Caring for Your Bamboo

Caring for bamboo plants will cover a lot of the things you need to consider to have success in cultivation and care of bamboo in your garden.

Watering

Although the majority of mature bamboo may not require a lot of water to survive, depending on the species, they will still need access to a water supply. Young or newly planted bamboo plant care will mean watering regularly until they have become established, particularly in hot weather or dry winds.

Once it has grown to maturity it can survive on less water but until then you must ensure it does not dry out, every day if necessary.

All bamboos will benefit from good mulch for nutrients and mulching will also help retain water in the ground, stop it from drying out so quickly in sun or wind. If you plan to grow bamboos on a continually wet plot of land or area prone to a dry climate, study the individual species requirements before you buy. Some do really well with a lot of water supply to the roots but others will thrive in drier climatic conditions.​

Weeding

Large and mature bamboos may not be so prone to competitive weeds but the newer planted, young, smaller species , will need to be watched and the area may need periodical weeding.

Although weeds may be few in established groves, a bit of weeding is all part of the care of bamboo process.

Fallen Leaves

A substantial number of the leaves of these plants will usually yellow and fall off in the spring. This is quite normal so don’t be concerned. Even evergreen plants lose and renew their leaves in the spring.

Do not to rake or sweep up the bamboo leaves from under the plant unless you desperately need to. They protect the soil, roots and rhizomes from becoming too hot, cold, and dry as they keep the soil soft, and moist, and also recycle silica and other natural chemicals necessary to the bamboo.

Leaves make very good mulch, and caring for bamboo plants is not so intensive if you have applied a mulch.

Winter Protection

For young bamboo plants that have been planted late in the year and are about to face their first winter, spread heavy mulch around the plants and provide some protection from cold and drying winds.

Plants that are already established can usually be successfully protected through the winter with heavy mulch. This will keep the soil soft during periods of extreme cold ,it can protect the soil from becoming frozen solid.

Caring for bamboo plants in containers during winter should include placing them in a sheltered position out of extreme frosts to prevent the soil freezing solid for long periods.

​Fertiliser

Basically, any fertiliser that is good for lawns, grasses, palms, etc will be good for bamboo. The Eco88s and SuperGrass are organic blends with added nitrogen.

These fertilisers include granular nitrogen which means that they should be spread on top of the soil and then watered in (ie. top dress applications). They should not be used in the hole when planting, as they may damage the roots.

When planting our smaller sized bamboo plants, use equivalent of a heaped tablespoon of fertiliser on each newly planted bamboo – spread within a radius of about a foot from the plant (this encourages roots to grow outwards).

For mature clumps of bamboo, you may apply 5 to 10 hand fulls around each clump (1 to 2 meter radius from the clump).

The times to add fertiliser is directly after planting and during the main growth season. The main growth occurs between November to April, thus fertilising around September or October gets them off to a good start for the year, and then you can fertilise again every one or two months up to about April.

Organic fertilisers like Blood-and-Bone, Dynamic Lifter, seaweed fertiliser or manures are all ok to use but will still benefit from additional nitrogen.

​Mulching

​Bamboo loves a good mulch layer – 50 to 100mm deep. By mulching the soil around the bamboo, you’re doing 3 things:

  • Reducing moisture loss
  • Providing organic matter to the plant (which decomposes and ‘feeds’ the bamboo).
  • Preventing grass / weeds from growing up around the plant.

The best types of mulch is basically anything organic that can decompose to enrich the soil and thus providing the bamboo with nutrients. Raking up leaves around the plants is a good start. Some other options are sugar cane mulch, hay or straw. Even green grass clippings will do the trick if composted a bit first, or spread thinly around the bamboo.

Don’t worry about keeping the mulch away from the stems of the bamboo (as is the case with trees) – this does not affect bamboo. New shoots emerging from the ground will find their way through the mulch layer.

