Bamboos are popular garden plants, grown for their fast growth and architectural stems (culms). Some bamboos are perfect for using in tropical planting schemes, while others are more suited to contemporary or urban designs. Some clump-forming species work well as natural screening. There’s a huge range of bamboos to choose from, ranging in colour from black to yellow.
How to grow bamboo
There are two types of bamboo: clumping and running. Clumping bamboos grow in clumps. Running bamboos bear long underground stems, or rhizomes, from which new growth appears, enabling them to colonise new ground.
Most bamboos thrive in moist, well-drained soil. They can be grown in most soil types, but some do better in acid soil – avoid wet, boggy or dry conditions. Plant your bamboo in spring to encourage it to develop good roots and canes before becoming dormant in autumn. Feed with a balanced fertiliser throughout the growing season and allow some bamboo leaves to accumulate around the base of the plants, as they return nutrients, particularly silica, to the roots, helping the plants stay strong and healthy.
More on growing bamboo:
Where to grow bamboo
Bamboos can be grown in almost any situation. Plant bamboo at the back of the border to create height, in your lawn to make a focal point, against a fence or wall to create a screen, or as a contemporary hedge. You can also grow bamboo in a pot – some compact varieties do well in large pots, while other ‘running bamboos’ are best grown in a container to prevent them from growing out of control.
How to plant bamboo
Running bamboos can be invasive, so it’s best to control their growth by growing them in containers or digging a trench and lining it with paving slabs or other impermeable material, so the bamboo can’t ‘run’.
To plant clumping bamboo in the ground, dig a hole twice the size of the rootball. Plant the bamboo so its rootball sits level with the ground surface. Backfill with soil and water in well.
How to propagate bamboo
Divide clumps in spring, using a sharp spade to separate bits of root from the main rootball. Replant in the ground and water well.
How to care for bamboo
Bamboos are hungry plants and do best when given a regular liquid feed from spring to autumn. Remove dead leaves from around the base of plants, although allow some to remain as they return the nutrient silica to the plant’s roots.
It’s important to carry out regular root inspections, particularly if you’re growing running bamboo. Dig down around the bas of the plant and remove stray root growth with a sharp spade, to keep growth in check.
Growing bamboo: problem solving
Bamboos rarely suffer from pests and disease. The main problem associated with growing bamboo is when running bamboos grow out of control. Find out how to control the spread of running bamboo, in our video, above.
Bamboos to grow
How to grow bamboo – Chusquea culeou ‘Breviglumis’
Phyllostachys nigra – an attractive, but running bamboo with black leaves. Best grown in pots or trenches to prevent it spreading.
Fargesia murieliae ‘Luca’ – grows to only 50cm in height and is well suited to for growing in a pot.
Himalayacalamus hookerianus – young blue-purple culms mature to gold. Perfect for growing as a focal point to show off its colour.
Shibataea kumasaca – a dwarf species with gold-tinged leaves.