This page represents some of my experiments with propagation, growing bamboo from seed, and other related items. I started in 2001 with my bamboo collection. I learned from many sources. This page will change based on what I find to be the best methods. You can even submit one yourself. Are ya' excited yet?

Fertilizing Bamboo in Deep South Texas: The information presented here is for the Rio Grande Valley in Deep South Texas. In Harlingen, we only get an average of 27 inches of rain each year. Our soils are alkaline. Most of the soil on the Boonut Farm is identified as "Raymondville Clay Loam" (RE) by the United States Department of Agriculture in their soil survey for Cameron County. This soil is very flat with slow permeability and slow runoff. Because Harlingen's North main drain runs through the property, drainage is not a major problem. There are veins of sand running throughout the property. These areas are the exact opposite of the rest of the property. These areas require quite a bit more water. Water on the property is supplied primarily by 12" irrigation pipes. There are 4 stand pipes that provide access to the gravity fed irrigation system. The property can be flooded in one day. City water is piped in throughout the property. There are also two 60' wells with 2" pipes. The farm is 33' above sea level.

Because of the clay loam soils and little rainfall, all bamboo must be mulched regularly with about 8 - 12 inches of mulch. I use Cypress Mulch because of the high acidity of the mulch. I use flooding, regular watering from city water and well water to ensure the soil does not crack and become brick hard. I also use Sahara Bermuda Grass to protect the soil from eroding or being blown away by the occasional high winds. This soil treatment also keeps a certain amount of moisture from being evaporated by the intense heat and high winds in deep South Texas.

There are a number of nurseries that sell fertilizers especially made for our soils. In my opinion, in addition to this fertilizer, I add Hi-Yield's "Soil Sulfur" and granular Ammonium Sulfate about two to three times a year. When I plant a bamboo, I add Agriform's fertilizer tablets (20-15-5 with minors)... usually about 5 per plant. I add these tablets down about half way down the root ball as I fill the hole with additional soil. You want to be careful when adding the soil sulfur and ammonium sulfate. I use around half a cup of each for bamboo that is 5 - 8 feet in diameter at the base. I try to spread 75% of both products out about 2 - 3 feet from the closest culm to encourage root growth away from the clump.

After fertilizing or during the first year of growth, you have to make sure you don't over water. With our soils, you basically have a bucket that holds water. If you fill the hole with good topsoil or garden soil, your bamboo will grow rapidly. Once the roots extend beyond the hole, you don't have to worry as much about over watering as long as the bamboo doesn't sit in water for more than 3 - 5 days. Dendrocalamus bamboos seem more sensitive to over watering. A good rule of thumb is water less when first planted and during dormant times. Water frequently when the bamboo is growing or shooting. From time to time, especially during high winds in November, when I think the soil may be dry, I dig away a little of the mulch to get a better idea of the moisture content of the soil. You would really be surprised at how well the cypress mulch works.

Since we have high winds during shooting times for most tropical clumpers, it is best to fertilize early spring and not when the bamboo starts to shoot. Fertilizing and over watering during shooting can make your bamboo easy to break off during high winds.

Author: Allen D. Aleshire 12/2006


Propagating Clumping Bamboo Using Culm Cuttings: Culm node cuttings on most tropical clumpers aren't that hard and it is sure easier than dividing bamboo through rhizome divisions. Both methods have their place, I just prefer culm node cuttings. This method doesn't set your bamboo plant back and you can make quite a few new plants from just one culm. If you use the top half of the culm, you don't even bother the plants ability to send up new shoots. Each rhizome has eight buds that "may" send up a new shoot. I prefer to let the plant grow so that I can enjoy a larger plant sooner.

Some bamboo such as Bambusa Vulgaris, Bambusa Vulgaris "vittata", and Bambusa Vulgaris "wamin" can be propagated using culm nodes almost any time. I have done culm node divisions on these in December in my garage with very small branch and culm node cuttings. Others like Bambusa Lako, you have to wait until the plant is sending its energy into putting out new growth - just before it shoots- to get the best chance of growing a new plant from a cutting. For South Texas, this is about May or June. I have had some success in July, but the cuttings start to taper off after that. I don't use a greenhouse for this process since it is generally pretty humid with night-time temps above 68 at this time. I do protect the cuttings by placing them in a spot where they don't get hit by very high winds and where they see filtered sun light. I have a perfect place under a Live Oak tree in my back yard for this purpose. I use one to three gallon pots for my cuttings so that I don't use too much soil. I think just about any potting mix will do as long as it drains well. I would highly recommend using fresh potting mix and not reused mix or ground soil.

As a general rule of thumb, I have had better success with thicker walled culms than thinner walled culms. As a general rule of thumb, I have had better success with culm nodes that have a lot of growth than ones with very little growth. If you see some primordial roots starting at the culm node anyway, then you can almost count on 100% success. Some times you will see primordial roots starting after a good rain or early in the year.