Maintenance

TRIMMING YOUR BAMBOO SHORTER

Bamboos are essentially a giant grass, so there is no damage done if you want to trim your bamboos shorter. Once the culms (poles) have been cut shorter, they will not re-grow taller from that cut point. This means no regular maintenance on already trimmed poles! You will still have branches below as normal, in fact it will get bushier from trimming. But don’t fear, if you trim too short, you will still get new shoots regrowing from the ground level each growing season to refresh the clump. It will grow back just like a bad haircut!

Another great benefit is the majority of smaller screening bamboos are FLEXIBLE! This means you can stand at ground level, select the culm you want to trim, bend it down and trim it off! NO LADDERS! This makes trimming super easy and convenient. And, you only need to trim the new shoots that grow once a year!

The larger, thicker culms on big bamboos are not flexible, but can still be trimmed with no damage to the bamboos. Keep in mind that some of these beautiful large species look best with their natural height and shape, so you would not want to ruin the natural state by trimming too short. Perhaps select a smaller species instead.

REMOVING YOUR BAMBOO BRANCHES

Different species of bamboo have different levels of bushiness, and amount of branches on the culms. Some species come naturally clean stemmed and feature the poles with foliage up the top. Other great screening species are bushy from the top down to ground level.

A commonly desired look is cleaning out the lower foliage of a bamboo, to feature the culms colour or style. This will create a very sleek modern look. Doing this also allows air flow and light through the lower plant. A great proportion is the bottom 1/3 cleaned out, and the top 2/3 left bushy. You can also create a ‘topiary’ effect on certain species.

You can trim BRANCHES shorter, if, for example, your bamboo has some long branches growing over a pathway. If you don’t want to remove the entire branch & lose some screening, simply trim the branch to the preferred length.

Generally speaking your bamboo branches won’t prolifically grow back these removed branches, so you won’t be maintaining this regularly. On the flip side, if you trim too much and want some density back, you can encourage new growth with fertiliser water & some TLC.

REDUCING YOUR BAMBOO FOOTPRINT

Clumping bamboo grow in a circular shape, forming an area full of stems – what we refer to as ‘footprint’ in the earth. The typical footprint size that your bamboo will naturally stop growing at depends on the species. Each species has different natural dimensions, just like dogs! You can read more about this on our ‘Running vs Clumping’ page.​

If you have a clumping bamboo and have decided to plant it into a narrower garden bed (provided you chose the right species for this), or you already have a clumping bamboo and wish to reduce its size, you can do the following:

As new shoots grow from the ground, they will generally grow on the outer ring of the bamboos clump, expanding the size of the clump until fully grown. You can prevent this by placing a root barrier down into the earth and physically stopping the bamboo from being able to expand to its natural clump size.​

(Note: the clumping bamboo don’t spread invasively, they simply expand outward until fully grown, just like a bird of paradise plant does).

You can also remove new shoots as they emerge; while still young the shoots are soft and ‘snappable’ almost like a carrot. You can simply kick these shoots over, or cut them off. Do not remove them from their roots. This is unnecessary and can affect the rest of the plant.

Similarly, you can also cut down any fully grown culms if you want to now reduce the size of the grown bamboo.

THINNING OUT YOUR BAMBOO CLUMP

Different species of bamboo grow to different densities, meaning some can have a very ‘full’ clump with lots of culms; where other species have an ‘open’ clump with fewer culms with lots of space between them. If your preference is to maintain your bamboo in a less dense state, you can:

​Prevent your growing bamboo from becoming too full throughout establishment. Each growing season the bamboo will send up a certain amount of new shoots. You can pick and choose how many of these shoots you wish to keep in the clump to grow, and how many you remove.

While still young, the bamboo shoots are soft and ‘snappable’ almost like a carrot. You can simply kick these shoots over, or cut them off. Do not remove them from their ‘roots’. This is unnecessary and can affect the rest of the plant. These new shoots are also edible! This is how they are harvested.​

The second way you can thin out your bamboo clump is after your bamboo has established and grown too dense for your preference, you can cut down any fully grown culms. You can again pick and choose which culms you remove and which you keep. Thin out your bamboo as much as you want! As they are a giant grass, they will naturally regenerate new shoots to freshen up the clump the following season.​

You can repeat this as often as you prefer, or leave your bamboo natural and low maintenance!