Shibataea kumasaca

Shibataea kumasaca, that’s quite a tongue-twister, isn’t it? If you feel daring, pronounce it three times fast!

Shibataea kumasaca was one of the six varieties I picked up yesterday at Bamboo Sourcery in Sebastopol. My plant came in a 1-gallon container and from the rhizome growing out of the drain hole, it was clear that it needed a new home.

Sometimes called “ruscus-leafed bamboo”, this is a beautiful shorter species that grows to 3-6 ft. Its leaves are short and stubby and quite distinct from other bamboos. This Japanese native is very useful as a ground cover or low hedge and makes a stunning specimen plant in a decorative pot.

It is a running variety, although supposedly not very aggressive, but containment is still advised if planted in the ground in a small yard. According to the literature, it’s hardy to –10°F and can therefore be grown in most of the continental U.S. It likes shade, especially in hotter climates.

Shibataea kumasaca prefers acidic soil and suffers from leaf burn if the soil is too alkaline. A good place to plant it would be underneath a pine tree because pine needles naturally acidify the soil. In our case, we don’t have pine trees and I wanted to put it in a pot anyway, so I simply worked a generous amount of peat moss into the planting mix. Another way to acidify the soil, especially suitable for potted plants, is to water them with a weak vinegar solution (2 tablespoon of vinegar to 1 gallon of water). That’s what I will do going forward.

Rhizomes and roots coming out the drain hole of the 1-gallon nursery container
Rhizomes circling around in the pot; definitely time for a new home!
Shibataea kumasaca in its new pot

I realize that my plant is a bit scruffy-looking at the moment but it will produce new leaves soon enough. If you want to see photos of Shibataea kumasaca at its best, click here and here.

I haven’t decided yet where my Shibataea kumasaca will ultimately go, but wherever it is, I will be sure to put a paving stone underneath the pot to make sure no rhizome can grow through the drain hole into the ground. Our yard is small, and I don’t want to have to deal with an escaped running bamboo, not even one as benign as this one.


  1. Sounds like a beautiful plant... although I admit that the runner habit of some bamboos makes me nervous. I prefer the clumping ones.

  2. Eliza, I agree with you completely. All the bamboos I have in the ground are clumpers. The runners are confined to containers which are set on concrete stepping stones. I'm very careful about monitoring them so nothing gets out :-).

  3. You people are boring! Growing bamboo is more fun when you're always wondering where the rhizomes are, or worrying if your rhizome pruning has missed one. ;-)
    Actually, if there were cold-hardy clumpers that reached 15-20' in height and could handle the heat and humidity I'd be all over those. But for now, I'm stuck with runners.
    BTW, I love kumasaca! I just got some nice divisions of it this year ( and can't wait for them to fill out. A decent-sized planting of this bamboo is a thing of beauty!

  4. Alan, thanks for the link. I added it to my post above.

    We're lucky to be able to grow many clumpers but I do wish we had room to grow a few running timber bamboos...

  5. I've had this bamboo for a few years now. The one I keep in a pot has been a hit or miss, some years it looks good, some not. The one on the ground has been more consistent.

    I find that the pot grown one is prone to rust on the older leaves, but I just trim the old culms as soon as the new ones have leafed out. It also appreciates a dose of Iron, it greens up beautifully in a week or so.

    With you milder location I can imagine this bamboo will be much more vigorous in your garden compared to ours. We control ours by spading the periphery twice a year. The wandering rhizomes, once severed from the main plant, just withers away. It's important they get severed before they have a chance to shoot and root on its own, so twice a year spading seems to do the trick.

    They also don't mind being clipped into a shape btw, like a topiary. I sometimes shape mine like a ball!

  6. Mark and Gaz, mine is a bit chlorotic. I actually do like the yellowish green leaves but I think I'll give it some iron anyway.

    I didn't want the kumasaca to get away from me, so I decided to keep it confined to a pot. Much safer, and easier to move around until I've found the perfect spot for it.

    Good to know it takes to clipping. I might try my hand at that next year :-).

  7. Gerhard, what are you using for a soil mix for your container grown bamboos?

  8. David, I use a soil that both drains well and retains moisture. For smaller containers, I usually buy something like Miracle-Gro® Moisture Control® Potting Mix when I can find it on sale (Costco usually has a good price). However, for large and very large containers (like the stock tanks we got last December) it's cost-prohibitive to use bagged soil so I had a high-quality top soil brought in and I worked in some composted steer manure.

    In the grand scheme of things, bamboos aren't demanding plants as far as soil goes as long as they get water and are fertilized.


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