Growing Bamboo for the Newbie

There are 2 primary ways to propagate Bamboo, those are –

 

Cuttings:

 

The most common way to propagate bamboo is by cutting off pieces of 2 year old culms near the nodes (joints) and planting them directly in the soil. This is a gross over simplification of the process. A more in depth explanation will follow. The cuttings will eventually root, though success rates vary from one species to another, relative to your environment. Bambusa Vulgaris Cuttings in PotThat means one needs access to existing stands of maturing bamboo culms to grow more.

 

My first attempt at growing bamboo were of pieces I cut from the road-side, then basically stuck into pots with some soil. That worked only because Common Bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris) is one of the easiest bamboo to propagate from cuttings. I have 7 of those in their second year of development. They were planted for erosion control, down in the Hoya (gully) behind our place. They thrive without much attention. I have discovered better methods since then for growing bamboo from cuttings and will share those details in a future post.

 

Seeds:

 

Growing bamboo from seed is very difficult simply because seeds are hard to come by and do not remain viable for long. On top of that, most nurseries sell plants, not seeds so starting from seed is often discouraged. First Round, Bambusa Tulda Start Making money at it is not a bad thing as long as you’re honest about your effort.

 

To complicate maters, some varieties of bamboo only flower every few years… others may take 30 to 50 or 60 years. A few are known to take 120 years to go to seed. When these long term bamboo finally do flower, entire bamboo forests will die off. This usually happens on a world wide scale. All gone in a few years.

 

After all, it is simply a grass.

 

This means the only way to re-propagate is from the dropped seeds. In this instance, trying to propagate from cut culms that have gone to seed will eventually fail. Subsequently, it can take 6 to 10 years for some species to recover in sufficient quantity and quality, to allow for resumption of harvesting. Small predators love the seeds… this creates a very narrow window for seed collection.

 

Clumping or Spreading?

 

In my research, I did find a few places selling seed over the Net. Only a few dozen species of the 1,400 plus varieties are available as seed. Then there is the issue of whether they are the Clumping or Spreading type. Bamboo self-propagates by sending out new rhizomes. Some stay in a tight bunch and some don’t. Moso Bamboo Seeds, Pyllostachys PubescensClumping is preferred if you have a limited area to grow Bamboo. Otherwise you have to bury deep barricades to prevent it from spreading. The Spreading type will take over a field in no time. This limits your seed choices even further.

 

Growing Bamboo from Seed,
Attempt #1

 

On my first attempt, I acquired bamboo seed from RarePalmSeeds in Germany. Of the 8 varieties spread between 200 seeds, I got exactly 5 to sprout… one of those died before prospering. I now have 2 Moso and 2 Tulda bamboo plants in the ground and doing well. I water them every few days.


I attribute my high failure rate to being poorly prepared. Jati Bamboo Seeds, Bambusa TuldaIt is very hard to find good info on growing bamboo from seed, but I have since discovered a source from India so I’m going to take a another stab at it.

 

Growing bamboo from seed can be done!

 

Growing Bamboo from Seed,
Attempt #2

 

I have in my possession, another set of 11 species to try and germinate. I’m documenting the whole process and regardless of what happens, I’ll present my results here.

I used the same type of black plastic trays as described on my Puerto Rican Blog. They are about 2 inches deep with clear domed lids. This helps with my ‘over-watering’ problem. New Sphagnum moss soil from Canada, lightly treated with Neem oil (to control fungus growth) was used as a starting medium. This was purchased from Home Depot in Ponce. Nice store, BTW. Some clean Perlite was mixed in.

Round 2, RarePalmSeeds Order Being Treated with Cape Seed PrimerMy first effort at trying to start bamboo seeds was done with open seed sprout trays (no lids) like you get at a nursery. Back then, the soil was a mix of commercial Sphagnum, Perlite and soil from the yard. Our soil is very rich, but very dense and required screening to get to something I could use with seed starts. This soil mix would be fine for potting new sprouts, but not as a seed starting medium. Since there were no lids, those trays required daily watering (our air can be quite dry). I think this contributed to trace contaminates affecting seed germination. I used water run through a reverse osmosis system, but it’s still high in minerals.

Commercial Neem Oil Spray for Home Depot in Ponce, PROne other point- I painstakingly examined each seed and stood it up in the soil before lightly covering them with a little more soil. I did not do that with my 1st collection of Bamboo seeds. At 340 plus seeds, this took awhile.

