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How to Grow Bamboo in Your Backyard

Updated on December 15, 2017
CatherineGiordano profile image

Inspirational essays and articles, with a touch of humor, are a favorite topic for Ms. Giordano, a writer and public speaker.

Bamboo Backyard Privacy Shield

I have Baby Buddha Bamboo growing in my backyard. It hides the street from me and hides me from people walking or driving by on the street.
I have Baby Buddha Bamboo growing in my backyard. It hides the street from me and hides me from people walking or driving by on the street. | Source

What is bamboo?

Bamboos are some of the fastest-growing plants in the world. Although bamboo may look like a tree, it is actually classified as a grass.

There are close to 1,500 species of bamboo. The woody varieties are most common—they are characterized by hollow woody-walled stems with ringed joints from which grow clumps of long narrow leaves.

Certain species of bamboo can reach heights of nearly 100 feet. In ideal conditions, some types of bamboo can grow as much as four feet in one day.

Bamboo is found in temperate, semi-tropical, and tropical regions of the world.

Bamboo in History

In China, bamboo is a symbol of moral integrity and good character.

In India, bamboo is a symbol of friendship.

Bamboo is the national plant of the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.

In the creation mythology of several Asian cultures, humanity emerged from a bamboo stem.

How to get started?

Bamboo is easy to grow, simple to maintain, and grows quickly. It makes an excellent privacy shield or privacy hedge, and since it grows so quickly your landscape plan will be realized in as little as a year. Once bamboo reaches its maximum height, it stops growing UP and starts growing OUT (becoming bushy).

You should buy your bamboo from a local nursery that specializes in bamboo. (Use the internet to find one near you.) The nursery will have a dozen or more varieties for you to choose from, and the staff can advise you on what is the right type of bamboo for your yard. From there you can make a final choice based on looks.

I choose “Baby Buddha” bamboo because I loved the fat green rings. Also since I live in a subdivision with small backyard, I liked that it only grew to a maximum of 12 feet tall. I live in Orlando, Florida, and this variety was suitable for a semi-tropical region. (If there is a hard freeze, which sometimes happens in Orlando, it will lose its leaves, but it will quickly grow back the next spring.)

You will buy the bamboo in pots, ready to be transplanted. Choose plants two to three feet tall. They grow fast so there is no need to spend the extra money for a tall one.

Baby Buddha bamboo

Fat green rings of Baby Buddha Bamboo.
Fat green rings of Baby Buddha Bamboo. | Source

What kind of bamboo should you choose?

are two types of bamboo, clumping bamboo and running bamboo. Unless you have acres that you wish to fill, you will probably want clumping bamboo.

Each year bamboo sends up new shoots, one to three per plant. Clumping bamboo is non-invasive. Clumping bamboo sends up shoots in a circle around the initial plant. This keeps the plant where you want it. If a shoot comes up “out of bounds” just kick it over while it is still young and tender, and it will not grow. The canes will grow taller and larger in diameter each year. Mine have been growing for six years—I stated off with skinny canes, but I now have nice fat canes.

Running bamboo is invasive. It sends runners under the ground and the bamboo shoots can pop us two or three feet away from the original plant. If you choose running bamboo you could keep it contained by a natural barrier like a lake or a pond or by a wide asphalt road. Another barrier is a swath of grass five or more feet wide that is mowed frequently.

Clumping bamboos do best in semi-tropical and tropical areas; running bamboo does best in the temperate zone.

Bamboo stalks

Bamboo stalks have evenly spaced "notches."
Bamboo stalks have evenly spaced "notches." | Source

How to plant your bamboo?

Transplant the bamboo plants from the nursery anywhere from four to ten feet apart. When planted no more than six feet apart, you can expect a solid hedge in one growing season. By the end of summer, you will have a tall thick green border of towering canes that bend in the breeze. The flexibility of the canes will be a nice advantage over a tree if there is a hurricane.

The hole you dig for the plant should be no deeper than he depth of the pot. Bamboo is a grass, and like the grass of your lawn, it prefers to be near the surface.

Put a two-inch thick layer of mulch around each plant. You can create your own blend of mulch by mixing together 1 part dried leaves and 1 part organic compost. This will protecti the plant in the early stages of growth, as well as provide the plant with nutrients.

Since bamboo has shallow roots it is susceptible to wind damage. I have planted mine along a brick fence that is about 5 ½ feet high. This protects the plants from wind damage. There hasn’t been a hurricane where I live since I first planted my bamboo so I can’t speak from personal experience. After a hurricane hits, I’ll let you know.

Clumping bamboo varieties that grow best in temperate zones prefer some light shade. However, the clumping varieties most suited for semi-tropical/tropical zones prefer full sun.

Bamboo leaves

These bamboo leaves grow in graceful fan shapes.
These bamboo leaves grow in graceful fan shapes. | Source

What kind of soil and fertilizer is best?

Bamboo is not too fussy about soil. So long as your soil is not soggy, your bamboo should do fine. The best soil for bamboo should be slightly acid and loamy. Loam is a type of soil composed of sand, silt (granular particles smaller than a grain of sand, but, larger than clay particles) and clay, in the proportion of 40%,40%, 20%, respectively. Since Florida soil is often sandy, it is perfect for bamboo.

The best fertilizer is an organic fertilizer that is high in nitrogen. (Half rotted horse or cow manure is an excellent choice.) A high-nitrogen lawn fertilizer also works well.

