Bamboo likes some snow, but not too much

I've said it before that bamboo in the snow is extra-beautiful. The problem comes when you get too much snow, or the wrong kind of snow. Heavy snow that sticks to the bamboo and weighs it down, bending it over -- that's the wrong kind of snow.

It's not so pretty then, and is actually a bit distressing the first time it happens.


Bamboo bowed down to the ground, the weight of the snow robbing it of its graceful beauty.

Luckily, this is usually nothing to worry about.

Gardeners in snowy climates know that heavy snow loading on shrubs and tree branches can be trouble. Permanently bent branches, broken limbs, cracked branch junctions. Bamboo usually doesn't have any of those problems though -- as long as they don't snap, the flexible culms will straighten back up when the snow melts.

This is the first year that my bamboo is substantial enough to really hold snow, and I'm surprised that I'm not more concerned. I'm trusting the experience of others who say that the bamboo will be fine, and I'm able to relax about this. My favorite plants are not being hurt.

I'm not used to this view of my neighbor's garden from my kitchen window -- I usually just see bamboo:

This other one stayed pretty much upright, even though there is a heavy layer of snow on top:

You can't see them here, but the only reason this plant isn't flat on the driveway is the metal conduit poles I added for support earlier in the year:

Is this even bamboo? It's not the same as seeing the small evergreen leaves dusted with white. When you look close now it's so hard to tell what is here:

Okay, I guess it is bamboo... there are still some small hints visible:

This one though, I just don't know:

It really just looks like a snow-covered shrub to me. A carefully manicured shrub too -- not my favorite look (I prefer my shrubs with a natural, unpruned aspect). It actually is a bamboo though: Fargesia 'rufa'. Like the bamboo next to the driveway it too is tied up, otherwise its thin culms would probably be almost flat on the ground.

As flexible and durable as bamboo is, there's always the chance that some culms will snap -- this is more common with certain thin-walled species like Phyllostachys vivax from what I've heard. I choose not to grow that species as I don't want heavy snowfall or an ice storm (even if they're uncommon) to damage a cherished plant.

Not too easy to tell which plant here is bamboo

Really not the most attractive right now.

So bamboo dusted with snow: beautiful, delicate, and lovely.

Bamboo flattened by heavy snow: not too attractive and a bit worrying.

I'll take the dusting I think.

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Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (December 30, 2010 at 1:00 PM)  

That is just what my in-laws' bamboo looked like after a heavy snowfall (it's their first year as bamboo owners). They were worried it would break or be permanently flattened. I tried to reassure them, but it's not like *I* am an expert at bamboo in the snow :-).

Alan  – (December 30, 2010 at 1:46 PM)  

It's worrying when a 12' plant gets bent to the ground, that's for sure.

What's worse is trying to figure out why one culm didn't straighten out after the snow fell off, then getting whacked in the face when you give a little tug and the one branch that was frozen to the ground snow releases and the whole thing springs upright. =)

Steve Lau  – (December 31, 2010 at 2:20 PM)  

After a thaw in the last couple days, everything that was weighted to the ground sprung back up completely with no branch or culm breakage. They look basically the same as they did before any snow fell.

The only leaf burn I see are small yellow specks on exposed leaves during the deep freeze when there was 1ft of snow on the ground.

Anonymous –   – (March 25, 2013 at 10:45 AM)  

OMG some of my big guys have broken right in two with the heavy snow. And i hate seeing my neighbor s house grrrrrrr

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