The next thing we need to talk about is rooting hormone. I fill a 30 gallon container up about half way with water. I then dump about 3 tablespoons of "Hormodin 2" or "Hormodin 3" depending on how tough I think the cuttings will be. The higher the number, the more rooting hormone concentrate. I add about 3 tablespoons of Hi-Yield's Vitamin B1 to the mix. I stir the entire mix until it is a little milky. This is where I toss the cuttings for about 20 - 30 minutes before planting them. You can get Hormodin 2 or Hormodin 3 at most nursery supply stores. You can get Hi-Yield Vitamin B1 at just about any place that sells plants or planting materials.

The tools you will need for cutting and trimming the cuttings include a very fine toothed saw (the cleaner the cut, the less stress to the cutting), a good sized lopper, and a good set of pruners. Make sure you clean your tools very carefully before use each time to avoid transfer of any viruses or diseases from other plants. I use a cordless 19.2Volt Craftsman reciprocating saw with a BLU-MOL Xtreme 12" Bi-Metal blade. You can get the blades at Home Depot. I use the reciprocating saw for the initial culm cut and any culm larger than 3/4". I use the lopper for 1/2" to 3/4" cuts and Felco 2 pruners for the smaller work. I really like the Felco 2 pruners. They last and stay sharp for a very long time. Cheaper pruners will result in bad cuts.

Next, let's get the pots ready. You should have about 6 - 8 pots ready to go with fresh potting mix for each culm cut. I put a little Cypress mulch in the bottom of each pot to help with drainage... about 1/2 inch of the mulch, then fill the rest of the pot with the potting mix. I don't fill the pot all the way up, I leave about 1/2 inch of space at the top to make it easier to water. I now look over my clump and try to find one - two year old culms. I want one that looks very healthy with new growth in the branches. I cut the culm all the way to the ground, just above the last node.

Now that we have our fresh cut culm, lets make the cuttings. I cut each node with good branching about 3 inches above the node and 4 - 5 inches below the node. I trim all the smaller branches very close to the node. I leave one branch on the node and cut it back to just the last leafed branch. I leave two or three leaves on the branch and then cut those leaves in half. I drop the entire cutting into the rooting hormone mix... and then go on to the next node. I generally don't use any nodes that don't look healthy or have at least two or three branches. I also don't use the smallest nodes at the very top of the culm (usually, the last foot of the culm).

I usually get about 18 - 20 node cuttings from each 1 inch culm about 15 feet tall. Your result will vary depending on culm diameter and height. After all the cuttings have been in the rooting hormone mix for about 20 - 30 minutes, I put 2 or three in each pot. You should wear gloves when sticking your hands in the hormone mix to retrieve the cuttings. I put the cutting in the pot at an angle so that the remaining branch is straight up and the culm is angled in the pot. I leave the top part of the node just sticking up above the mix. After you have potted all the cuttings, I drench the pots in the remaining hormone mix and then water well.

The best thing you can do now is just put the pots in a well protected place away from direct sunlight and wind. Water daily or as needed making sure the soil does not stay soggy. Watering a little twice a day is better than watering once a day and soaking. I use a seedling soaker attachment on the hose to minimize soil movement when watering. Within the first two months, you should see new growth. Be patient with cuttings... occasionally, they take longer but you won't be disappointed with the final product. Congratulations... you have just done your first culm node cuttings.

If you live in an area with less heat or humidity, you will have to modify your environment for the final cuttings. If you have trouble with this method or are using a particularly hard bamboo, try two node cuttings.

   Author: Allen D. Aleshire 8/2006.


