How to Grow Bamboo in Florida

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Florida is probably one of the easiest places to grow bamboo in, and one with plenty of choices on variety to grow.  This is especially true if you live in south Florida, where the temperatures rarely get to or go below freezing.  But even if you are in north or central Florida your options are pretty good and your bamboo should perform very well with little to no effort on your part once established.

grow bamboo in florida
Sunburst bamboo one year after planting from field division

So, you are wondering how to grow bamboo in Florida.  First you need to look at the space you have to grow the bamboo before determining the type of bamboo you are going to grow.  If you have ten or more acres of land and you want to grow into a bamboo forest, the your best best is to go with one of the Phyllostachys bamboos, also known as runners.  If you live a small, neighborhood community then your best bet would be to go with one of the Bambusa bamboos, also known as clumpers.  The reason for me stating this is as follows.  Runneing type bamboo, if you did not know, can be rather invasive if not contained as the shoots literally pop up in all directions and often times a great distance from the parent plant.  They also need room to run in order to reach their full potential, and even if contained in smaller areas such as a large planter it will need frequent maintenance.  Clumping type, on the other hand, tend to be more compact, with new shoots that grow up close to the parent plant.  This makes the clumping type much easier to contain and maintain.

So once you have determined what type, the next step in how to grow bamboo in Florida is to decide on what the purpose of the bamboo is for.  Is it to be used as a focal point in the yard or will it have a functional purpose such as creating a bamboo hedge to screen out the neighbors?  If it’s a focal point you desire then you will need to purchase only one bamboo to achieve your goal.  If it is a hedge or some other purpose, odds are you will need to purchase multiple plants.  If you have not already shopped for bamboo, it can be a bit pricey depending on where you get it from.  This is primarily due to  the fact that bamboo does not produce seed like other plants, so in order to create new plants divisions must be taken or a propagation made from the existing bamboo.  This is rather labor intensive, the success rates can vary, and many vendors rely on this for an income, hence the higher pricing.  Often times you will find better pricing from home growers like myself who market their bamboo divisions on Craigslist.

how to grow bamboo in florida
Dendrocalamus validus one year after planting from single culm field division

Now that you have determined and purchased your bamboo it’s time to learn how to grow bamboo in Florida and take care of it after planting.  Odds are the plant you purchased is in a pot, so like any other potted plant you will dig a hole larger than the pot.  Remove the bamboo from the pot, taking note of the ground level fo the bamboo in the pot.  Score and fluff the roots to encourage outward growth and put in the hole, ensuring the ground level of the pot and bamboo match.  All bamboo will grow well in Florida’s native soil, but if you desire to back fill the hole initially with a good medium that is your option.  Water the bamboo in well and cover it with a good layer of mulch.  It should be noted that while the temptation to fertilize is there, I always caution against fertilizing until the plant has established in the new location, usually waiting two to three months.  How often you need to water is also a matter of how often nature does the work for you.  If it’s been dry with little to no rain, water your bamboo at least three times a week to keep the ground moist.  However, don’t over water and flood the bamboo, as most bamboos do not like “keeping their feet wet”.

florida bamboo
Single culm field divisions of Bambusa textilis mutabilis

Okay, so you have your bamboo planted in the ground.  It’s sitting there, not doing much, and there’s no new growth that you’ve noted other than some new leaves that have formed.  This is very typical for a newly planted bamboo, and the old saying for bamboo is “the first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps and the third year it leaps!”.  What this means is that the first year in the ground the bamboo is focusing on root development and storing energy for new shoot development.  In the second year you may see some new shoots emerge from the ground, but often times these will be no where near the size of the original culm.  Then in the third year the magic happens, and you will often find the bamboo produces dozens of new shoots that soar skyward as they grow.  Within about five to seven years your bamboo will reach maturity, with all new culms reaching max height and diameter fro your growing conditions.

So with that I close on how to grow bamboo in Florida.  As stated, there are only a few simple steps that involve choosing the right bamboo, deciding on where to plant it and having patience as it develops into what you envisioned.  If you have any questions please feel free to add your comments below.

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