Bamboo can be grown by planting seeds, cuttings, runners, or rhizomes. The fastest way to establish new plants is by separating young new plants that have appeared on runners, but this isn’t possible with all types of bamboo. In this article, we will look at how to grow bamboo as a crop or for profit.
What You'll Learn Today
Is Bamboo Easy to Grow?
If you’re going to plant directly into the ground, then a good level of preparation is required. The plot needs to be clean of all other plants, and the soil should be well tilled.
Test the prepared seedbed for nutrients and pH, which should be slightly acidic at around 6. Bamboo likes loamy soil that is high in nitrogen. If you have heavy clay soil, adding plant matter can help open it up and add nutrients.
Bamboo does better if provided with natural organic fertilizers rather than synthetic ones. A soil test can help you to determine where your land is deficient and can be adjusted accordingly.
Young plants during the first season of growth will need weekly watering unless you have good levels of rainfall. An irrigation system is the best way of doing this by setting it up to run automatically.
Protect the new plants from weed growth that can suffocate them and from animals such as deer who may like to eat them.
Growing your bamboo to a harvestable size depends on many factors, the type of bamboo, weather, sunlight, soil type, nutrient availability, water, and so on. It can take 5 to 15 years to fully mature.
Don’t allow your bamboo to grow too thickly and thin out the grove annually to maintain good health.
When your bamboo is fully established, it will remain productive for several decades before it requires replacement.
What is the Best Way to Grow Bamboo?
Depending on the type of bamboo business you want to establish and the kind of bamboo you intend to grow, you have several options:
- A plantation – Growing bamboo for manufacturers to turn into products (e.g. bee houses, flutes, wind chimes, etc.)
- A nursery – Growing diverse species in pots to either sell to other plant selling businesses or direct to the public
- A personal farm – Growing bamboo to convert into products to sell yourself. Depending on the quantity and type of bamboo you require, you could grow it in pots or in the ground
All three options have different merits and challenges. A plantation takes many years to mature and won’t bring in any money for a considerable time. Once it is established, you will have a large crop to harvest year on year for decades to come.
A nursery where plants are grown in pots is more time-consuming, but it will allow for a faster turnover, as younger plants can be sold as well as mature ones. It also lets you grow some of the more exotic higher-priced specimens as well as consumer favorites.
If you’re growing bamboo to convert into products you make yourself, you may again need to wait for several years before this becomes genuinely possible. Once you have a good amount of mature plants, your material costs will be meager, so it may be worth the effort long term.
How Long Does Bamboo Take to Grow?
It can take from 5 to 15 years for bamboo to fully mature, as we saw above.
It takes roughly three years for bamboo to become well established and to establish a robust root system. Once this happens, new shoots appear every spring and will grow continually and very fast for 60 days in a row.
During the 60 days growing season, the bamboo culms (canes) will grow rapidly in height and produce additional limbs and leaves.
Once the 60 days have passed, the bamboo stops growing until the following year. A single cane will live for around ten years, depending on the species.
Bamboo grows by using energy provided by the existing plant to produce new plants. It throws out runners or rhizomes, which result in clones of the original plant.
The culms sprout up from the rhizome, found in the first 12 inches of soil around the plant.
As the young culms begin to emerge, they grow quickly, using up stored carbohydrates available to them, which were produced in the previous growing season, and not due to current photosynthesis.
Once emerged, culms don’t change in diameter and will not grow thicker over time. Each year as the grove matures, new culms will typically be thicker than ones from previous years. They will also grow taller.
After the 60 days of growth, a culm will never grow taller or thicker in its lifetime. They may, however, grow additional branches and leaves to increase photosynthesis.
The outside of individual culms takes several years to harden until they become fully mature. This is why young culms are easier to cut.
Bamboo doesn’t flower very often. In some species, all of the culms from a plant will bloom simultaneously, while sporadic flowering is normal for others. Death of the bamboo usually follows seed production.
How to Grow Bamboo From Cuttings?
In this video, we will see how to grow a new bamboo plant from a cutting:
To grow new bamboo plants from cuttings, you can cut small branches from clumping bamboo with a sharp knife or secateurs. Snip the stem where it joins the culm and then trim to just below the second node from the bottom.
Put the cutting into a suitable planting medium and cover the nodes with soil leaving the top free from the earth. It takes around six weeks for new roots to grow from the nodes.
Ensure you water the cutting regularly, keeping the soil moist, and place it in a well-lit place but not in direct sunlight.
You can also grow bamboo from a runner or a rhizome coming from your plant. A runner is a long cord-like shoot that trails over the ground from running species of bamboo. Rhizomes are located around the base of the plant up to 12 inches below the ground in running and clumping bamboos.
Simply cut away a runner section containing two to three nodes (tiny nodules you can see on the runner) or about 2 inches on either side of a new plant growing from a runner, and plant in prepared soil or a pot. Water thoroughly.
Dig around the plant to find a clump of rhizomes and cut out a section using a sharp knife. Plant it in prepared soil or a pot and water well. It can take a long time for rhizomes to produce culms, so be patient and don’t forget to water regularly.
How Much Water Does Bamboo Need?
Because bamboo doesn’t have a deep root system, it requires regular watering. Young plants need more as they don’t have many roots to suck up available moisture locked in the earth around them.
The exact quantity of water bamboo needs depends on its age, size, type, and the weather conditions at the time. As a general rule, it will require around 1 to 2 inches per week provided by a watering system or rainfall.
Allow old bamboo leaves to accumulate around the base of the plant to help keep the soil moist. You can also add mulch which will help provide additional nutrients as well as hold in moisture.
So long as your bamboo isn’t left standing in puddles of water for days at a time, it is pretty difficult to overwater it.
How Often Should You Water Bamboo?
Bamboo should be watered at least once per week, depending on weather conditions and age. Young plants will require watering more often.
Once established with a good rhizome network, the plants become somewhat drought resistant as the rhizomes retain water quite well.
More water is required during the summer months, when rainfall is low, or if there is a lot of wind. Aim to keep the soil relatively moist but not wet.
If left waterlogged for long periods, rhizomes will begin to rot, which may lead to the death of the plant. Too little water will cause stress that can affect the plant’s health and cause the leaves to die off.
With a bit of preparation, bamboo is easy to grow, although it does take time to establish. Because a mature plant can be harvested each year without the need to plant new ones, it is an attractive self-sustaining crop that will be productive for decades to come if well maintained and cared for.
One of the best things about growing bamboo as a business is its scalability. You can choose to have a small enterprise or a vast one depending on time and resources.