Bamboos are popular garden plants, grown for their fast growth and architectural stems (culms). Some bamboos are perfect for using in tropical planting schemes, while others are more suited to contemporary or urban designs. Some clump-forming species work well as natural screening. There’s a huge range of bamboo plants to choose from, ranging in colour from black to yellow.
Some bamboos grow into large clumps, making them suitable for using as screening, adding structure or using as a focal point.
However, other species can quickly outgrow their allotted space and they can look unattractive if not managed properly. If left to grow out of control they can be virtually impossible to remove.
Soil Requirements for Growing bamboo
There are two main types of bamboo plants, clump-forming (grows in tight clumps) and running bamboos, which produce long underground stems, that pop up away from the main plant and will spread anywhere if not contained. Running bamboos bear long underground stems, or rhizomes, from which new growth appears, enabling them to colonise new ground. You can do this in a couple of different ways. Most bamboos thrive in moist, well-drained soil. They can be grown in most soil types, but some do better in acid soil – avoid wet, boggy or dry conditions. Most bamboos prefer sun but some species, such as Sasa bamboos, can be grown in shade. Plant your bamboo in spring to encourage it to develop good roots and canes before becoming dormant in autumn. Feed with a balanced fertiliser throughout the growing season and allow some bamboo leaves to accumulate around the base of the plants, as they return nutrients, particularly silica, to the roots, helping the plants stay strong and healthy.
Where to grow bamboo
Bamboos can be grown in almost any situation. Plant bamboo at the back of the border to create height, in your lawn to make a focal point, against a fence or wall to create a screen, or as a contemporary hedge. You can also grow bamboo plants in a pot – some compact varieties do well in large pots, while other ‘running bamboos’ are best grown in a container to prevent them from growing out of control.
How to plant bamboo
Choosing a Planting Location
Bamboo trees are suitable for a wide variety of locations and you already probably have a location in mind. Some bamboos do better than others in shady locations, for example the Sunset Glow Bamboo will do very well in shade, while others prefer more sun. However even those that prefer sun will grow in shade, just more slowly and not as thickly. Bamboos also tolerate a wide variety of soils, from dry to fairly wet, but don’t plant right into water.
Perhaps you are planting your bamboos as a screening plant – good choice! They will form a dense screen more quickly than any other plant you could choose.
Preparing the Planting Site
Good soil preparation is the key to the success of your bamboo trees, especially if you are planting them for a screen. Whatever your soil is like, use it. Do not try to dig a hole and fill it with soil you bought somewhere else. If your soil is poor, just use extra organic material.
You goal is to make a large area of looser soil that the young roots can penetrate easily, getting food as they go and establishing quickly. You need to have an area at least three times the diameter of the pot dug as deep as your spade will go. Add some organic material to the soil as you dig. Almost any kind of organic material is good, among the best are well-rotted cow, sheep, or horse manure (if you can obtain them); garden compost; any ‘top-soil’ from a garden centre; or peat-moss. A bucket per tree is about right, but any amount you have is worthwhile. In addition, bamboos benefit from fertilizer to help develop their roots. This can be rock phosphate or bone-meal or any kind of superphosphate. There are many ‘tree planting’ fertilizers available too and they all work well, so whatever is available will be fine.
Remove roots of weeds from the area and any stones bigger than your fist. Smaller stones can be left and it is not a good idea to sieve the soil to remove smaller stones they are best left in and can help with drainage.
Turn over the soil, mixing the organic material and fertilizer into it and then level it off and get ready to plant. Save some of the organic material you used to mulch after planting.
Preparing the Bamboos before planting
The evening before you are going to plant, give the pots a good soaking with water. If the root-ball is dry when you plant, it may stay that way and cause your tree to suffer from dryness even if the surrounding soil is damp.
Planting the Bamboo Trees
Now place your bamboo tree in the centre of its hole, or line them up in the trench, checking they are evenly spaced. The top of the root-ball should be about one inch below the level of the soil around it. Replace about three-quarters of the soil in the hole, pressing it down around the roots. Finish firming down the soil – a gentle foot pressure or firm hand pressure is about right.
Watering the Bamboo Trees
Now fill the hole with lots of water, letting it soak down into the ground and into the root ball. Use a good amount of water and then wait until it has all drained away. This will give plenty of water around the roots, where it is needed.
Finishing the Planting
Now put back the rest of the soil, firming it gently down. Make sure you have covered the top of the root ball with a little soil, about one inch is perfect. Make sure the soil is not sloping away, but flat, so that when you water it will stay around the tree, not run away. Some gardeners like to make a low wall of soil around the tree, at a spot about twice the diameter of the pot, to retain water. This is a fine thing to do, but not absolutely necessary. Put a layer of organic material over the root area, about two inches deep and then water the whole area thoroughly.
How to care for bamboo
Bamboo plants are hungry and do best when given a regular liquid feed from spring to autumn. Remove dead leaves from around the base of plants, although allow some to remain as they return the nutrient silica to the plant’s roots.
It’s important to carry out regular root inspections, particularly if you’re growing running bamboo. Dig down around the base of the plant and remove stray root growth with a sharp spade, to keep growth in check.