Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world, with some species of bamboo plants even shooting up 1.5 inches an hour. There are many different types of bamboo out there and a thousand different uses for this hardy and height-grazing plant. From textiles like bamboo viscose to building materials, panda food, or even to lend privacy and create dense screens in your garden - there are many reasons to love bamboo. The spread of bamboo is known to be thick and fast, and before you know it, your bamboo may have spiraled out of control; this is why it's so important to understand how bamboo spreads, its growth patterns, and how to control it for effective cultivation.
The Basics of Bamboo
What is Bamboo?
Bamboo is actually a member of the grass family, and there are many different bamboo varieties, making it one of the most diverse plants. While its often synonymous with growth in tropical countries and climates, bamboo can be found around the world. It's a truly hardy plant and doesn't require much TLC to grow successfully - in fact, you can plant bamboo, and some species may even reach their fully mature height in just a couple of months. Because of its quick growth and low maintenance mood, bamboo is also eco-friendly and gives back to the earth and the soul more than it takes.
Types of Bamboo
There are different types of bamboo out there but most fall into two different categories. You have the clumping bamboo (sympodial) and the running bamboo (monopodial). As the name suggests, clumping bamboo tends to grow in tight clusters, while running bamboo will spread itself. Cluming bamboo is easier to control, but running bamboo can quickly run riot in your garden if not kept under wraps.
How Bamboo Spreads
Growth Process of Bamboo
Bamboo starts life as a seed, and when these seeds sprout, they develop rhizomes. A rhizome is characterized as an underground stem that extends out from the parent plant and sends out roots and shoots. As the rhizomes rock out underground, they allow the bamboo to spread efficiently, forming a dense network of plants and clusters.
From the rhizomes, nodes, and shoots then appear, anchoring the plant into the soil so it can absorb all the water and nutrients it needs. More shoots emerge from the plant and start to grow upwards towards the sunlight. It can take just a few weeks for bamboo to reach its mature size.
The mature plants then keep the cycle going and grow even more rhizomes, which leads to a continuous cycle and the formation of bamboo groves.
Running vs. Clumping Bamboo
Running bamboo has long horizontal rhizomes, which means it can spread aggressively. These rhizome barriers can spread several feet or more away from the original plant and can colonize new areas quickly. The speed of running bamboo growth makes it an invasive species, and because of this, you may need to look at bamboo barriers or rhizome barriers to keep it in check.
Clumping bamboo is a variety of bamboo that is easier to control. It tends to grow in an upright formation, and the rhizomes stay closer to the original plant. The bamboo rhizomes also seem to grow more slowly while forming distinct tufts or clumps. Clumping bamboo is not considered to be invasive because of its chill growth patterns. You can even grow clumping bamboo in containers as it keeps its compact size.
Factors Influencing Bamboo Spread
The quality of soul, moisture level, and climate will all play a part in bamboo's growth rate and how quickly it spreads. Bamboo is a hardy plant and can grow in a variety of environments, but it prefers well-drained and fertile soil. The better the soil, the faster the bamboo will grow. Most species of bamboo also like soil that has a more acidic PH level.
Even though bamboo is famed for not requiring as much water as other plants to get going (bamboo vs cotton), it does like moisture. Too much moisture can lead to waterlogging and root rot (which is why you need adequate drainage). Too little will lead to brown leaves, dead culms, and a parched plant.
When it comes to climate, there are many different species of bamboo, and they can grow in a variety of climates and temperatures and can even handle cold winters. If the species of bamboo doesn't get the temperature and climate it's adapted to, then this may also affect its growth rate and speed. For example, tropical clumpers will need heat and moisture to thrive.
Humans can help or hinder their bamboo plant growth. The proper planting technique and choosing a species that matches the climate mood will have the best success. If you have running bamboo, you may need to be more aggressive with your containment methods to prevent it from spreading to unwanted areas.
Bamboo can be very self-sufficient, but if you want to keep your bamboo healthy and tall, a little maintenance goes a long way. Pruning, thinning, removing dead culms and brown leaves, clearing up the fallen carpet of leaves, creating drainage holes in the soil - all of this can lead to beautiful bamboo.
Controlling Bamboo Spread
Root barriers or rhizome barriers can help physically control bamboo's spread. Look for barriers made from high-density polyethylene, as these are resistant to degradation from soil and moisture. These are also often available in different thicknesses and sizes to suit the type of bamboo garden you are growing. You want to make sure that these are planted a couple of inches deep in comparison to the bamboo roots so they can offer adequate support and control.
Root pruning is one of the most common methods for keeping bamboo under control. To do this, dig a little to expose the bamboo rhizomes. Then, use pruning shears to cut back any new growth that is spreading into an area you don't want it to be. These basic root pruning techniques are typically done bi-annually and are one of the best containment measures.
Choosing the Right Bamboo
If you want to keep your bamboo from spreading too much, pick the right species that suits your space and needs. Remember, running bamboo is quick and grows horizontal underground rhizomes that can quickly get out of control. Clumping species are easier to care for and won't have as much horizontal spread.
The Ecological Impact of Bamboo
Benefits of Bamboo
Bamboo is one of the most ecologically friendly plants on the planet. Because it grows at a rapid rate, you don't need to replant it repeatedly. It also takes less water than plants like cotton and doesn't require the use of pesticides to keep it happy and healthy. Here are some other environmentally friendly benefits of bamboo.
- Bamboo has a rapid day growth period, which means that it reaches maturity fast.
- Cutting actually encourages new growth cycles, making it a self-renewing plant.
- It isn't a thirsty plant, meaning it is effective in places without much water.
- It helps with carbon sequestration
- It also provides the soil with nutrients and prevents soil erosion.
- It provides food and habitats for animals.
- It can be used in bamboo clothing, which helps with sustainable clothing options.
Risks of Uncontrolled Spread
While bamboo species bring a lot of benefits to the world, they don't come without their risks. Bamboo groves can grow fast, and then they can tip to the point of becoming invasive. When bamboo becomes invasive, it may alter ecosystems, displace other existing flora and fauna, and change the environment. This is why the correct management of bamboo roots is important.
Bamboo is one of the most desirable trees you can choose, and its quick growth makes for an excellent privacy screen. Whether you are growing bamboo on a small scale in your own garden or looking to grow bamboo groves, the beautiful bamboo plant brings many benefits. Awareness of the species of bamboo and its spreading habits is important to ensure that you don't let your bamboo take over and commit to responsible cultivation and sustainable growth.
How does bamboo multiply
Bamboo is a colony plant, which means it encourages growth and uses its own energy to fuel expansion. Bamboo from seeds can turn to shoots and bamboo canes in a short period, and its horizontal root structure (in running bamboo species) can make it invasive.
Does bamboo regrow when cut
If you cut bamboo leaves or bamboo at the top of the cane, it won't encourage new growth (only leaf growth). However, cutting bamboo at the culm will mean new growth.
Does bamboo keep spreading
Clumping bamboo species tend to stay in place, whereas if you have running bamboo, it will continue to spread as the rhizomes keep expanding horizontally under the soil and creating new shoots. Running bamboo is an invasive species, which is why it's so important to keep it under control.
What is the life span of bamboo
Bamboo groves can last a lifetime - even up to 75 years or 100, depending on the species. Bamboo canes can last up to 15 years but between 7-10 years tends to be the average.