Bamboo is an amazing plant! It has so many benefits to offer on so many levels. Not only does bamboo produce oxygen, which helps to clean the area where you grow your plants, but many varieties are edible! And above all, gardening is just great for your health in general.
Unfortunately, growing bamboo is often frowned upon and viewed as a tedious task because it can be invasive. The awesome news is that there are several species that are not invasive, you just have to know what you’re looking for and how to grow them the right way.
Bamboo (Bambusoideae poaceae) is commonly mistaken to be a tree. However, bamboo is actually a subfamily of tall, tree-like grasses. There are currently 115 genera and over 1,400 species of bamboo. These fast-growing perennials can grow up to one foot a day in the right conditions.
5 Fun Facts About Bamboo
If you are considering growing bamboo but haven’t made up your mind yet, here are five facts that might spark a bit of interest!
- Many bamboo species are edible, some just taste better than others. The young bamboo shoots can be harvested and added to some of your favorite dishes. Bamboo shoots are a good source of healthy fiber, and they contain very little fat or calories.
- Bamboo fibers contain natural antibacterial properties. These same fibers are used to make clothing, diapers, bandages, towels, and dressings.
- A bamboo grove produces over 35% more oxygen than hardwood trees.
- It’s SO versatile! It can be used to make everything from bikes, bunk beds, houses, boats, clothing, medicine, food, oxygen, fuel, toothbrushes, natural fence lines, and so much more.
- It holds greater strength than steel! I know … I was surprised too. Bamboo can actually withstand being smashed better than concrete can.
Locations And Growing Zones
Bamboo is a relatively low-maintenance plant and it is great for beginners! Bamboo is easy to care for and generally takes care of itself. There is little to no work required outside of watering. The growing zones in the U.S. are mainly in the Pacific and southern states. This is because bamboo originates from tropical and sub-tropical regions, but there are some species that will now grow in mild temperate regions as well.
Hardy bamboo is the best choice when growing in USDA Zones 8 and 9 while tropical bamboo needs to be grown in Zones 9 and 10. Some species of bamboo can handle a few days of below-freezing temperatures, yet the tropical species have to be where the temperatures don’t drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bamboo Soil Conditions
When looking for the perfect spot to have your beautiful bamboo growing, keep in mind that they love full to partial sun. The plants naturally grow faster in full sunlight, but the younger plants will need a little protection during the summer months.
A majority of the bamboo species can grow in most types of soil as long as it is well-draining. The right kind of soil will help encourage healthier root systems, increase growth, and produce healthier, more attractive plants. Here are the three keys to creating the proper soil content for bamboo:
- The soil must have good drainage, but at the same time, retain moisture.
- Bamboo likes aerated soil that is light in structure. So basically, it needs fluffy dirt.
- The soil has to be rich in organic nutrients, so go ahead and mix in some of your compost and organic matter to feed the soil.
If the soil in your area is too heavy, add some sand or another type of organic, grainy, granular material. If it’s too sandy or light, adding more organic matter such as compost will help solve that problem.
You will definitely want to avoid soggy, waterlogged areas. An inch of water daily is enough water for bamboo, and any more than that can cause the roots to suffocate or suffer from root rot and die.
Placing, Spacing, And Planting
If you’re trying to form a natural fence or screen, it’s best to space the bamboo about 3-5 feet apart. This will allow the bamboo to have the necessary space to thrive without overcrowding or the roots suffocating each other out.
Work compost, manure, or both into the soil where you plan to plant the bamboo. Make sure the hole you dig for the root system is deep enough and wide enough so that the root ball or root mass is level with the top of the surrounding soil.
The bamboo’s home should be 1 ½ to 2 times as wide as the root mass to ensure that the roots have plenty of space to grow. Once your bamboo is placed in its new home, cover the roots with about 3 inches of compost or a compost/soil mixture and water thoroughly. Now, all that’s left to do is to water them regularly and watch them grow!
Knowing The Difference
There are so many varieties and species of bamboo plants. When choosing to grow bamboo there’s an important question to ask yourself, do you want a non-invasive species or not?
Invasive species will take over your yard and any surrounding land rather quickly unless you have the time and the know-how to keep them under control. The main difference you’re looking for has to do with the roots, root systems, and how they grow. There are two different types of roots systems: clumping and running.
Running bamboo spreads and is invasive. Of course, some species are going to be more invasive than others. The roots, aka rhizomes, spread horizontally and create new shoots continuously spawning.
Clumping bamboo doesn’t have rhizome roots to shoot out. Instead of the roots spreading out feet at a time they grow a few inches wider. The bamboo plant itself has a faster growth rate because it grows taller rather than wider.
If, by chance, you prefer running bamboo for their looks or whatever it may be, there are a few solutions if you don’t want it to invade.
- Try container growing and keep the plants indoors. You can still make a privacy fence by lining up the planters in a row.
- Take some time to mow over any new and undesired shoots to help keep them at bay.
- Dig a small trench around the bamboo plants about 10 inches deep. As the roots begin to grow outward in the trench, trim up the roots when necessary.
Edible, Ornamental, And Colorful
Bamboo comes in different thicknesses, heights, colors, and can be trained to be grown into awesome shapes like spirals. I love the color varieties!
There’s black, purple, red, green, yellow, and more. While some bamboo is only for decoration, there is a whole slew of edible bamboo. The young culms, or new shoots, are the edible parts, and they’re rather tasty, too.
Bamboo products are growing in number and variety. You can find just about anything made out of bamboo. Here are just a few items:
Growing bamboo is easy, enjoyable, and the plant is highly resourceful when it’s put to good use. I suggest you do your research about the specific details for the bamboo plants you like and take a dig in the dirt.