Whether you’re looking for live bamboo for the garden, or finished bamboo products for your wardrobe, you will find plenty of options in California. The Golden State’s climate is favorable for growing almost anything, including many of the subtropical bamboo varieties that wouldn’t survive in New England or the Midwest, as well as almost any of the temperate bamboo species. Furthermore, California’s political climate strongly supports progressive, green, alternative products and lifestyles, such as bamboo clothing and bamboo construction.
On account of this combination of conditions, California has some of the best bamboo nurseries in the country, and probably the best selection of specialty stores for purchasing hard-to-find bamboo products.
Growing bamboo in California
The land of fruits and nuts, California has a magical climate that suits nearly everyone and everything. From the rain forests of the north to the palm tree-lined beaches of the south, California is a wonderful place to grow almost any type of bamboo. The running bamboos that can tolerate colder weather and freezing winters can flourish here. So too can the lush and beautiful tropical and subtropical bamboos with their tame, clumping growth habit.
At the same time, it’s important to know that there are no bamboo species native to California. But there are some native bamboos from Mexico, just south of the border, as well as a few species of Arundinaria, endemic to the American southeast. But though it’s not native, you don’t really need to worry about bamboo becoming invasive (not like the cane grass, Arundo donax). Although if you plant a running bamboo, you’ll want to have a good containment strategy to keep it from taking over your garden. Or you can play it safe and plant a clumper.
If you’re interested in bamboo in other parts of the country and around the world, you can check out these popular articles.
- Growing bamboo in Colorado
- Tropical bamboo in Florida
- Big bamboo in Georgia
- Cane grass and bamboo in Kentucky
- Growing bamboo in Pennsylvania
- Bamboo in Texas
Bamboo nurseries in California
If you want the best bamboo for your specific gardening needs and growing conditions, it’s always best to go to a bamboo specialist. Here are some of the best options in California.
Bamboo Giant: A wholesale and retail nursery nestled in the Santa Cruz Mountains just north of Big Sur. The extensive gardens, open to the public, feature ponds, pagodas, and over a hundred varieties of bamboo.
5601 Freedom Blvd, Aptos, CA (831) 687-0100
Bamboo Sourcery: A family-run nursery and demonstration farm on 7.5 acres in the forest outside of Sebastopol. Specializing in bamboo that will thrive in the Bay Area, serving both residential and commercial customers. Open to the public, and by appointment if you wish to consult with an expert.
666 Wagnon Road, Sebastopol, CA (707) 823-5866
Bamboo 4 Gardens: Not a nursery, but a landscape consultancy specializing in bamboo installations for the San Diego area.
Warmlands Ave, Vista, CA (760) 716-5010
Imperial Bamboo: They have been growing bamboo in Southern California for more than 25 years. Call ahead for an appointment.
625 E Gillett Rd, El Centro, CA (760) 540-4211
Jungle Bamboo & Palms: Fifty varieties of bamboo on 6 acres in Sonoma County. Walk amongst the towering bamboo, shop for potted plants, and get professional advice. Open daily, and Saturdays by appointment.
503 W Railroad Ave, Cotati, CA (707) 794-8292
Madman Bamboo: Based outside of Sacramento and specializing in clumping bamboos, with over a hundred varieties in all. They sell bamboo at regional plant sales and other special events.
Rocklin, CA (916) 300-6335
Mesa Bamboo: Tucked away in the hills of Arroyo Grande, Mesa Bamboo aims to satisfy all of your bamboo needs. They have 70 different species on site, to help customers create a beautiful, secluded space using bamboo as a privacy screen, or simply to augment their home landscape.
Arroyo Grande, CA (805) 723-0473
Ocean View Bamboo: Just outside of Santa Barbara, Ocean View Bamboo enjoys a beautiful location and offers a supreme variety of tropical, temperate, and mountain bamboos, ideal for Southern California’s mild climate. Call ahead for an appointment.
8570 Ocean View Drive, Ventura, CA (805) 643-6388
Paso Bamboo: Serving San Luis Obispo County and the state. The 40-acre farm has been operating since 2001 and offers about 60 species of bamboo. More than a nursery, it’s a whole world of glorious bamboo. Open every day by appointment.
5590 North River Road, Paso Robles, CA (805) 712-1759
Rainforest Bamboos: Jim is old school, and he has no website, but you can call him directly to make an appointment. His incredible selection includes more than 150 types of bamboo.
San Diego County, CA (760) 749 7610
Bamboo gardens and arboretums in California
In addition to the nurseries listed above, some of which have some pretty extensive gardens which are open to the public, the following sights also offer delightful bamboo viewing and enjoyment. The following list covers the bulk of the more beautiful gardens in the state, some having greater bamboo selections than others.
Descanso Gardens: Descanso means relaxing, and it’s an apt name for this urban respite of year-round natural beauty, internationally renowned botanical collections, and spectacular seasonal displays. The 150-acre premises in Los Angeles County includes something for every plant lover, including a charming Japanese garden teeming with camellias, azaleas, mondo grass and Japanese maples.
Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden: Located on the Campus of Cal State University in Long Beach, this relatively young garden features an exquisite landscape of the sublime Japanese horticultural tradition. It is sure to appeal to any bamboo lover, although there is little bamboo to be found, apart from certain ornamental features like gates and fountains. But the koi ponds, tea house and zen garden will not disappoint.
Hakone Gardens: One of the oldest Japanese estates and gardens in the Western Hemisphere, Hakone delights its visitors with serenity in the heart of Silicon Valley, and has been doing so for more that a century. The 18 acres of cultural treasures include tea houses, koi ponds, a moon bridge, and a host of Japanese artifacts. Bamboo may not be the focal point of this remarkable collection, but the noble grasses are certainly well represented here.
Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens: One of the most impressive garden exhibitions in California, if not the world, the Huntington Library and Garden covers 120 exuberant acres in the L.A. suburb of San Marino. Of the endless horticultural highlights, the bamboo enthusiasts will be most interested in the Jungle Garden. In addition to the lush forest of orchids, bromeliads, ferns and palms, you’ll discover an exceptional gathering of bamboo, including the rare and gigantic Dendrocalamus asper.
Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden: Another incredible collection of plants and trees amidst the urban sprawl of Southern California, the L.A. County Arboretum offers 127 acres of manicured wilderness in the San Gabriel Mountains. You could spend a whole day here without covering the whole property. Head to the palm tree colony and you’ll discover an impressive diversity of bamboo species, from the light and delicate to the high and mighty.
Lotusland: A secluded oasis on 37 acres in Montecito, just west of Santa Barbara, Lotusland is the exquisite estate and plant collection of Madame Ganna Walska. The unique arrangement is filled with surprises and unlikely gardening methods. Among the garden’s delightful treasures is a bamboo pond surrounded by Japanese design elements and towering timber bamboo.
San Diego Botanic Garden: Formerly the Quail Botanical Gardens, the SDBG is located in Encinitas, just north of San Diego, on 37 verdant acres. The bamboo garden features one of the largest collections in the state, boasting 121 varieties of the fabulous grass. San Diego’s frost-free climate allows for an unusually wide range of bamboos, including a huge assortment from Asia, the Himalayas, South America, and Africa. One of their prized specimens is a massive Dendrocalamus giganteus.
San Francisco Botanical Garden: Occupying 55 acres in Golden Gate Park, in the heart of the city, the SF Botanical Garden is home to more than 9,000 varieties of flora from around the world. Among the formidable collection, you’ll find dozens of species of bamboo, including a forest of timber varieties.
San Mateo Arboretum: Just south of San Francisco, this tranquil collection of trees offers a nourishing reprieve from the hustle-bustle of Bay Area suburbia. Among the highlights is a Japanese tea garden with cherry trees, Japanese maples, some ancient bonsai trees, and a limited assortment of bamboo.
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden: Picturesquely set in the mountainous canyon just above Santa Barbara, the SBBG specializes in California natives and drought-tolerant landscapes. Those seeking a sense of Asian aesthetic will discover a traditional Japanese tea house with limited traces of bamboo.
University of California Botanical Garden: The UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley covers 34 acres in Strawberry Canyon and the hills of Berkeley. The remarkably diverse collection features nine regions of naturalistic plantings from Italy to South Africa, including a small but beautiful bamboo grove.
Shopping for bamboo products in California
In 2006, Bambu Batu opened its doors as California’s first all-bamboo boutique, dedicated to providing the best selection of bamboo furniture, bamboo clothing, bamboo kitchen wares, and gifts for the bamboo lifestyle. In May 2020, Bambu Batu closed its brick & mortar location in San Luis Obispo in order to permanently shelter-in-place. (Insert SAD emoji here!) But there are still a few bamboo specialty shops around the state.
Bamboo Giant: Listed above under nurseries, Bamboo Giant also has a small gift shop with an eclectic assortment of bamboo items. Selection is always changing.
5601 Freedom Blvd, Aptos, CA (831) 687-0100
Cali Bamboo: Specializing in bamboo flooring and bamboo building materials. Cali does NOT sell bamboo clothing or furniture.
6675 Mesa Ridge Road, Suite 100, San Diego, CA (888) 788-2254
Cariloha: A chain of bamboo retail stores with numerous locations and a corporate online presence. Their Solvang location in California has been open since 2013.
1683 Copenhagen Dr, Solvang, CA (805) 688-2311
Fybr Bamboo: Opened in 2018 in downtown Santa Cruz, offering an extensive selection of bamboo bedding and bamboo fashion, as well as a range of other eco-friendly alternatives. Despite opening just a year and a half before the pandemic, the young eco-boutique survived the strenuous lockdowns, so it looks like they are here to stay. And that’s a good thing!
1528 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz, CA (831) 423-3927
And don’t forget to tell them Fred sent you!
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