Growing bamboo in a narrow space – pros, cons, and a solution for support



Last spring, May 2012, we added five bamboo plants, Bambusa multiplex Featherleaf, along our fence line.   This variety is the clumping type (no aggressive rhymezone runners) for easy control near the property line; it takes zone 8b afternoon sun; it reaches twelve feet maximum height- so not a height that will dominate our urban pie-shaped lot.

After a year with the Featherleaf bamboo, I appreciate how it sways and rustles in the wind and admire how the slender leaves brightly glow in the sunlight.   A negative, in a narrow space at least, is its fine culms that tend to arch out as opposed to the larger, straight and erect culms often seen in narrow bamboo hedges.   This drooping habit is common in clumping bamboos that can take sun.  As expected, it grew minimally in height its first year, but it filled out considerably, and its natural tendency to arch began to block the adjacent pathway.

I didn't take a proper before photo, but the left side of this photo shows the bamboo encroaching on the heavily used wood plank path.  Confrontations at the side gate were becoming regular events.

The left side of this image shows the bamboo encroaching on the often walked plank path.  After a recent nice long rain, it flopped completely onto the path.

I knew when they were planted that they’d eventually need corralling to work in the slim space, and I had planned to use an idea I’d seen on the Digging blog featuring a Houston garden where bamboo was secured to a fence.  It turned out that this was not a good option for us, so I came up with a similar non-fussy and inexpensive solution.  I’m very happy with its form, function and low-cost.  My husband appreciated how light the materials were and how quickly this solution came together.IMG_2004[1]


The structure was built using….
– 4′ steel stakes (sold as yard sign stakes at Lowe’s and HD)
– bamboo poles found at nurseries and garden centers (3/4″ diameter at least)
– 8″ inch zip-ties
– spray paint (optional)

To install, we hammered the stakes in as posts, then attached bamboo poles to the front side of the stakes using zip-ties to “pretty them up”.  This gives the illusion of light and organic but with the strength and rigidity of steel.
The horizontal poles were then added by criss-crossing zip-ties.

The horizontal poles where attached with zip ties in a criss-cross lashing fashion.

Horizontal poles attached with zip-ties in a criss-cross lashing fashion.


It was an after thought to spray paint it to blend with the fence color.  This gives the illusion that perhaps the lashings are something other than zip-ties (above) and helps the 15′ long structure be less visibly prominent (below).


The plants were also pruned in a manner that is called “legging up” bamboo: the oldest and thinnest culms were removed from the center, and the secondary side growth was removed from the remaining culms so the foliage seems to float above bare lower culms.

My son then worked to add the same support to the new bamboo that swatted our faces each time we passed the backyard stone planters. 



Same support structure made in a square.   Extra height was left at the corner posts so that higher horizontal supports can be added as the plants get taller.



Before-  Featherleaf (on left) grown in planter before pruning and support


10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. katina
    Jun 10, 2013 @ 11:28:25

    Cyndi – Very cool project. I may end up stealing this idea for some of my plants – mostly for the plants that just take over (i.e. the Gregg’s mistflower). So it wouldn’t be a tall corral…a very short one, actually; but it would keep the plant from flopping over onto the walkway.


  2. Pam/Digging
    Jun 10, 2013 @ 12:51:57

    I’m definitely going to borrow your idea, Cyndi. I liked it when I posted about the Houston garden, but your solution is even better! Thanks for sharing.


  3. Ally
    Jun 11, 2013 @ 06:54:38

    Very clever and stylish solution. Painting the support changes the whole aesthetic. Did you do anything special to prime the bamboo before painting?


  4. Linda Lehmusvirta
    Jun 16, 2013 @ 12:37:19

    What a beautiful garden! I’ll add it to our taping list! Love your bamboo wrangling technique too.


  5. Trackback: Water-saving, no-lawn garden of Cyndi Kohfield | Digging
  6. xericstyle
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 11:51:26

    That looks excellent – I can see a few places around here that could benefit from doing that – thanks so much! I am really happy you are back blogging – I missed your posts!


  7. Charlie@Seattle Trekker
    Jul 04, 2013 @ 13:07:33

    I love how the curing path pulls your eye through the landscaping in the front yard. Really enjoy the color combinations and the use of different plants to give contrast and texture…very enjoyable.


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