Bamboo is a large grass species found natively in tropical regions and is popular in landscaping for its height and hardiness. It evens holds the record as the fastest-growing plant in the world, having grown up to four feet in a single day!
So you may then be wondering, as I was: Can I grow bamboo inside at home? And while the simple answer may be “yes,” bamboo is not often thought of as a houseplant for several reasons. Nonetheless, with dedication and perseverance, and the tips we have for you here, bamboo can be a beautiful addition to your indoor garden.
Growing Bamboo at Home
Bamboo can be an invasive species, which, for home gardening, comes with pros and cons. If contained correctly, bamboo will grow large and quickly in most environments. However, the containment process is the main challenge, as this invasive grower desperately desires rapid expansion. If you’re not careful, you could end up with a broken pot, a dead plant, or both.
Whether in a large planter or buried in the ground, growing bamboo outdoors will always be the easier option. But mastering indoor bamboo is more than possible and well worth the effort!
Can I Grow Bamboo in My House?
You may think of a popular houseplant called Lucky Bamboo when considering growing bamboo in your house. But this isn’t bamboo at all! Lucky Bamboo is a succulent type that only looks like bamboo while sharing little to none of its particularities. Actual bamboo will be unmistakable in your home as the tallest installation by far.
There are two main types of bamboo: runners and clumpers.
Runners spread out as wide as you’ll let them, making them an excellent option for natural privacy screens in your yard. They will form an impenetrable wall of bamboo over time.
On the other hand, clumpers grow from a balled-up root system (root ball), staying within a few feet of where you planted them. Potting either variety can be complex, as the vigorous bamboo shoots will break through any barrier if neglected.
Runners can live in a relatively small pot if you prune the root system regularly. Clumpers won’t need as much hands-on maintenance but need to be planted in a massive container so that the roots don’t bust through.
Bamboo Plant Info
Bamboo is the tallest and thickest variety of grass, belonging to the Bambusoideaem subspecies within the scientific grass family of Poaceae. Its shoots are more accurately called culms, referring to their hollowness.
Bamboo is a perennial evergreen, meaning that growth is not limited to a short growing season, and it could live forever in ideal conditions. Bamboo groves cover many parts of Asia and grow throughout the rest of the world for construction, textiles, and natural land dividers. Bamboo also produces up to 30% more oxygen than other plants, making it a necessary tool to fight against carbon emissions.
How to Care for Bamboo Plants Indoors
Bamboo is a reasonably versatile plant to grow at home in that it has many benefits and can adapt to several environments. Not only is this colossal grass beautiful to look at, but it also can create natural barriers and freshen the air around you.
Even though bamboo and its many variations prefer lots of sunlight and well-draining soil, being native to the continent of Asia, it grows and thrives in many regions all across the world. However, the USDA recommends planting in a hardiness zone between 6 and 10.
If you can’t seem to find bamboo seeds or plants at any of your local retailers, there are plenty of options online. Once you’ve found your new bamboo friend, choosing the right pot is the most crucial step to ensure long-term health. Potted bamboo requires extra-large container sizes, ideally starting at around 20 gallons! Such a size may sound excessive, but bamboo is tough and strong and will break out of any pot if given the opportunity. Runners will require a pot that is wider than it is deep, whereas a clumper will do better in a container with equal dimensions.
Regardless of the variety you choose, bamboo’s above-ground roots (called rhizomes) will require some protection from its surroundings. Cover the rhizomes loosely with mulch, and mix some mulch into the soil to increase aeration and drainage.
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Do Bamboo Plants Need Direct Sunlight?
Genuine bamboo (as compared to Lucky Bamboo) requires as much sunlight as you can provide. Direct, full sun is best. However, this grass is resilient enough to survive several lighting environments. As long as you place the plant in the sunniest part of your home (south or west-facing windows are best), it will be just fine. Since bamboo is such a vigorous grower in ideal conditions, a little less sunlight may help you control its invasive expansion.
Keep in mind that the rhizomes can be sensitive to direct light, as the culms and leaves provide a natural canopy for the root system. Younger plants may benefit from time in the shade, and covering the roots with mulch will help to protect against any intense sunlight.
How Often Do You Water a Potted Bamboo Plant?
The frequency of watering a bamboo plant will depend on its growing conditions. Hot, high-sun areas will need watering more regularly. Large plants with a more robust root system will also require more water. Regardless, bamboo needs moist soil in a large pot with good aeration and sufficient drainage holes. The soil should not be wet or soggy but kept moist. Too much water will drown the bamboo.
You can check the dirt by feeling the top couple of inches with your fingers; if it seems dry, add just enough water to moisten it. Check once a week, as any plant shouldn’t need watering more frequently. About an inch of water per week is best, and if you can manage to water from underneath, this will significantly benefit the bamboo. Deep watering will encourage deep, healthy root growth.
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Why Does a Bamboo Plant Turn Yellow?
A yellowing-bamboo plant can be the result of several issues. It may be that the grass is not receiving enough sunlight or getting either too much or too little water.
Too much sunlight isn’t really possible for bamboo, though scorching the leaves would be more readily apparent by brown leaves rather than yellow. Also, the culms are unlikely to turn yellow, whereas the bamboo leaves are more susceptible.
Yellow stalks or culms are a sign of more significant under watering or lack of sunlight. If you notice yellow leaves, check the soil. If it’s wet, let it dry out before the next watering. If it’s bone-dry, consider watering more frequently. In any case, move your bamboo to the sunniest spot in your home, as this will also help to regulate its watering schedule.
