Bamboo for Specific Uses

Indoor Bamboo

Bamboos can sometimes be successfully and beautifully grown indoors, but only if you have a very green thumb and can give them adequate light, humidity, moving fresh air, and attentive observation and care. Also, because indoor environments are usually less than ideal, rotating your plants outdoors in mild conditions is often a wise practice for their long-term health. It is very important to read and apply all of the following guidelines if you want your bamboo houseplants to look healthy and beautiful for more than a few months. We provide no guarantee for plants placed in indoor environments, but if you are feeling adventurous and have a good green thumb, read on!

Humidity: Bamboos need high ambient moisture levels. Daily misting is recommended to compensate for the lower humidity of most interiors, especially while winter heating is in use. Humidity may also be provided by placing a small fountain or humidifier nearby. It’s also best to keep plants in cooler locations and away from heaters.

Light: Bamboos do best indoors with at least all day bright indirect natural light. Most will do better with a few hours of direct sun. The less light, the slower growth will be. Also, severe leaf drop may occur as a plant adjusts to less light and ambient moisture. If this occurs, often the plant will grow new leaves which are more acclimated to the indoor conditions. Please check the Sun/Shade Ratings listed under “Indoor Plant Selection” (or on our Price Lists for other plants that interest you).

Soil: We recommend a light potting mix, consisting of 1/3 soil, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 perlite in order provide excellent drainage and enable the soil to aerate and dry out more quickly after watering; this helps to prevent root rot. If you also place a layer of gravel in the bottom of your pot (which must have holes for drainage, of course), you can place the pot in a saucer of water. Without the layer of gravel, the pot must be raised up to keep it out of the water that collects in the saucer.

Watering: For the same reasons, close attention to watering is very important for bamboos kept indoors. They should be watered in small amounts, deeply enough that roots are kept moist (a little water should run out the bottom), but not so much that the soil stays soggy for days. The top 2-3 inches of soil should be allowed to dry out before watering again. Below the 4-inch depth, soil should be lightly moist around the roots at all times.

Air Movement: We have found it very helpful to have some air flow in the area with your indoor bamboo, fresh air from outdoors, if possible. For this reason, entryways or rooms with windows that can be kept partially open near the plants seem to work best.

Fertilizer: For container-grown bamboos, we like the slow-release fertilizers supplemented with trace minerals. We use Apex, 14-14-14, a product similar to Osmocote, 14-14-14, with a 4-6 month release rate, depending on temperature.

Dosage depends on size of container:

1 Tbsp per 1 gal container

2 Tbsp per 5 gal container

4 Tbsp per 15 gal container

½ C. per 25 gal container

1 C. per 3′ x 3′ container

Height: Indoors, bamboos generally grow only a fraction of their maximum height and diameter, so we recommend that you buy a plant that is already as close as possible to the size you ultimately want.

Troubleshooting: Yellowing leaves usually indicate either too little or too much water. If there is too much water and the roots are rotting, the leaves may look pale and droopy. Too little water may cause leaves to have brown tips, curl up, look dry and yellow, and begin to drop. The roots may have dried out just once or are root-bound and not absorbing water well. When under- or over-watering is corrected quickly, the plant will often re-leaf in a month or two and be healthy. Dig down 3-4 inches into the soil frequently to monitor moisture. Root-bound plants may be placed in a large saucer of water for a half-hour or so to soak up water from the bottom.

Bamboos grown indoors are more vulnerable to insect pests and disease, as they are generally more stressed than they would be outdoors. Insects may be treated with the usual sprays (best applied outdoors). If the plant is small, simply washing the leaves under running water can be effective. (Please also see Possible Bamboo Pests).

Suggested Indoor Bamboos: Click here for bamboos tagged ‘indoor.’