7 Plants That Look Like Bamboo

There are over 1000 different types of bamboo in the world, and they all look and behave very differently. In addition, their height and size can range from short to extremely tall. Given the wide variety of bamboo species, it’s no surprise that plants that look like bamboo are frequently misidentified as bamboo.

Here is a list of plants that get most commonly mistaken for bamboo plants:

  • Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana)
  • Japanese Knotweed (Reynoutria japonica)
  • Giant Reed (Arundo dorax)
  • Bamboo Palm (Rhapis excelsa)
  • Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia)
  • Horsetail (Equisetum)
  • Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina)

Bamboo is a type of grass that proliferates. Some can reach heights of 40 feet or more, while others can grow one foot daily. Because bamboo overgrows, more and more people are using it as a windbreak and security hedge. Unfortunately, there are a lot of species that are bamboo lookalikes that may look like bamboo but aren’t. So let’s dive in and see.

1. Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena Sanderiana)

Dracaena Sanderiana
Forest and Kim Starr Dracaena Sanderiana

Other names for this indoor plant include ribbon plant, million bamboo, and Belgian evergreen. Its scientific name is Dracaena sanderiana. Unfortunately, it does not belong to any of the 76 documented bamboo genera, including over 1000 different species found worldwide.

The Lucky Bamboo can reach a height of 39 inches (100 centimeters) and has grey-green leaves that can reach a height of 9 inches (23 centimeters). Houseplants that belong to the genus Dracaena sanderiana and its related species are trendy.

This plant grows well in small spaces but thrives in areas with scattered light or partial shade. However, if the leaves are exposed to direct sunlight, they will quickly turn yellow or look burned. Temperatures between 59 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit (15 and 22 degrees Celsius) are ideal.

2. Japanese Knotweed (Reynoutria Japonica)

Reynoutria Japonica
Phil Sellens Reynoutria Japonica

Despite its bamboo-like appearance due to raised nodes and a hollow stem, Japanese knotweed is not related to bamboo. Instead, its root stalks can spread over 20 feet (6 meters) to establish a new stem.

Japanese knotweed flowers are valuable to many beekeepers because they produce a large amount of nectar for honeybees when few other flowers are available. Bamboo honey is a term used by beekeepers in the northeastern United States to describe monofloral honey made from Japanese knotweed. This honey has a milder flavor than buckwheat honey.

Unfortunately, according to the World Conservation Union, this species is one of the world’s top 100 most problematic invasive species. It’s common along roadsides and in abandoned lots.

3. Giant Reed (Arundo Donax)

Arundo donax Giant reed
Forest and Kim Starr Arundo donax (Giant reed)

The giant reed, or Arundo donax, is a perennial cane that grows to heights and resembles bamboo. It has long stems and lush leaves, much like bamboo. Although reed grass is native to the Mediterranean, it is considered an invasive species elsewhere, including southern California, where it has spread rapidly in recent years.

An Arundo donax’s average height is 20 feet (6 meters). Still, it can reach or even exceed 33 feet (10 meters) under the right conditions. The hollow stalks have a diameter of 0.79 to 1.18 inches (2 to 3 centimeters). Arundo donax is a promising candidate for renewable biofuel due to its rapid growth rate and adaptability to various soil types and climatic conditions.

It grows at nearly 10 centimeters (3.9 inches) per day, making it one of the world’s fastest-growing terrestrial plants. Unfortunately, according to our most recent information, Arundo does not provide food sources or nesting habitats for local wildlife.

4. Bamboo Palm (Rhapis Excelsa)

Rhapis Excelsa
Forest and Kim Starr Rhapis Excelsa

The Bamboo palm is a plant that belongs to the genus Rhapis. The Bamboo Palm is a tall houseplant that can grow taller than most other houseplants. Despite its natural habitat, it is a subtropical palm that can grow up to 13 feet tall and is commonly kept as an indoor plant. The sheaths that protect the plants’ bamboo-like trunks fall off as they age.

