Bamboo is one of those unique plants that rarely flowers and thus rarely produces seed. When a bamboo does indeed set flower, it might do so for years. In the end however, after this occurs most bamboo wither away and die, with the hopes of a new generation of bamboo released in it’s seed.
So just how rare is this occurrence? Depending on species, a bamboo species will set seed once every 60 to 100 plus years. There are a few varieties though that seem to be forever in seed, such as Phyllostachys edulis, aka Moso bamboo. A quick search of eBay and Google will find many people selling seed of this famous bamboo. Buyer beware though, as bamboo seed imported in to the United States is subject to quarantine, often resulting in seed that is no longer viable.
However, there have been some bamboos that have set seed in recent years, as bamboo is also known to produce seed during times of great stress. Here in Florida alone I have been witness to about half a dozen bamboo that are in seed, so it really is a possibility to grow your bamboo from seed.
Ok, so you have some bamboo seed, but don’t know what to do with it. Bamboo seed is just like any other seed, and fresh seed germinates readily. However, if you bamboo seed is not fresh, it is recommended that you soak the seed for 24 hours in warm water. Some also recommend putting a little salt in the water as well, but I have not noticed any difference in germination rate.
After soaking, sow the bamboo seed in a sterile growing medium. I like to use a mixture of peat moss and perlite layered in a 1020 flat. Others have had great success using the Jiffy peat pots as well. Bury the seed just under the surface and keep damp but not drenched. Germination should occur for most seeds within 7 to 10 days, with some seed germination taking upwards to 30 days. Anything after that probably will not germinate.
After germination, your new seedlings will be very tender and need some extra care. Being that I germinated them in the house, I misted them once per day to keep humidity levels up. Once they achieve a height of about 4 inches transplant them to a larger container and place them in a shady place in your yard. If using Jiffy Peat pots transplant them into pots once the roots break through the side. In 6 to 8 weeks from germination you can start feeding your new bamboo seedling with a weak fertilizer solution to enhance growth and development.
If you have any questions, please feel free to post a comment.