“The easiest way to propagate bamboo garden plants is by division”
Bamboo originate from East and Southeast Asia, the regions of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and also in Africa and a few originate from South America and it’s a species of perennial evergreen grass.
They are fast growing woody stemmed grasses from the sub-family Bambusoideae of the family Poaceae.
Bamboo eliminates more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and produces more oxygen than any other plant on this earth.
The different types of Bamboo is enormous with 91 genera and over 1,000 species.
Stems of bamboo garden plants are called culms which are woody and hollow sections with solid joints between each section. The culms grow from thickened stems just below the surface of the soil and are called rhizomes. The culms grow in hollow sections which are called internodes and they have partitions spaced at regular intervals which are called nodes.
Every node has a bud which can develop into a cluster of flowers or a branch.
At the start of the season new shoots grow slowly but as the season progresses the growth rate increases rapidly. Some species can grow at the rate of 60cm (24inches) a day.
Culms will never change their thickness throughout their entire life span.
New culms grow thicker each year and it’s a good idea to remove the thinner previous years growth.
Stem colours green and gold are well know but there are burgundy, blue and black as well.
Bamboo only flower every 30 to 100 years or so and certain species of bamboo flower simultaneously all around the world. After flowering the plants often die. This flowering behaviour is not fully understood.
There are two types of bamboo, running and clump forming.
Running bamboo garden plants can be slow or fast growing depending on the species. Fast growing bamboo can be extremely invasive. They spread by sending out underground rhizomes.
Running bamboo are classified in three categories:
Phyllostachys which are the giant bamboo and are tallest which can grow to 30 metres plus (100feet).
Sasa and Indocalamus which are medium bamboo growing to a height of around 5 metres (16feet).
Pleioblastus which are low growing ground cover bamboo which grow to a height of about 30cm (1foot).
Clump forming bamboo (Fragesias) form a clump of roots which are not invasive.
Bamboo garden plants are fairly easy to grow and should be treated as any other perennial gardening plants.
They will grow well in any reasonable soil but will benefit from well rotted manure or garden compost being dug into the soil before they are planted.
They do not grow well in clay soils even though they need plenty of water in the growing season.
If you have clay soil you will need to improve it before you plant your bamboo garden plants..... read more
The best time to plant bamboo garden plants is in the spring, ideally after the threat of all frosts has passed.
Keep the soil around your bamboo mulched with a 5cm (2inch) layer of bark, or other suitable material, all year round. This helps retain water in warm weather and provides frost protection for the rhizomes during the winter.
Don’t remove the fallen leaves they will help as a mulch, but they also compost naturally putting nutrients back into the soil.
During the first couple of seasons after planting your bamboo garden plants it is important to keep them well watered. As soon as the top of the soil feels dry give them a good water.
Do not let them dry out, ever, but don’t let them become waterlogged either.
At the start of each growing season give the soil around your bamboo a good sprinkling of a balanced granular fertilizer.
Bamboo garden plants need little maintenance, enough water as needed, well mulched and cut out any broken or spindly stems. And of course with invasive species remove any rhizomes that grow where they are not wanted.
Many gardeners are reluctant to grow bamboo in their garden in the unwarranted fear that they will spread wildly and take over the entire garden.
Well yes this could be true of some of the real invasive running bamboo but generally most bamboo are reasonably or completely well behaved.
Even with the most invasive types steps can be taken to prevent them from spreading any further than you want them to.
Yes it will involve some work, digging a trench, but it is well worth the effort when you see your bamboo growing away lushly and majestically in your garden.
So how do you contain running bamboo?
The most effective way is to install a physical barrier to stop the rhizomes spreading and the easiest way to do this is to use a 30mm or better still a 60mm thick high density polyethylene plastic sheet which is 80cm (30inches) tall.
The polyethylene barriers are available from most garden centres that sell bamboo or another good source is online.
A trench is dug around the entire area you want to grow your bamboo garden plants in to a depth of 70cm (28inches) and the polyethylene barrier is placed in the trench leaving about 50mm (2inches) above the surface of the soil.
The edges of the polyethylene barrier should overlap by, a minimum, of 90cm (3feet) and secured together with double sided tape.
This will prevent even the most rampant bamboo from taking over your garden.
Running bamboo garden plants can also be controlled without using a barrier by snapping off any rhizomes at ground level that spread where you don’t want them to. Snapping them off will prevent the rhizome producing a culm.
Another non barrier method for controlling running bamboo is to dig the ground over to spade depth all around the area you want to keep the bamboo confined to. Do this in the spring and again at the end of autumn, fall, and it will prevent any unwanted rhizomes producing culms.
Clump forming, non invasive bamboo garden plants do not need a barrier and can be grown as most other gardening plants.
Bamboo in Containers
Bamboo lend themselves to being ideal plants for growing in containers.
A tall bamboo placed in the right spot and in the right container will make an eye catching focal point.
There are a few things you must do to ensure your bamboo will survive in a container and grow reasonably well.
Bamboo grown in containers will never grow as big or as well as they do in open ground.
So you will need to take extra care of them.
Firstly make sure the container is big enough for the bamboo you want to grow. Your bamboo might be small when you buy it but don’t forget it will grow and if the container is not big enough it will struggle to grow properly.
Tall bamboos in pots will tend to blow over even in a moderate wind if the container is not heavy enough, so plastic containers are really not a good idea.
Ceramic or terracotta containers are much heavier and will withstand fairly high winds. Not only that they look much better.
You will need to transplant your bamboo into a larger container, or reduce the root size, every couple of years if you are growing them in terracotta pots or the expanding rhizomes will crack or break the container.
