Posted by Brent Wilson on 7/28/2016 to Container Gardening
If you have limited space, live in a colder climate or are just plain afraid to plant bamboo in the ground from fear of not being able to control its spread, you can still enjoy growing bamboo, in containers.
Choosing the right type of bamboo, the right container, and filling it with the right type of soil is all important. Keep reading to learn more about planting bamboo in containers.
Choosing A Pot
Growing bamboo in pots is possible for both clumping and running bamboo types.
Things to consider when choosing a container...
The most important thing when choosing a container to grow your bamboo plant in is size. Choose a container that will allow the bamboo's root system to grow for two to three years before moving up in container size or having to remove, divide and replant.
The minimum size container for growing most types of bamboo would be 10 gallons in volume. That said, the bigger the better. A 20 or 30 gallon container will give you several more years before having to repot or divide. Running bamboo species put out more runners than clumping bamboo so they're likely to become root bound much faster. Therefore, I recommend at least a 20 gallon size pot for running bamboo.
Note: Bamboo can be safely transplanted from one pot to another, or from a pot to the ground, at any time of year, but dividing plants should be done in fall or winter.
Drainage Holes Are All Important!
Does the pot have sufficient holes in the bottom for good drainage? One 1/2- to 1-inch hole in the bottom is usually good enough, however two or three holes will work better. Drill additional holes if necessary to provide adequate drainage.
The use of a piece of polypropylene shade cloth or porous landscape weed control fabric to line the inside bottom of the container works extremely well to prevent drainage holes from becoming stopped up with soil or roots, and adds no weight to the pot.
Shape Can Be Important
Next thing to consider would be the shape of your container. Does the shape of the container allow the bamboo to be easily removed from the pot without damaging the root system or the pot? Avoid vase-like pots with narrow tops. The top of the pot should be as wide or wider than the bottom of the pot.
Wind Is A Concern
Is the bottom of the pot wide enough to support the bamboo in wind? You don't want a pot with a very narrow base as it will be prone to tipping in the wind, especially with tall-growing bamboo species. You can add a brick or stone to the interior bottom of any container to increase stability. However, keep in mind that this will make the container heavier for transporting.
Do I need a lightweight container that can be easily moved? Clay, ceramic, and concrete pottery are typically much heavier than plastic or fiberglass, and they are prone to breakage. That said, if there will be exposure to wind, heavy concrete might be the best way to go. Double walled plastic or synthetic containers provide better insulation from freezing and hot conditions. Galvanized tubs or wooden planters work nicely and can be painted or stained. Brinks or stones can be added to lighter pots to increase stability.
If you'd rather not dump your dollars into a more expensive container, just about anything you can find that holds soil and drains well is a potential container for a bamboo plant.
Soil Is Important
When growing bamboo in containers, you'll want to use a soil mix that holds moisture evenly while also allowing good drainage.
The most important functions of a good soil mix:
- Drainage. Bamboo like moist but not wet soils. Constantly soggy soil will lead to root root rot, which is the most prevalent killer of Bamboo in containers, and in the ground. The soil mix should hold water evenly throughout the container and allow for good drainage.
- Nutrient Retention. The mix has to have the ability to retain nutrients applied while facilitating the roots ability to absorb them and distribute these to all parts of the tree.
- Support or Stability for the Roots. A good soil mix will provide conditions for development of a strong root system. A strong root system will result in a stronger tree that will stand up to inclement or windy conditions.
Note: Avoid using native soil (dirt) from your landscape/garden to fill your container as it can contain particles, such as in clay soil, that will become compacted, hindering drainage. Native garden soils are also heavier; holding more water and making the pot heavier and harder to move.
Soil Mix Recipe
Depending on the size container I'm planting in, I use a measuring cup, coffee can or small bucket to make the following mixture:
3 Parts Quality Potting Soil. Use a quality potting soil - not one of those .99 cent-a-bag low-grade potting soils you might find at a box store. The one I use costs about $4 for a 20 quart bag.
1 Part Composted Manure. Any variety of composted manure is acceptable. Always use composted manure and not fresh manure. The variety of manure is not critical but it has to be properly composted. Bagged products, such as composted cow manure, are best.
1 Part Pumice (Optional) - Pumice is an excellent soil conditioner, as it is highly porous providing excellent water, air, and nutrient holding capabilities. Pumice will not decompose or compact over time and is very lightweight. Agricultural grade pumice can usually be found at local feed stores as a product called Dry Stall. The particle size is about 1/8". It's a good idea to wash the product before use to remove the fine particles. If you can't find Pumice you can substitute with perlite.
Planting Bamboo In A Container
Before filling your container with the soil mix, line the bottom of the pot with shade cloth or a porous landscape fabric such as those used for weed barrier. This will keep the drain holes from becoming stopped up with soil.
To remove your bamboo plant from the container it was growing in, try to gently lift and remove it from the container it was growing in. If the root ball is stuck in the container either cut the container away. After having removed the bamboo plant from the container, very gently loosen some feeder roots around the surface of the root ball.
Pour a small amount of your soil mixture in the bottom of the container. Set plant in container and make necessary adjustments by adding or removing some soil mixture so that the top edge of the root ball will sit 1 to 2 inches below the rim of the container.
Backfill with soil mixture around rootball, tamping as you go, until the the level of potting mix is even with the top edge of root ball.
Water thoroughly until water starts to drain from the holes in the bottom of the container. Add more potting mix if settling occurs during watering.
Apply a 1/2" layer of wood chips or sphagnum moss to soil surface - maybe stone chips or gravel if you'll be planting succulents or other small plants around the base. I've found that creeping groundcover or crevice plants such as Blue Star Creeper, Creeping Jenny, Sedums or Dwarf Mondo Grass make nice soil covers in bamboo container gardens.
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