Elegant and easy, growing bamboo is a cinch to get started. And forget those nay-sayers warnings that this striking shoots will overtake your personal Eden. Never you worry, growing bamboo and keeping it in line can achieved with minimal effort.
The first step is to figure out the type of bamboo you’d like to grow. There are many varieties, but they generally fall into two groups: clumpers and runners. The root structure of bamboo is complimented by rhizomes (a type of stem that stores nutrients and spreads horizontally through the soil), and these rhizomes will produce offshoot bamboo stalks (culms). The rhizomes in clumping bamboo never stray far from the initial shoots, but they will spread out across a much larger area in running bamboo. Clumpers are recommended in almost all instances except for when planting an expansive hedge or grove, as all additional culms will naturally grow within a fairly constrained area. Runners can easily get out of hand in the garden, and their invasiveness is difficult to remedy.
Spring or early summer are the best times to plant bamboo. But before you start digging up a hole for planting, you’ll need some sort of material at hand for containing the spread of rhizomes. Metal strips or concrete will work, but will degrade through weathering. High density polyethylene (HDPE) that is at least 40mil (~1mm) thick and 24-36 inches (~61-92cm) wide is recommended. Your trench should be no smaller than a square yard (~92cm squared), and about 2 inches (~5cm) shallower than the width of your containment material. Compact the soil in the bottom as well as you can, then install your barrier along the sides of the trench. It should stick 2 inches (~5cm) above the surrounding soil in order to stop any rhizomes from growing unnoticed over it. Carefully place the bamboo plant into the centre of the hole, and gently fill the trench with soil. You’ll want to carefully compact the first half of the fill, while leaving the second half loose. Lightly watering the soil as you fill up the trench can also be beneficial to the plant, but don’t overdo it.
Now that it’s in the ground, your bamboo will require a little bit of pampering over the next several years. It’s important to keep it well watered (if the leaves curl, the bamboo’s thirsty), especially during the first year. Bamboo grows very quickly, so staking the taller initial culms can help to prevent uprooting. Leaving mulch over the surrounding soil is great, as it controls soil moisture and temperature. High nitrogen fertilizer is the food of choice, but is not to be used at the time of planting. Instead, fertilize in March, June, and September. Try to keep the immediate area weed free, as bamboo doesn’t appreciate the competition. Annual pruning of dead culms will be necessary, and you’ll need to make periodic checks for rhizomes hopping the barrier. Cut them back to avoid undesired spreading. Pruning doesn’t damage the plant, and can even promote its growth.
Although it’ll take about 3 years to fully establish itself, if you follow these instructions your new bamboo will be growing so quickly you can expect beautiful results within a month or two!