It can be tricky to grow bamboo from seed because healthy seeds are hard to get. Bamboo coming from outside of the United States has to be quarantined, plus bamboo plants don’t produce seeds often, and they only remain viable for a short time. In this article, we will be looking at how to germinate bamboo seeds if you are lucky enough to get some.
What You'll Learn Today
How do You Grow Bamboo From Seed?
There are more than 1,400 species of bamboo in the world. Different species take varying amounts of time before they flower and produce seeds. This can be 10 to 100 years or more.
Once a grove of bamboo flowers and produces seeds, it will often die. And inexplicably, this usually happens worldwide over a period of 5 to 10 years.
Any seeds produced are only viable (alive) for a short time, and it is almost impossible to buy bamboo seeds like you would for other plants.
Most seeds you can find are for Moso bamboo and originate in China. Seeds coming from China have to be quarantined, which renders most of them unviable when they are released.
Importing seeds from outside of the US is illegal.
How to get seeds
You may be able to find bamboo seeds on Amazon or other online retailers. It is wise to remember that you are likely to have limited success in germinating them, however.
Only buy seeds from a seller who can prove their provenance and that they have gone through the necessary quarantine. Always germinate seeds as soon as you receive them.
Steps to Growing Bamboo from Seed
- To begin, you’ll need to soak the seeds in water for between 12 to 24 hours. This is necessary to help germination.
- Get a plastic container with a lid, a seed propagator is ideal, but any plastic container with a lid will do. You’ll also need a seed tray with individual compartments for each seed. Egg boxes are great for this.
- Put a little good quality potting compost into each compartment and place it into the bottom of the plastic container. Water thoroughly using chlorine-free water.
- Place the seeds two in each compartment. There is no need to cover the seeds with compost. Place the lid on the container and put it somewhere with plenty of light, but not in direct sun, as that will burn the seeds.
- Spray the seeds with (unchlorinated) water daily, ensuring they stay moist until you start to see the beginning of shoots growing. This typically takes 3 to 8 weeks.
- Continue to spray the seeds once daily or as required. Don’t totally saturate them, the soil should be damp, not wet. Around 18 days after the seeds have germinated, you will see the first leaves appearing.
- You can now leave the lid off of the container. Repot your seedlings into larger pots once they have developed several leaves, around 8 to 9 weeks after planting your seeds.
In this video, you will see another method of germinating bamboo seeds:
Bamboo grown from seeds will only produce a culm about the thickness of a toothpick, and it will only be a few inches in height.
In subsequent years more culms will grow and will be bigger than the year before. It can take 5 to 15 years for bamboo to fully mature, depending on species, care, and environmental factors.
Keep young plants well protected from frost.
How do You Germinate Bamboo Seeds Fast?
It may be possible to get faster results by soaking the seeds in warm water of about 85°F for 24 hours but be careful it isn’t too hot, or it will kill them.
You can also try using greenhouse pellets as a growing medium for your seeds. Soak the pellets in boiling water by placing them into a shallow pan and pouring on just enough to cover them. The pellets will expand, so make sure there is plenty of room to allow for this.
Once the pellets have soaked for about 10 minutes, drain out any excess water and allow the pellets to cool. Next, use the same principles described in “steps to growing bamboo from seed” above, but replace the compost with the pre-soaked pellets.
Water daily with unchlorinated water that is 50 to 50°F for best results.
Bamboo seeds grown this way can begin to germinate in as little as a month or less, depending on the variety.
If you want to germinate lots of seeds at once, ensure you get large enough seed trays to do so. You can use egg boxes placed in a glass cold frame which are easy to make yourself, instead of in a plastic indoor greenhouse.
How Long Does it Take for Bamboo Seeds to Sprout?
It can take as little as two weeks for the first seeds to start germinating, but usually, it is longer than this.
To get a seedling large enough to re-pot, estimate the process to take at least eight weeks.
How Bamboo Seeds Need Light to Germinate?
Bamboo seeds require a minimum of 12 hours of light per day to germinate – up to 16 hours is preferable.
Once seedlings have grown mature enough to pot up, they will continue to need a minimum of 6 hours of light a day.
Never place seeds or seedlings in direct sunlight as this will burn them, and they will die.
If you see the seedlings turning yellow or brown, reduce the amount of light they are receiving.
Artificial light can also provide warmth for your seeds and young plants. Ensure that lights that give off heat, such as fluorescent bulbs, are a minimum of 6 inches away from your plants to avoid burning.
Although it isn’t easy to find and germinate bamboo seeds, it may be worth the effort, particularly if you want to grow a large number of plants at once for only a tiny investment.
Another option is to take cuttings from the branches, runners, or rhizomes of more mature bamboo plants. These are typically easier to grow and are essentially clones of the original plant.
If you buy seeds, ensure you source them from a reputable seller who can prove where they came from. Importing seeds that have not undergone quarantine is illegal in the US.
If you’ve enjoyed reading how to germinate bamboo seeds and want to learn more about bamboo, you can find more articles available on our website.