You don't need a green thumb to grow or install an impressive clump of bamboo in your landscape. Bamboo is quite easy to grow and planting is as easy as digging a small hole. Our bamboo plants are shipped in 3 gallon containers to keep the digging to a minimum. The 3 gallon size contain a root mass roughly 10” in diameter and install in about 5 minutes. Follow the simple instructions below and your bamboo will be planted and growing in no time.
Steps to Planting Bamboo:
Dig a hole - We recommend digging a hole roughly the size of a 5 gallon bucket, then pushing some dirt back into the hole. The idea behind digging a slightly larger hole is, to break up and aerate the surrounding soil, giving the roots room to expand. Resist the temptation to throw some fertilizer into the hole. It is important to keep the fertilizer on top of the roots and not below or beside. The fertilizer is carried to the plant with water and water flows down. So by placing the fertilizer in the bottom of the hole, the water has no chance to contact the fertilizer until after it passes the root zone.
Add some Organic material - Bamboo loves water and keeping the rootball well watered during the first few weeks after installation is very important. With some soils no matter how much you water, the water does not seem to stay in the root zone. Our local Florida sandy soils in particular don’t hold much water on their own, and can be seriously helped out with a couple shovelfuls of compost or manure added to the hole and backfill. It is not really important what brand, just as long as its fully broken down (no fresh manure) organic material. These organic compounds hold water and bond to sandy soils to get the sand to hold more water. The result is more water and nutrition held at the root zone and faster growth overall.
Use Plenty of water - Our favorite technique for a good install with no air pockets in the soil is to use a garden hose. We will turn a garden hose on and stick it in the hole with the bamboo. Then we start shoveling the mix of compost and sand back to fill the hole. Moving the hose around a bit floods the hole and eliminates any chance of air pockets. Plant roots die in the presence of air, so eliminating large pockets of air in the soil makes good sense.
Use Myco Tea from Supreme Growers - This product was originally formulated for high performance bamboo growers and is the best single product you can apply to bamboo. I cannot stress enough how beneficial it is to get a bit of Myco Tea onto the roots and backfill at planting. Myco tea is effective because it contains several species of beneficial bacteria and fungi that stimulate and protect young plant roots. Myco Tea contains several types of beneficial mycorrhizae fungi, that if applied at planting, will colonize and organically protect the plants root system for the life of the bamboo. Small packets of Myco tea are available here for $2.95 each, we recommend using 1 packet per plant at install. There are also larger sizes available for installation of multiple plants. We use 1 packet (5 grams) in a 2 gallon watering can and top water the clump once it has been completely installed.
Top dress with a good fertilizer - Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on land and in the summer a shoot can grow over 18 inches per day. This type of growth rate is only achieved when the plant is given plenty of water and plenty of high quality, complete fertilizer. Because the strength of fertilizer varies greatly from brand to brand, there are no hard and fast rules on application rates. A healthy bamboo plant is a heavy feeder so using the heavy feeding rate is advisable for fast growth. When you are looking to slow down the growth of your bamboo, use less fertilizer. We like to sprinkle the granules in with the last couple shovelfuls of soil (directly on top of the root ball). This keeps the fertilizer in place and evenly moist.
While it is true that most lawn fertilizers will work just fine with bamboo we prefer and recommend our Professional 13-3-13 Bamboo Special for one primary reason; it’s a 12 month controlled release formula. That means fertilizing your bamboo just got simple. At the nursery we keep over 20,000 plants, so labor to fertilize each plant is a major expense! We use our 13-3-13 Bamboo Special 12 month fertilizer once per year, at tax time (April 15 is easy to remember for me). Our 13-3-13 Bamboo Special is a 100% controlled release fertilizer, meaning that the fertilizer can only release a certain amount of nutrition per 24 hour period, no matter what happens. With our fertilizer, It can rain for 15 minutes or 24 hours straight and the exact same amount of nutrition will be released. This makes sense for your plant, your pocket book and your community watershed.
If you prefer to use your own fertilizer it will most likely work fine, it just becomes difficult to judge when to reapply and how much the plant has used. We recommend sticking to a high nitrogen (first number of NPK should be at least 10), controlled release blend. Osmocote and Dynamyte from Home Depot are both decent products but they are only 3-4 month releases, so you will have to apply them 4 times annually.
It is absolutely possible to grow great quality bamboo using only organic inputs, but this will require a bit more than just sprinkling a handful of fertilizer once annually. Organic bamboo growers should use plenty of composted manures high in nitrogen. Bat guanos are also an excellent source of nutrition for bamboo, just make sure you are looking at guanos that contain high nitrogen.
Cover with mulch - Another trick to keeping moisture in the root zone, is to cover the top of the plant with some mulch. The idea is that the mulch creates a physical barrier like the lid on a pot to keep in moisture. Mulch gives the added benefit of slowly breaking down and providing some nutrients as it does. Bamboo is not picky on the type of mulch so just about any type will do.
Water, Water, Water - For the first week after installation you will want to water your bamboo daily, to let it root into the surrounding soil. For larger installations we recommend tying into your automatic sprinkler system but smaller installs can easily be handled with a simple garden hose. I often recommend a garden hose and $20 digital timer to anyone that does not want to bother with hand watering.
Stand Back and Enjoy - Follow the above instructions then stand back and watch it grow. Our clumping bamboo are some of the fastest growing plants in the world and when installed properly will grow into a large clump within a few years.