Growing bamboo is a perfect way to create a natural privacy border. Bamboo is a dense, fast growing grass that needs little maintenance. Depending on the variety of bamboo it can grow from 3 to 100 feet high.
Two Types of Bamboo Plants
Clumping bamboo forms a compact root system that expands only a couple of inches a year. It grows mostly in tropical climates. Running bamboo grows runners that spread far from the main root. Runners are hard to control unless some kind of concrete or plastic barrier is used to keep them contained. Running bamboo tends to be more tolerant of cold climates.
TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Karen Thurber cautions you, "In some environments, certain species of bamboo can become widespread and invasive. Invasive plants frequently escape their cultivated area and take over in a natural areas, where they out compete native plants and reduce food sources for wildlife. Check your States invasive species list before purchasing and planting bamboo."
Step 1 - Pick the Right Time of Year
In warm climates, bamboo plants can be planted anytime of year. For colder climates bamboo planting should be done in the spring after the last frost. Ground temperature needs to be 40 degrees F for bamboo roots to grow.
Step 2 - Select a Location
Bamboo likes full sun to partial shade and rich well drained soil. Good drainage is important because the roots don’t do well when the soil is drenched. Young bamboo plants have to be protected from wind and scorching.
TIP: Karen advises, "Most bamboo plants like at least 5 hours of direct sun."
Step 3 - Amend the Soil
Bamboo is a grass so it needs nitrogen to grow and stay healthy. Grass clippings, composted manure and commercial compost are all good for adding nitrogen to the soil. The soil should be loose, rich with organic matter and slightly acidic.
Step 4 - Plant the Bamboo
Loosen soil and remove any weeds. Dig a hole as deep as the container and twice as wide. Place the bamboo plant in the hole, keeping the soil level the same as it was in the container. Mix the soil that was removed from the hole with compost and back fill around the plant. Pack the soil around the plant to establish good root contact with the soil. Water well.
TIP: Karen recommends, "When a screen of bamboo is desired, plant bamboo 3-5 feet apart."
Step 5 - Water
Bamboo plants need regular watering the first year. Once bamboo plants are established, allow the soil to dry between waterings. Full grown bamboo plants only need watering during drought conditions. A sign that bamboo plants are dehydrated is when the leaves curl up.
Step 6 - Mulch
Apply 2 to 3 inches of mulch around growing bamboo. Do not rake any leaves that fall off the bamboo plants because they help enrich the soil and protect the plant’s root system in the winter. Keep a thick layer of mulch around bamboo plants in the winter.