Growing Bamboo From Seed: I am using this site to document my success and or failure with raising bamboo from seed.   (Seed came in today - 11/17/03) I ordered Dendrocalamus Calostachyus and Dendrocalamus Hamiltonii seed about two weeks ago. I purchased three clear plastic containers that are 2' x 3' x 6" high. I used sand for concrete mix purchased from Home Depot. I put about 3 inches of sand in each container. I did not cover the containers, but I did place them in the garage with two grow lights over the containers. I poured water in each container until I could see water just barely standing above the sand in a few places. I put two seeds together planting them in a rows about 3 inches apart. I started misting the containers twice a day. I sprayed a general purpose fungicide over the sand two times.  (1st seeds came up yesterday - 11/23/03) I noticed the first seeds coming up. Here is a picture of the first seeds sprouting. You can click on the picture to enlarge. D. Calostachys1weeksinceplanting 11/26/2003 Seeds continue to come up. Approximately 25% of the seeds from one tray are up now. Here is another picture. You can click on the picture to enlarge. Calostachys - It's a Boy   12/1/2003 I now have 36 baby Dendrocalamus Calostachys. They continue to come up. I found a new way to mist the bamboo. I was using a spray bottle. I added a few drops of root stimulator and a few drops of SuperThrive to the bottle. To mist more thoroughly, however, I now mist with a garden hose and a special misting adapter. This puts out more water without disturbing the soil. I was spending too much time each day trying to get the soil moist with the typical spray bottle. I still use it for adding nutrients. I continue to spray with fungicide once a week now. I haven't had any seedlings die yet. I took some pictures of the bamboo at this stage. The bamboo are now a little over an inch high. I use a Nikon Coolpix 990 digital camera to take all the pictures. Most of the pictures on this site were taken with the Nikon. This camera works especially well with close ups. Here are a couple more pictures. Don't forget to click on the pictures to see a larger image. D_calostachyus12_1_2003b  D_calostachyus12_1_2003   12/10/2003 Update - There are now 54 seedlings in two of the containers. The third container had Dendrocalamus Hamiltonii seed. I was told these seeds were probably old and may not come up. They havn't come up yet. I found yet another way of misting so I wouldn't have to use city water. It mists the containers in about the same amout of time as the water hose with misting attachment. I purchased a 2.5 pint FloMaster Home & Garden Sprayer from Home Depot and am now using distilled water with a few drops of Schultz Plant Food (10-15-10) with micronutrients. I am now only misting once a day. I have still not lost any seedlings. The tallest seedlings are about 7 inches high now. Most are in the 3 - 4 inch range. Some are only now popping up. Here is the latest picture - don't forget to click on the image to enlarge. dendrocalamuscalostachys12_10_2003b   12/15/2003 Update - There are now 57 seedlings. The tallest one is 8.5 inches. Here is a picture... don't forget to click the small thumbnail to see the image. dendrocalamuscalostachys12_15_2003sm.jpg - 248483 Bytes   12/19/2003 Update - There are now 58 seedlings. The tallest one is 9.5 inches. Having more and more problems with them being able to stand on their own after watering. The weight of the water on their leaves bends them over. The two white bamboo are still living. They are only 3 inches tall. One shows some green in the latest leaves. I haven't lost a single seedling so far.  12/26/2003 Update - I started transplanting the bamboo from the seedling trays to pots. I can definitely see the advantage of planting in sand. I used a large spoon to "dig" up the seedlings to keep all the roots in place without disturbing them. The sand helped keep everything in place. I used containers that are slightly smaller than 1 gallon. I dipped the entire pot with seedling into a 5 gallon mixture of fresh water, root stimulator, and of course SuperThrive. The bamboo seedlings are now anywhere from 3 inches to 12 inches. I am transplanting the larger ones. I still haven't lost a single seedling, but one of the white bamboo is starting to look pretty bad. The other white bamboo seedling is showing some green in a new leaf. I only transplanted 7 bamboo seedlings today to "test the waters". I put them outside for the first time today.    Author: Allen D. Aleshire 11-12/2003.

Dividing Pot-Bound Running Bamboo:   After propagating bamboo from seed and culm cuttings, I figured the next step is to learn to do divisions from pot-bound bamboo - specifically, Semiarundinaria Fastuosa "viridis". I ordered bamboo from "Bamboo Plantation" a mail-order vendor I have used a number of times now. James Bonner, the owner, informed me that the Fastuosa was pretty container bound. I saw that as an opportunity. James Bonner encouraged me to divide the pot. I was afraid to do that at first because I was afraid I would lose the investment I had in these bamboo. I was more comfortable just putting them in the ground and waiting until I could get rhizomes from the runners. I had already done that. Then, I remembered reading somewhere that pot bound bamboo some times takes quite a bit longer to do well. I remember Steve Carter from Brazoria mentioning that all you have to do is cut the pot off the plant and then cut the bamboo in half. James Bonner described the same thing.

I first cut the pots off the bamboo being very careful not to disturb the rhizomes. I used two types of saws and pruners to do the job. I tried to cut where I didn't see many culms. I used the pruners to cut through the rhizomes that stuck out to make sure I made a good clean cut. I didn't want to use the saw for the rhizomes. The process worked great. I was very surprised to see that the almost all the rhizomes and roots were on the outside of the clump. There was just dirt on the inside. The bottom line is the cutting was very easy once I figured out that the inside was very easy to cut... it was only the outside that posed a problem. I then put the bamboo halves in a 38 gallon container of water/root stimulator/SuperThrive. I love the SuperThrive and root stimulator combination. It hasn't let me down yet. I left each half in the mixture for about 10 minutes. From 4 pots, I was able to put 8 bamboo in the ground. I will let you know in about 6 months how the runners are doing. You can see the pictures of the process and components in the gallery or by clicking here.   Author: Allen D. Aleshire 12/13/2003.