One of the most common reasons for planting bamboo is to create a windbreak or a privacy screen. Bamboo is ideally suited for this because of its impressive height and its dense foliage. We sometimes refer to it as a living fence. But for this purpose, some bamboo species are more optimal than others. So what are the best varieties of bamboo to provide a good windbreak?
Bambusa malingensis, also known as Seabreeze Bamboo, makes for an excellent windbreak or privacy hedge. It’s a tightly clumping species that’s easy to contain, but also has thick greenery and sturdy culms that are wind-resistant. Culms typically grow 20 to 30 feet tall and up to about 2 inches thick. Bambusa multiplex, or Hedge Bamboo, is another popular choice. It’s also a clumper, similar in size to Seabreeze.
Seabreeze bamboo: Bambusa malingensis
Most bamboos, besides the little dwarf varieties, are capable of providing a good windbreak. But some species grow more leaves and have more tightly clustered canes. Bambusa malingensis is one of those species that is perfect for sheltering your garden from the wind. That’s why it’s often called Seabreeze bamboo.
This attractive species has tall, graceful culms that normally grow about 20 or 30 feet tall. Individual stalks are roughly 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter. They grow fairly straight and upright but may arch gently at the top. They are flexible enough to sway in the breeze and even withstand a tropical storm. It won’t be bothered by salty, coastal air, but can also thrive in a dry, inland climate.
Like all varieties of Bambusa, Seabreeze is a clumping bamboo, which means it won’t spread out and take over your yard the way some runners would. And even for a clumper, B. malingensis is unusually tight and compact. The canes grow close together, making the plant more resistant to the wind. And the profusion of leaves helps to block both the choppy weather and the eyes of nosey neighbors.
Because it’s a tight-clumping bamboo, a solitary Seabreeze can be a nice centerpiece or focal point in a garden. But if you’re planting it as a windbreak, you’ll want to plant numerous specimens in a row. Use some kind of rhizome barrier or dig a trench around the planting area if you want to maintain a very orderly hedge. Allow at least two feet in width.
Bambusa is a tropical bamboo genus, so this species is not especially cold-hardy. It prefers tropic or subtropic climates. Unlike some tropical specimens, it can survive a freeze. But temperatures below 20º F will likely bring frost damage.
Hedge Bamboo: Bambusa multiplex
A close relative of Seabreeze, B. multiplex is another species with an apt nickname. The same properties that make B. malingensis a good windbreak make this species a perfect hedge. It has elegant, upright canes, about 20 or 30 feet high and around 2 inches thick. Numerous lateral branches, typical of Bambusa, are filled with leaves and create an effective privacy screen.
The typical species is less common than many of the subspecies of B. multiplex. Cultivars like ‘Alphonse Karr’ and ‘Gold Stripe’ are among the most popular ornamental varieties, with their distinctive and attractive variegation.
Other notable cultivars include ‘Riviereorum’ or Chinese Goddess, ‘Tiny Fern’ and ‘Rosa’. Some of these subspecies grow smaller than the true multiplex, so they may be less optimal for screens or windbreaks. But other features, like their striped culms and delicate foliage, make them beautiful additions to any bamboo lover’s collection.
‘Tiny Fern’ and ‘Tiny Fern Striped’ are actually dwarf cultivars of this species. They generally only grow a few feet tall. Their diminutive size makes for a lovely ground cover or low hedge, but not much of a windbreak.
Temperate bamboo windbreaks
If you’re living in a cooler climate, where freezing winters and seasonal snow are the norms, then the Bambusa varieties probably won’t do well. You’ll be better off with some kind of Phyllostachys or Semiarundinaria. Take a look at some of our related articles, below.
Broaden your knowledge
If you’re interested in growing bamboo as a windbreak and for other purposes, check out some of these useful and informative articles.