HOW TO GROW BAMBOO
Bamboos are popular garden plants, grown for their fast growth and architectural stems (culms). Some bamboos are perfect for use in tropical planting schemes, while others are more suited to contemporary or urban designs. This article will cover how to grow bamboo in South Africa and some general information about the plants.
Bamboo can be a tricky plant to grow, especially if you live in climates that face either intense hot or cold temperatures, but it is relatively inexpensive and can add a special touch to your yard.
Know the difference between the two types of bamboo. They are typically classified as clumping bamboo or running bamboo.
- Running bamboo – Sends out rhizomes, which spread into other areas.
- Clumping bamboo – Grows in tight clusters and rarely spreads out.
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How Fast Does Bamboo Grow?
Bamboo takes about three years to get established. Once established the new shoots that emerge in the spring will continue to get bigger from year to year as the colony grows towards maturity. It takes a varying number of years for different species to reach their maximum size. This is dependent on species selection, soil, sunlight, climate and watering conditions.
Bamboos include some of the fastest-growing plants in the world, due to a unique rhizome-dependent system. Certain species of bamboo can grow 910 mm within a 24-hour period, at a rate of almost 40mm an hour.
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Planting Bamboo Trees
The moment has arrived – your new bamboo has been delivered and you are about to plant them in your garden. These trees are going to be with you for many years to come, so it is worth taking a little time to give them the best start possible so that they can give you their very best too.
Plant container-grown bamboos any time of year. The more crowded a bamboo is in the container, the faster it will grow when planted out. Do not cut or spread the rootball as this may kill some canes.
- Remove all packaging
- Water the bamboo in its pot
- Choose a suitable planting site for the needs of your type of bamboo
- Prepare the soil
- Dig a hole the depth of the pot
- Put the plants in their holes and replace most of the soil
- Water well, let the water drain, and put back the rest of the soil
- Put a mulch around your plants and water at least once a day for the first season
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Bamboo Growing Conditions
The degree of sun or shade that an individual species requires or will tolerate, is always a function of that particular species. Likewise, a bamboo’s frost hardiness varies from species to species. You will therefore always need to check these factors in relation to any particular species you are interested in growing.
Nevertheless, there are some common features relating to bamboo growing conditions that should be mentioned here. It is worth noting that bamboos are tough plants and will tolerate a degree of neglect. Indeed, where space is an issue, their growth can be kept in check if they are fed sparingly after planting.
Knowing what to plant where is important for success in the garden regardless of what you plant. Before buying a bamboo to grow, make sure you are informed regarding the following growing conditions for it:
- Amount of sunlight needed
- Best soil for the plants to grow in
- Recommended nutrients for the plants
- Watering needs
- How cold-hardy your type of bamboo is
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Spacing between Bamboo Plants
The spacing between the plants will depend on the species to be planted, the primary goal of the plantation, and local soil and climate conditions.
The size and physical dimensions of the bamboo species to be planted is an important factor to determine the planting density. Higher densities (closer spacing) are suitable for smaller-sized bamboos, and lower densities (more spaced out) are suitable for larger-sized bamboos.
If the bamboo plants are spaced too far apart, the plantation will suffer from canopy exposure, loss of soil moisture through evaporation, and competition from weeds and other vegetation. An excessively dense plantation will lead to bamboo plants competing amongst themselves for light, space, soil moisture, and nutrients.
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How To Water Bamboos
Following the planting of bamboo, it is crucial that they be well watered for the first month or two, by this we mean a good deep soaking every couple of days. If planting in the middle of summer, and the ground is dry, daily watering may be required.
Once they are established (after a couple of months), watering requirements become less stringent. It is important to realize that it takes time for the bamboo roots to ground out into surrounding soil, so water should be concentrated directly on the root ball.
Roots will grow out quickly during summer, but quite slowly during winter. Bamboo plants (once established) are very hardy and will not die if left unwatered, though having said this, they do like regular watering and will definitely give more rewarding results if watered on a regular basis.
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Containment of Running Bamboos
Keeping running varieties under control and attractive is relatively easy if planting instructions are followed carefully and routine maintenance is undertaken. However, they do merit a word of caution – they can become invasive, unsightly, and spread beyond their bounds if left unrestricted and unchecked.
A physical constraining barrier and/or root pruning will keep your running bamboo looking beautiful and restrict it to its designated space.
Planting your running bamboo inside a properly installed barrier will prevent it from spreading through beds and borders. When planting, dig a trench at least 2 feet (60cm) but ideally 4 feet (1.2 meters) deep and for the length of your desired planting and line the sides with root barrier fabric, high-density polythene available from builders merchants or solid materials e.g. paving slabs or corrugated iron sheets.
The barrier should stick out at least 7.5cm (3 inches) above soil level to prevent the bamboo stems from arching over the top. It can be disguised with decorative mulch or stone.
When rhizomes meet the barrier, they will turn and sometimes go down. For this reason, it is important to firm the soil down securely to eliminate loose soil and air pockets, otherwise the rhizomes may go deeper than you want and potentially under the barrier.
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