Indoor bamboo can look stunning and really set off the atmosphere of a room or office. Note that the content of this page will be referring to bringing bamboo species indoors, and not to those commonly named ‘Lucky Bamboo’ that are not related to the bamboo family.
There are so many species of bamboo, and so many different types of buildings with levels of humidity and sunlight, that you can’t generalise about which species would be most suitable to live in indoor conditions. One thing is for sure; they are not to be classified as indoor plants and the majority should be living outside to be able to survive.
However, there are some species that can adapt to an indoor life provided you are aware of their requirements to maintain health. If you do not manage to maintain them indoors successfully, please don’t blame me as your success will be dependent on how you care for the plant and whether it is a suitable species. Many hardy bamboos will also need a period of dormancy outdoors.
First thing to consider is how much room you have for indoor bamboo. If you have a small house, or apartment, with low ceilings you’ll go for the ones that grow to less height. If you have a large house with high ceilings, or an office or other building, you will have much more choice of species and can choose something that would be really large and dramatic.
Additionally to considering the height of the plant, consider how much room you will have for the container. It is good to be able to choose the largest container possible for the indoor space to maintain a large and healthy plant. Think along the lines of a large bamboo wanting a minimum of a ten gallon container to really flourish.
However, if you are going to keep one that won't grow so high, or one of the dwarf species, you will choose a smaller container to suit the size of it. Low and wide containers are much better than narrow deep containers. The roots are quite shallow and they will not need really deep pots or containers but they will need space to be able to spread their roots out sideways.
Bamboo will not be the easiest to care for indoors, as previously mentioned, they are essentially outdoor plants and to be successful caring for them indoors will take some knowledge.
To provide humidity around the plant you can place a tray under the pot that contains pebbles and a small amount of water. Note that the pot should sit on top of the pebbles and should not be submerged in the water. Alternatively keep a container with some water in it next to the pot.
Don’t water indoor bamboo too much as this will cause the roots to rot, they do not like to have their roots sitting in soggy soil. Having said that, neither do they like to completely dry out and should therefore be watched to make sure they are not sodden or too dry.
If it starts to look unwell; make sure it is not in need of fertilizer, it is in a large enough pot or container, and/or move it outdoors until it looks recovered! You should most definitely not put your indoor bamboo next to any heat sources such as fires or radiators, and ensure they have the correct amount of light.
Different species will provide different coloured foliage and culms appearances indoors from the tall culms to the small dwarf type varieties. A variety of colouring to leaves, including variegated and ornamental, gives you many options to suit your preference.
I don’t feel completely confident about recommending species for you to keep indoors as it’s not something I have enough room to experiment with in my small house!
As I have not personally maintained any of my bamboo indoors, what I have decided would be the best thing to do here is to follow the advice given by other people experienced in the field such as provided in;
Paul Whittaker’s totally awesome book ‘Hardy Bamboos: Taming the Dragon’ lists the bamboos for growing indoors along with a wealth of information about them. I have taken advantage of the recommendations Paul has referenced in his book by listing the indoor species for you here but I would really recommend you purchase the book to really appreciate the depth of his knowledge about these amazing and versatile plants. Thank you Paul!
Bambusa multiplex (all forms)
Chusquea (less hardy forms)
Himalayacalamus falconeri (and ‘Damarapa’)
Pleioblastus shibuyanus ‘Tsuboi’
Alternatively have a look for some more books about bamboo - On Amazon.
There is also a list of suitable species provided in the article; 'Graceful Grass or Jungle Giant: Growing Bamboo Indoors'. Referenced as an article appearing in Landscaping Indoors, Bringing the Garden Inside Published by the Brooklyn Botanical Garden by Susanne Lucas.
Tall species - Reaching 18-20ft high indoors
Bambusa multiplex 'Alphonse Karr'
Bambusa oldhamii - 'Giant Timber Bamboo'
Gigantochloa atroviolacea - Tropical Black Bamboo
Thrysostachys siamensis - 'Monastery Bamboo'
Medium species - 10ft to 12ft indoor height
Hibanobambusa tranquillans ‘Shiroshima’
Otatea acuminata ssp aztecorum - Mexican Weeping Bamboo
Sinobambusa tootsik albostriata
Small species - Indoor heights of up to 4ft
Pleioblastus shibuyanus ‘Tsuboi’
Bambusa multiplex 'Tiny Fern’ or ‘Golden Goddess’
Certain species can be kept as indoor plants but be aware that you will have to take good care of them, maintain them in certain conditions, and will only be successful if you choose the correct species and make sure you take note of the advice given about their dormancy periods and care issues. I personally do not recommend keeping an outdoor plant indoors but to be honest I would like to try it out myself. As I have a small house I may give it a go with my dwarf species from the garden… just so that I can test it out! I would love to have a large plant in the house but I would be really upset if I killed it.
If you are looking for container and potted bamboo, you will be interested in the ornamental and container sections of this site that give more species lists and guides for outdoor plants that can be maintained in containers. My section on types will give you information on the running and clumping species differences and some of these other pages will prove useful to you in the care of your plants.
I also have a few pages based around the tropical plants called Lucky Bamboo if that is where your interest lies.
Artificial plants are another option that is popular these days because they are now of such good quality that sometimes you can hardly tell they are artificial… unless you get up really close! For offices and reception areas they are ideal.