Apply fertilizer when you first plant your bamboo. Thereafter, fertilize once in the summer and again in the early spring.

Bamboo sheds some of its leaves in the winter, and this forms a natural mulch and fertilizer. Now that my plants are well established, I don’t bother applying fertilizer anymore.

Water droplets on bamboo

Water droplets bead on bamboo leaves.
Water droplets bead on bamboo leaves. | Source

How much water does bamboo need?

Water well, but do not overwater. Do not let the soil become soggy. You should water every other day when you first plant your bamboo. I found that once my plants were established, the twice-a- week schedule for the lawn sprinklers did the trick in winter. During the summer, I do not water at all since it rains almost every day in Orlando, and we seldom go more than two or three days without rain.

The Basic Instructions for Growing Bamboo

Element
Description
Tip
Soil
Well-drained, slightly acidic, loamy
Well-drained
Fertilizer
Compost or lawn fertilizer
High-nitrogen
Water
Everyday at first, then every 2-3 days
Never let the soil become soggy

Can bamboo grow indoors?

Bamboo can be grown in pots indoors, but it can get tricky. You will need a sunny location and since bamboo likes its air humid, you will have to mist the plant daily. Also bamboo grows quickly, and it will need to be repotted into ever larger pots as it grows.(Make sure you use a pot that widens at the top or you will not be able to remove the bamboo to repot it.) You will also need a sunny location.

“Lucky Bamboo” that you can buy in the plant section of big box stores is often grown indoors. However, it is actually a member of the lily family. I bought one thinking it was bamboo, and it has grown very well next to a sunny window. When it gets too tall or bulky for the space, I just cut it back.

Lucky Bamboo

Lucky bamboo is actually a member of the lily family.
Lucky bamboo is actually a member of the lily family. | Source

Uses of bamboo

Bamboo is a very popular in the home and it has many uses.

Food (bamboo shoots)

Traditional Chinese medicine

Flooring

Made into a fabric for clothing or bedding (It’s super soft.)

Fencing/Tiki bars

Surfboards

Kitchen items (Cutting boards, bowls, trays, even these darling reusable straws I found on amazon)

Paper

And a gazillion more things

I'm curious ...

Do you grow bamboo?

See results

© 2014 Catherine Giordano

How did you like this article? If you have any questions, I'll be glad to answer them.

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    • CatherineGiordano profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Giordano 

      3 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Wendy L. Henderson: Bamboo is not as difficult as many people think. If you give it a try, let me know how it works out for you.

    • Wendy L Henderson profile image

      Wendy Henderson 

      3 years ago from PA

      I love bamboo but never thought of growing it outside. These are all great tips. Thanks.

    • CatherineGiordano profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Giordano 

      4 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Bamboo can grow like a weed. It looks nice if it is controlled. It can be used to block an ugly view. Thanks for your comment.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 

      4 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Depends where you live of course and not recommended in my part of Australia, it's basically a weed here. A pretty plant yes, a shady plant yes, but still a weed

    • CatherineGiordano profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Giordano 

      4 years ago from Orlando Florida

      The running bamboo does get out of control. As I explain in my hub, I have clumping bamboo--it is a little easier to control, but it still has to be watched so unwanted young shoots can be stopped. Here in Orlando, the fun thing about bamboo is that it is easy to grow whereas in Thailand being easy to grow makes it a pest. Thanks for filling me in about bamboo in Thailand. I did not know that.

    • tom yam profile image

      Russell Pittock 

      4 years ago from Nakon Sawan Province, Thailand.

      Bamboo grows out of control where i live in Thailand. It's hard for me to imagine growing it "on purpose"

    • CatherineGiordano profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Giordano 

      4 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Do give it a try. You are lucky to have neighbors who have it so you can ask for advice specific for your area.

    • KnowWhatImean profile image

      KnowWhatImean 

      4 years ago

      My Neighbors have bamboo along their back fence and I have always loved the way that it sounds in the wind. Its really interesting that it has grown because we live in Arizona. But Now I think I might try it!

    • CatherineGiordano profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Giordano 

      4 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Don't grow running bamboo in a pot. It will send runners out the drainage holes of the pot and invade your yard.

    • CatherineGiordano profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Giordano 

      4 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thank you teaches12345. I'm glad your son had good luck with his bamboo. I'm glad he could grow it despite harsh winters.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      4 years ago

      My son planted bamboo in his upper Midwest home. In spite if the harsh cold this plant has multiplied and grown quite tall. I didn't know they could grow so rapidly in just one day. Enjoyed reading your post.

    • CatherineGiordano profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Giordano 

      4 years ago from Orlando Florida

      I've had my bamboo for six years. The clumping bamboo is non-invasive. Any shoot that grow where you don't want them to grow, just kick them over when they are small. Thanks for letting me know your thoughts. It may not be right for everyone.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      4 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Even folks missing a green thumb can grow bamboo! ;-)

      It's like a weed, and will take over the whole yard if you don't watch out. I'll never plant it outside of a plant pot.

      Voted up and interesting.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      4 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Even though I also live in Orlando and I'm sure bamboo thrives well, I've never tried to grow it because I lack a green thumb. I have hedges and bushes that flourish...but that's about it. Wishing you luck with your bamboo.

    • thomdrilling profile image

      Big Dan 

      4 years ago

      Nice article. I would like to start some bamboo, it is a very pretty plant

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