Bamboo is a fast-growing groundcover, privacy screen and container planting. Originally from Asia but with over 1200 species, bamboo is well adapted to a variety of growing conditions in Europe and other continents. Bamboo is classified as one of two types. Clumping bamboos grow in landscapes, while running bamboos are invasive and difficult to control. Running bamboos are usually successfully grown outdoors in pots.
Most bamboos grow tallest and more vigorously when provided with four or more hours of full sun per day. Place your bamboo containers in full sun, where possible. For decks, patios and other outdoor areas that provide more shade than desirable, choose bamboo cultivars like Sasa veitchii "Kuma Bamboo" which prefers shady conditions. Other bamboos capable of withstanding shady conditions are Shibataea kumasasa and Fargesia nitida "Chinese Mountain Bamboo" or Fargesia spathacea "Umbrella Bamboo."
Running bamboos like Kuma and Shibataea kumasasa are better suited for containers than they are for landscape. Running bamboos spread via their root system. They become invasive and difficult to control. Plant running bamboos in wide, shallow containers to allow their spreading root systems to propagate. Clumping varieties like Umbrella and Chinese Mountain are suited for both container and landscape plantings. Plant clumping bamboos in upright containers. Allow 5 cm (2 inches) of space between the root ball and the container's edge. Plant your bamboo in well-draining, rich soils. Bamboo does not tolerate saturated, wet soils. Although ceramic decorative pots are appealing many do not provide drainage holes. Drill your own holes in these containers or purchase containers with adequate drainage.
Running bamboo is a rapid, easy-to-grow ground cover. Fortunately, below-ground containers put its invasive potential in check. Plant running bamboo species in concrete or metal containers such as those made of stainless steel or copper. Root strength will break plastic or ceramic containers. Plant bamboo in containers that are, at minimum, 90 cm (3 feet) below ground.
Bamboo thrives in tropical and subtropical climates, but some species are hardy to cool climates. Even cold hardy bamboos must be protected from frost and wind damage. Site your containers in protected areas. Move small containers indoors over the winter. Mulch and insulate large above ground containers prior to freezing weather. Most bamboo dies back during cold weather but regrows in spring.