Make sure there is adequate drainage in the bottom of the container, place crocks or stones around drainage holes to stop the compost from blocking it. If the compost becomes waterlogged because of poor drainage your bamboo will not survive.
The best compost to use is a John Innes No. 3 or similar but with medium horticultural grit added to improve drainage and weight. Mix about two third John Innes to one third grit.
It is also benificial to mix in a couple of handfulls of bark chippings which should prevent the rhizomes becoming to compact. This will make it easier to reduce the root size or transplanting into a larger container every couple of years.
You should also add a slow release fertilizer to your mix as bamboo need lots of food.
After planting your bamboo in its container mulch the surface with a 5cm (2inch) layer of grit or bark.
Give your bamboo a good watering and leave it in the shade and out of any cold, breezes for a couple of weeks so it can get established. Spray the leaves and stems daily with tepid water, but don’t do this if the sun is on them or it will scorch the leaves.
Make sure the compost never dries out, but don’t waterlog it either. Every two weeks during the growing season give a good feed with a balanced liquid or soluble fertilizer diluted in water.
Full guide to bamboo grown in containers..... read more
The easiest way to propagate bamboo garden plants is by division.
And the best time is March just before they start to shoot, send up new culms. Do not divide or even dig out bamboo when it has started new growth.
In March choose a cool day, not too sunny, or windy to divide your bamboo.
Bamboo will not tolerate drying out, even for a short time, so its important not dig them out and divide them if it is warm and windy.
For running bamboo garden plants dig carefully around the edge of the plant with a fork as this is where you will find rhizomes newly forming and with new buds.
After you have exposed the new rhizomes with new buds cut them from the parent plant with secateurs. Make sure there are good healthy roots attached to the rhizome.
Plant the rhizome off cut immediately to prevent it drying out.
Cover the parent plants base with soil immediately you have removed the rhizome.
Water both the parent and off cut well and mulch them both with a 5cm (2inch) layer of bark or similar suitable material.
Keep the off cut well watered throughout the growing season, make sure it never dries out completely.
Dividing clump forming bamboo garden plants can be a major challenge as they produce such a thick, tight mass of roots and rhizomes.
But it can be done and some species are easier than others.
Dig a trench all around the clump as deep as necessary to expose the bottom of the clump.
If possible carefully lift the whole clump out, some clumps will be way to big and heavy so only lift out the small ones.
Select an off set of the clump that has good strong shots with a good strong root system and with some new buds and cut it away from the parent plant.
This may not be that easy depending on how tight the clump is.
You may need to cut it away with a knife, spade, saw or even a mattock. It can be tough work with some species that are well established.
If the off cut is large enough it can be cut into several pieces. Each piece should have some roots and at least four buds.
Avoid damaging any roots or buds in this process as it will lessen the chance of the off cut surviving.
Cut the culms down to about 20cm (8inches) before planting, this will reduce loss of moisture.
Immediately replant the off cut which should be planted at the same depth as the parent plant.
Cover the base of the parent plant immediately to prevent it from drying out.
Water the parent plant and the off cut well.
Keep the off cut well watered for the rest of the growing season making sure it never dries out, but don’t waterlog it either.
Growing bamboo indoors
Bamboo grown indoors need plenty of light and moisture around the leaves and culms.
Keep the compost moist at all times and mist the leaves and culms regularly, two or three times a day in hot weather. Use tepid tap water and not rain water collected in water butts or barrels.
Throughout the growing season they will need a weekly feed of a balanced liquid or soluble fertilizer.
To increase moisture around your bamboo place the pot on pebbles stood in a pot tray filled with water, just make sure the water is just below the base of the pot to prevent it becoming waterlogged.
Provide adequate ventilation during hot weather.
Prevent cold draughts in winter.
Bamboo will not tolerate centrally heated rooms and should be kept, ideally, in a cool, but frost free, conservatory or somewhere similar.
Quick Steps to Growing Bamboo Garden Plants Successfully
Bamboo need a well drained and humus rich soil which is moisture retentive.
They prefer shelter from strong cold winds.
Maintain a permanent mulch of bark or similar suitable material about 5cm (2inches).
Do not let your bamboo garden plants ever dry out. They should be kept well watered throughout the growing season and moist at all other times.
Bamboo will not grow well in permanently wet soil such as clay. If you have clay soil you will need to improve it..... read more
Feed regularly throughout the growing season with a balanced granular fertilizer. If growing bamboo in containers a soluble or liquid fertilizer is best.
Remove old and weak canes every spring.
Clump where the rhizomes multiply upon and around themselves creating a thick clump.
Culm is the main stem or cane.
Culm sheath is a protective casing attached to culm nodes which protects emerging shoots as they grow.
If you want any further information on bamboo garden plants or any of your favourite gardening plants please feel free to
Diaphragm the solid membrane which forms the partition between the nodes.
Internode is the hollow section between nodes.
Leptomorphic describes a rhizome of a running bamboo.
Node is the solid joint between the hollow internodes of culms they add strength to the canes.
Pachymorphic describes the rhizomes of clump forming bamboos.
Rhizome is the underground growth which stores food and is where buds form and culms grow from.
Rhizome sheath is a protective husk which is protects rhizome nodes.
Running describes bamboo that has rhizomes that spread out in all directions sending up new shoots.
Shoot is the stage just before a bud becomes a culm that bears leaves.
Sulcus is the groove that runs along internodes.
If you want any further information on bamboo or how to propagate and grow any of your favourite gardening plants please feel free to contact us
Bamboo are ideal for growing in containers for a full guide..... read more