Planting bamboo can be very advantageous for the average gardener. It has a unique look and is easy to maintain, making it a simple way to spruce up the backyard décor, construct a natural fence and much more.
Bamboo is a grass, so its growth patterns will be similar to an average lawn; however, most people plant it for a specific function so the amount of attention that you give to it will be similar to most plants.
There are several different factors that must be considered before you plant bamboo that will help ensure it survives through its infancy and has a long, healthy life.
Before you plant bamboo it is important to understand two different concepts. The first would be the explanation of its rhizome. A rhizome is the horizontal and underground stem of the plant in which vertical shoots grow from.
They are known to spread rapidly and continuously allowing bamboo to effectively take over an area. The second concept is that there are two different types of bamboo. The first of these two is a clumping-type.
This type of bamboo will grow in a circular, colony-like manner and grow outwards. This is good when you’re using bamboo to decorate a specific area. The second type of bamboo is the running-type.
This type appears to grow in a single, often straight line. If it is controlled and pruned correctly, this can form a screen or fence. Both types have their advantages and should be considered by the planter depending on the nature of their project.
When considering bamboo plant care there is a variety of factors you should consider.
Such as the environment that you plant in, the amount of spacing between other plants such as weeds or even other planted bamboo, the amount of water and sunlight the plant receives, the type of soil it is planted in and how often the plant is pruned.
If you desire to maximize the strength, growth rate and overall life of your bamboo, then careful instructions must be followed.
What’s the Ideal Climate?
One of the most important factors that growers need to take into account is the climate of the environment that they are going to plant in.
Bamboo is fairly resilient and can grow in a variety of different climates; however it grows best in places that experience moderate temperatures. If you’re planting in hotter or colder environments you should wait for seasons that are less extreme in temperature.
This gives the plant ample time to establish itself, mature and harden. This will increase its chances to survive other seasons. Colder environments should plant during the summer and use heavier mulch for the plant’s first winter season.
This will provide more insulation from the harsh cold temperatures. Hotter environments should plant during fall or early spring, using lighter mulch. You’ll need to water your bamboo more frequently than other areas.
Spacing for Bamboo
Proper spacing is another important factor in bamboo plant care. The optimal spacing between bamboo plants is 3-5 feet. This will enable the plant to grow tall quickly.
However, this may take several seasons to grow larger and is good for filling in a small area in your backyard. If you’re looking to plant an immediate screen or fence, then you may plant in closer proximity.
This will affect the plant’s rate of growth, but will not destroy the bamboo itself. If you want a larger, natural and completely full area of bamboo then it is recommended that you plant between 5-10 and sometimes even 20 feet.
This will take approximately 5 years to grow, but when it is finished the end result will be a completely full area.
The Best Soil for Bamboo
During any plant’s infancy, using the correct soil can be one of the more important factors contributing to a long, healthy life. Bamboo flourishes best in soil that provides nutrients as well as proper drainage.
Working garden compost or manure into the soil is another way to help the young life of bamboo by ensuring that the plant receives the nutrients that it requires. The top layer above this mixture should consist of two to four inches of mulch.
This will enable the rhizome to spread with ease while also providing it with the protection and nutrient it needs to survive. However, adding too much mulch will create a desired habitat for rodents and other animals that will feed on the bamboo’s rhizome and destroy the bamboo.
It is important to remember that damaging the rhizome will have adverse affects on the bamboo’s life. Therefore it is important to exercise caution when maintaining this area, especially when raking.
How Many Hours of Sunlight?
After the plant has been established into the ground, routine care must be provided. The amount of water, sun and protection that it receives will help it pass through its early life and reach maturity.
Once the plant has matured completely it will not require as much attention and will grow rapidly on its own.
Bamboo must receive five or more hours of direct sunlight on a daily basis. During the plant’s younger years it is important to consider that too much sun may cause damage to the plant, especially in hotter climates.
If you’re planting in an environment such as this, then it’s recommended that any direct sunlight received during the hottest parts of the day pass through a screen.
This will allow the plant to receive its much needed sunlight, while regulating the intensity. Planters are encouraged to study their bamboo’s growth habits and to adjust the amount of sunlight it is receiving based off how well it is growing and whether or not it is beginning to wither.
How Often Should I Water Bamboo?
Bamboo has the capacity to retain large quantities of water. It is recommended that it is watered only twice a week during its infancy and once a week when it has established itself.
In hotter conditions it is likely necessary to water the plant up to 4 times a week.
This may seem like a sparse amount of water to many, but there is a very important reason behind this. Watering bamboo more than this will not cause the plant to die, but will have different adverse consequences.
