions with colder temperatures, the running nature of golden bamboo is curtailed and it's more likely to grow in clumps and reach less sprawling heights.

Light

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.

As your canes mature, you'll notice them turning from green to golden yellow. This change in color can become more pronounced, depending on the amount of sunlight the bamboo receives—it's even possible for them to turn into an orangey-pink shade.

Soil

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 clumps instead of hedges or fences when depleted of nutrients.

Water

Golden bamboo prefers consistently moist conditions. It should be watered deeply each time and the soil should always be kept moist. In hot summer months, it may even benefit from being watered 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).

Fertilizer

Golden bamboo plants that are planted in the ground should grow and spread rapidly, and therefore have no need for fertilizer. If your golden bamboo is planted in a container, it will appreciate a feeding with a balanced liquid fertilizer once a month to make up for the lack of organic matter.

Pruning Golden Bamboo

As with any type of bamboo, you should prune your golden bamboo periodically, removing any stems that are performing poorly, have died, or are damaged. 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 by division or with basal cane cuttings. Any propagation is best done when new growth appears in the spring, and success is typically found when the stems are nurtured in pots over the winter, rather than in the ground.

It's important to keep the divisions or cuttings continually moist while they get established. When planting, make sure to space bamboo plants at least 3 feet apart to allow for the spread of the roots and future growth. It can take a couple of years for new plants to fully establish in your landscape and, during this time, it's important to keep them sufficiently watered.

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 12 inches wide with a similar depth. Fill the pot with a loose, moisture-retaining potting mix and make sure it's well-watered throughout the growing season.

Common Pests & Diseases

Though it's a fairly hardy plant, golden bamboo does have a few pests and diseases 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.