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How to Grow Bamboo: A Complete Guide

Bamboos are a group of perennial evergreen weeds that belong to the grass family of Poaceae. The Poaceae family number 91 genera and more than 1,000 species of bamboo. The bamboos are the largest representatives of the grass family. A bamboo tree may reach a height of 40 meters, with stem diameters ranging from 1 mm to 30 cm. It is considered one of the fastest-growing wood plants (grasses, actually) on the planet!

Bamboo grows in subtropical and tropical regions of Europe, Australia, Asia, Africa, America, and Oceania. At the same time, grassy bamboo grows only in tropical areas. With every year bamboos are growing the popularity amongst gardeners and not only. Bamboo plants are cultivated to create spectacular hedges and to decorate patios and terraces. It is also popular to produce natural bamboo fabric for clothing, as well as bed sheets, blankets, and mattresses.

Ever thought of growing a bamboo tree in your backyard? We have some small guidelines for you to ease the process.

Seeds or seedlings?

As bamboos mainly grow through their roots and/or rhizomes, it may be a superb idea to buy a few already grown seedlings. The seeds itself are cheaper, though harder to grow in natural soil in the back of your yard. Growing bamboo seeds will take more time and effort from you and it may not give you the result you wished for.

bamboo plant benefits

Bamboo seedlings will give you a significant head start on the season since their maturity rate will be shorter and will cause an earlier growth of your bamboo tree.

Seedlings are more resistant to pests because they are more mature and stronger when transplanted. Many pests love snacking on the tiny seedlings. Therefore, the risk of losing your brand new bamboo hedge is lower as compared to seeds.

Bamboo Growing Conditions

Planting bamboo in an open soil should be done in the period from March to September, as any other regular plants. The best time would be March or April. For the best bamboo growth, it is better to find a sunny place. Bamboos are versatile plants, and most of their species can survive in uncommon conditions.

But bamboo growing in full sun will grow the fastest. Bamboo grass also likes to have fertile, slightly acidic, well-drained soil. The place where you would like to grow your bamboo must be protected against the cold and dry wind. A simple fence would be enough to protect the plant from the wind.

As long as you provide a few of these conditions, most bamboos will still be able to grow to their fullest.

How to Plant Bamboo?

How to Plant Bamboo?

The process of planting bamboo trees is the same as for the other plants and trees in the garden.

  • Before putting into the soil, the bamboo should be immersed in a water tank, along with the container in which it grows for a couple of hours. Remove bamboo grass from the container only after air bubbles have completely disappeared.
  • After that, carefully put it into a beforehand prepared pit. The pit should be at least twice bigger than the volume of the bamboo root system. The bottom of the pit should be covered with a mix of nutritious garden soil and humus trying to eliminate all voids. 
  • The topsoil (up to 2 inches) does not have to be compacted though. You should water the planted bamboo grass well enough and all remaining voids will completely disappear.

Planting the bamboo this way allows it to establish faster, as the surrounding soil will be loose and the roots and rhizomes will grow in it more quickly.

The planting densities between bamboo seedling are determined depending on the species.

The smaller the bamboo species are, the higher (closer) the densities are. And vice versa, the larger the bamboo species are, the lower densities must be (spaced out).

But you should be careful, if bamboo seedlings are planted too far from each other, they may lose the soil moisture because of evaporation and may not survive the competition from other plants and weeds.

On the other hand, if the seedlings are planted too close, it may lead to bamboo trees competing amongst themselves for space and light.

Watering a Bamboo Plant

In the case of growing bamboo trees in the middle latitudes, you need to learn how to water it properly. Freshly planted bamboo needs to be carefully watered during the first couple of days until it starts to actively grow. Spreading mulch around plants to keep roots cool and moist is a must. Mulch is a material (such as decaying leaves, bark, or compost) spread around or over a plant to enrich or insulate the soil. After the plant begins to grow, watering will need to be reduced to 2 or 3 times a week. You should also take into consideration the weather and whether it rains often at this time of year.

Bamboo is a moisture-loving plant, and if it feels a lack of water, it will develop a very powerful and long root system that can take moisture from the deep layers of the soil. If you notice that the leaves are rolling up, just water the plant a little more often. Yet, do not keep the soil soaked. The stagnation of water can lead to root decay.

Containment

There are two dominant types of bamboo – Running Bamboos and Clumping Bamboos.

Clumping bamboo is very peculiar because of its specialty of growing in the close groups and not spread chaotically around.

On the contrary, the root system of the running bamboo grows superficially.

They grow into the soil on 2-8 inches max and mostly spread on the surface. This feature helps bamboo plants to explode rapidly, capturing wider areas. If this is not something you are planning on doing, cut off new growing roots more than once a season.

