PLANTING & CARE

Site & Soil Preparation

Most bamboos grow best in deep, well-drained, fertile soils, and they generally prefer neutral to slightly acid soils. If your soil is deficient, the extra time and expense of improving it is usually well worth the effort, especially if you want to see results faster.

Sandy soils and alkaline soils may be improved with the addition of organic materials such as compost, peat, manures, nitrolized sawdust, or bark chips. These materials help retain moisture, acidify the soil, and provide nutrition to the plants. Acid fertilizers can also be added to compensate for extremely alkaline soils. For overly acidic soils with pH of 5.5 or lower, add lime to reduce acidity to a pH of 6.0 – 7.0.

Clay soils may be improved to provide better drainage with the addition of sand and organic materials. Most bamboos suffer root damage if submerged in water for several weeks. Drainage may also be improved by mounding the soil or ditching around the planting.

Bamboos can be grown well in very shallow soils if adequate fertility and moisture are maintained. It’s always a good idea to consult with your local nurseryman about how best to amend your local soils. (Note: If you have gophers in your area, be sure to read the section on Pests before planting.)

About potting mixes:  If you plan to grow your bamboo in containers, make sure to use a good potting mix. Most commercial potting or nursery mixes are adequate as they are.

The soil you use should both drain well and retain moisture. Most mixes contain both organic and inorganic elements. Sand, volcanic cinders, and perlite are excellent stable inorganic components. Sand has the virtue of being cheap, while cinders and perlite not only promote good drainage but also hold water. Fir bark, compost, and peat are good organic components. In general, larger organic particles last longer before breaking down; therefore, drainage improves with larger particles, decreases with smaller ones. It may also be advantageous to add a small proportion of loam or clay for micro-nutrients. In a potting mix one basically looks for texture rather than nutrition, however. Nutrition is easy to supplement.

Re-potting every 3 to 5 years is often helpful to keep the plant growing vigorously and looking its best. One may either repot it into a larger pot or divide the plant with a saw or hatchet. Annual pruning of old and dead wood will also improve the appearance and health of the plant.

Potting Mixes

If you plan to grow your bamboo in containers, make sure to use a good potting mix. Most commercial potting or nursery mixes are adequate as they are.

The soil you use should both drain well and retain moisture. Most mixes contain both organic and inorganic elements. Sand, volcanic cinders, and perlite are excellent stable inorganic components. Sand has the virtue of being cheap, while cinders and perlite not only promote good drainage but also hold water. Fir bark, compost, and peat are good organic components. In general, larger organic particles last longer before breaking down; therefore, drainage improves with larger particles, decreases with smaller ones. It may also be advantageous to add a small proportion of loam or clay for micro-nutrients. In a potting mix one basically looks for texture rather than nutrition, however. Nutrition is easy to supplement.

Repotting every third year is often helpful to keep the plant growing vigorously and looking its best. One may either repot it into a larger pot or divide the plant with a saw or hatchet. Annual pruning of old and dead wood will also improve the appearance and health of the plant.

Soil and Soil Mixes

In general, bamboo is a survivor and is not terribly picky about soil type. However, to promote the best growth and have truly thriving bamboo, aim for soil that’s light and loosely textured, rich with nutrients and moist but with good drainage. (Most bamboos evolved in forest-like environments, and like slightly acidic soil.)

Remember that bamboo roots are relatively shallow, so if you are amending your native soil, no need to go deeper than a foot or so. If you are installing root barrier, be sure to read our barrier instructions carefully. In certain situations, and as long as there is some drainage, clay soil can actually be an asset in the bottom ½ of your contained area, slowing the growth of rhizomes near (or under) the barrier.

General Guidelines for Amending your Native Soil in the Bay Area:

For Moderate to Heavy Clay Soil

Clay soils are rich in minerals and trace elements but need help with aeration and drainage. The following recipe is offered as a very general rule of thumb; note that the heavier your soil, the more sand/lava rock and compost/humus should be added. Gypsum can also be added to aid in breaking up extremely dense clay.

  • 3 parts native heavy clay soil
  • 1 part compost or other humus
  • 1 part sand or lava rock (5/16ths”)

 

For Loamy Soil

Loamy soils have good aeration and drainage, but need lots of organic mater for nutrition and the ability to stay moist. The following recpe is offered as a very general rule of thumb.

  • 3 parts native loam soil
  • 1 part compost

 

Pre-Mixed Soil

Not all potting/planting mixes are created equal! We recommend the following local companies and their mixes:

Sonoma County:

Sequoia Landscape Materials – 1330 King Street, Santa Rosa. 707-527-5512 – http://sequoiascape.com/
We recommend their Organic Garden Mix

Bay Area:

American Soil and Stone (also known as A&S Landscape Materials) – http://www.americansoil.com/

  • Richmond Annex, 2121 San Joaquin Street, Bldg. A, Richmond.  (510) 292-3000
  • San Rafael, 565A Jacoby Street, San Rafael. (415) 456-1381

We recommend their Local Hero Veggie Mix