Bamboo grows very differently from most plants. You may have noticed that bamboo grows in clumps or groves. It is sometimes called a “colony” plant. The two basic types of bamboo are runners and clumpers and there are hundreds of each in all sizes and colors. Most (not all) clumpers are sub-tropical to tropical and most (but not all) runners are cold hardy. I grow cold hardy runners.
The plants I sold were divisions from a grove of bamboo. The bamboo grove has an underground system of rhizomes that cover an area like a net, just a few inches below the ground. I dig a piece of rhizome that has a small cane growing from it. When this “division” is planted it’s canes will not grow but the rhizome will start spreading underground, branching and growing many feet the first year, in late summer and fall. In the spring the buds on the underground rhizomes come up and grow into new canes in a matter of weeks. With a new division of bamboo the new cane will be about the same size as the old ones. As the grove gets more canes (each cane lives for several years) with more leaves it puts up more and bigger canes (called culms) each spring and in just a few years, with a little care the bamboo will be putting up giant canes, several inches in diameter and 50 to 60 feet tall. They will come out of the ground and grow to full size in the spring and never grow any taller. This is why bamboo is called the fastest growing plant in the world. The largest cold hardy bamboo is called Moso and it can get up to 7 inches in diameter and 70+ feet tall. Pretty amazing plant.
How bamboo spreads – After the new shoots come up in the spring and grow into mature canes the entire grove is thriving and feeding the rhizome system which stores the nutrients and will use them for the next years canes. In late summer and fall the rhizomes start growing and can extend from a few feet to 30 feet or more depending on the species and enviromental conditions. A well cared for bamboo grove will about double in size most years so it will cover a large area quickly, if not controlled.
Bamboo is different – Many plants play a crucial role in different societies. Bamboo has literally been a matter of life and death in many cultures, both east and west, for thousands of years and there are countless examples of bamboo uses.
Can I grow this amazing bamboo plant – In most cases, yes you can. There are thousands of bamboos that grow in tropical and sub-tropical conditions and hundreds of cold hardy bamboos, some of which can survive temperatures down to -20 F. Not just survive but stay green and leafy down to twenty below zero.(F)
You can make amazing things from your own bamboo. You can also eat it! Red Margin bamboo will grow from Orlando to Boston and makes fantastic flutes, digeridoos, walking sticks, fishing poles, and a whole lot more. Yellow Groove bamboo is even more cold hardy (and gets big in the south) and will make a dense privacy screen. Arrow bamboo will make an even better screen, just the right size to provide privacy for your backyard.