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Bamboo is an unusual and useful plant to grow in your home landscape. When I planted bamboo in my landscape, I did so to provide a living privacy screen and to provide myself with steady supply of pole for my gardening endeavors. My plan has worked out perfectly and my patch of bamboo gets many compliments, plus I have plenty to share with gardening friends and neighbors.
Use these tips for planting and growing bamboo and get started growing your own patch.
Bamboo prefers a warm, tropical climate to grow in. I live in Georgia where the summers are hot and humid, so the plant does very well.
A cold climate with long, severe winters or a dessert region will not be good for growing the plant outdoors, but there are indoor-growing species that will grow well in any climate under the right conditions.
There are many different varieties of bamboo to choose from, consult a bamboo species chart to choose the right variety to grow in your climate.
A few species that grow best in hot weather are Alphonse Karr, Golden Goddess, Fernleaf and Midori Green. A few species that grow best in cold weather are Eisenach, Flavescens Inversa, Holochrysa and Koi. Interior bamboo plants are those that have short enough root systems to be grown in pots and can therefore be grown indoors. These include Ventricosa, Vittata, Koi and Tsuboi.
Select a planting location that is in full sunlight. Deciduous trees or a structure on the west side of the bamboo and evergreen trees located on the north side of the bamboo will provide the optimum planting and growing location.
Some species will require light shade during the hottest parts of the afternoon (a west-side tree or structure will provide that needed shade) and all will benefit from shade in the winter to protect the plants from frost damage.
The surrounding trees, shrubs or structures will also help protect bamboo from wind damage and dehydration.
I selected a location that had mature cedar trees to the north and a maple tree to the west, then I removed a few small trees on the north and east sides to provide ample room, frost protection and sunlight for my bamboo patch before planting.
Bamboo (Bambusa spp.) is a versatile plant and most species can survive in many conditions. But bamboo growing in full sun will grow the fastest. Bamboo plants also like to have fertile, slightly acidic, well drained but moist soil.
Bamboo plants grow best in loamy, well-draining, slightly acidic soil. Loam is a mix of sand, silt and clay and can be purchased or mixed yourself.
I tilled the soil for my planting location and mixed in 50 pounds of loam, then re-tilled before planting. The loam provides the plants with nutrients and keeps the soil draining well. If water stands in the soil, the bamboo rhizomes will rot, so good drainage is a must.
If you live in a tropical, coastal climate, such as Florida, you can plant bamboo anytime of the year. In climates that have frost, snow and otherwise cold winters, bamboo should be planted in spring. This will give the plants enough time to establish a strong root system so they will be better able to withstand the cold winds of winter. The cold temperature and snow are not the biggest problems bamboo plants have in the winter, it’s the cold, drying wind that causes the plants to dehydrate.
Bamboo plants should be spaced 3-5 apart as a privacy screen. They can be planted farther apart, but it will take a few years for the space to fill in and provide the desired privacy.
Dig a hole that is as deep and twice as wide as the container in which the plant is in. Don’t dig deeper than the original plant container. Planting bamboo too deep will suffocate the rhizomes.
Mix the removed soil with compost, making it a 50/50 mixture to use to backfill the planting hole. Bamboo roots are delicate and easily broke, use a gentle hand when backfilling the planting hole.
Gently tap down soil to remove any air pockets. The soil should hold the plant secure enough so that blowing winds won’t cause it to topple over.
Water each plant with one gallon of water, gently firming the soil around the plant while you’re watering it. Bamboo will need to be watered 2-3 times per week, so I recommend planting it near a water source.
Add a layer of organic mulch after planting (I use straw) to protect the plant roots and rhizomes, plus help the soil retain moisture. Bamboo plants have a shallow root system and the mulch layer will protect the roots from drying out. As the organic mulch decomposes, it will add nutrients to the soil. Add a layer of fresh mulch once a year.
Thinning and Pruning
That much growth requires the plants to be thinned and pruned regularly.
Bamboo stalks, called culms, live to be about 10 years old, but will often begin to dry out and turn brown before they reach their tenth year of growth.
The old, tall culms compete against the younger culms for sunlight and nutrients, so thinning and pruning the old culms regularly is needed for the bamboo to remain health and aesthetically pleasing.
I use a hand saw to saw off any unwanted bamboo culms at soil level, then I recycle the old, sturdy culms for a landscape or garden project. But if you don’t like to do this yourself, you can always get a professional lawn care service