Baby Blue bamboo shooting

In April of last year, I planted a Baby Blue bamboo (Bambusa chungii ‘Barbellata’) from a 3-gallon container that I had bought from a nursery in Florida.  It had about a dozen wispy culms, the largest of which was the thickness of a pencil, maybe a quarter of an inch thick and less than 3 feet tall. At the end of September, it had 27 culms, the tallest being about 12 feet in height.

Last October I said that Baby Blue bamboo (Bambusa chungii ‘Barbellata’) was one of my favorite bamboos. That hasn’t changed. It produced new shoots until fall, made it through its first winter with flying colors (our winter low was 25°F), and is already shooting again!

I can’t wait to see how tall this season’s culms will be. Maybe 15 feet? Even taller? I love the fact that the base is still very tight, just a bit over a foot in diameter. This confirms what I read online, i.e. that the ‘Barbellata’ version of Bambusa chungii is a much tighter clumper than its big brother.

In light of the considerable ornamental merits of this bamboo, it’s a pity that there are no sources for it in Northern California. If you’re interested in buying one, I can recommend Tropical Bamboo or Beautiful Bamboo, both in Florida. Unfortunately, shipping charges to the West Coast are quite steep.

Entire plant on 3/17/2011
New shoots are marked in blue (there’s one more new shoot that isn’t visible in this photo). Note that I’ve removed most of the thin original culms because they looked straggly and constantly got in my way.
One of the new shoots
New branches forming on one of the thickest culms that came up last summer
Same on a different culm. You can clearly see the powdery coating that gives this bamboo a bluish tint.


  1. This will be a real looker in a couple of years when it's really filled out I think. (If you can look at a bamboo plant that has only a couple of leafy culms and get really excited about it, thinking it's one of the best plants you have, you've definitely got "bamboo fever". Most people don't see the same beauty until the plant is full and impossible to ignore.) :-)

    It's not work, it's gardening!

  2. Alan, I think we'll see a big difference when last year's culm have fully leaved out. I can't wait!

  3. I just ordered the big brother version, b. chungii, from Florida. Did you opt for the 'Barbellata' cultivar for space considerations, shape reasons, or is there a hardiness issue with b. chungii that I need to worry about?

  4. DD, I opted for 'Barbellata' purely because it's more compact and we have limited space. General look, shape, and hardiness are the same as Bambusa chungii.

    I'm more than impressed by its vigor. No bamboo I have has grown that much in less than a year.

    Please keep me posted on how yours is doing!

  5. Well, I just got the shipment notice today, so hopefully it should arrive from Florida within a week or so. I also ordered some b. lako and b. emeiensis 'flavidorivens' (or is it 'flavidovirens? I've seen it spelled both ways. Perhaps I'm being overly optimistic, but I'm hoping the lako will at least survive in zone 10a in San Mateo. Although I'm sure it doesn't get hot and humid enough here for it to get max size.

  6. DD, in San Mateo both Bambusa emeiensis 'Flavidovirens' and Bambusa lako should have no problems making it through the winter. And even if you have a particularly harsh winter and they got knocked back a little, they should make a strong comeback in the spring. I think both of them will be stunning even at less than maximum size.

    You might be one of the first to have Bambusa emeiensis 'Flavidovirens' in Northern California!

  7. Thanks, Gerhard. My hope is that the mild winters, and corresponding lack of annual recovery time, should allow for a well-groomed, healthy plant. Although I suspect a lack of heat and high humidity means they'll probably be 2/3 of max size....which on my suburban plot is just fine with me!

  8. Great blog, Gerhard.

    I'd love to plant Bambusa chungii in my yards while we still have some rain these days. Is there any chance you might have learned of a NorCal source recently?

    Dorje Jennette
    UC Davis

  9. Hi Droje, I wish I had a NorCal source of b. chungii for you, but mine was shipped from Florida. If all goes well, I guess I'll be a source in a few years.

  10. Dorje,

    A fellow Davisite! Welcome to my blog.

    Like DD, I'm not aware of any sources in Northern California. It's a shame because this species is beautiful and does well here, at least based on my experience. I'll ask Mad Man Bamboo to see if he can get his wholesaler to start carrying it.

    For now, the only option is mail order.


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