How do I know if I'm watering too much?

Bamboo leaves that are receiving adequate water are flat and open
While the leaves of the same type of bamboo (in this case, yellow groove running bamboo) getting insufficient water curl inward

I received this email today:
We have had our bamboo in the ground for about 3 weeks now, Seabreeze and Vivax.  I have the spray emitters I purchased from you on the 12 Seabreeze and have been watering the Vivax by hand.  After reading the internet and your blog I am finding conflicting information on watering.  In one of your recent posts it said water as much as possible during daylight hours.  Another spot on your site I read 30 min twice daily when new.  

Other places on the net vary from every other day to once a week after established. Due to our current schedule, I have been watering with the spray emitters for about an hour a day, sometimes longer in the afternoon and then a good soaking with the hose on the Vivax.  I have mulched the plants with leaves and the soil remains damp until the next watering.  I am seeing a lot of new growth on the current canes so I assume I am giving enough water. 

I think my main concern is over watering since I know they are not getting dried out between waterings.  I planted with your bamboo booster as directed and have typical very sandy soil outside of where we replaced with the bamboo booster.  Is there much risk of over watering?  Is there any harm in watering in the evening or possibly after dark?  I know I need to buy a timer, but I am in manual mode for now.  Any tips are appreciated.

My response:
Sorry for the confusing information.  The bottom line with bamboo in FL is that it is almost impossible to give them too much water.  If the bamboo are standing in water that doesn't drain away for more than two weeks, that would be a problem, but that isn't likely to happen in FL.  It might happen if you lived in an area where soil drainage is poor with, for instance, pockets of heavy clay.  In that case, over-watering would be a concern.

The post where I mentioned watering the bamboo as much as possible refers to recently transplanted large clumps of bamboo like the one pictured in that post.  The watering you are doing to your smaller plants is perfectly adequate.  The thing to understand with bamboo is that it likes water and sends out more shoots when grown in moist conditions. 

That's not to say bamboo won't grow well with less water.  It will, just not as vigorously.  We tell people to water frequently in the beginning to both help the plants adjust to transplanting and also to encourage growth.  After two or three years, your bamboos will have met or exceeded your initial size/height/width expectations.  (For examples of bamboo growth, see the
'Before and After' pictures sent by our customers.)  At that point you might want to back off watering.  You can even stop irrigating completely after a couple years and the bamboo will still do just fine. 

The thing to remember is you can slow down or increase the size of your clump by adjusting TWO THINGS:  The amount of water the bamboo receives and the frequency of soil amendments in the form of fertilizer and/or top dressings of organic matter like leaves, grass clippings, compost, manure, etc.  

More of both = More prolific growth.

Regarding the time of day to water, it is not important when you water.  Do it whenever it is convenient for you.  The main thing, when your plants are young, is to water them regularly.  We recommend using a programmable timer but even if you rely on hand-watering, use the bamboo leaves as indicators of your watering needs.  If you see leaves beginning to curl, then you know they need more water.  Turn on the sprinklers, the leaves will uncurl and the bamboos will be happy.

It doesn't matter if you use overhead sprinkers, spot spitters or hand-water, the important thing is to water your newly transplanted and young plants regularly


Bamboo flutes

People have been making musical instruments out of bamboo for thousands of years.  The oldest bamboo flute dates back to 433 BC and was discovered in the Tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng at the Suizhou site, Hubei province, China. 

Over the ages, people around the world have transformed hollow bamboo tubes into sweet sounding musical instruments.  Instrument makers from China, India, Korea, Japan, Polynesia, Cambodian and many other countries have their own unique take on the construction of bamboo flutes.  

At Beautiful Bamboo, we receive many inquiries from bamboo flute makers.  Recently, Erik the Flutemaker, from Davie, FL stopped by with his associate, Leo.  

Erik the Flutemaker plays one of his 'Starry Night' flutes at Beautiful Bamboo

After having read about the different varieties on our website, Erik and Leo came to take a tour of the demonstration gardens and see in person the different clumping bamboos pictured on our website. 

Leo serenades us with melodic sounds

When it comes to making flutes, clumping bamboos are better than running varieties because the distance between the culm sections in clumping bamboo is considerably longer than it is in runners.  Other consideration include the diameter of the canes, the wall thickness and the coloring of the bamboo exterior. 

While Leo watches, Erik (on right) shows Ralph where to drill holes on a Bambusa multiplex 'Silverstripe' cane.  In the background stands a large clump of bamboo of the same type of bamboo.

As we toured the property with Erik and Leo, we looked for bamboos with the specific qualities needed to build the type of flutes Erik and Leo construct.

After choosing an appropriate pole, Erik give it an initial cleaning with a handful of pine needles and bamboo leaves picked up off the ground


Relocating a large clump of Yin-Yang bamboo

Timmy and Ralph relocate a two-year-old Yin-Yang bamboo

My office window faces a clay wall that we carved out of a hillside years ago in order to build our house.  The wall is not particularly attractive and to hide it we have planted bamboos.  A couple days ago we transplanted a two-year-old clump of Bambusa emeiensis viridiflavus or Yin-Yang to a spot directly across from my office window.

