Bamboo on the Central Coast
San Luis Obispo, on California’s Central Coast, is something of a magical place. And bamboo is something of a magical plant. It should come as no surprise then that gardeners and hobbyists would want to grow bamboo in San Luis Obispo.
The San Luis Obispo area is something of a gardener’s paradise, with our mild climate and seemingly endless sunshine. It rarely if ever freezes, and seldom gets unbearably hot. Many parts of the county are blessed with some incredibly fertile soil. And the only real concern is the paltry rainfall, but in most cases that’s not a serious problem.
So regardless of what part of the Central Coast you call home—there are so many microclimates here, after all—you should have no difficulty in growing a wide variety of bamboo species. You can also find a great selection of nurseries here, including a fabulous bamboo farm in Paso Robles.
Where to buy live bamboo in San Luis Obispo County
As an agricultural region filled with nature enthusiasts and retirees, gardening is one of the top hobbies here on the Central Coast. Consequently, we have no shortage of high quality nurseries. The following short list includes some of our favorites. (And by the way, this is a completely impartial directory, NOT a list of paid advertisers.)
If it’s live bamboo you’re looking for, there’s really no better place to go than to Paso Bamboo at 5590 N River Road in Paso Robles. If you’re a connoisseur and looking for an unusual or specific variety of bamboo, this is the first place you should look.
Or if you just enjoy the serenity of walking through a bamboo forest, you won’t find a more magnificent one on the Central Coast. Drop by and take a tour of the 40 acre farm! And because they specialize in bamboo, you will find their staff to be more knowledgeable than any other nursery.
Furthermore, you know if they can grow it in Paso Robles, where overnight frost is common throughout the winter and summer temperatures regularly exceed 110º, you’ll have no trouble growing it anywhere else in the county. Paso Bamboo sells timber bamboos, shrubs and ground covers, in a variety of sizes. They can also help with installations when it comes to the more ambitious gardening ventures.
Open every day by appointment: (805) 712-1759
If you’re at the other end of the county, and don’t feel like making the trek up the grade, you can find another great bamboo nursery nestled into the hills of Arroyo Grande. Owner Rob Beaudoin has been cultivating bamboo for more than a decade, his passion is contagious, and this is one of the best places to find bamboo in San Luis Obispo County.
Rob has more than 70 varieties of bamboo growing on site, and he specializes in determining the right species for your project. Whether you’re looking for a decorative centerpiece or an unobtrusive privacy screen, you are sure to find what you need at Mesa Bamboo.
Call for an appointment: (805) 723-0473
Okay, so they don’t actually sell any bamboo here. But if you’re in the neighborhood, and you’re setting up a Japanese garden, or you just appreciate the Asian aesthetic, you have to visit the Muranaka Bonsai nursery at 419 Pajaro Lane in Nipomo.
No one with the least bit of interest in ornamental gardening will fail to be dazzled by this spectacle of meticulous, miniature horticulture. And if you’ve got a bamboo garden, you might just have to pick up a little bonsai tree to bring your Zen up a notch.
Also check out our article on Bamboo Bonsai.
One of the best kept secrets on the North Coast, Los Osos Valley Nursery is more than just a place to shop for shrubs. Come here for the Salvia and stay for the tranquil ambiance and ornamental inspiration. If you have questions about growing anything in the sand or the fog, this is where you’ll find the answers. Among the verdant Shangri-La, you’ll also find a few varieties of bamboo and an endless supply of leafy accessories.
301 Los Osos Valley Road, Los Osos, (805) 528-5300
Although Sage Nursery at 1188 Los Osos Valley Road in Los Osos specializes in native plants of California and the Central Coast—which this grass is certainly not—they do carry a small and fluctuating assortment of bamboos.
Stop by and talk to Todd and his knowledgeable team of gardeners about how you can use bamboo alongside other native plants to establish a drought tolerant garden that will attract native birds and butterflies.
If you’re in SLO and don’t feel like leaving town, Farm Supply on Tank Farm Road has one of the best nurseries within the city limits. Among the vast selection of vegetables and ornamentals, they carry a small assortment of bamboos and decorative grasses.
Farm Supply, with multiple locations around the county, is also one of the best places to shop for gardening tools and equipment. Stock up on organic fertilizer and pick up a new pair of cowboy boots while you’re at it.
Best varieties of bamboo for San Luis Obispo
Almost any variety of bamboo will do well in San Luis Obispo County. There are certain tropical varieties that may languish without the extreme heat and humidity of their native habitat, but those varieties are rare and you won’t find them in any California nurseries.
There are plenty of tropical varieties that can actually do quite well on the Central Coast, even when the temperatures dip below freezing, as they sometimes briefly do. Just be aware that the varieties that reach 60 or 80 feet in the tropics might only reach 20 or 30 feet in coastal California.
Your best bet would be to visit a specialist like Paso Bamboo or Mesa Bamboo, listed above, but here are a few popular and attractive bamboo varieties to look for.
- Phyllostachys aurea: Also known as Golden Bamboo, this is one of the most common species of bamboo in California. If you go to a nursery and only find one or two types of bamboo, this is probably one of them. Golden Bamboo is an aggressive runner that grows quickly and is very easy to propagate, making it pretty common and inexpensive. But many gardeners find that it grows a little too fast, with a tendency to become invasive. For that reason, I wouldn’t really recommend it, unless you just want something to fill out a large area in a short amount of time.
- Phyllostachys nigra: Also very popular, but for better reasons in my opinion, Black Bamboo has very attractive culms that turn very dark brown and almost black. In San Luis Obispo, it seldom grows more than an inch in diameter, or more than 15 or 20 feet high, although it can grow more than 80 feet under ideal conditions. It’s also a running variety, but not so aggressive as the Golden Bamboo. Phyllostachys in general are pretty cold hardy and will easily survive the coldest winters in North County.
- Semiarundinaria fastuosa: Commonly known as Temple Bamboo, this was one of my favorite specimens of bamboo when I was living in South County. The culms are tall and elegant, up to 20 or 30 feet tall, very straight with a nice sheen to them. Although a runner, it spreads at a moderate pace.
- Pseudosasa japonica: Another one of my favorites, for its broad leaves and handsome poles, this one does especially well in the shady parts of the garden, near the house or under taller trees. Poles were used by samurai warriors in Japan, who gave it the name Arrow Bamboo. Another slow spreading runner, it can get up to 15 feet or so, with culms less than an inch thick.
- Phyllostachys Viridis ‘Robert Young’: An especially unusual and attractive cultivar, Robert Young has distinctive green stripes that stand out against the buttery yellow poles. In cooler climates it grows more like a clumper. Even so, the culms can get up to 3 inches in diameter and 30 to 40 feet tall.
- Bambusa oldhamii: The most widely grown bamboo in North America, and the only clumping bamboo on this list, Oldham’s is a giant timber bamboo from Taiwan. The mature culms can get up to 4 inches thick, usually reaching up to 30 or 40 feet in the Central Coast climate.
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