Once cut, remove the roots and dispose of them, as they can continue developing. The best decision to limit the spreading is to block rhizomes. Install a continuous polypropylene plastic sheet around the perimeter of the bamboo grove and leave a 2-inches lip above ground to block runners. Remember to never place plastic under roots, as they need very good drainage. Keeping the soil dry extending 10–20 ft. beyond the planting bed can also prevent from runners. Install the sheets overlapped, but not end-to-end, otherwise, the powerful bamboo roots will break through them.

As of clumping bamboos, these types grow in an enlarging circle and do not adjust their shape, although a barrier on just one side is sometimes useful. It is best to plant them well away from fences, so the clump could grow faster. Once a clump has expanded to the desired size, just keep a thorough check on it and break off fresh shoots if you don’t want them there.

Pruning and Trimming

All sorts of bamboo prefer trimming and pruning. New stems will receive more light and strength by cutting the weaker canes. The organic leftovers should be composted.

Bamboo stalks live up to ten years but may begin to dry out and lose their decorative appeal earlier. It is crucial to remove old stems on an ongoing basis. It will help your bamboo to improve health and achieve higher growth of young stems. The older stems will compete for nutrients and the light with young stems, the more it will decrease the overall attractiveness of the bamboo grass.

bamboo plant benefits

Removing old and weak stems should be done closer to the ground. It is recommended to prune old and weak stems once a year in spring.

If you are growing bamboo trees for wood, you can increase its growth by removing more weakened stems. Removing weak stems will give space, nutrients, and more sunlight to grow bamboo to gigantic proportions. The trimming can be done at any season except for winter.

Winter Season

The first winter for bamboo is the most difficult.  The bamboo root system can freeze at a temperature below 17 degrees celsius. If the temperature goes lower than negative 20 degrees the stem of the plant, located above the snow cover dies. Experienced gardeners recommend bending plant trunks to the surface of the mulch and cover it with branches. These actions will protect the plant from freezing in the case of cold winter. If the plant successfully survives the first winter, then in the following years it will easily tolerate lower temperatures up to negative 20 degrees.

Vegetative Propagation of Bamboo

In spring you need to dig up several plantings, which are at least 3 years of age. Then you can plant them in a new area, which should be a little shadowed. The freshly planted seedlings must be provided with daily watering, but first, they need to be pruned by one third. 

Diseases and Pests of Bamboo

Bamboo trees are highly resistant to both diseases and pests. However, there are certain types of bamboo on which bamboo mites particularly like to settle. Bamboo Mites live and colonize under the leaves where they form a white protective webbing. Underneath the leaves, bamboo mites suck the fluid out of the leaf. This affects the leaf with a pale, cream-coloured patch visible on its upper surface. As the mites continue feeding, these markings become more prominent and can sometimes cover the entire leaf. You should treat the affected leaf with acaricide to get rid of mites.

In some cases, bamboo can be damaged by rust. Try using fungicides to get rid of it.

Yellowing of Bamboo

If the usual color of bamboo changes to yellow in autumn, then this is a natural process. Part of the leaf blades dies in the autumn because bamboo thereby preserves the energy required in the winter period. In winter, all yellow foliage will fall off completely, thus in spring, the plant will gain its fresh appearance.

Though, if the leaf changes its color in summer or spring, then this may suggest that something is wrong. The leaves may turn yellow either due to chlorosis or as a result of flooding. In case the soil is too moisturized the bamboo root system can be affected by rot. Therefore, when planting seedlings in clay or heavy soil, it is recommended to make a very good drainage layer of sand or gravel at the bottom of the planting pit. 

Chlorosis can develop since the plant feels a lack of nutrients such as nitrogen, magnesium, or iron. 

How long does bamboo live?

How long does bamboo live?

An average bamboo cane may live up to 4-7 years, depending on the species. As previously mentioned, bamboo can propagate vegetative, so when the older plants start to expire, you will always have a back-up of young seedlings emerging from the ground every spring and summer.

Bamboo growth rate approximately estimates of 24 inches or more per day. 

Conclusion

Bamboo is a sustainable wood and renewable resource. It is used more and more in furniture as a replacement for cedar, mahogany, and other popular hardwood lumbers. Not only is this multifaceted plant used for furniture, but it is also used structurally for buildings, textiles, and as a food source. Bamboo has been used as a construction material for a long time in the east. Inherently strong and aesthetically pleasing, bamboo catches different parts of the globe as a sustainable resource.

With a rapidly growing population, the demand for wooden products places enormous pressure on our global hardwood resources and also exhaust nature. Bamboo provides a high-performance alternative, allowing the trees to remain untouched.

Mary Kashinsky

Hi there, my name is Mary. I love reviewing bamboo products and writing about sustainable solutions & greener lifestyle options as a hobby. When I’m not in front of the screen, I read, relish traditional food, practice yoga, travel and enjoy life!

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