Today I am publishing an article from freelance writer Rachel Matthews. I love the opportunity to host an occasional guest author because I always learn something new. Prior to this, I had no idea you could even grow bamboo in Wisconsin! I also learned that you have to grow bamboo carefully since it can be invasive (ask me about my spreading mint plants if you want to hear about invasive), but done right it sounds great. Now I want a clump of potted bamboo on my patio! Inger
How to Grow Bamboo
by Rachel Matthews
Bamboo is one of the trendiest grasses out there. It is often used as a “green” wood, which is why so many people believe that it is a tree and not a grass. People use bamboo for flooring, counters, furniture and even as fences. Bamboo is popular planted around the periphery of properties to act as an ad hoc privacy fence to separate people from their neighbors.
One of the reasons that bamboo is such a popular garden plant is that it is hardy. It is difficult to kill bamboo, it grows fast, and it can grow just about anywhere. Funnily enough—those same characteristics are why it is important that you know what you’re doing before you plant it. Bamboo spreads like dandelions do. If you aren’t careful, you could accidentally “plant” the stuff all over your neighborhood!
Here are the things that you need to know if you want to grow bamboo yourself.
1. Make Sure You Get the Right Kind of Bamboo
There are many different species of bamboo but most of the bamboo that you can grow in the US falls into two types: running and clumping. You want to select clumping bamboo. I’ll repeat that because it is important: you want CLUMPING bamboo. Why? Because it is easier to control. Running bamboos can send rhizomes out to far flung areas and are capable of colonizing large plots of land. You can control running bamboo to some extent, but this involves concrete or sheet metal barriers that are three to four feet deep and you need to keep an eye out for new shoots and cut them off before they get too far above ground level. Clumping bamboo, on the other hand, tends to stick close to home and its “clumps” increase slowly, making it much easier to control.
2. Get Started Cheaply
You can grow bamboo from seed but it is easier (and cheaper) to grow it from an existing bamboo plant. It’s easy to find bamboo plants for sale, buy one and then, as it grows, take cuttings to plant and increase your bamboo garden—if that is your goal. If you’re interested in bamboo as mostly a decorative piece, you can simply maintain the bamboo plant you’ve purchased.
3. Use Mulch
Bamboo loves mulch. This is why, as your bamboo sprouts and sheds leaves, it is best not to remove them but to simply let them decay onto the soil above the roots and rhizomes. Mulch helps keep the soil at a moisture level that is perfect for bamboo growth and infuses the garden with nutrients. You could treat the soil with these nutrients artificially, of course, but why spend all that money when mulch will do just fine?
4. How to Water Your Bamboo
When your bamboo plant is still young and growing, it needs a lot of water. In mild climates you’ll want to water at least twice a week. During warmer or drier weather, you’ll need to water more often. Once the plant is mature, you can cut back on the watering. Lack of proper irrigation is what kills most bamboo plants.
Bamboo is a tough and hardy plant. Make sure, though, before you plant your bamboo, that you’re committed. It can grow almost independently (save lots of watering) but controlling its spread takes constant vigilance.
Rachel Matthews is a freelance writer with a background in business who’s been relying on her entrepreneurial skill set since she was in high school.