Young plants have one or a few leaf segments, whereas mature plants have a dozen or more leaf segments. In contrast to most other palms, the leaf tips of this species are saw-toothed and found on petioles (A stalk connecting the leaf to the base) ranging in length from 7 to 23 inches (20 to 60 centimeters). The new foliage will emerge from a fibrous sheath that is still attached to the plant’s base.

This dioecious palm has a small inflorescence at the top of the plant. The inflorescence is composed of yellow flowers with three fused petals at the base that are arranged in a spiral. When the Bamboo palm reaches maturity, it bears white, fleshy fruit.

5. Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia)

Dumb cane first appeared in the New World’s tropical regions, which stretch from Argentina’s southern tip through Mexico and the West Indies. Some species have been released into the wild on a few tropical islands due to their widespread cultivation as ornamental plants, particularly houseplants.

The Dumb Cane is an indoor foliage plant that is a perennial herbaceous plant with a straight stem, simple, alternate leaves, and white spots and specks throughout the leaves. To thrive indoors, the Dieffenbachia plant requires a constant temperature of at least 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius), so it can only be grown in temperate climates.

Natural light coming in through a window will usually suffice to meet their lighting needs. Furthermore, the soil should be fertilized regularly with a houseplant-specific fertilizer and kept at a medium moisture level.

6. Horsetail (Equisetum)

Yay Horsetail

The horsetail genus is one of the only members of the Equisetaceae family that is still alive, which consists of ferns that reproduce by producing spores rather than seeds. Horsetail leaves develop in whorls and eventually fuse together to form sheaths at the plant’s nodes.

The hollow, jointed, and ridged stems have a characteristic green color and are photosynthetic. Horsetails have long been used as a food source by humans. For example, certain plant species’ pollen-bearing fertile stems can be cooked and eaten similarly to asparagus. In addition, the raw young shoots of this plant are eaten by Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest.

Consuming the young plants, whether cooked or raw, should be done with caution. Some horsetail varieties are toxic to horses and other grazing animals if consumed in large enough quantities over time. Thiaminase appears to be to blame for the toxicity, which can lead to thiamin (vitamin B1) deficiency.

Horsetail has been used in herbal medicine for over a century. Horsetail has been promoted for its ability to increase energy, reduce body fat, treat skin and hair problems, strengthen bones, and prevent hair loss. Still, the European Food Safety Authority concluded in 2009 that these claims were not supported by available scientific evidence.

7. Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina)

Heavenly Bamboo
Forest and Kim Starr Heavenly Bamboo

Heavenly bamboo is found only in eastern Asia, from the Himalayan foothills to the Japanese islands. It is a member of the plant family Berberidaceae. Although commonly referred to as “bamboo,” this plant is actually an evergreen shrub with mature heights of 7 feet (2 meters) and a spread of 5 feet (1.5 meters).

All parts of the Heavenly Bamboo contain toxic compounds that decompose to make hydrogen cyanide which can be fatal if ingested. However, the plant is “generally considered non-toxic to humans,” according to the Toxicity Category 4 classification.

Bamboo FAQ

What Exactly Is Bamboo?

After talking about all these plants that are not a part of the bamboo family, you might wonder, “what exactly is bamboo? Bamboo is a type of grass. Despite belonging to the family of evergreen grasses, this grass is frequently misidentified to be a type of plant or a tree. Bamboo differs from other grasses in that it is the only one capable of growing into a forest.

What Part Of The Bamboo Is Edible?

Bamboo shoots or bamboo sprouts are edible young leaves of many bamboo species. Shoots are young bamboo culms that emerge above ground. They are used as vegetables in various traditional Asian soups and sauces.

When Is Bamboo In Season?

The best times to plant bamboo in areas with hot summers are early spring and late fall. Bamboos thrive in climates with moderate temperatures and a high chance of precipitation. However, you can even plant bamboo in the middle of the season if the soil is shaded by the hot summer sun.