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how to propagate bamboo

Posts: 274
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This sounds like a simple question at first, but when you think about it...

There are 3 ways to propagate most plants: seeds, cuttings, divisions.

bamboo from seed is impractical for a permaculture practitioner. It is a relatively large amount of work compared to others and the seeds are expensive/rare. forget seed saving, most types have long flowering cycles.

Cuttings, i read, can have very low to zero success depending on species and time of the year. Not the end of the world since we can over plant and cull the stragglers but i am having a hard time figuring out how it is supposed to be done. The information i have found from google searches is either unclear or I'm too inexperienced to understand what they are talking about. How about the large masses of tiny branches that shoot out of the side of the nodes? If it was a tomato, i could pluck that off, stick it in the dirt, and have another tomato plant, right? Bamboo, it cant simply be plucked off. It has to be sawn or hacked off with a sturdy axe (no joke, i've broken blades doing this). If i do hack it off with a blade, will the naked section still be able to send out roots or will it be too damaged? Pehaps i am supposed to bury it, twigs and all in the ground vertically? horizontally? Driving me crazy!

Divisions looks a little more promising, but the only way i can imagine doing so is to keep a "mother" plant in a container and never let it grow large. Divide it before it gets big and unmanageable, but the divisions in the field and put the mother back in the pot. But if the mother dies, I am back to square one (the local nursery). Why not tear a mature one out of the field and try to propagate that? For those of you who aren't familiar with bamboo, you couldn't tear a mature bamboo out of the dirt with a Humvee (i may or may not be exaggerating). If you DID get it out of the ground, the roots are so dense and tangled (on all the bamboo i have seen in Taiwan, anyways) that you would spend the rest of the day with a power saw trying to divide them.

Is there anyone with experience on growing bamboo for: fences, lumber or tree bogs that re-propagates their own? What method do you use? How long does it take you to do so? How much work? Can you accomplish it without power tools?

Thank you
dan long
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Sometimes I get an epiphany only AFTER i give up on Google and post on Permies.

I looked at a knob of bamboo that i gave the dogs to chew on. It's the clump of twigs that grow out of the kinks of the stem. I realized that, along with the twigs growing out of the top half, the bottom half was all dried up roots. Amazing! Not even in soil and its putting down roots? I went and chopped down a stem, chopped it into sections and dropped five of them in a pot of potting soil. When i come back from vacation, maybe I will see some new growth?

I would still LOVE to hear how the rest of you do it. I still don't even know if this will work. Maybe i come back in 2 weeks and just find dead sticks in a pot of dirt. Maybe I come back and find 5 monster bamboos trying to take over my back porch, eating my neighbors (Please! Dear God, please!), and terrorizing the town.
Posts: 421
Location: Greybull WY north central WY zone 4 bordering on 3
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My understanding what that established bamboo suckered like crazy and you just dug up shoots. Is that not correct?
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Hello Dan
First off, there are two main categories of bamboo, running and clumping. The running varieties are the one you need to be worried about in terms of invasiveness. They might be in your neighbor's yard a year or two after planting it yours. Clumpers are more easy to control. I've had some experience propagating the local bamboo that grows in the river bottoms of southern California. Look at the base of the bamboo and look for new shoots sprouting out of the ground. Select a shoot that's just 3-4" tall and dig it up. You might have to chop it off the parent rootball with an axe. Just plant the whole unit, shoot+rootball clump in the ground. It should continue to grow, then eventually spread outward from where you planted it.
Posts: 221
Location: Zone 6a, Wahkiacus, WA
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Hi Michael,

I have some experience propagating from cuttings, and recently did some research in anticipation for a large cultivation project for a 10 acre swale/hedgerow pasture system. I am propagting cold hardy evergreen bamboo hardy to below zone6 to be used as cut winter forage.

anyways, I need a lot of it and will be going forward with way seems to work well. These are two techniques I learn from someone who worked in a nursery for most of her life, and propated bamboo a lot.

first method, to be done in the mid-late winter when the plant is least active and has the most of it's energy dedicated toward the roots.

Select a rod from an existing clump, at least 1 year old. Older ones are better, hardy, and have more energy in the plant body, and are less engaged in active shoot growth.
make sure the rod looks good. it should be healthy looking and not succumbing to fungal infection or rot.

cut the rod at the first node after the rod start branching. the lower nodes will be far less likely to survive. Not even worth it. perhaps you can make a flute from those.

now cut the inter-nodes, leaving about 1-2 inches of inter-node material on either side of. Make sure your cut is nice and clean/smooth and not all jagged.

You should now have a node with one or more leaf-shoots sticking out, and 1-2 inches of internode on either side.

Select the best leaf shoot and cut off all the other ones.

Take some organic raw honey and coat the two cut ends. The honey is naturally anti-fungal, and provides sugar that the injured plan cells can directly metabolize and use to begin repairing themselves.

if you have some rooting hormone, apply it to the node.

put the cutting leaf side up in a potting mixture, about 1 inch deep. place it in a potting soil mix. (a good mix is 1 part rich compost or worm casing, 1 part sand, 1 part broken up moss).

mulch it a few inches, and keep is moist through the rest of he winter. It should quietly root itself and begin leafing out in the spring. give it a few months of growth in the pot, and plant it out. or, wait until next winter and plant when it is dormant.

success rate, depending on the rooting temperatures (warmer is a bit better if you live in a cold area) is 60-80 percent on a commercial scale. always add in a margin for error when you are learning though!


The second method is similar to the first, except you cut the bamboo into 12-18 pieces, instead of at each node. leaving a single leaf-shoot on each node and 1-2 inches of internode on both ends.

You can then plant the whole large cutting in the ground.

The benefits of either technique depends on how much bamboo you have to work with, how many plants you want to propagate, how hardy you need each individual start to be, how many pots you have, etc. I plan on doing some of both. But a heck of a lot more small ones.

as far as clumpers vs. runners...I am a big proponent of the clumpers in most every case. particularly if you are in an urban/suburban setting where neighbours are concerned. Unless you set up some kind of root-zone or otherwise biological control (like a grazing paddock to continuously eat down new growth) the bamboo will probably dominate everything else.

All of the world's problems can be solved in a garden - Geoff Lawton. Tiny ad:
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