Bamboo Care and FAQs

Scroll down to learn about the following:

  • How do I plant my bamboo?
  • When is the best time to plant bamboo?
  • Will bamboo grow better in sun or shade?
  • What is the fastest growing bamboo?
  • How far apart should I plant my bamboos?
  • What type of maintenance does bamboo need?
  • Do I need a barrier to control my bamboo?

  • How do I plant my bamboo?

    Water, good soil and regular fertilizing are the key ingredients to achieving fast-growing, healthy plants.

    Dig a hole about twice as big around and twice as deep as the container your plant came in.  Partially fill the hole in with compost, cow manure or peat.  You can add a time-release fertilizer to the soil mixture at this time also.  Bamboos like lots of nitrogen, so if you are adding a commercial fertilizer, look for one with a high first number.  The first number indicates the amount of nitrogen in the mixture.  Make sure you get a fertilizer that does not contain herbicides.  Do not use any fertilizer labeled "Weed 'N Feed."  You can fertilize bamboos once a month for the fastest growth or use a time-release fertilizer several times a year.  If the leaves start to look yellowish apply some Ironite brand fertilizer and the extra iron should help green them up quickly.

    Once the hole is dug and the soil augmented, take the bamboo out of the pot and put it in the hole adding dirt until the plant is sitting at the same level it was in the container.  You don't need to break up the bamboo, the roots are very difficult to separate and doing so could hurt rather than help the plant.  Sometimes the bamboo roots fill up the pot so completely you may need to cut the container off in order to get the plant out.

    Once you place the bamboo in the hole, stamp down the dirt around the plant until the ground is nice and solid.  At this point, if you choose, you can mulch your new plant with a light covering of grass clipping, leaves or commercial bags of mulch.  Mulches help the bamboo retain moisture.  Try not to place the mulch too thickly right next to the existing bamboo canes and be careful if your new plant has any young shoots.  Young canes are very delicate and can break easily.

    It is important to give the new plants plenty of water for at least a month after planting.  Bamboo, especially newly planted bamboo, does best if it is kept moist. It doesn't want to sit in standing water, but does like a frequent drenching.  A continually flowing drip hose works very well but you can use any type of irrigation. You can tell if your bamboos are not getting enough moisture if their leaves start to curl up.  If that happens turn on the tap, give the plants a good long soak and, in the future, increase the amount of time you irrigate your plants. In the summer rains you will not need to water as much, but be sure to keep them well irrigated in the dry winter season as this is when the root system is developing that will send up the new shoots in the spring and summer.

    If you are not going to plant your new plants right away, make sure you keep them in a shady place where they will get plenty of water until you are ready to put them in the ground.

    If a hard freeze below 30 degrees is predicted in the winter it is good to add a thick layer of mulch around the plants or to wrap small plants of the more cold sensitive types with a frost blanket especially the first winter.

    When is the best time to plant bamboo?

    Bamboo can be planted at any time of the year.  Since new shoots begin to appear during the hot summer months, planting in the springtime can be a particularly gratifying time to plant.  Mid-summer is also good because there is usually plenty of rain then and newly planted bamboo likes frequent watering.  Those people who purchase bamboo in the cooler months have an advantage because their plants will have a longer time to develop strong roots.  A good solid root system is what enables bamboo to send out bigger, taller canes the following summer. 

    Will bamboo grow better in sun or shade?

    Most bamboos can handle either sun or shade equally well.  Sunlight is not nearly as important a factor as water and soil quality in determining bamboo placement.  In shady areas, bamboos have a tendency to grow taller because they have to stretch upward for light.  The canes also stay greener, on green-caned varieties.  In sunny locations, the canes on young green-caned bamboos are often bleached out by sunlight and look less green than they will in mature specimens.  As bamboos age they self-shade, providing their own protection from the sun's harsh light.  There are only a few varieties, including all the black bamboos, that really prefer a shady location but even they will continue to grow if planted in direct light, just not as quickly.

    What is the fastest growing bamboo?

    There's an old Chinese saying:  "First bamboo sleeps, then it creeps, then it leaps."  All bamboos are fast-growing plants.  In fact, they are among the fastest growing plants in the world.  In the period of just a few months - always during the warm days of late spring and summer - all bamboos send up new shoots that will grow from inch-high spears into canes that tower (depending on the variety and maturity of the bamboo) up to 70' above the ground.   Most of the year, bamboo grows silently underground.  The root system - an essential element for fast growth - is developing during the cool weather months.  The larger and more developed the root ball when bamboo is purchased - for instance, buying 7- or 15-gallon pots instead of 1- or 3-gallon containers - the quicker you will see more tall canes with bigger diameter.  When the weather warms, new shoots emerge.  Depending on the variety, the shoots can be as thin as a pencil or as thick as your arm.  Whatever diameter the cane is when it comes through the ground, that's the diameter it will be its entire life.  Unlike tree trunks, bamboo canes never increase girth as they age.  Each year's new shoots are usually larger than those of previous years but old canes don't grow wider as time goes by.

    The most prolific clumping bamboo we have is Seabreeze.  It shoots early in the season and each year sends up more new canes than any other clumping variety.   The fastest growing running bamboo is Green Hedge (fastuosa).  Plant one cane of this prolific runner and in about three years, you will have a dense grove of upright, leafy canes.  If you are planning to hide an unattractive chain link or wire fence with a living hedge using one of the running or clumping hedge bamboos, by the time the fence is ready to be replaced it will be unnecessary to do so.  The impenetrable bamboo will have completely concealed the fence.  The bamboo that produces the largest (3" to 4" diameter) canes the fastest is Giant Timber (oldhamii) clumping bamboo.

