Caring for your Bamboo and Frequently Asked Questions
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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.
Back to top 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.
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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.
Back to top 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.
Back to top 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.
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