Bamboo Care and Information
Looking after clumping bamboo in Adelaide
Bamboo is amazing! It’s such an easy plant to grow (well the fastest growing on earth!) and all you need to do is give it water and food. Very few pests or diseases attack bamboo. It copes with most soils as long as water drains through. It copes with sun or partial shade and the species we sell are cold tolerant. It will grow in a container inside or outside, provided there is good light.
Pretty good eh? Here’s a few tips for general care and maintenance…
Firstly, what’s the difference between Clumping vs Running Bamboo?
Clumping (Sympodial) bamboo varieties have a rhizome structure that is non-invasive. Rhizomes are the underground stems of the plant and clumping bamboo has u-shaped rhizomes where the canes grow close together.
Each rhizome produces one cane/culm and a bud for a new rhizome. As the leaves of the new cane open and start photosynthesising (producing food) for the clump, the bud can develop into a new rhizome close to the clump. This keeps the clump compact but expanding in a circular pattern over time. Most clumping varieties of bamboo grow quickly in our climate provided they are fed and watered well. They will grow to the conditions – so if you want rapid expansion, you should fertilise regularly and keep them well watered in the warm months. There is little growth above ground in winter and our rain is usually enough to keep them moist and happy.
When the cane emerges, it is quite tender, juicy and fragile, after all, bamboo shoots are edible. It will reach 90% of it’s height within 2 months and then the leaves start opening from the top down and the cane hardens off. You can trim the canes to the desired height and they will stop growing and start to thicken up. So it may look like just a bare pole at first, but once the leaves emerge, rest assured your green screen is here!
Conversely, Running (Monopodial) Bamboo has stolons that grow out horizontally from the plant which is why it has a tendency to spread. If you want to stabilise a bank, fill a confined space such as a planter box, raised bed, edged garden etc, running bamboo can work well. Otherwise clumping bamboo is the preferred option. The only running bamboo we sell is Running Black which grows well in a cool spot in Adelaide, and loves the Adelaide Hills. Occasionally we have a few rare species in the nursery which suit Adelaide too.
Let’s get dirty…
Planting Bamboo in the ground. Dig a good hole larger than the rootball, and mix a few handfuls of organic fertiliser (we recommend Rapid Raiser) into the bottom of the hole. Remove the bamboo from the pot and place in the hole so it is level with the existing ground . Do not tease out the roots! Bamboo hates being disturbed. Backfill the hole with a mixture of soil and mushroom compost/cow manure to help retain moisture. Water in well and sprinkle a couple more handfuls of Rapid Raiser around the top. Mulch well.
Planting Bamboo in a pot. Bamboo is happy in a pot or planter box as long as it is kept moist and fed regularly. Planter boxes from 300mm wide can be used in narrow spaces and on balconies. Choose a container larger than the existing pot. Use premium potting mix with extra coir or mushroom compost to help retain moisture, and mulch with pine bark to prevent drying out. Water often in summer (probably daily) until water runs out the bottom, less in winter, and fertilise with liquid fertiliser once a week in the warm months.
Ongoing Maintenance You can trim bamboo to any height you like, or remove lower leaves to see the canes, and after 3 years bamboo can be thinned. Remove original skinny canes in winter to encourage new thicker culms. If you don’t want the clump to expand in a particular direction, remove new shoots from that side every year and the clump will only expand in other directions. If bamboo gets dry it will drop leaves, but it will quickly re-leaf if you water it well after you notice. Give it more feed and water if you want it to grow quickly, then cut the rations when you are happy with the size it is already.
The best Bamboo care through the year…
Bamboo looks different throughout the year. In summer, new culms are growing, canes are unfurling new green leaves and you may notice dramatic growth in a short space of time. Winter brings slower growth but there is still action beneath the soil and you need to keep the water up. It’s easy to think that because it’s raining, your plants are wet enough. But dig down beneath the mulch and the soil may be quite dry. More….
Water – Give your bamboo a couple of good drinks a week if there is little rain. We always suggest you build a wall of soil around your bamboo clumps or plant in a slight bowl so that you can flood irrigate. This stops the water running away and allow the roots to get a good soak. Keep in mind that clumping bamboo comes from climates with a much higher rainfall than here in Adelaide so if you want beautiful bamboo don’t just rely on the rain, you will need to give extra water the whole year, even in winter.
Automatic? If you have an irrigation system please make sure that it’s on long enough for the water to get down into the roots. Also remember to replace your batteries if you have this kind of system. Play it safe and replace every 6 months and do a test at the same time to make sure everything is tickety boo. Being old school, we would still recommend you hand irrigate at least once a week. It allows you to have the peace of mind that all is well and it connects you to your bamboo so you can observe what is going on.
Staying warm – As the weather becomes colder the soil does the same thing and your bamboo will really appreciate a good layer of organic matter (mushroom compost, cow manure or your own compost) and then apply a good, thick mulch. What this will do is insulate the ground and keep it at an even temperature and stop moisture loss. The compost will keep the micro organisms and bacteria chirpy in the soil and this will make your bamboo hysterically happy. Think of it as the plant form of Kimchi and Kombucha, and we all know how good we feel eating our fermented food. Bamboo is no different.
Feed – The mulch (pea straw, lucerne or bags of cottage mulch) is the plant’s doona, making it snuggly for the cold days ahead. Do all that in the late Autumn and you will notice the difference. If you haven’t done it yet it don’t worry, it will still work if you do it now. We would also suggest you throw a good handful of organic fertiliser on the compost for each clump, then apply the mulch. If they are decent sized clumps, use a bag of compost per clump evenly spread and the mulch should be at least 10cm-20cm deep. We would recommend you do this compost/mulch combo twice a year, April-May, and again in October-November. Fertilise 4 times a year with your organic, slow release fertiliser.
So don’t get too concerned in the cooler months if you notice the change in your bamboo. Keep it fed and watered and in summer it will bounce back bigger and better than ever before. You can enjoy watching your living green screen hide neighbours, fences, sheds and even your children if they stand still long enough…
Dig a hole larger than rootball
Put organic fertiliser in hole first
Don’t tease out the roots
Place bamboo level with existing ground
Backfill with soil, compost/manure. Water, sit back and watch it grow!