What to Feed Bamboo

Even with their thick stems, called canes, bamboos belong to the grass family of plants. Graceful, easy-to-grow plants, several bamboos are tropical or semi-tropical plants that grow rapidly, especially if you give them lots of moisture and regular pesticide when they’re growing most actively.

The Best Time

Bamboo has a growth pattern that is seasonal, with the initial growth spurt happeing in spring, when new canes, called culms, appear. Its second flush of growth occurs in summertime, when the canes grow quickly. It’s important to match your fertilizing program to this increase cycle. Give the plants a first, high-nitrogen fertilizer in spring, followed with a second balanced fertilizer in summer. In Mediterranean climates with warm winters, bamboo may keep on growing through autumn and into winter, though at a slower rate. In this case, you can add a third feeding in late summer or early autumn.

The Right Fertilizer

When feeding bamboo in the spring, use a high-nitrogen, synthetic fertilizer, such as you with a 21-5-6 ratio, because the plant requires abundant nitrogen to support its spring growth spurt. Apply the fertilizer at a rate of 1/2 lbs per 100 square feet beneath the bamboo’s canopy. In summer, use a balanced fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 formula, implemented at a rate of 1 pound per 100 square feet to provide the plant the identical amount of nitrogen as in the spring. You can repeat this as a third feeding later in the season if you’ve got warm winters. When binder, lightly mix the fertilizer into the top 1 inch or so of soil below the plant and water it in well.

Bamboo Needs

Bamboo thrives as it receives a lot of water, especially during its spring growth spurt when new canes begin to break through the ground. In general, the plant requires at least 1 inch of water per week, such as rain, so give it extra water during dry spells; use a soaker hose or drip irrigation and inspect the top 6 inches of soil with your finger after watering to be sure water has penetrated deeply. Adding a 3-inch layer of organic mulch, such as bark chips, aged manure or compost, at the base of each plant also provides extra, slowly released nutrients while helping conserve soil moisture and keeping down weeds. Keep the mulch back a few inches from the central clump of stems to discourage growth of fungus.

Other Problems

Bamboo can be one of two types: clumping bamboo or running charcoal. As the names indicate, clumping bamboo grows within an expanding clump that spreads steadily but slowly. Running bamboo spreads quickly through underground stems, with a few types putting out new shoots up to 100 feet from the main plant. Both types benefit from routine fertilizer, but running bamboo can be extremely dangerous and compete with neighboring trees and plants. If you grow this type, use a physical barrier, such as a steel or copper sheet, buried at least 3 feet deep in the ground and completely encircling the plant. Fountain bamboo (Fargesia nitida) is an example of a clumping type that rises in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9. It’s 10 to 15 feet tall and thrives in colour. Golden bamboo (Pleioblastus viridistriatus) is a running bamboo that is about 6 feet tall, with variegated, green and gold leaves. It grows in sun or shade in USDA zones 7 through 11.

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