Posted by Brent Wilson on 12/13/2016 to Planting & Growing Tips
Below are general guidelines for properly planting most types of bamboo in the landscape. This planting technique is suitable for most average soils. Most bamboo prefer a well-draining, moist soil that is slightly acidic. Constantly soggy or wet soils can cause problems.
Scroll Down For Bamboo Barrier Installation Instructions
Bamboo Cultural Preferences
How much sun a bamboo needs will depend on the variety. Before planting make sure you've selected a variety that matches the sun exposure in the planting area.
Soil Type Preferred
In general, most bamboo species prefer a moist but well-draining, loamy, moderately acidic soil, but aren't too picky about soil type. With the exception a few varieties that will tolerate boggy soil, a constantly wet or soggy soil can cause problems with the roots on most varieties. Bamboo are tolerant of heavy clay soils if drainage is good. Before planting, it's best to know the soil drainage in the planting area and the moisture needs of the specific variety of bamboo.
If you are uncertain about how well the soil drains in the planting area, it's best to test soil drainage before planting. To test soil drainage, dig a hole 12" wide by 12" deep. Fill the hole with water and let it drain. Then, after it drains, fill it with water again, but this time clock how long it takes to drain. In well-drained soil the water level will go down at a rate of about 1 inch an hour. A faster rate, such as in sandy soil, may signal potentially dry site conditions; a slower rate is a caution that you either need to improve drainage or look for a plant species tolerant of wet conditions.
Bamboo prefers a moderately acid soil between 5.5 to 6.5 on the pH scale. It's a good idea, especially if your bamboo aren't growing or looking well, to test the soil for pH. Most nursery and garden centers sell testing kits or you can buy soil testing products here. Your local Extension service might also provide soil testing services.
Learn More: What is Soil pH and How To Adjust It
When is The Best Time To Plant Bamboo?
Cold Winter Climates
The best time to plant varies from area to area and species to species. In general, cold hardy bamboos do not develop their full cold-hardiness until well established, and planting in spring through mid-summer gives the plant a longer growing season to get established and develop its cold-hardiness before the cold season arrives. If planting in the late summer, plant even the most cold-hardy bamboos at least 3 months before first frost. Thick mulch is recommended to protect the plants over the first winter regardless of when planted. If you purchase your bamboo during winter plant it in a pot if necessary that can be kept indoors until frost is past in spring, at which time you can safely plant it outdoors.
Hot Summer Climates
In very hot summer climates such as in Florida, the best planting times for bamboos are early spring and late fall. Bamboos will more readily establish themselves when weather is milder and rain is more likely. Mid-summer planting can sometimes be accomplished by using shade cloth to protect from intense sun.
In mild climate areas such as coastal California, it doesn"t make as much difference, except for the least cold hardy clumpers, for which spring is best.
Step-By-Step Bamboo Planting Instructions
NOTE: If you'll be using a barrier to control spread of rhizomes on running varieties of bamboo, scroll below to find instructions for Installing Bamboo Barrier.
Begin by digging a hole at least twice as wide as the root ball and not much deeper than the rootball.
Depending on the type, fertility, and porosity of the soil in your planting area you might need to add organic matter, a soil amendment to the native soil removed from the planting hole to condition and add nutrients to the soil. When planting in heavy clay soil, to condition soil, it's a good idea to thoroughly mix in ground pine bark or bagged top soil, and some good organic matter, such as composted cow manure or mushroom compost at a 50/50 ratio with the clay soil. When planting in very sandy, quick-draining soil you might want to consider adding in some peat moss and or compost to help retain moisture. When planting in fertile, loamy soil you might not need to add any soil amendment!
Gently remove your plant from the pot it was growing in. If the root ball is stuck in the pot either cut the container away or place the plant on it's side and pound lightly on the side of the container. This usually helps to loosen the root ball in the container. After having removed the plant from the container, gently loosen some feeder roots around the surface of the root ball. If rootbound, it may be necessary to use a claw tool to loosen roots.
Most bamboo prefer well-drained soil. So, if you're planting your bamboo in a location that provides well-drained soil set the plant into the hole so that top of root-ball is level of the soil surface in the planting area. We would not recommend planting most varieties of bamboo in sites where the soil stays constantly soggy or wet. It would be best to improve drainage in wet areas. That being said, know the specific soil moisture needs of the bamboo variety you are planting.
Use your hand to begin back-filling your soil mixture around the root ball, tamping as you go to remove air pockets. When you have filled the hole to the halfway point you can soak the soil to help remove air pockets. Then continue back-filling to the top edge of the root ball. Do not put any backfill soil on top of the root ball as doing so can suffocate your plant.
Step 6 (Optional)
With remaining soil mixture or addition native soil you build a water retaining ring to around 3" or so in height around the perimeter of the planting hole.
Broadcast bamboo fertilizer or an organic plant food atop rootball in amount suggested on label. To enhance root development, you might also consider watering your newly planted bamboo with a solution of Root Stimulator.
Deeply water your newly planted bamboo deeply at time of planting. Thereafter, monitor soil moisture by using the finger test and water when necessary to keep soil moist during the first growing season.
To retain adequate moisture and suppress weed growth, apply a 2 inch layer of wood mulch, or a 4-inch layer of pine straw.
How To Install Bamboo Barrier
Using paint marker, field marker or a garden hose to outline the shape of the area in which you want your bamboo to grow. Keep in mind that the larger the mature size of a specific species or variety of bamboo the larger the contained area will need to be for the bamboo to reach its full potential. For larger growing Phyllostachys bamboo you should have a circumference (distance around the planting bed) of at least 30 feet.
Using a trenching shovel or a motorized trenching machine, dig a trench to precisely 22 inches deep for 60 mil liner or 28 inches deep for 80 mil liner around the perimeter of your planting bed. The trench can be anywhere from 8 to 12 inches wide. For narrow planting beds it may be easier just to remove all the soil from the planting bed. When digging, remove the top soil first then the heavier subsoil, stacking these separately.
Place the barrier in the trench so that it stands 2 inches above ground level. This prohibits the bamboo rhizomes (roots) from growing over the top without being detected and also serves as an edger to contain mulch.
Overlap the ends of the barrier by 3 feet or so.
Back fill the trench first with the sub-soil, and compact this to drive out all air pockets. Then complete backfilling with the top soil and pack that tight, too. Make sure no sharp objects (stones, glass, metal, or tree roots) come into contact with the barrier.
The use of bark mulch or other loose, organic substances spread 2 to 5 inches deep over the top of your planting area within the barrier encourages the rhizomes to spread just inches below the surface, making them very easy to locate and prune. Mulch also makes for a healthier bamboo.