As mentioned before, bamboo is considered a grass. Similar to many other grasses, root depth is dependent on available water sources in that environment.
If the bamboo recognizes that it is in an area where there is little water, the roots will dig deeper in search of natural underground water sources. If the bamboo is given an abundance of water during its infancy, the roots will not grow deeply to search for alternative water sources and as a result the strength of the bamboo shoots will be less adequate than desired.
In order for the roots to develop strongly it is encouraged to exercise proper judgment in balancing how much water the bamboo needs to survive verses preventing dependency on an outside water source.
Every plant must be protected from competitive weeds. Outside plants will compete with the bamboo for nutrients and water. This will deprive the bamboo of essential factors that will contribute to a healthy and long lifespan.
Weeds must be recognized and removed if the bamboo is expected to grow. This is an ongoing process when growing any type of plant or grass.
Often times it is encouraged to use weed or plant killers after the removal of a weed in order to prevent it from growing in certain area again.
This may be a good idea with many traditional, stationary plants but it is never wise to use any type of weed or plant killer when uprooting weeds around bamboo because this may halt the expansion of the rhizome and the growth of any future bamboo.
After the bamboo has matured, the grower can enter into a more relaxed maintenance routine. This is when they can begin to prune their bamboo shoots. It is recommended that one prunes their bamboo plant on an annual basis, but gardeners may prune as regularly needed to obtain whatever style they desire.
Removing a live or unsightly shoot of bamboo will not harm the rest of the plant but dead or dying shoots will. It is recommended that such shoots are removed as soon as possible.
Pruning is a good way to shape bamboo stalks into the form that they wish, however if planters are looking to use the bamboo to build a fence or screen then different procedures must be followed.
In order to build a fence using the running-type bamboo, you must dig a trench-like hole with a width greater than two feet. The length of the trench will equal the desired length of the fence.
In order to ensure that the rhizome grows in a straight line, barriers must be erected along the sides of the trench. It is important not to install a barrier along the bottom of the trench because that will prevent the roots from growing deeply, having an adverse effect on the bamboo’s strength.
The barriers must be tough enough to withstand outside weather and prevent the rhizome from passing through it. A tough plastic is recommended. The barrier should extend about two feet below the surface.
The result is that the rhizome will follow the trench and vertical stalks will grow accordingly creating a natural bamboo fence that may be trimmed and pruned to the grower’s preference.
Bamboo plant care is most important when the plant is young. If the plant is able to establish itself successfully within an environment, then it will have a prosperous life.
If done correctly, planters can enjoy the many uses bamboo will provide them with.
I think we can grow bamboo in farms and use bamboo instead of wood.
These anti-bamboo people are nuts! I have 11 different types on my property in Bradenton, FL and they all look great! Running bamboo can take over, but not clumping. People who visit my home always comment on the gorgeous bamboo. It create more oxygen, pound for pound, than any plant. It screens my neighbors, whom I love but DON’T want to look at.
It provides great privacy, shade, and is the most fun of all my plants to watch grow. It’s exotic, wonderful and people bashing CLUMPING bamboo are either boring or don’t know what they’re talking about. Don’t believe the negative hype, bamboo is fantastic to have in your yard.
In FL, everybody has queen palms, birds of paradise, etc. Not many people have bamboo, which is why it stands out and gets so much attention. Once established, they only need a small amount of care, a little fertilizer, a little mulch, water during a drought.
This summer has been super WET in Bradenton and the bamboo is thriving! This negativity from a few people is perplexing to me as somebody who has been dabbling in plants, trees, etc. for over a decade.
I appreciate your “informed” input as to those who are just repeating what they’ve heard or read or don’t understand the difference between running and clumping bamboo. I’d love to have you write an article with photos of the bamboo that you have. I think we typically pay one hundred bucks for an article like that. Contact Duston in the office at [email protected]
bamboo can only become an issue if the person who planted it make a proper research what type of bamboo suitable in the area before planting it..
if you start bamboo in your yard you have to be nuts
it’s tuff to kill and tuff get rid of do not start it for any reason it’s bad bad stuff
my wife’s dad started with 1 plant in ten years I had a yard 100 x 100 ft of it the running type
bamboo is very bad . donot do it for any reason
Lighten up Harry
Mike! The picture at the beginning of this article is not bamboo! It’s a type of dracena that for some reason got the name “lucky bamboo” when it became a popular houseplant
In Suffolk County,NY most towns hav a ban on bamboo and impose a fine and you must pay to have it removed.
