How bamboo grows and spreads.
Standard plant sizes and supplies.
Installation, Containment and Care.
This book gives practical selection and planting help.
Installation and Care
The Planting Site
While bamboo will grow in most soils it is important to remember it is not a pond plant or a desert plant. It likes water on a regular basis, particularly in summer. Bamboo likes to grow at the edge of a pond, stream or swampy area but not in it. Irrigation is necessary in the west where summers are dry, clear and hot. In the east where summer rains are a regular occurrence irrigation is not necessary except for newly planted bamboo or under drought conditions. The soil range can be from sandy to clay. In sandy/loamy soils, however, watering and feeding will need to be more frequent. Bamboo Giant Bamboo Soil mix has been especially formulated to provide optimum conditions for maximum growth. A heavy mulch of wood chips encourages rhizome growth and maintains even moisture levels. Soil pH is recommended at between 5.5 and 6.5 or slightly acid for most species. Avoid using lime on bamboo. Generally, species that tolerate drier conditions may do better in higher pH soils. Bamboo are not salt tolerant so plant 100 yards from the ocean. Some varieties such as Temple and Arrow are more salt tolerant and better for ocean front.. Typical spacing is as follows. Space dwarf bamboos 18" apart, medium and tall sizes 3’ apart for hedges and 5’ apart for a grove.
Running or Clumping Bamboo
Many gardeners are frightened by the running bamboo species which send out rhizomes that may travel for several feet. These are the culprits of bamboo’s bad reputation among western gardeners. Fortunately, running bamboo can be contained. Clumping bamboo has a different type of rhizome growth that results in the rhizome being very short and, sometimes, almost bulbous. The bamboo that grow only inches away from the center of the plant with densely clustered culms are called clumping bamboo. In basic terms, the running bamboo is found in the more temperate climates. The clumping bamboo is of more tropical origin. The open grove running bamboo is what you may see in photographs of people walking through a forest of bamboo. Clumping bamboo forms tight thickets of canes that are impossible to walk into without cutting your way through first. Most are not very attractive. They tend to be well behaved bamboo that spread much more slowly than the running varieties. The running bamboo will easily form an attractive grove. The best way to enjoy spreading bamboo in the garden is in pots above ground or in a designated area with the bamboo contained by rhizome barrier.
Although any grass fertilizer can be used with bamboo, Bamboo Giant Fertilizer and Supplement has all the microingredients needed specifically by bamboo for long term health. In Japan, tests revealed three times the growth on regularly fertilized groves to unfertilized ones. Fertilizing the bamboo two or three times per year will keep it healthy but for dramatic growth, use Bamboo fertilizer and supplement every time you water! Of course bamboo just loves composted manures of any kind, just don’t overdo it! The ground must breath or the roots will rot. Our supplement will also make your bamboo more resistant to aphids.
The key to keeping the bamboo beautiful is in how one prunes and grooms. Remember that once cut, culms will not grow back. Branches may be trimmed off to expose the culm. Green culms in full sun will yellow over time. For a more open look, the older culms need to be thinned out each year and the spaces between them kept even and open. For the largest culms, cut all small new shoots each year.
Aphids are a minor problem with bamboo. The aphids secrete a sweet material that promotes the growth of sooty mold, resulting in some black spots on the leaves. These will not kill the plants but look unsightly. We control aphids by releasing large numbers of ladybugs each year. Although not eliminating the aphids, the population is controlled. They can be eliminated entirely by spraying. The other pest common in California is the gopher. They love bamboo and will keep your plants from spreading by eating the new shoots.
The best way we know of to kill bamboo is by prolonged flooding. In the winter, berm the area around the bamboo and flood for about 2 weeks.
General Planting Instructions
The plants you have purchased are usually ready for immediate planting unless you are instructed otherwise. If it’s very hot and dry when planting, shade the plants for a couple of weeks, and make sure they do not dry out. Don’t keep them waiting for more than a few hours after unwrapping. Unwrap carefully. Avoid breaking tender, new shoots. Clip off any branches or canes that start to dry out.