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Planting and caring for bamboo

"I am fully and intensely aware that plants are conscious of love and respond to it as they do to nothing else."
Celia Thaxter (1835-1894)


Select your bamboo: Choose the plants that you like or need for a particular application. THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING in planting bamboo is keeping the plant watered and moist at all times until it has adjusted to its new location. DO NOT LET THE PLANT DRY OUT.

If the plant was shipped to you: Remove the plant from its shipping container. Handle the plant by the root ball only; DO NOT PICK UP THE PLANT BY THE CULM. Water the plant and mist the leaves. Continue to do this daily until you are ready to plant the bamboo. If you canít plant it right away, it is best to keep it in a protected, shady place. In hot weather it is sometimes necessary to water several times a day. Just watch the leaves and if they start to roll up, your bamboo wants water. You can leave the plastic shipping bag on the root ball to help hold water until ready to plant. DO NOT LET THE PLANT DRY OUT. If the bamboo is balled and burlaped, you can either remove the burlap or leave it on when planting; just be sure that you remove any burlap that is above ground so that it does not act a wick and allow the root ball to dry. If the bamboo is potted, cut the pot as necessary to remove. If it is a newly potted bamboo, you can expect to have loose potting material. This does not hurt the bamboo but if you are not going to plant right away replacing the fill will make it easier for you to keep the bamboo watered while you wait to plant.

Select a site: Bamboo will grow in most types of soil, but the better the soil, the greater the rate of growth in most cases. The main consideration is good drainage. Bamboo likes water and requires lots of water to do its best, but it does not like to be in water or "have its feet wet" and will most likely die if it is subjected to standing in water constantly.

Running bamboo does just that....it runs and spreads.Take this into consideration when selecting your site. Like any other plant, left alone without care, it will grow in places where you donít want it. To control the spread of bamboo, install a concrete barrier. An easier way is to just mow, harvest new shoots or kick over any emerging shoots that you donít want. If you don't do this every week during shooting, you will need to get the grove back in bounds with a saw or lopers.

Prepare the site: Dig a hole the depth of the root ball of your bamboo with a diameter six to twelve inches greater than the diameter of the root ball. Add some compost and work it into the soil. Some growers recommend adding bone meal, cottonseed meal, and/or blood meal, as well.

Planting the bamboo: Put the bamboo in the hole and backfill with dirt, being sure to eliminate all air pockets. Tamp the ground around the plant and water well. Two or three inches of mulch added to the top will help control weeds and keeps the soil moist. You can shape the bottom of the planting hole to adjust the horizontal leaning of the bamboo.

Staking your bamboo: If you normally have high, sustained winds it may be wise to stake all C, D and custom size bamboos for the first 3 to 6 months until the roots and rhizomes get established. This will prevent the plants being tipped out of the ground by the wind, however, if they do tip over just set them up and repack the earth around the root balls.

Fertilizing your bamboo: Your bamboo will grow with very little care. To encourage more growth, add fertilizer, compost, etc. Fertilize using the schedule and fertilizer recommended for lawns in your area -- bamboo is a grass.

Maintenance of your bamboo: Depending on your use, the maintenance will var y from none to less than 8 hours per year for a grove 50 X 50 feet or so. During the first 3 years you do not need to do anything and we recommend you don't. After the 3rd shooting season you should start cutting the culms back to your defined area. From the 4th year on remove the dead, dying or leaning culms. Depending on the bamboo variety, you may want to harvest new shoots for eating once the shoots reach or exceed 1 inch in diameter.

General: Basically just use common sense and good judgment and you will have a bamboo grove that you will enjoy for years to come.