Garden Tips: How To Take Care Of Outdoor Bamboo Plants

How to plant, water, feed and prune your own outdoor bamboo plants.

Growing outdoor bamboo plants can be a fun and rewarding endeavor. Fortunately for bamboo lovers it is the fastest growing plant, fairly easy to care for and there are literally hundreds of varieties to grow. As with other plants, there are several basic things you should understand before you attempt to grow bamboo, including: how and in what soil to plant, caring for young plants, feeding and watering, and caring for your plants as they mature. Together we can walk through some of the bamboo basics.

There are two primary kinds of bamboo: clumping bamboo and running bamboo, also known as non-invasive and invasive bamboos. The clumping bamboo grows exactly as the name indicates. It grows in small clumps and does not tend to spread or "invade" your garden readily. On the other hand, running bamboo tends to send out underground root structures that will sprout in other portions of your garden. Care is similar for both of these types. The main difference comes in deciding which you want to grow, and how you plan to propagate more bamboo plants.

Bamboo tends to like well-drained soil, so it is recommended that if you have a heavy/clayey soil that you break it up by incorporating some mulch, composite a small amount of sand. Bamboo also prefers nutrient rich soils with a slightly acidic pH of 6-6.5. Having said that, it is noteworthy that bamboo will grow in almost any soil it is provided, it just might not thrive to the level its planter hopes to attain.



Bamboo groves are almost always started by planting one or several small bamboo plants. As with other plants, you should always plant your startling plant in the soil at the same level it was previously grown in. There are no benefits to planting the bamboo higher or lower in the soil. After you've planted the bamboo, you should fill the hole and lightly compact the soil in an effort to remove any air pockets from the soil surrounding the rootball. Bamboo enjoys staying fairly wet, though few bamboo types like to have their roots sit in standing water. A layer of mulch above the soil can help ensure that your plant does not dry out too quickly. It is especially crucial that young plants receive enough water to become established. The edges of bamboo's leaves will tend to roll up or turn a crusty brown if the plant needs water.

Bamboo is a fast growing plant that needs nutrients and fertilizer to thrive. Care should be taken when fertilizing young plants to ensure that the root structure is not "burned" or damaged by too many nutrients, specifically nitrogen. Other than this caution, bamboo enjoys frequent feedings from a nitrogen rich, general fertilizer such as Miracle Grow.

After you have an established bamboo plant, you might be interested in spreading the bamboo to other areas of your garden, or to a larger area. Though this can be done from seeds or cuttings, the most frequent method of propagating bamboo is through dividing the rootball or cutting the rhizomes. If you are growing a clumping bamboo, you simply dig up a section of the plant, expose the rooball by cleaning off the soil, and then use a shovel or trowel to cut the root system into two or three smaller clumps. Voila! You have more bamboo plants to spread to your garden. If you are planting a running bamboo, again need to dig up a portion of the plant and expose the root system. You are looking for a rhizome-a portion of the roots growing horizontally that should have at least two or three small buds on it. Once you locate a 12 inch portion of this rhizome with a few buds, you can cut it off and plant it elsewhere approximately 2-4 inches deep. You should have new bamboo plants appearing in approximately 6 weeks.

One final area that needs to be discussed is control and pruning of your fast growing, well nurtured bamboo grove. If you are interested in preventing the spread of running bamboo, you should embed a barrier in the soil that extends at least 36 inches down and a couple of inches above the soil. This will keep the running bamboo from spreading into your bamboo free zone. Pruning of the bamboo grove is done mostly to the owner's taste. If you want a thinner clump, simply use sharp shears to cut the bamboo off at soil level. It is recommended that your work to remove stalks that are 3-4 years old, though most bamboo plants will thin themselves as needed.

Following these simple planting, feeding, watering and pruning techniques, you can have a thriving bamboo grove in no time at all!

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