How do I divide off a section of a clumping bamboo?

A customer writes:
Hi, Sherry. I've been missing your column in the "Slantinel". They've been making so many changes in the last few months. Did you ever get a book published?

I have a question. I've got to move some of my bamboo; I made the mistake of putting some of it too close to other plants, and now I've got to make some room. I can see from your FAQ that now seems to be an okay time to do it, but what do I do, just dig it up and replant it? I was thinking of moving only half a clump to a new spot. Can I just slice down the middle, dig out what I want to transplant, and replant, or do I have to cut it back?

Thanks for any info you and Ralph can give me. All the bamboo I got from you is doing absolutely fantastic, especially with all this rain, and the seabreeze my daughter, Emily, put in has almost completely obscured the house next door.


My response:
Hi Dave - My column only runs in the Lake County edition of the Orlando Sentinel now but you can read it online on my SIMPLY LIVING blog where I post new columns each Monday (you can sign up to be a FOLLOWER and receive automatic updates). I haven't gotten my book published yet but it is in the works.

You can certainly divide off a section of your existing clump but be forewarned: It ain't easy! Also, if you don't have to do it right now, it would be a little better if you waited until all the new shoots stopped growing and leafing out because any new shoots that haven't leafed out may not survive transplanting. Dividing during the late winter or early spring (before the new shoots emerge) is the ideal time to make divisions. Whenever you do it, it helps to use a sawsall to cut through the roots and to top the plants so only about a third of the top growth is left on the part you want to divide off. If you wet the ground down thoroughly before digging, it will make your job less difficult. After the section is divided off, make sure it is potted up and set in a shady place where it gets frequent watering to recuperate fully before setting back out into the ground.


I love getting letters from happy customers!

A customer wrote to say:
My father and I came to your nursery a couple times to pick up some bamboo and we found you to be very helpful. He had purchased bamboo from Kanapaha yearly sale and although that bamboo is doing well, the bamboo he bought from you is really sprouting shoots this year. Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for all your help and to let you know that your bamboo is very healthy. My father has purchased the Giant Timber, Dwarf Buddha, Blue, and Angel mist from you and they all have done extremely well this summer! See ya next year!!!

My response:
Thanks for writing! We're always happy to hear that our bamboo babies have found such a happy home. Although it sounds like your plants are doing just fine, it never hurts to add a top dressing of organic matter around the base of your bamboos. You can use any of a number of materials: compost, manure, grass clippings, peat, leaves, our bamboo booster mix or any combination of those materials. Unlike trees, which don't like to have soil supplements right up against their trunks, bamboos don't mind at all if the canes are surrounded by additions of organic matter. The nutrients from those materials will leach into the soil and feed the roots. The result will be more explosive growth and even healthier plants.


Is it okay to plant a ground cover under my bamboos?

A customer from the Tampa area recently wrote:
Sherry, my wife and I recently (June) made the drive from Tampa and purchased 18 Asian Lemon bamboo from your farm. We have been EXTREMELY pleased. We started off with a total of 20 shoots in each of the 18 3-gal containers. We now have over 90 shoots in the entire planting. Absolutely love it!

We are now looking to add some ground cover for weed control. I do not want to smother out new shoots or plant anything the will "compete" with the bamboo. Our planting beds are approx 4 feet wide by 60 feet long. We were thinking about lantana. do you have any thoughts or opinions or recommendations?

My response:
I'm glad to hear the bamboos are doing so well. Lantana would work fine as a ground cover. At the nursery we've used three different plants as ground covers around the bamboos - Wandering Jew, Ruella and Wedelia - but other plants will work fine too. You don't have to worry that the ground covers will smother or compete with the bamboos. New shoots will have no difficulty growing up through them. I'm sure Lantana in any of its many colors will look lovely again the yellow with green-striped canes of Asian Lemon.

Ruella coexisting happily beneath a grove of Vivax running bamboo.

Wandering Jew beneath a clump of Angel Mist