Bamboo has an amazing variety of uses. From nutritious bamboo leaf tea to high octane bioethanol to ultra-durable building material, there’s almost nothing bamboo can’t do. And with around 1,500 distinct species, bamboo also comes in an enormous variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. But did you know that there’s also Square Bamboo, which grows with four corners?

Chimonobambusa quadrangularis, more commonly known as Square Bamboo, is an unusually shaped species of running bamboo native to China but popular among bamboo growers the world over. As the name suggests, the culms of Square Bamboo have flat sides and rounded corners, giving them an almost square shape. The plants also have very attractive, cascading foliage. For best results, Square Bamboo prefers to grow in cooler climates, with ample irrigation and partial shade.

This article is part of an ongoing series about different types and species of bamboo. To learn more about this fascinating and diverse collection of grasses, check out some of these other articles.

Characteristics of C. quadrangularis, or Square Bamboo

The name quadrangularis literally translates to “having four corners”. And the most noteworthy features of this East Asian bamboo species are its square-shaped culms. In a garden full of round bamboo canes, this specimen should stand out.

But that’s not all. Like other species of Chimonobambusa, especially Chimonobambusa tumidissinoda or Walking Stick Bamboo, C. quadrangularis also has some unusually pronounced nodal joints. While not nearly as swollen as Walking Stick Bamboo (tumidissinoda literally means “swollen node”), the nodes of Square Bamboo are somewhat protruding and rough in texture.

Chimonobambusa species
Chimonobambusa species in China, with characteristically pronounced nodal joints.

Even from a distance, before you approach the plant and examine its culms, Square Bamboo can make a distinct impression in the garden. The leaves of this bamboo grow in a terraced pattern, producing a sense of steps or a cascading effect. This gives the plant a very stately appearance.

A medium-sized bamboo, these plants can grow up to between 10 and 25 feet tall, depending on the conditions, with 1-1.5 inch canes.

Fair and Square: Keep your bamboo looking good

Like all Chimonobambusas, Square Bamboo is a runner, and running bamboos have a tendency to spread. This species is not as aggressive as certain other ones, but it’s always a good idea to use a root barrier to keep it contained and under control.

If you’re worried about freezing winters, the good news is that Square Bamboo is relatively cold-tolerant, hardy down to about 10 or 15º F. More importantly, though, it doesn’t like to get too hot. So you won’t be able to grow it in Florida, Texas, or Southern California, many of the places where tropical bamboos thrive. High altitudes and the Pacific Northwest will be better.

Chimonobambusa quadrangularis Square Bamboo thick foliage
Chimonobambusa quadrangularis, Square Bamboo, with thick, green foliage at Lake Como, Italy. (Wikicommons)

Daytime temperatures in the 70s or lower are ideal, and cool nights are also a plus. Direct sunlight is OK, but for greener and more vibrant leaves, Square Bamboo prefers to grow in the bright shade rather than in the direct sun all day.

This is not a drought-tolerant bamboo variety. Square Bamboo needs regular, thorough watering in order to flourish. And like any bamboo, its soil should have good drainage. Rule of thumb is to keep it moist, but not soggy.

To show off the unusual culms and nodes, keep the lower portion of the plant well-pruned and free from foliage.

Unusual Bamboo: Gardening outside the lines

Square Bamboo isn’t the only species of bamboo that will defy your expectations. Whether you’re an avid gardener, an obsessive collector, or simply one who enjoys the pursuit of trivia and novelty, it’s easy to get lost in the world of bamboo. Consider some of these exceptional varieties.

Giant Bamboo

If you’re really trying to amaze your neighbors, while basking in the splendor of a towering bamboo specimen, consider a giant variety of timber bamboo. In warmer regions where frost is rare or unheard of, you can grow some of the most massive tropical bamboos, like Dendrocalamus giganteus. In the right climate, these can exceed heights of 100 feet. In more temperate climes, you’ll do better with a massive Phyllostachys, such as Vivax or Henon.

Miniature Bamboo

At the other end of the spectrum, you can look for the smallest of bamboos. In the age of tiny houses, dwarf bamboo is a fabulous option. Perfect in a container on a patio, or in the shade of an already crowded garden, some species only grow a foot or two tall. But beware, most miniature bamboos have aggressive roots that like to spread outward.

Solid Bamboo

Break with tradition yet again with a solid bamboo species. Yes, most bamboo is hollow, making it an excellent material for flutes, fountains, and lightweight construction. But the South American genus Chusquea consists of solid-stemmed bamboo species. These attractive, ornamental varieties add a flair to the garden and are great for building light crafts and furniture.

Blue Bamboo

Don’t be fooled by the images of purple bamboo going around the internet. But there are a number of species of blue bamboo whose colorful culms are sure to give your garden a special luster. Some of these outstanding varieties are tropical, while others are native to the mountains and, like Square Bamboo, are better suited for cool climates and shady settings.

Crawling Bamboo

We think of bamboo as that towering plant with straight, upright poles that reach for the sky. Certain species have culms that lean over or arch gracefully. And these two growth habits look beautiful side-by-side. Less common, however, are the scandent bamboo varieties that crawl upward like ivy into the upper forest canopy. You’re unlikely to find these at the bamboo nursery, but you can look for them when you visit the Philippines or the Amazon Rainforest.

Circle the Square

If you enjoyed learning about Chimonobambusa quadrangularis, or Square Bamboo, then you’re sure to find more worthwhile articles in our blog. Check out some of these popular topics.

FEATURED PHOTO: Chimonobambusa quadrangularis by Fred Hornaday