Growing Bamboo

The Pacific Northwest has excellent conditions for growing cold hardy Bamboo.  Neutral slightly acidic, well draining soil works best.  Adding organic matter to clay soil will improve porosity, adding to light soil improves moisture retention.  For planting bamboo as a scene, amend the soil in the area you want it to grow. Water thoroughly after planting and thru the first year.  

To create a screen or hedge it is recommended to plant 3 to 5 feet apart. Depending on how large your plants are and how fast you want them to grow together is a personal preference, but most medium size running bamboo will grow together by the their year if planted 5 feet apart, with good growing conditions.  Plant at the same level it has been growing, it seems to like level to higher rather than lower.  Most Bamboo grow in the first 1 1/2 to 2 feet of soil and will reach mature size in 5 to 6 years when starting with small plants.

March and April is a great time to plant in our area because the rain does most of our work for us.  Bamboo needs to be watered regularly and thoroughly the first year to get established.  One to five gallon plants need 2 inches of water a week, more for larger plants.  Bamboo will curl its leaves and possibly abort shoots if water stressed.  In the following years it will need watered in the summer when the ground starts to dry out.  There is such a short period of time in the Pacific Northwest that this happens, but if your Bamboo is in full sun it will like more water.  A couple of inches of compost or mulch helps with the moisture retention.  Bamboo can be fertilized in the early spring or fall with compost manure or high nitrogen grass fertilizer.  Make sure it is fertilizer with no pesticides.

Bamboo culms (or canes) shoot every year from March thru June depending on the species and will grow to their completed height for that year in 6 to 8 weeks.  Plants being grown as hedges can be topped or trimmed to the desired shape and height.  Normally there is leaf fall in the spring making room for the fresh new leaves.

These are general guide lines for growing Bamboo, but I have found many variations, so be ready to be surprised at what Bamboo can do.
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