Bamboos are known for being fast-growing plants, but some grow even faster than others. Bamboo that is sold for indoor cultivation is often pot-bound, limiting its growth, but outdoor bamboo can grow so fast that it becomes invasive. In fact, many types of fast-growing outdoor bamboo are considered nuisance plants, as they can overtake more desirable plants and be very hard to eliminate. For that reason, it is important to choose carefully when purchasing bamboo.
Golden Bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea)
Golden bamboo is one of the most commonly grown in the United States, according to University of Florida Extension. Native to the southern part of China, this warm-climate bamboo can grow to heights of over 40 feet and spreads rapidly through thick, horizontal underground roots called rhizomes. The golden colour and rapid growth make it attractive for home gardeners who want a fast-growing screen, but the unchecked spread of the plant can quickly become a nightmare if not controlled by the use of underground barriers.
Umbrella Bamboo (Fargesia spathacea)
Umbrella bamboo grows so quickly that it usually ends up bent over itself, hanging down to the ground in an umbrella shape. It will reach a maximum height of around 12 feet and is a clumping bamboo, which means it does not spread through underground rhizomes. This bamboo prefers shade, but its graceful form has the disadvantage of being quite unstable. Umbrella bamboo should be sheltered from winter winds.
Pygmy Bamboo (Pleioblastus pygmaeus)
This dwarf bamboo may be small in size, reaching a maximum height of only 12 inches, but that does not mean it does not grow quickly. Pygmy bamboo spreads outward at a rapid pace and must be vigorously controlled in order to prevent it from becoming invasive, according to the University of Maryland Extension. Still, the bright green canes, which are tipped in purple, are an attractive sight in any landscape.
Dwarf Greenstripe (Pleioblastus viridistriatus)
Dwarf greenstripe bamboo is desirable for its variegated foliage, which is striped in bands of yellow and green. Another dwarf bamboo, this plant grows to a maximum height of 24 inches, but will run away with any yard if left uncontrolled. For that reason, it is often grown in containers. P. viridistriatus is also hardy and can tolerate both full sun and full shade.