Aspects of our climate including temperature, humidity, length of growing season and sun exposure will have a considerable impact on the overall growth and ultimate success of a bamboo planting. Specific temperature requirements will vary by species. Select only a bamboo species that is well adapted to your particular growing climate. Be aware, bamboo growth occurs much of the year or even year-round in warm locations; however, most growth occurs below the surface. Above-ground culm growth is limited to a 60-day period during the spring or early summer, while temperatures are warm, for all bamboo species.
Bamboo grows best in humid climates under full sunlight, although some species prefer shade. All bamboo will thrive in well-drained, fertile soils that have a high degree of organic matter. These fast-growing, sometimes invasive plants are adaptable. Consequently, they will grow in a wide range of soils and in far less than ideal conditions, but they will not spread as extensively and will grow vertically at a much slower rate.
Running Versus Clumping Bamboo
Bamboo is generally classified as either “running” or “clumping.” Running bamboo can easily become invasive when not contained, growing between 20 to 30 feet underground before sprouting above ground. Clumping bamboo is not invasive and will grow only a few inches underground per year. It will appear above ground in a clustered, clumping form. Running and clumping bamboo will produce shoots at different times of the year. Running bamboo produces above-ground growth in the spring, while clumping bamboo will produce growth in the summer.
Bamboo produce little above-ground growth during much of the year. For approximately 10 months out of the year, growth is concentrated in the spread and division of underground rhizomes. Above-ground growth and new leaf growth occurs during a two month “shooting season,” which takes place either in the spring or summer while temperatures are warm. Culms will reach their full height and diameter within this eight-week interval. Once the season is over, the individual culms produced will grow no further. Within bamboo, the oldest culms, which typically live 5 to 12 years, are the shortest. Flowering occurs at very rare intervals. In some running bamboo, flowering will result in the death of the grove.
Climate and Species Selection
Bamboo are grown in many parts of the world, but they are most prevalent in China, Japan and other parts of southeast Asia. Winter temperatures of an area are usually the limiting factor in bamboo species selection. Signs of cold-weather stress include leaf burn and leaf drop. Bamboo may even be killed to the ground by extreme cold weather. In most cases bamboo will sprout the following spring from its underground rhizomes.
Temperature and Establishment
Within even cold-hardy bamboo, soil temperature must be above 40 degree F to allow root growth to occur. Soil temperature, rather than air temperature, is vitally important because bamboo spread by subterranean rhizomes during much of the year, setting the stage for cane production. Plant new bamboo plants after soil has reached this temperature, ideally during the spring between mid-March and early May, before any active growth occurs.
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