How do you Plant Acres of Bamboo?
How to Secure Plants
If you have acreage there are various ways to get your starter plants:
Buy nursery plants.
Find a grove of bamboo, dig it up and relocate it.
Find a grove; cut it to the ground. After it has regrown with smaller shorter plants. Dig the regrowth.
Buy tissue culture plants; grow them to sustainable size in pots. Plant them in the field.
If you do not have acreage:
Find existing groves. Buy them or lease them from the land owner. Manage them on their original site.
Remove dead canes, leaning canes, canes that are too small. Kill weeds. Rent a powerful chipper to get rid of the
poles. Spread the bamboo chips back onto the grove.
You may find after removing the obvious canes that the grove is still too thick with poles. You
will need to cut out good poles.
Look for two or three poles crowded together. Note the best one. Leave it standing. Cut out two that are close to
it. You can sell these good poles or chip them like the previous ones.
After you have finished thinning the grove, it will be open enough to see through and walk through
easily. The following year, you may open it even more. The first year, you may be conservative about
The renovated grove will produce new shoots the following spring. Harvest some; leave some to grow
up. Mark the year of shooting on the shoots that you allow to grow up. These poles will be sellable two or three
The photo shows a thinned grove mulched with wheat straw. Some of the thinned poles are lying in
You Planted Bamboo...
For a new planting of bamboo, you must plan for irrigation! At least for the first two
years. The more you irrigate, the faster the bamboo establishes. Apply at least an inch a week during the growing
season - when deciduous trees have leaves. Moso in particular thrives on summer water. It does not like saturated
soil in winter. Fewer plants and more irrigation is a better way to allocate finances than more plants and reliance
on rain. New plants need daily watering; twice a day is better if the weather is hot. After three weeks, watering
schedule can cut back to once or several times a week.
Bamboo needs good drainage as well as ample water, especially moso. Most varieties do not grow well in cold wet
Mulch the new plants carefully. On the rootball itself, put light mulch. Don’t suffocate the roots. Outside the
rootball make a thick layer several feet wider than the rootball. Between rows or well beyond the new plants
you can grow a crop or plant a cover crop. One of my friends planted his plants in the very light shade of pine
trees that were part of his pasture for miniature horses. He fenced the young plants individually to prevent
the horses from eating them. In time he will have pasture with islands of mixed timber bamboo and pines. He
will be able to cut poles and let the horses eat the leaves.
During the first year, you can drip irrigate just the pot (rootball) of the plant and the immediate surrounding
soil. The second year, your sprinkler head should cover at least a 10 foot circle. Don't irrigate the alleys
between the rows of bamboo unless you have an interim crop growing there or a cover crop.
When your bamboos close canopy, you will need a method of irrigation that wets the entire acreage. If you have
planted the bamboos close together like 10 foot on center, canopy will close in two years. If you plant them
further apart like 20 or 60 feet, canopy will close in four to 6 years.
Bamboo is a grass. Grass grows faster and has greener leaves when amply fertilized. If you decide to fertilize
newly planted plants, fertilize the root ball. Do not fly an airplane over the acreage and fertilize the weeds and
grasses between the rows. Pamper your young bamboos by keeping them weed free, well watered, and having rich green
In Seattle, when I had a retail bamboo nursery I bought plants from growers. Often the plants had sickly yellow
leaves. The pots had run out of fertilizer. I sprayed them with foliar fertilizer. They would respond to a greener
color in half an hour. If they did not respond, I sprayed them again. And they turned green. I felt like they
talked to me. If your bamboos are pale green or have yellow in the leaves, it may mean only that they need water.
However, it may mean it is time to spray their leaves with liquid fertilizer.
I believe that the soil must be mulched. Use wood chips or straw or hay or cardboard or …. Mulch protects the soil
from the impact of rain drops. It moderates soil temperatures. It slows the growth of weeds. More importantly it
allows the soil organisms to break down the mulch and improve the fertility and tilth of the soil. Too thick a
mulch can lead to rot around the base of the culms.
In my research farm in Hawkinsville, Georgia, I spread straw in round bales between rows. I believe that the straw
improved the quality of the soil. The bamboo spreads well under straw.
Sometimes you can relocate an existing grove.
In this photo, divots have been cut in the bamboo grove. The bobcat can then lift the root
ball and canes right out of the ground. Bamboo has shallow roots. Its rhizomes interlock like turf grass.
A newly relocated bamboo like this needs lots of water for the first month or so after digging.
