Planting Bamboo, by Country What Not Gardens – Cold Hardy Bamboo
Refer to the following information regarding choosing a planting site with the correct light for the genus you are planting.
Arundinaria • medium to fast running, full sun or pm shade.
Fargesia • clumping and most require full shade.
Hibanobambusa • slow to medium running, ‘Shiroshima’ is variegated, full sun or mid-day shade.
Indocalamus • slow to medium running, does best in full shade.
Phyllostachys • medium to fast running and requires full sun to part shade.
Pleioblastus • slow to fast running, and mostly short ground covers, full sun, part shade, full shade.
Pseudosasa • medium to slow running, full sun or mid-day shade.
Sasa • slow to fast running and require full shade.
Sasamorpha • running and require full shade.
Semiarundinaria • slow running and require full sun to part shade.
The natural habitat of bamboo is at the edge of a forest. Either on the sunny or shaded side, or in the dappled lighting of the interior depending on the species. Though some are wind tolerant, it’s best to site them in a sheltered spot the proper distance from an evergreen wind break where there is likely to be a slight micro-climate. This is particularly important for northern climates.
After choosing a site with well drained soil and in the appropriate sun light location depending on the species, dig a hole 2 times the diameter of the root ball and 1.5 times the depth of the root ball. Bamboo is a grass, and just as with any other grass, it loves highly organic soil high in nitrogen. Prepare a backfill mix of 1/3 top soil, 1/3 peat moss or compost, and 1/3 composted manure. It’s important that the manure be at least two years old or it could burn the plant. It’s best to use, cow, horse, goat, sheep, or llama manure instead of that from poultry. Poultry manure contains very high levels of nitrogen that may burn new plants.
After digging the hole put in 6″ of composted manure in the bottom. If the hole is not deep enough to accommodate the manure and root ball make it deeper as required. After putting in the manure fill the hole with water. Wait for the water to recede.
Remove the plant from the pot by carefully cutting the pot away from the roots if the plant doesn’t freely tip out. Never lift a bamboo plant by the culm(s). This will tear the culms loose from the rhizome and could kill the plant. Set the root ball in on top of the manure. Then backfill with the mix you have prepared earlier.
After it’s planted, form a high ridge or ring of soil around the area of the root ball. This will hold water during a rain or watering.
A large plant may need to be staked until its roots have grown into the surrounding soil enough to hold it up on its own.
During the first year it’s very important that bamboo does not dry out completely. Usually 1″ of supplemental water or rain a week is sufficient, but it totally depends on how fast the soil dries out in that area. Once established it will be drought tolerant. In this first year it will appear to grow very little if any. However, below the soil there’s lots of activity going on. A first year plant will put all of its energy into making a good root system. Also during its first year use NO commercial fertilizers, manure and organic matter only!
In the second year it will begin to put forth new growth above ground. It should be fertilized three times this year. For good growth you can follow this fertilizing schedule every year hereafter.
Spring ( late Feb.- early March ) high nitrogen, 42-0-0: cover the ground with 3″-4″ of composted manure and scatter one cupped hand full of urea per 3 square ft. of manure.
Summer ( mid June ) balanced fertilizer: 20-20-20
Fall ( mid September) low nitrogen: 5-10-10, etc.
Third or fourth year and every year there after:
In northern climates it takes a little maintenance to make the larger bamboo species look like a nice grove. For the biggest culms, in mid summer after the new shoots have reached full size, remove 1/3 of the smallest and weakest culms. These small ones are usually in the shaded interior of the grove. There they receive no sun light to contribute any energy to the grove. The grove is spending energy to feed these small culms and not getting anything back in return. This culling should not take place until the third or fourth year because doing it before this can weaken the plant or kill it.
Running (leptomorphic) bamboo, such as species within the Phyllostachys, Pleioblastus, Arundinaria, and other running genera must be planted with care. They can become invasive if not contained or given enough space. Either plant them with 30 to 50 feet on either side of the grove or use a trench. Mowing an expanse of lawn at least 30 feet wide around each side of the grove will contain a running bamboo. The trench method involves digging a trench approximately 12 inches deep and 12 inches wide around the perimeter of the grove. As the rhizomes attempt to grow over the trench in late summer, simply clip them off. Note that the trenching and mowing methods do not work well with smaller Pleioblastus species. For the dwarf Pleioblastus species it is advised to either grow them in a container or inside of a root barrier.
Clumping bamboo species within the genus Fargesia is clumping, or pachymorphic, thus non-invasive and they have no need for containment.