Bamboo is a beautiful modern evergreen shrub, but if unchecked, it may spread uncontrollably.
Basic Bamboo facts
Name – Phyllostachys
Family – Poaceae
Type – bamboo
Height – 33 to 80-100 feet (10 to 25-30 m)
Exposure – full sun
Soil – normal
Foliage – evergreen
Our advice for planting, care and trimming should help you grow beautiful bamboo.
The planting of a bamboo is an important step because it influences root growth and bamboo development.
Sow the bamboo directly where it is to grow
Planting bamboo preferably takes place in fall but can also take place in spring as long as regular watering is provided at the beginning.
Other than these two seasons, at all costs, avoid planting bamboo during frost spells or heat waves.
- Bamboo requires abundant watering upon planting and good mulch over the winter to reduce risks of freezing for the ground and roots.
- Bamboo prefers locations with high exposure to sunlight.
- Although bamboo grows in virtually all types of soil, it thrives most in slightly acid soil.
- Bamboo doesn’t cope well with soils that are too dry.
Take note: bamboo can quickly become invasive
To protect against bamboo invading your entire garden, set a tarpaulin along the sides of the hole, forming what is called a root or rhizome barrier.
- The rhizome barrier must reach a depth of at least 28 inches (70 cm).
- The barrier should emerge above soil level by about 2 inches (5 cm).
- This should avert an excessive spreading of roots.
- Read our page explaining how bamboo spreads and how to contain it.
Planting bamboo in pots is a great solution to avoid having to manage its invasive traits, and it also makes for a quick solution to provide for more privacy, be it in the garden or on a balcony or terrace.
The golden rule for planting a bamboo correctly is to be sure to make watering easy, since it needs water as soon as the surface soil is dry. Bamboos are very vulnerable to drought and need their substrate to remain damp at all times.
- Choose a pot that is large enough for it to grow.
- Check that the pot has holes at its base, to ensure drainage in case of excess water.
- Add soil amendments designed for shrubs or foliage plants upon planting.
- Add lawn or bamboo fertilizer in spring, because plants in pots consume the soil’s resources much faster that in the open field.
Video: how to plant bamboo correctly
Planting bamboo in pots or in garden boxes
Bamboos are among those shrubs that adjust very well to being grown in pots or garden boxes.
However, it is important to anticipate regular watering of your bamboo when the soil dries up, because roots in pots can lack water in case of extended dry spells.
- To retain water as long as possible, choose an adequate soil conditioner designed for planting instead of simply using garden dirt, and also feel free to mulch the base during summer.
- A place that is well exposed to sunlight without being scorching is recommended for bamboo.
The best time to multiply bamboo is during the spring.
How to easily multiply bamboo
- Use a spade to dig out a rhizome that is at least 2 years old (younger rhizomes must be avoided).
- Choose those rhizomes that don’t yet form a culm (a bulging node).
- Plant this rhizome in the ground, garden box or pot, using a mix of garden earth and soil mix.
- Water abundantly without drowning the rhizome.
Pruning and caring for bamboo
Bamboo is an easy plant to care for, provided the essential step of setting up a rhizome barrier at planting is well performed. Once it is in place, bamboos require little care and can be trimmed in any possible manner.
Trimming bamboo correctly
Height is yours to decide, and you may choose how high to let it grow without any dire consequence.
It will not only allow for your bamboo to hold well, it will also increase the density of stems in the clump.
Trimming bamboo is not a problem, but take note that once trimmed, stems (or culms) do not grow back. At most, some side branches may extend slightly, but they will never reach the initial height of the main culm.
However, new culms will sprout at the base of the clump, and they will grow to reach the desired height.
You might wish to choose a fast and tall-growing bamboo species such as Phyllostachys nigra or Phyllostachys aurea.
One of the bamboo varieties most present in temperate zones is Pseudosasa japonica, also called Japanese Arrow Bamboo. It boasts large leaves and reaches heights of 16 to 17 feet (4 to 5 m), and loses its leaves from the bottom up as years go by.
Caring for bamboo
Bamboos require practically no care once they are well rooted.
- Regular watering of the bamboo during the first 2 years after planting allows for strong root development and culm growth.
Caring for potted bamboo
The most important thing for potted bamboo is regular watering, preferably in the evening, since this plant requires a lot of water, especially at the beginning.
The pot should be at least 18 inches (45 cm) deep, and the width depends on the desired clump size.
Bamboos are very thirsty plants.
It is important to not let the soil dry up between watering sessions.
Using mulch at the beginning maximizes water retention and favors soil moisture.
Adding fertilizer is important for bamboos, especially for potted bamboos.
The best bamboo fertilizers must contain high levels of nitrogen. It is best to choose bamboo fertilizer or even simple lawn fertilizer since bamboo is actually a member of the grass family.
Add bamboo fertilizer at the beginning of spring. Eventually, supplement again after 5 to 6 weeks.
If possible, choose granulated fertilizers that are slow-releasing.
Although it resists most diseases, bamboo is rather vulnerable to several species of insects and parasites.
Thus, aphids might appear. They are often harmless for bamboos, unless they invade in large numbers.
- Add special bamboo or lawn fertilizer to reinforce your bamboo’s defenses.
- Techniques on how to fight aphids
Bamboos are also vulnerable to scale insect attacks. Leaves develop a whitish accumulation, turn yellow and eventually fall off.
- Natural treatments to fight scale insects
Finally, red spider mites can be seen sucking the sap from bamboos, leading to yellowing leaves that eventually fall off.
- Here is how to fight red spider mites
Learn more about bamboo and their roots
It was first found in China, then in Japan, but now it grows in many of our western gardens.
Its perfectly straight stems and rather thin leaves make it hard to see through.
Today, it is a trendy plant that is often used for evergreen hedges, and also in pots or garden boxes on terraces and balconies.
- Bamboos all develop underground stems that are called rhizomes.
- These rhizomes store the accumulated energy and nutrients for the bamboo.
- Roots are called adventitious roots, which means that they develop around the rhizome buds.
- Bamboo rhizomes are able to develop tremendous pressures. Thin films are not enough to stop them, which is why strong rhizome barriers are the only solution.
Bamboos have an extremely rapid growth and resist dry spells and frost rather well.
Smart tip about bamboo
Choose bamboo if you wish to hide yourself from your neighbor’s view in short time while adding an exotic touch to your garden.
- Read all our pages and tips related to bamboo
Bamboo on social media
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Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Bamboo up close (also on social media) by Mark ★ under © CC BY-NC 2.0
Bamboo leaves by JacLou DL under Pixabay license
Forest of bamboo by Kang Chu under © CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Bamboo with pale sky (also on social media) by Rosalyn & Gaspard Lorthiois, own work
Deep blue sky with swaying bamboo (also on social media) by Rosalyn & Gaspard Lorthiois, own work