I am originally from Nassau County but now live in Maryland. How does Suffolk County remove bamboo? The bamboo is overtaking my yard, trying to grow into my house foundation and pool, and overtaking the next door environmental drainage area. I thought it was pretty when I bought my house but I had no idea that it is as invasive as it is. I need help getting rid of it.. Do NOT plant running bamboo. It spreads and is almost impossible to stop or remove.
If it were me I’d cut it as close to the ground as possible, then as soon as it starts to re-grow spray it with Roundup or generic glyphosate. Wait about a week, dig out all that you can, then when it comes up spray again and again. If you don’t want to use the chemical, just dig, clear and keep the area tilled or cultivated for weeks until it stops coming up.
WHY IN HEAVENS NAME IS MIKE ENDORSING THESE PLANTS. i HEARD THAT IN TROPICAL
CLIMATE A BAMBOO PLANT CAN GROW A FOOT A DAY. THEY MAKE BAMBOO FLOORING
DON’T plant bamboo !!!
DON’T plant bamboo !!!
An old bathtub buried 20 inches with at least 6 inches above the ground, or a farm-use water trough buried with 6 inches above ground should be your ONLY options considered in planting any bamboo. It has strong, invasive running roots that plastic and even sheet metal can’t hold back. Once established,it takes over and makes enemies of everyone around you.
The previous owner of my property planted it for a border on the right and rear sides of the yard. It grows 40-50 feet high, is at least 20 feet into both neighbors’ yards, and spreads about 10 feet every year in every direction. It messes up septic drain fields, underground utilities, overhead power lines, robs moisture of all ornamental plantings and snuffs out trees and shrubs in its path.
I can’t think of any reason to promote growing bamboo except for erosion control on a remote hillside,,,still then, it will block your view from above and Juniper will do a better job.
If you have a small yard, you have no room for bamboo.
Mary Mills says
You are correct. Bamboo and pampus grass. Public enemies.
Susan Gibson says
Most of these complaints are about running bamboo. Clumping bamboo is better behaved. There are many varieties so different sizes and the ones I have make a very tight clump and do not spread, the clump just very slowly expands out wards much like ornamental grasses.
You are right! FEW people know the difference between running and clump bamboos. There are over a thousand species of bamboos…
Bamboos are great plants if they are properly selected and planted
One way to pant a runner beam boo is to dig a hole In ground and cut bottom of a barrel, burry the barrel in the hole leaving 6″ above ground, then plant the bamboo in the barrel
I planted a one gallon pot of running (Phyllostachys Aureosulcata Spectabilis) bamboo on May 14, 2005. I planted it in full sun & very sandy soil & have yet to water, fertilize or supplement it with any particular additive. The canes are a beautiful yellow & it grows about 10′ tall, maintaining it’s green foliage all year long, even in the cold & covered in snow. In the spring, I simply pull-out the “suckers” I don’t want & remove the attached root as far back as I want to limit the spread. I’m sure in a heavy clay soil it might require a whole lot of difficult digging, but the plants are so beautiful all year long & well worth the $65.00 I paid the nursery in Massachusetts I bought it from. I live in SE Michigan.
Jasmine Isara says
I have a little bamboo grove and it does grow and spread in the Spring, but is easy to manage because the young shoots are so soft, I just mow it down. If fact, it came from my neighbor’s bamboo grove, but I love it. I haven’t had any real problems with it so far (7 years now). That little nook is becoming my favorite corner in my yard, It’s shady, is a place where I read and relax, and even my animals find solace there. I am designing it to look like what i call a “prayer garden”, ….more like a zen garden. It’s very peaceful.
I have had Bamboo for the past 6 years and keep it in pots because it was a running bamboo. It was “Japonica Bamboo” AKA Japanese Arrow Bamboo. I grow so tight that even a mouse cannot get thru it and spreads lightening, which is why I keep it in Pots. Also I have some Clumping Bamboo and it grows to about 16-18 feet tall and still have it in pots so I can keep better care of them. I split them every Spring and they grow really beautiful. I find them no harder to take care of than any of my raised vegetable and strawberry gardens. It is all up to you how you contain them and fertilizer them, like Mike said they are just a large grass, and the fertilizer I was told to use and I do use is Grass Fertilizer and they are growing just fine.
What many people confuse for bamboo is Japanese Knotweed. It is quite prevelant in central and northern NY, I am not sure about downstate. There are two methods I know of to eradicate it. Dig and dig and dig, or cut it and treat the wet cut with herbicide. Spraying it uncut doesn’t work.