Prune yellow leaves to stimulate new growth and minimize spreading decay. Plus, yellow leaves can be unsightly! Simply pull off the leaves or clip them with a sharp, sterile pair of shears. This plant isn’t afraid of getting roughed up. If possible, leave any fallen or pruned leaves at the plant base, as they will serve as a natural protection for the root system. Extra leaves can also trap moisture and decompose into helpful nutrients.
Can You Grow Bamboo From a Cutting?
Bamboo can be propagated from an existing plant, though not every part will produce new growth. The rhizomes, or horizontal roots, are the best choice for propagation as these are the life-center of the bamboo.
If you cut a healthy portion of the rhizome and replant it in the same conditions as the original plant, new shoots should emerge within only a few days. Not long after that, new culms will develop as well, and you’ll have yourself a whole new plant!
Pruning, propagating, and repotting are essential aspects of keeping a potted and indoor bamboo plant. Each of these practices helps to keep the bamboo’s growth under control and manageable in size. Without regular pruning and occasional repotting, your bamboo plant will quickly outgrow even the largest pot, leaving you with a big broken mess. At a minimum, choose a pot twice the size of the root ball for replanting.
Types of Bamboo
There are several different bamboo varieties to choose from, though the same general principles apply to each. Whether you’re interested in planting a privacy screen for your backyard or just want a massive focal point in your living room, there is a type of bamboo perfect for your preferences. The main difference comes down to running bamboo vs. clumping bamboo, as we’ll continue to explore. Regardless, all bamboos spread via rhizomes, the stem-like extensions that run horizontally underground, sprouting roots below the surface and plant shoots above ground. From there, the particularities are minimal, primarily noticeable in appearance–– unless you’re considering Lucky Bamboo, in which case the rules are entirely different, as this isn’t bamboo at all!
1. Running Bamboo
Running Bamboo is one of the two main categories of bamboo and is ‘monopodial,’ having long rhizomes that are quick to spread horizontally. As might be apparent in its name, running bamboo will spread out and “run” as far as you’ll let it go. Running types quickly extend across a lawn or garden and pop up where you may not want them, making them illegal in some areas because of their invasive proclivities. The common species of running bamboo tend to be taller and less cold-hardy than the clumping variety. To manage and maintain this large bamboo species, regular pruning and a strong potting vessel are vital. Also consider lining whatever is holding your bamboo with a rhizome barrier.
Fishpole Bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea)
Phyllostachys aurea is a ‘running bamboo’ type belonging to the diverse Bambuseae tribe. It is native to Fujian and Zhejiang in China. It is commonly called fishpole bamboo, golden bamboo, monk’s belly bamboo, and fairyland bamboo. It can reach heights of 30 feet, but more typically, it is in the 10-20 foot range. Fishpole Bamboo does well in either full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day) or partial shade (direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours).
Black Bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra)
Phyllostachys nigra, commonly called black bamboo, is native to the Hunan Province of China and is widely cultivated worldwide. Growing up to 35 feet tall, it forms shoots of thin arching culms that turn black after two or three seasons. This bamboo is initially slow to spread, through when mature, it can be vigorous. It can also form a dense hedge for privacy.
2. Clumping Bamboo
Clumping species of bamboos are ‘sympodial’ and have shorter rhizomes that stay closer to their point of origin, not spreading so rapidly. Clumpers tend to grow outward from a central plant, expanding significantly from a single point rather than growing invasively wide. Gardeners new to growing bamboo often choose to cultivate one of the clumping varieties. Clumpers are very limited to the areas they can grow, even though they are resilient to the cold. In colder climates, they will do fine if you want a slow-growing bamboo that matures at 8 to 12 feet in height. It’s not as aggressive but is aggressive about where it wants to grow. Clumpers are persistent and will force their way through obstacles in their outwardly spiraling root path.
Timber Bamboo is the largest bamboo species, making it one of the best for large, dense screens, with firmly upright clumps having thick stems reaching 4 inches in diameter. You can contain this variety easily as it is non-invasive and evergreen. It needs full sun and does best with regular watering– weekly or more often in extreme heat.
Bambusa is a large genus of clumping bamboos. Most species of Bambusa are massive, with numerous branches emerging from the nodes and one or two much larger than the rest. The limbs can be as tall as 35 feet. They are native to Southeast Asia, China, Taiwan, the Himalayas, New Guinea, Melanesia, and the Northern Territory of Australia. They also grow in regions of Africa, the Americas, and various oceanic islands.
These bamboos are native to China, with a few species in Vietnam and the eastern Himalayas. Some species grow as art, with common names including umbrella bamboo and fountain bamboo. Plant in rich, acidic, well-drained soil in an area with shade during the hottest part of the day and protection from winter winds. Fargesia prefers a soil high in organic matter, allowing their leaves to remain on the ground around the stems to prevent the growth of weeds and enrich the soil. In cold winter areas, apply 2 inches of mulch, leaves, compost, or bark chips in late fall to provide insulation during the winter.
The world of bamboo varieties is vast and beautiful. However, bamboo is a reasonably versatile plant to grow at home in that it has many benefits and can adapt to several environments.
With dedication, perseverance, and the tips we have for you here, bamboo will be a beautiful addition to your indoor garden. If contained correctly, bamboo can grow large and quickly in most environments, and despite the challenges, mastering indoor bamboo is more than possible and well worth the effort!
There are few focal points as stunning as a potted bamboo plant– you will not regret the time it takes to cultivate this great grass.