Bamboo is propagated by taking pieces from a bamboo plant and keeping them alive for long enough to for them to grow and form new plants. This can start almost immediately, though may take as long as a year or two, depending on the bamboo species, the method used and the environmental conditions. Some bamboo species are very easy to propagate, and others are difficult and require great attention to detail. It is important to select well-grown healthy material of the right age and state of development for the propagation method used. It should be free from pests and diseases and protected from drying during transport and storage. Careful balance of moisture and drainage in the propagation medium, and high humidity are essential for good results in all but the easiest to propagate of bamboo species. Warmth and good light levels are also required.
Basic propagation techniques for bamboo plants include...
Growing bamboo from divisions. Bamboo plants growing in pots or in the ground can be divided to produce new plants. This is best done in spring or early summer. The idea is to divide the underground system of rhizomes and roots into 'offsets' of one or more culms. A sharp saw or spade can be used. Some bamboo species are very easy to do this with, and a single culm with healthy rhizome and buds is enough to generate a new clump. Generally, it is better to have two or more culms joined at the base, at the rhizome neck. This combination of 'mother' and 'daughter' culms can produce bigger plants faster than any other method of propagation for bamboo plants. However the removal of too many of these offsets from the plant can damage the remainder of the clump, because bamboo stores much of it's vital energy in it's rhizomes and lower culms.
Growing bamboo from layerings. Bamboo culms can be pulled down to the ground and covered with soil and mulch and new plants will form at the nodes. This is the easiest and most reliable way to propagate bamboo plants from layerings. By leaving the culm attached to the parent plant, the minimum of maintenance care is required, but it can take one or two years to for some species to form plants strong enough to be transplanted. Alternatively the whole culm (with or without the rhizome attached), can be removed from the plant and layered in a nursery situation. This can produce new plants quickly but requires more skill and better aftercare.
Air-layering (or marcottage) can also be used to generate bamboo propagules. Instead of pulling the bamboo culm down to the propagating medium (the ground), the medium is applied to the culm at the nodes and is wrapped and tied in place. A soil-less medium such as coir or a potting mix can be used.
Growing bamboo from cuttings. Bamboo plants can be grown from cuttings, as are many other types of plants. This method is popular, perhaps because it is lighter work than the other methods described, but often produces lower numbers of smaller plants. Single node cuttings can be placed straight into pots , but this method of propagation requires both the highest level of skill and of aftercare for the more difficult species. This may involve the use of a controlled environment as in a greenhouse, though cuttings from some bamboo species are easy to strike even in a poor medium in a warm shady place.
Growing bamboo from seed. We get a surprising number of enquiries from people who are looking for bamboo seed. Bamboo is known for it's unusual flowering patterns. Some bamboos are said to never or almost never flower. Others flower almost constantly. But most seem to have developed long and regular flowering periods that vary considerably from species to species, though range typically from thirty to one hundred and twenty years. This makes growing bamboo from seed a rare opportunity to select new strains, varieties or even species of bamboo, and to clone them by the methods of vegetative propagation that are normally used by bamboo growers.
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