I don’t know if I could grow bamboo in central NY or not, but I would probably bury a plastic bucket to try it in a landscape project.
I’ve actually been considering bamboo as a screen in my yard. My lot is pretty small and the neighbors are close so I was looking for something narrow but tall so it wouldn’t take up too much of my backyard but still provide privacy. I knew there were some that were considered non-invasive so I was doing some research and came across a website for a company near me that grows quite a few varieties of bamboo and they had great information on how to control it. With great pictures. http://www.bamboogarden.com/barrier%20installation.htm. Hopefully this link is allowed, it’s provided only for informational purposes.
Where can we buy some bamboo shoots to plant? Is it okay to plant in the fall? I’m thinking they would be nice in the pasture — the goats would like them and would dress up the pasture (I have a small pasture that butts up to my neighbor’s yard, and would act like a privacy screen somewhat).
I really love my bamboo. Here in Michigan it was a slow starter until the last few years. We have now warmed up to be considered zone 6 rather than 5. The nice part about it is I can harvest it for garden support poles which I also sell with my plant starts. Some of my poles get to 3/4-1inch diameter.
I live in Bergen County in northern NJ. I have lived here for 12 years and my former neighbor brought these shoots back from Costa Rica. There are hundreds of them and are about 35 ft tall. They provide a magnificent screen but when we have a snow storm (often) they become laden and bend over to the ground causing it impossible to pass them on the street. They are a lot of work and very messy but they are a sight to behold.
Yes, they spread like crazy (into the blacktop). We count about 60 new shoots every spring. We don’t do anything to them (fertilize, etc.). We have had to prop them up which really has helped.
Also, If you bury an old bathtub and leave it about a foot high … old hot tubs … boats … they make great containment devices. I pour a concrete curb/wall that’s 3ft. deep and 1 foot above ground in organic forms … then plant it! They are quite fabulous ! DirtBoy Dave
Now, that planter sounds like the solution! I think bamboo looks so beautiful and I was almost dissuaded from thinking of planting it until I saw your response. Thank you!
Gloria Ericsen says
Years ago when we had running bamboo in our backyard, the new spikes emerging from the ground were like stainless steel. One afternoon when my teenage kids were playing badminton, my daughter unfortunately jumped up and landed on one of those spikes which was about 3 inches out of the ground and it went through the sole of her shoe and into her foot. My son had to actually yank her foot up off the spike and it necessitated a trip to the ER because of the puncture wound through a filthy shoe sole and into her foot. BEWARE
Tessy Antony says
I think the picture shown is wrong.It is not regular bamboo, but ‘lucky bamboo’ which is not a grass but a house plant.Scientific name Dracaena sanderiana
it is exactly what I planted, the house type, lol, believe me when it gets a chance, they grow like crazy,,,,,,
I have to agree 110% with Carole, I would never use bamboo. I have been fighting runners that
a previous homeowner had planted. I dug up the whole area last spring hoping to rid the yard of them and thought i had until new sprouts popped up from underneath my deck. I have started to use weed and grass killer heavily on them and hopefully……
I live in zone 9 and planted a clumping bamboo years ago. I planted it near my henhouse. I love it and the wild birds hide in it and the hens like to lay under it. It’s about 20 plus feet high. I have never had any trouble with it. I plan on cutting some rhizomes for transplants. It does make a great specimen plant and the cuttings make great stakes.
Mary Ann says
I also agree with Carole. My prior owner had bamboo planted and I had it all dug up. Now I see more of it popping out. i would never plant bamboo. Too invasive.
Bamboos are a fun plant to have, I remember as a kid the river down the road had over 100 miles of bamboo growing along the banks.
Previous owner here in Virginia planted bamboo as a screen and it jumped the heavy plastic containment, running throughout yard and pushing through asphalt driveway. I have been fighting it for several years now, an expensive and frustrating battle. Sorry but i have to issue this warning. I keep running into others with this vexing issue. My suggestion is to never ever plant it, there are other ways to go for screening.
I agree…the previous owner of my home planted bamboo along one side of the property as part of an ongoing war with the neighbor on that side. It has taken over the adjacent section of hi property, but he doesn’t seem to mind it.
It is not something that is easily controlled…it can jump over most barriers and I’ve also found the rhizomes much deeper beneath the surface of the soil than they are “supposed to be” in areas of looser soil. Slicing the ever-running rhizomes along the perimeter with a spade 3 or 4 times a year tends to work pretty well for containment, but that often means ripping up a tangled mess of rhizomes and roots, which will uproot the soil it runs through, be that a garden bed, your lawn, or the soil around your foundation or driveway. Ever so often I’ll find a shoot popping up in the middle of my beds or my lawn, 15 feet or more away from the main planting when a deep runner secretly gets out unnoticed. If the entire new shoot and rhizome isnt removed, it will just continue to proliferate in whatever direction it chooses…cutting the rhizome once it’s throwing shoots won’t do the job as it’s bascially created a new plant at that point.
