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Plant Collections

  • Melbourne

Bamboo Collection

Melbourne Gardens exhibits a broad range of Bamboo from different regions of the world across the entire site and maintains a consolidated collection within the Bamboo Collection beds. A key objective of the Bamboo collection is to highlight the significant ethnobotanical uses of bamboo and grasses and the vital role they contribute to for life on earth and highlights the threats to grass biodiversity and biomes they support. 

The Collection is important to support the following: 

  • to display a diverse selection of Poaceae (bamboos and grasses)
  • to provide a suitable selection of taxa for reference material and plant identification
  • to support plant conservation programs through ex situ cultivation of threatened species
  • to display and interpret key characteristics, ethnobotanical uses and role of grasses for life on Earth.

Significance of Bamboo and Grasses

Bamboo are the fastest growing plants in the world with a growth rate of up to 20cm a day. These plants have a broad range of importance and uses such as building houses, medicine, young shoots are edible, leaves are used for making mats, hats and baskets, clothing, musical instruments, weapons and many more.

Best Viewed

  • Spring

Plant Census

Find out what plants grow at Melbourne Gardens.

Key Plants

Bambusa balcooa - Is a large clumping bamboo reaching 12-22m tall with a diameter of 6-15cm.  It originates from north eastern India where it grows in monsoonal affected areas with high rainfall.  However in cultivation it grows in most soil types. Because of its strength it’s often used as scaffolding, building houses, fishing boats among other things.

Phyllostachys nigra - Commonly known as Black Bamboo, this bamboo originating from China is medium size running growing (spreading Rhizomateous) 3-7m tall diameter 1-4cm wide as it grows the new culms are green and as it ages turns black/purple. Used as ornamental plant it’s considered to be a weed in New South Wales.

Xanthorrhoea australis - Found in the corner of south eastern Australia. It can grow up to 4m tall with a spike growing up 2m which produces multiples of individual white/creamy flowers between October and December. However it could a number of years for the flower to be produced.

Poa ensiformus - Commonly known as Purple Sheath or Sword Tussock Grass. This Australian native grass is a tufted dense grass that grows 0.3-0.5m with flower stems of 1.2m high. The flowers are pyramidal shape, green to purplish flowers October- March. It is often used for ornamental planting, erosion control and grown around embankments. Indigenous people use the leaves for basket making and as strings.

Themeda triandra - This tussock perennial grass is commonly found throughout Australia.  It is drought resistant grass can grow from 40-90cm tall producing seed heads that are rusty-red in colour in the summer to autumn time. Great in native landscapes.

Curator Notes


After three seasons, the cane reaches maturity and may live for up to ten years or more.

There are two main types of bamboo - ‘clumping’ and ‘running’ types. Running types may be rampant and need to be kept in check.

Many of the planted bamboos are in plastic pots so do not require a lot of maintenance in this regard, yet the existing spp., such as Phyllostachys aurea, do.

Drainage must be good and watering is most essential in dry periods as they do not like being dehydrated.


Thinning of bamboo is of great value to the clumps. Dead culms need to be removed annually. Large culms at five to six years can be removed also, and smaller culms at three to four years. Small or unhealthy bamboo should also be removed annually. This allows greater growth of the younger culms. For the running bamboo, where shoots appear in undesirable places they need to be cut or removed at a very young age.

Feeding and mulching.

Bamboos require a lot of Nitrogen and this can be obtained either with artificial or organic materials such as compost. This can be applied in early spring and also in early summer before the best growing season of the rhizome.

Silica (Sio2 ) is also important for plant growth and so the bamboo leaves that die and fall to the ground are useful as a source of this mineral. If it is thought that the plants are lacking in this , then Bentonite is a good supply of this nutrient.


There is no regular pattern of flowering for bamboos and some may not flower in a generation. However, some bamboo may even die upon flowering and so unless aware of this factor may be unpleasantly surprised.

Running bamboo plants when flowering need to be maintained by plucking out the flowering spikes as soon as they appear. This reduces the strain on the plant’s growth and can prolong the lifespan of the plant. If the plant is not going to die after flowering then if left without treatment for over ten years the culms will reach the size of the previous generation. This is because a new rhizome system needs to be developed independently.


The area where the Bamboo Collection is planted was previously occupied by shrubs of little botanical or landscape value. A basis of about five different bamboos were already established and because the site was thought appropriate (underground water without a soggy soil ) a display of other interesting bamboos was planned by Roger Spencer together with the Landscape Planner at the time. 

1993 Bamboo Bed redeveloped and opened

1994 Grass Garden consolidated.