Black Bamboo is This Year’s Favorite Large Houseplant

Posted By Thomas on Jan 22, 2008 | 4 comments

I'm very excited about my next houseplant project.  This year Wayside Gardens has one of the most stunning and hard-to-find bamboo varieties you'll ever see, Phyllostachys nigra.  It is a deeply colored black bamboo, and I've always heard that it makes an excellent large indoor plant.  I've got a perfect spot for it this year, left empty when I finally planted my container-bound Japanese maple tree outside. 

Black bamboo is a great choice for indoor planting for a few reasons.  Most obviously, the dark culms are very dramatic and interesting.  It is a relatively slow-growing bamboo, so it requires less pruning and thinning to keep it looking wonderful.  It is also a larger bamboo than most varieties commonly grown indoors, so it will grow taller and with a straighter upright habit, which is great for a very impressive effect and can give an entire room, even a large room, an amazing exotic feel.  I'm hoping that, as it gains height, it will draw the eyes upward and emphasize the tall ceilings in my living room.  Of course, as with any large houseplant, it can dominate a small room, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.  This bamboo in a smaller room could create a wonderful meditative feel of being in a perfectly calm outdoor temple somewhere in China.

Bamboo is never a houseplant requiring no care at all, but it is a relatively easy plant to care for.  It is important whenever growing bamboo indoors to keep it trimmed, but with taller varieties, such as Phyllostachys nigra, it is especially important to keep it from overgrowing the ceiling.  Trim the tops of the culms (they're technically not "canes" until after they've been cut) just above a high branch.  This pruning shouldn't harm the plant at all.  You'll also want to thin it, cutting off most of the smaller new shoots and culms at the soil, especially once the plant is well-established (though you'll probably want to keep some of them, as the green of the new shoots looks wonderful against the black of the older culms).  Trim the branches from the lower third or so of each culm to emphasize the shape and wonderful ebony color of the bamboo, and prune the branches above that to the second or third branching.

If black bamboo indoors isn't for you, keep in mind that it thrives in zones six to nine, and makes a fantastic privacy or border plant, or it can just be grown as an interesting grove.  It is one of the best bamboos for landscaping not only for its beauty but also because it is a less invasive variety of bamboo, requiring less work to keep.


  1. What is the cost of a black bamboo houseplant,in a 10-12 inch pot?

  2. Lynette:
    A 10-12 inch pot would probably not be large enough for black bamboo to do well. I’m not sure, but I would recommend something a good bit larger than that. As to cost, black bamboo is a very sought-after and rare plant. It’s also relatively slow-growing for bamboo, so supplies are usually pretty limited. When you can find it, they usually run between $100-$175.

  3. This spring I purchased,from Wayside, some Fargesia nitida and have it planted in a container on the patio. My question is-can it live thru the winter outside in the container or should I have it planted in the yard. I think it’s too big for my inside area. I would love to keep it in the container as it offers more patio privacy—Thanks for whatever help you can give.

  4. Thanks to this post, I purchased 2, 5gal Phyllostachys nigras, 4 weeks ago from a nursery ($40 ea). They were both very root bound. We divided and re-potted in 14″ pots in a mixture of peat moss, vermiculite and soil (did not use fertilizer, but would’ve added sand too, if we could’ve found a good quality product). We run a humidifier on low around the clock and water them once a week with filtered water (supposedly they can be sensitive to city water additives). New shoots started appearing a week and a half ago and they’ve grown as tall as the original 4 foot plants! They’re placed in an east facing window and get indirect light most of the day (Sky scraper across the street from my building blocks any chance of direct light).

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