Also, when it’s not appropriately clumped, it tends to grow very tall and then to bend over, and to drop leaves, especially when wet or snow covered. During high winds it has whipped and broken a few of my storm windows.
Overall I do like the effect of it, especially the sound of the wind through the leaves, but everyone should understand that planning the location and management of any running bamboo is absolutely essential and something that takes commitment and constant upkeep. If you change your mind about it later, you’re going to have to dig it out and destroy whatever is planted around it, unless you’re fond of applying highly caustic industrial grade chemicals in your garden (which often dont do the trick anyway).
You want to mix your roundup(glyphosate) and 2-4D both from agway (their brand is cheaper) with tordon … it can be mail ordered from foresters supply online … mix those 3 quarts together in a 1 gallon plastic container. Then I pour just enough to paint the leaves of the plant with a foam paint brush…when I’m done I leave the brush in that bag…next to the jug. It will kill anything that you paint it on and you will not have (over-spray) from a pump sprayer. A friend of mine uses those $3 dollar cleaning spray bottles…not the dollar ones as they don’t last one use. Hope this is helpful. DirtBoy Dave!
please don’t kill it, offer it to others, i know if i was in your area i’d come get it. i grow both black and golden bamboo here in florida and can tell you you’d have to put a lot of poison on the ground to kill it completely. digging it up is the best means of removal.
I was interested in your comment on the Bamboo plant killer. I have Chinese Elms and they are an extremely prolific grower, which I am constantly fighting. I was wondering if your method of killer would work?
1 Gallon of W Vinegar+1 cup of Salt + 1tablespoon of Dish soap kills weeds.
Be careful though it kills plants near to it too
And its much safer to the enviroment
Please STOP using Round up
Nola Martin says
We planted our black bamboo in a heavy plastic stock watering container that is used for farm animals. It’s about 3ft by 5ft and the bamboo cannot go any further than that. We left the bottom in the container but poked drain holes in it. Our bamboo is doing great and has been in the ground for about 4 years now.
great idea thanks
what climate are you in Nola ?
Now, that planter sounds like the solution! I think bamboo looks so beautiful and I was almost dissuaded from thinking of planting it until I saw your response. Thank you!
I had planted bamboo, and wasn’t told of th einvasive aspects, as soon as I found out, I took it out,,, a neighbor down the street has some, its slowly overtaking his entire back yard and is a nuisance.
The best advice I can give is to dig deep, try to remove all of the rooting system, and then throw salt on the dirt, supposedly nothing will grow after you put salt, but in a few years im sure the earth can be amended with leaves, and compost and veggie leftovers,,,, the best advice I can give.
Also, I planted mine in Cancun, we are 10 degrees warmer than Hawaii, and let me tell you that the sun is very strong here and its never stopped the bamboo from growing,,,, advice, plant another type of hedge,,,,,,, god luck to all.
use a mixture of 1 gallon of W vinegar 1/2 -1 cup of salt and 1tea-tablespoon of dish soap
It kills weeds but be careful it will also kill close by plants
I have 5 bamboo plants one of which has black bamboo poles how can i tell which is which as to runner or spinner as Jen asks too please
How do I know if I have a “spinner” or a “runner” bamboo? Is there a way to tell by looking at it?
DON’T PLANT [email protected]!!!!
Charline Jolly says
There is a plant called “cane” that looks a lot like bamboo, and is a terrible pest. My neighbor planted it and we fought those rhizomes the whole time I lived there. I think this is the plant that gives bamboo it’s invasive reputation.
hi… in order to know if its a clumber or runner you need to know its species or just watch its growing habits. in a year or 2 it will shows its growing tendencies.
One way to figure out runners from clumpers is to look at the cane/shoot. I’m not sure if this works with all bamboo but if it has a completely round shoot it’s a clumping bamboo. If it has a flat/indentation “running” Up The cane/shoot then it’s a running kind. I have a running bamboo in my back yard and it’s amazing. I bought my house with it already established and it has never had a problem yet. It does grow well but it’s somehow contained. I’d like to find out how its contained in its approx. 40 foot square area but I’m scared to ruin it’s barrier if it even has one. Just looking at it would would never tell a barrier is there.