BAMBOO PLANT PLACEMENT
Although most people have a place in mind as to where they want to plant their bamboo, one should keep in mind that most large bamboos grow quicker and do their best in full sun. They must be given ample water, fertilizer, and protection from competitive weeds. They will benefit from a windscreen and light shade when first planted as well. This is especially true of smaller plants.
Most hardy bamboos can spread by their underground rhizomes and this must be taken into account when planting them. Please review “Bamboo Spreading” tab. You’ll find that with a bit of knowledge you can enjoy these beautiful plants and actually use the spreading nature to your advantage.
PLANTING YOUR NEW BAMBOOS
Most bamboos are happiest in a moderately acidic loamy soil, but they will accept just about any type of soil. If your soil is very heavy, you can add organic material. It can be dug into the soil where the bamboo is to be planted, but the easiest thing is to mulch very heavily and let the earth worms do all the work. Spread 2 or more inches of mulch in the area around the bamboo, and where you want the bamboo to grow.
Bamboo is a forest plant and does best if a mulch is kept over the roots and rhizomes. It is best not to rake or sweep up the bamboo leaves from under the plant, as they keep the soil soft, and moist, and recycle silica and other natural chemicals necessary to the bamboo.
A low growing shade tolerant ground cover plant that will allow the leaves to fall through to form a mulch without being visible will work if you find the dry leaf mulch objectionable. Almost any organic material is a good mulch. Grass is one of the best, as it is high in nitrogen and silica. Home made or commercial compost is great. Hay is a good mulch too, but hay and manure are often a source of weed seeds, so that can be a problem. Any kind of manure is good, if it isn’t too hot. Limited amounts of very hot manures like chicken are OK, if used with care. You can also use chipped trees from tree pruning services. This can harbor pathogens that can affect some trees or shrubs, but the bamboo loves it.
TIMING & WINTER PROTECTION
Bamboos can be planted at any time of the year in areas with mild climates such as we have in the maritime Pacific West. In colder parts of the world they should be planted outdoors early enough to become established and to harden off sufficiently to survive their first winter.
If the bamboo is planted late in the year, one should mulch the plant heavily and provide extra protection from any cold and drying winds. In colder climates where bamboos may be marginal, successful growers usually protect their bamboos through the
winter with a heavy mulch.
Even in very cold climates in an established bamboo grove with a heavy layer of bamboo leaves covering the ground, the soil will be soft and friable during periods when the surrounding soils are hard and deep.
STAKING TALL PLANTS
When planting very tall and slender bamboos, they may need to be staked, actually the better term is “guyed”. This will prevent wind from uprooting them, or damaging newly formed roots. Tall bamboo plants are best guyed with a roped tied to the culms up about 2/3rds the way up, and to short stakes on 3 or 4 sides of the plant, sufficient distance to give the strength needed to prevent he wind from uprooting the stakes.
YELLOWING & FALLING LEAVES
In the Spring there is considerable yellowing of the leaves, followed by leaf drop. This is natural and should not cause concern, as bamboos are evergreen and naturally renew their leaves in the Spring. They should lose their leaves gradually as they are replaced by fresh new ones. In the Spring on a healthy bamboo there should be a mixture of green leaves, yellow leaves and newly unfurling leaves.
Newly planted bamboos need frequent watering. Every other day during mild weather and daily during hot or windy weather. Bamboo are shallow rooted and do not require heavy watering. Make sure that each plant under 5 gallon pot size gets at least a gallon of water. For plants over 5 gallon size more than 1 gallon is advised.
The leaves will curl if it is allowed to go totally dry. Add water at once. If allowed to go completely dry for several days while getting established, the leaves will turn yellow and it will take some time for the plant to recover. AVOID THIS.
Once a bamboo has reached the desired size, it can survive with much less irrigation. But until then you must water and fertilize copiously to achieve optimum growth. Lack of sufficient water especially during hot or windy weather is the leading cause of failure or poor growth of new bamboo plants.
Watering newly planted bamboos every day, or for longer than a few minutes can cause excess leaf drop. Well established bamboos are rather tolerant of flooding, but newly planted bamboos can suffer from too much as well as too little water.