Cape Seed Primer Super SmokeOnly clean commercial soil and bottled, distilled water was used this time. What’s more, I prepared the soil and loaded the trays, a good distance from where I usually do my prep work. All the tools were washed and treated with bleach before a final rinse with filtered water. All in an effort to minimize contamination. I was not taking any chances, this time around. No, it is not as sterile as a hospital room, but way better than the conditions I normally operate in. All the seeds in this 2nd round were pre-treated with a germination stimulant… Cape Seed Primer from Seedman. I discuss it in more detail over on my other site- RobertosPuertoRico.com. After preparing the solution, seeds were soaked for 24 hours, then lightly rinsed with distilled water before planting in the trays as discussed above.

 

Here is a list of the 11* varieties of Bamboo, I’m trying to start-

Count Common Name Botanical Name
+20 Bamboo Bambusa arundinacea
+30 Bamboo Dendrocalamus asper
40 Bamboo Dendrocalamus barbatus
22 Giant Bamboo Dendrocalamus giganteus
18 Pecha Bamboo Dendrocalamus hamiltonii
+90 Taiwanese Giant Bam. Dendrocalamus latiflorus
26 Bamboo Dendrocalamus peculiaris
+40 Bamboo Dendrocalamus yunnanicus
27 Chocolate Bamboo Fargesia fungosa (= Borinda fungosa)
25 Yunnan Fountain Bam. Fargesia yunnanensis
14 Tabashir Bamboo Gigantochloa apus
18 Moso Bamboo Phyllostachys Edulis
20 Tulda Bamboo Bambusa Tulda

*The last 2 varieties are the ones I managed to sprout from seed, the first time around. I’ll try and sprout these extra seeds as well. The more, the merrier!

 

Bamboo Seeds in Sprouting TraysAt about 340 seeds total, this is half again more Bamboo seed than what I started with the first time. Seriously, If I can get 2 or 3 of each variety to prosper, I’ll be a very happy guy.

As for these particular seeds, this is what was available at the time I placed my order. Availability is a moving target as new seeds show up and older seeds run out or expire.

 

I understand that not all of these species may prosper under our conditions. I figured I would try them all and see what took off. If I can get to 7 or 8 successes, I would still feel most fortunate.

 

Note: I do intend to collect culms from other bamboo species found in Puerto Rico so I can experiment with some of the ‘cut and plant’ methods I discovered on line.

 

This Page will be updated from time to time with highlights of Posts that deal with my progress at propagating bamboo from seeds and cuttings. I hope this helps those looking to grow bamboo for fun. Any tips or suggestions are always welcome.

7 Responses to Growing Bamboo for the Newbie

  • Marc Boulay says:

    Bonjour,

    Je suis , comme vous, passionné de Bambous et autres plantes exotiques. Je fais aussi des semis des graines.
    J’ai trouvé votre page sur Google.
    Vraiment très intéressant ! Bravo!
    J’attends de voir la suite 😉

    Bien à vous.

  • Roxanne Moskal says:

    Where are the updates? How did this all turn out? I’d like to see some pics. Thanks!

    • Bamboo Bob says:

      I was hoping to have updates long before now, problems with the internet service have built up a huge backlog. It looks like we have service again so I hope to get new pictures up shortly.
      This bamboo project is one of several gardening projects I work on and there have been more updates on my main site at Roberto’s Puerto Rico . We apologize for the long wait here, using a pay as you go wireless modem kind of cramps the things that can get done online.
      BTW, the bamboo is doing well!

  • Jo Moon says:

    Hi,

    Thank you for your efforts and sharing them with all of us. I have just started soaking my Moso Bamboo seeds. Quite excited and thankful for any information that may help in my first efforts to get these seeds growing.

    Cheers,

    Jo Moon

  • panooq says:

    Very cool article. Great pictures. Just got some moso seeds and looking for informations. I got 600 seeds and divided them up into 6 different groups to try different soaking methods (plain water, salt water presoak, h202 presoak, strong h2o2 soak, potassium sorbate/citric acid soak, weak nutrient solution soak). We’ll see how it goes. Bamboo is so beautiful.

  • Shane says:

    I’m currently planting some Mosos from seed and about to plant black bamboo from seed off of amazon. They haven’t germinated yet but I’ll let you know how it works out.

    • Pam says:

      I have planted black bamboo seeds I ordered from eBay. They have not sprouted yet. How long does it usually take to see a sprout?

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