Timmy lowers the bamboo into a prepared hole filled with a good base of our custom soil mix, Bamboo Booster.  When planting bamboo, it is important to replace nutrient poor soil with a rich, light soil mixture and to water the transplanted bamboo during daylight hours for as long as possible.
Now I can look out at Yin-Yang, which is currently my favorite bamboo.  It's a large-caned bamboo with an unusual striping pattern.  Although the culms (canes) are green, alternating sides of each culm are striped with a series of vertical yellow lines.  The culm sections are also banded by a fairly broad horizontal white line that is particularly attractive and distinctive.

Yellow stripes and a broad white band add to Yin-Yang's allure

Yin-Yang also has pretty leaves that grow differently than many other clumpers.  It has a very Asian feel to it that makes me think of a zen garden or meditative space.  Simply looking at this special bamboo is soothing.  That's especially helpful when I'm stressing out over particularly full workload or impending deadlines.


Not sure if a bamboo is a runner or clumper? Exercise caution.

A customer who bought bamboo from us in January recently went to a local flea market where she purchased a container of bamboo from someone who couldn't say what kind of bamboo it was.  The customer then sent us the following picture of the bamboo along with an email asking us to identify the plant for her:

Buying bamboo from someone who isn't certain what kind of bamboo they are selling is risky

Hi, I went to a flea market and stumbled upon a bamboo that almost has a resemblances of a golden goddess, but I am not sure. She didn't even know what it was either. It was claimed as an clumper. Do you think you could identify it? I have the picture.

My response:
It is definitely not Golden Goddess and there's a good chance it is not a clumping bamboo at all.  When you buy bamboo from someone who has no idea what plant they are selling - especially if that bamboo is tantalizing inexpensive - you are very likely to be purchasing one of the many varieties of running bamboo, all of which are much easier to propagate than clumping varieties.  

Running bamboos are invasive and once established, they are very difficult to remove. 

Instead of planting in the ground what might turn out to be an unwanted running bamboo, you might try growing it in a large pot for one growing season.  After a year, you will be able to tell by its growth patterns whether it is a clumping or running bamboo.


YIN YANG TIMBER BAMBOO Bambusa emeiensis viridiflavus

Ralph recently thinned out one of our favorite clumping bamboos, Yin Yang Timber.  This 2-year-old line of four plants started out with a single cane from 3-gal containers when they were first planted.  Now, 2 years later, the four clumps have grown together into a solid wall of green.  A little thinning shows off the beautiful canes. 

Every year, the new shoots that appear during the warm summer months are larger diameter and taller than previous year's growth.  In larger-cane bamboos like Yin Yang, we like the way it looks if the smaller, more original canes are removed in order to showcase the more spectacular looking larger diameter new growth. 

The poles that were removed (shown in the bottom left image) are straight and can be used for building or craft projects.


Should bamboo watering schedule change with the seasons?

A customer from Winter Park, FL wrote to ask about winter watering needs for bamboo:
Now that winter is still with us, yet changing into something like Spring over the next few days, should we adjust our winter watering schedule? We have restrictions at this time of year: once a week is the city limit. Yet I could go out and give each bamboo clump, say, a gallon or two a day if you advised. Most of the bambusa chungii still have green leaves, but on a number of these leaves the tips are brown. I'm thinking that is a seasonal thing, but maybe you will say more water is needed. I'm also planning to put Black Kow around each clump later this week.

My response:
Soil conditions, fertilizer and water are the 3 key ingredients needed to make large, healthy bamboo plants.  

Clumping bamboos send up new shoots during the warm months and those shoots will be a larger diameter and taller if they are growing in rich, well-irrigated soil.  Adding compost, manure, grass clippings or any other organic matter as a top dressing around existing plants is always beneficial in any season.  As it rains or when the bamboos are watered, the nutrients from the top dressing leaches into the subsoil to be absorbed by the roots.  

If water restrictions limits watering to once a week any additional hand watering will help.  The more you water, the sooner new shoots will emerge.  But don't worry if you can't do that.  Bamboos can handle minimal watering, they just grow faster and get bigger sooner if they are more frequently irrigated.  

The browning on the tips of the Bambusa chungii (Blue Timber) is, as you suspected, just a natural part of the winter season.  Bamboo leaves die and fall to the ground all year long but it seems to happen more so in the winter.  The brown tips are not a sign that your plants are lacking in water or are nutrient deficient.  It just signals a transition time from one season to the next.  

Keep your eyes open for new shoots on the Bambusa chungii.  Just within the last few days I've noticed new shoots emerge on the Blue Timber bamboos that we planted last year.


Osprey enjoys the view from Beautiful Bamboo

Ralph and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to see this osprey fly in and land on a clump of mature Oldhamii bamboo. He's perched on the thin tip of a cane that lost its leaves in the recent cold spell. Ralph and I might object to a few less leaves on the stand of bamboo but the osprey doesn't mind. He (or she?) finds the leafless cane perfectly suited for his sharp talons to clutch while he surveys the landscape. The clump of oldhammi (Giant Timber) is right next to the lake, an ideal setting for all sorts of predatory fish-eating birds including ospreys.
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