Greg White Hunt posted this and the
folioing photos and on Facebook. He wrote: "Bobcat
P.nigra bory grove. How do you move an entire grove? One
bite at a time w/ plenty of water before and after."
Use Trencher to cut divots
Cut divots that fit into the bucket of the bobcat.
Transplanted, not yet staked.
Full size bamboos move well but require a lot of staking to remain upright. Staking must be
allow tops to move freely while root balls are stationary.
Divots loaded on Flatbed.
I recommend that a tarp be placed on the flatbed. Once the divots are loaded onto the tarp on top of
the flatbed, wrap the tarp around the root balls to prevent the roots from drying out. Wrap shade cloth
around all leaves to prevent desiccation. Branches will fold upwards towards top of pole to make a thin
In a landscape situation, this kind of move is practical because of being able to create an instant
grove. Nurserymen usually move a grove like this into a shady area where they are watered and
overhead sprinkled several times a day. The plants stay for a month or two to harden off and
recover from the move. They then are moved into the sun for further hardening off before being sold
into a landscape.
Bamboos need to be planted at the same depth as before they were dug.Do not put dirt on top of the rootballs/divots. Workers tend to attempt prevent the plants from blow-over by burying the
rootball. This kills the bamboo. Bamboos dug out of a grove need serious, well designed
staking, daily misting and twice daily watering. Not practical on a large
If you move a whole grove, consider either 1. cutting the tops off while
leaving plenty of branches and leaves or 2. cutting off every other branch to reduce the ease
of the plant blowing over. Stake carefully so the rootball can not move.
HOW TO LAY OUT THE PLANTINGS
To plant an orchard of trees, you set each tree out at a
specific location. You can plant bamboo this way. For example, you can plant the bamboos 15 feet on center and fill
I think a better way is to work with the fact that bamboo
spreads. First year plantings will spread out from the rootball at least 5 feet in each direction, given good
water, good mulch and good sunshine. Second year plantings may spread 10 foot starting from the outside of the 5
foot spread. If you run rows of bamboo that extend to the ends of the fields, you will have bamboo growing past the
boundary the following year.
I planted my farm in rows extending close to the edge of the
beds. This was a mistake. The year after planting, I had bamboos growing outside of my plots. Now my bamboo nursery
friends need to come remove these plants and pot them up. Or I have to dig them myself and sell them. Or cut them
down and take them to my friends with livestock.
My irrigation lines surround the 100 by 130 foot research
plots. Sprinkler heads spray water into the plot. When we root (rhizome) prune this fall, I want to be sure that
the ditch witch stays close to the perimeter and does not cut the pvc water lines. If I had planted according to
the below drawing, I would have planted fewer bamboos (less cost). I would have delayed root pruning for a few
years (less cost).
The Planting Plan below, saves you from the root pruning for a
few years. It allows you to plant fewer plants. It allows you to use the unused land for different
A THIRD WAY
Use the regrowth
This grove was dug for large plants for a landscape job. The holes show where plants were removed.
The rhizomes that remain in the ground between the holes will send up small canes the following
spring. All of these can be dug and planted in the field. They will be well rooted. The leaves will
be used to full sun. They won't be blown over and will not need staking.
In other words, a practical way to relocate an existing grove is to cut it down. Sell the poles if
possible. Feed the tops to livestock or shred it for mulch.The following spring when new shoots
have opened their leaves, dig the grove entirely. No staking will be required.
Fill the holes. They are a hazard for livestock and humans.
The photo below shows a bamboo that has regrown. The previous year a machine went through the
grove and shredded all the canes. The ground was mulched with shredded canes, branches and leaves. This regrown
bamboo is perfect for cutting out in large divots and planting into a field.
Dig Large Rootballs
These bamboos had their tops cut off in spring. The plan was to dig them right away and relocate them. It did not
happen until three months later after the stumps had turned brown and shooting season was over. They did not look
like they would grow.
I cut the tops cut off these bamboos in spring. I did that to make it easy for the diggers to dig the bamboos I
wanted. I assumed they would dig them right away and take them to my farm. It did not happen until three months
later after the stumps had turned brown and shooting season was over. They did not look like they would grow.
It seemed doubtful that they would throw any shoots. At this time, August 2015 two thirds had sent up shoots.
Perhaps they all will. The variety is Phyllostachys viridis Houzeau. I am enlarging the rectangle this fall to be
sure there is room for rhizomes to spread.