Native Bamboo Replacement

chschenJuly 20, 2010

Hi All,

My boyfriend's mother is planning her landscaping for her new yard and wants to plant bamboo. I know bamboo is not native to our state, and I'm trying to subtly encourage her to use more native plants. Does anyone have any good ideas for bamboo replacements that are native to California and that would not require too much maintenance? I think she likes the way bamboo looks, but I don't know what other reasons she has for wanting to plant bamboo. I appreciate any advice you can give.



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Why do you want your boyfriend's mom to plant natives for?
Maybe natives just do not appeal to her. I think the use of bamboo can be a big asset for a yard depending upon the reason for trying to grow it.
Why don't you just ask her "Why bamboo?"
Also there are a host of non-native plants that are low maintenance. Not all CA natives are low maintenance though some may be more drought tolerant than others. Native plants really require the right setting and the right soil conditions to do well otherwise they just languish and will die out over time.
You might even want to see if she would be interested in constructing a landscape plan for her yard before deciding on plants. This would include using different landscaping materials such as boulders, small pools, brick walk ways, etc. Depending upon her location there are a lot of possibilities that you can approach. But try to look at it all from her perspective, not yours.

Here is a link that might be useful: Xeriscaping

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 8:43PM
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I'm not that familiar with California native plants, but one thing to consider is the fire hazard in California, depending on which area of the state your boyfriend's mother lives.

I've never grown bamboo, and am not sure what kind of fire-resistance it has, or how much water it needs. I have seen people growing bamboo on the East Coast in swampy areas.

Below is a link to some info from the L.A. County Fire Department on this topic. They list some fire resistant and drought tolerant plants, along with info about fire-resistant landscaping, erosion, etc.

Some of the plants on the lists are native, but some are non-native. I believe this is due to the fire-resistance of some non-natives that makes them desirable in California.

If your boyfriend's mother lives in an area with a high fire risk, you can try checking with the Fire Department for your boyfriend's mom's county or city/town in California to see if they have a list of recommended fire-resistant plants, shrubs and trees, and what they say about bamboo.

You can also contact the California Native Plant Society for more info:

California Native Plant Society:

Here is a link that might be useful: LA County Fire Department-Vegetation Management

    Bookmark   July 22, 2010 at 12:14PM
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Thank you for your helpful comments.

To answer your question, terrestrial_man, I am not her landscaping advisor, so my interest isn't really in helping her plan her garden. Since she asked me to do some research on bamboo, I figured I might take the chance to offer some native options, if any are available or suitable. As for "why native," I think the answer is pretty obvious: They provide habitat for native species; they don't crowd out native plants; they increase the biodiversity of the area. If she doesn't care about those things, that's fine, but I don't think it should stop me from offering her some good alternatives that might coincidentally have beneficial side effects. I don't really think it's a matter of looking at it from my perspective rather than hers. I don't really see how providing her more information can be anything but positive.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 9:20PM
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anita55(zone 6 NY)

Bamboo is EXTREMELY invasive and hard to eradicate once it gets going. For anyone who loves the look of it and really needs to have it I strongly suggest doing your research, and only planting the clumping type of bamboo. If you plan to use the Bamboo that spreads you need to put in barriers to contain the bamboo to the area where you want it to grow. There are plenty of people who love bamboo but I would never plant it myself.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2010 at 9:39AM
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I think it is wonderful that you are trying to offer her other options...and let her know that your research (and probably your prior knowledge) has shown that bamboo tends to become very invasive.

If you can find stories from people who are struggling to eradicate it or wishing they never planted it, include that for her to read.

If she really wants it, would she consider keeping it in a container (with no holes) that would prevent it from spreading. She could have the look she wants but not worry about wreaking havoc in the landscape. (Of course, that would not be providing a native for wildlife.)

Does she have an interest in birds or butterflies? If so, perhaps you can interest her in plants that produce fruit, nectar, or are a host plant to butterfly larva.

Hope this helps.


Here is a link that might be useful: A Native Backyard

    Bookmark   August 7, 2010 at 6:37PM
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