Windbreak Bamboo for SF

japonica-hedge-formalI often get asked about using bamboo as a windbreak.  Oftentimes this becomes a conversation starter that let’s us dig deeper into understanding the vast world for the Bamboo.  There are a diversity of genera and species in the world of bamboo and some attention is required to find the best fit for any particualr design.  Here are three species that i would invite into one’s consideration set for looking at windbreak applications in San Francisco.  The criteria being wind tolerance and (somewhat) drought tolerance, density of growth, growth pattern and availability.






Pseudosasa japonica (Arrow Bamboo)

Maximum Height: 18 feet

Diameter: 1 inch
Hardiness: 0º F
Recommended for USDA zone 7 through 10

This bamboo is one of the most widespread bamboos in the country. It makes an excellent screen or container plant. Pseudosasa japonica is also quite happy indoors. The leaves, 5 to 13 inches long by 1.75 inches wide, are much larger than the leaves of other hardy bamboos of similar size. The culm sheaths are persistent. This is also one of the best bamboos for a windy or seaside planting. Although Pseudosasa japonica is a spreading bamboo, this hedge in the lower pictures is 20 years old and has not spread under the sidewalk. Yadake, the Japanese name for arrow bamboo, is a literal translation: ya means arrow, and dake is one of the words for bamboo.

Pleioblastus linearis

Maximum Height: 14 feet
Diameter: 1.0 inches
Hardiness: 10° F
Recommended for USDA zone 8 through 10

Pleioblastus linearis, like Pleioblastus gramineus, will make a thick screen. However, the leaves of Pleioblastus linearis are longer and the plant can grow taller. A pathway only a couple of feet wide with mature Pleioblastus linearis lining both sides will be in total shade. The effect of walking through such a path is somewhat magical.


Thamnocalamus tessellatus

Maximum height 16 feet, 12 – 15 feet average
Diameter: 1 inch
Hardiness 5º F
USDA Zone recommended 7 through 10
* Does not do well in hot, humid climates, for example: Texas, Florida, Lousiana, etc.

One of best clumping bamboos for a sunny location. It is also more upright than our other hardy clumping bamboos. This bamboo is from South Africa, where it is called Bergbamboes, or mountain bamboo; it is the only African bamboo hardy enough to grow in the Pacific Northwest. It is an unusual bamboo, having very thick culms in relation to its height.