Bamboo is an amazing plant with some incredible properties. There are over 1,000 varieties of bamboo, and many of them will grow taller than trees, even though bamboo is actually a type of grass. For thousands of years, people have eaten bamboo, built houses with it, and made music with it. Today we even make bed sheets and bicycles out of bamboo. It’s no wonder that ancient myths and legends have imbued bamboo with magic and supernatural properties. It’s surprising that bamboo doesn’t play a greater role in Chinese astrology. But in Western astrology, it’s clear that bamboo belongs in the sign of Cancer.

NOTE: This article first appeared in July 2020, most recently updated in June 2024.

Buddha and Bamboo for good luck
Photo by Fred Hornaday

Bamboo in the Sign of Cancer

The season of sunshine

Cancer is the sign of the zodiac that rules the sun from June 20 to July 22, the first five weeks of summer. This is the season when you will find bamboo in its prime. Throughout springtime, the prolific grass puts up fresh culms that shoot upward at an astonishing pace. For a mature timber bamboo, those new shoots can grow as much as a meter a day.

By the time summer kicks in, around June 21, the new culms are ready to burst open like fireworks on the Fourth of July. As the culm sheaths peel off, the new leaves are exposed and the foliage is filling in. In the glory of midsummer’s sunshine, the bamboo revels with splendor and greenery.

Characteristics of Cancer and bamboo

Bamboo’s correlation with the season of Cancer is only the beginning. What’s more important are the personal characteristics associated with this sign of the zodiac.

Being a Cancer myself, born right smack in the middle of that period that runs from June 20 to July 22, I’m pretty familiar with the traits of a Cancerian. And having worked with, studied and grown bamboo for about two decades, I know a thing or two about the fantastic grass as well.

THE CRAB: The symbol of the Cancer says it all. The crab has a hard outer shell, with soft, tender flesh underneath. In terms of personality, this refers to the fact that people born under this sign may come off as somewhat brusque. Sometimes Cancers can be distant, standoffish, even cranky. But under that toughness, they are actually very sensitive.

Similarly, bamboo has the hardness of steel. This is what makes it a superior choice for flooring and cutting boards. But when you cut it open — surprise! — bamboo is hollow on the inside. And if you harvest it early enough, you will discover that the fresh shoots of bamboo are quite tender, and in many cases also sweet and delicious. Furthermore, it’s the rare balance of hardness and flexibility that makes bamboo such an ideal building material.

That mix of tenacity and sensitivity is also what makes Cancers such great friends and partners. When they set their minds to something, they’re nearly unstoppable. But that great sense of compassion truly softens their rough edges.

One more interesting feature of the crab is how they walk. Because of their big awkward claws, they have to crawl from side to side. In the same way, Cancers can often be rather indirect about things, having a hard time coming straight to the point. It’s not exactly like that with bamboo, but if you’ve ever examined the root system and growth habit of a running bamboo, it can really be all over the place. You honestly don’t know where it will turn to next.

Guadua bamboo thorn
Like the crab in its thick shell, bamboo can be thorny. (Photo by Fred Hornaday)

THE MOTHER: The sign of Cancer is also associated with the mother archetype. Cancers tend to be very caring and nurturing, and also domestic. They like to keep a nice home, and their hobbies often include cooking and gardening. As a Cancer myself, I love to travel, but keeping a tidy home is essential. And I do enjoy spending a lot of time in the kitchen and the garden.

Who can deny that bamboo is the mother of all grasses? And once you plant it, the bamboo really takes care of itself. And it’s capable of producing an enormous offspring. Give it a little water and it generally thrives. But sometimes it makes itself a little too much at home in your garden. In fact, it’s capacity for taking over the entire garden is unmatched by any other plant.

On the more practical side, however, you actually can build a house from bamboo. What could be more domestic than that?

The symbol of the mother comes up again, when you consider the numerous creation myths from the Far East in which the fertile stalk of bamboo contains the seed for all life.

WATER SIGN: Still waters run deep, they say. And this is often true of Cancers. Again, the term “standoffish” comes to mind. Unlike a fiery Leo or the airy Libra, Cancers are seldom the most social and outgoing creatures in the circle. Oftentimes, they seem to be lost in their own world.

There’s a similar proverb about bamboo. The first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps, and the third year it leaps. Indeed, for the first year or two, the notoriously vigorous bamboo may do little to impress you. But under the surface, below the ground, those rhizome roots are more active than you can imagine. And then one day — boom! — there’s bamboo coming up everywhere. If, that is, it has an ample supply of water.

Indeed, those bamboo roots can get thirsty. And though they may not require a very deep watering, they do need to get watered on a pretty regular basis.

Higher bamboo proverb
Bamboo is a living metaphor. (Photo by Fred Hornaday)


Say what you like about astrology. It’s not the most hard-headed branch of science in the curriculum, but it sure can be fun. And more often than not, I’m surprised by how accurate a good astrologer can be when he or she really takes a close look at your whole chart. Anyway, I’m no expert, but if I know anything about astrology, I know that bamboo belongs under the sign of the crab.

Further reading

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