    How far apart should I plant my bamboos?

    Although it depends somewhat on the variety, as a general rule, plant bamboos about 10' apart.  For faster blockage or to create a quicker hedge, a spacing of 4' to 6' is most effective.  Consider the bamboo's shape when planting.  Most runners can be planted closer together than clumping varieties because they tend to have a more upright growth pattern.  Among the clumping varieties, the hedge types have canes that lean out at an angle forming a "bowl" shape and therefore will touch and create a screen quickly even planted 10' or more apart.  Other clumpers, especially the larger-caned timber bamboos, grow more erect and may need to be planted closer together if the purpose is to create a screening effect.  Also, some bamboos have leaves and branches clear to the ground and the canes grow close together. Others have less lower branching and more widely spaced canes to give the appearance of a more open grove. 

    What type of maintenance does bamboo need?

    In addition to regular watering, it will help your bamboo grow faster if you fertilize it regularly and apply a light mulch around the plant base.  Bamboo is just a giant grass and it likes any fertilizer with a high nitrogen number.  If you are going organic, periodically apply compost or aged manure around the canes.  Bamboos will respond well to a mulch of grass clippings or leaves so, if you rake your lawn, save the clippings and leaves you gather and place them around the bamboo.  If you choose to apply a chemical fertilizer, find one with a higher first number (indicating the nitrogen level) and use as directed.  Bamboos can be fertilized monthly.  If you notice a yellowing of the leaves or canes (an indication of low iron levels), sprinkle some Ironite around the base of the plant.  Other maintenance includes trimming out older canes to provide more room for new shoots.  This is not necessary but, if done, provides a more open look to your grove and allows more space for larger canes to grow.   Normally bamboos are not prone to insect or disease problems.   If your bamboo gets as big as you want it to be you can stop fertilizing and watering it as much to slow down future growth. 

    Do I need a barrier to control my bamboo?

    Clumping bamboos never need to be controlled by barriers but, sometimes, running bamboos do.  If you are planting a running bamboo in an area where you will be unable to mow a 20' to 30' swath around the bamboo then it might be important to have a barrier in place.  Our experience over the past 15 years growing many different kinds of running bamboos is that mowing alone successfully contains most of the running varieties we sell.   If you cannot keep a wide area around the bamboo mowed or if you have gardens nearby, runners will spread into those spaces.  Remember that you only have to control their spread during the late spring and hot summer months when new shoots emerge.  Also, young shoots are very delicate.  If you do not want to keep a shoot that has popped out of the ground you can simply kick it over or cut it with clippers.  Even larger, more mature shoots are easy to weedwack or cut off with snippers.  Regular mowing will keep most running bamboos in place but a barrier made out of high-density plastic doesn't hurt.  Bamboo roots are fairly shallow, growing only about 2' into the ground, so any barrier only needs to be 2' to 3' deep. 


    1. Can I plant the clumping bamboo in a pot permanently? Also, do the bamboo leaves fall off at anytime like regular trees?

      1. Bamboo will fill up a container over time. It will need to be thinned out at some point to keep it healthy. Depending on the size of the container, this might be every 2-3 years.
        Bamboo will shed leaves as new growth emerges. It should never lose all of its leaves at one time. If this is happening, something is not right with the plants.

    2. My newly planted bambusa textilis has turned brown and the leaves have fallen off! It has been lowest 37 degrees here in Los Angeles.please help!!! What should I do? -are they dying?

      1. John,
        There are many reasons the leaves may fall off. It could be a lack of moisture in the soil or too much moisture. Bamboo likes a well draining, but rich soil. Newly planted bamboo, should be watered at least once a day for the first few weeks.
        How was the bamboo planted? They can become stressed from the transplant, but rarely will lose all of the leaves. Care should be taken at planting to not break up the root mass adding to the stress.
        I would recommend to continue watering daily as long as the soil is draining. Also, a good fertilizer may help.
        Please feel free to send me pictures to jennifer@beautifulbamboo.com and I will see if I can help you further.

    3. I live in zone 9 and planted 5 sea breeze bamboo a year ago. Can you tell me how often am I supposed to be watering them?

      1. At a year old, you can probably get away with watering 2-3 times a week. The leaves will tell you if the bamboo is thirsty. If the leaves fold in half lengthwise, the plant is beginning to wilt and could use some water. If the leaves stay open and flat, the bamboo is doing fine.

    4. Hello Jennifer...I planted several Bambusa Malengensus (Seabreeze). They seem to be doing ok but have lost a lot of leaves and most leaves are brown at the tip of the leaves? I keep them watered and fertilized. Any suggestions? I live in Tampa close to the ocean with a low Saltwater table.

      1. Jackie,
        Bamboo will lose some leaves in the late winter and spring as they push out new growth. This should not be excessive. The fact that the tips are brown, may indicate something else is going on. We typically see this with a chemical burn or something else damaging the root system. What type of fertilizer was used? How long have they been in the ground? Keep them watered and they will probably recover just fine. The seabreeze is a very tough plant.
        Please feel free to send pictures to jennifer@beautifulbamboo.com. I will take a look and see if there is anything else I can tell.