If you are lucky enough to have some bamboo seeds to plant, growing strategies can depend on the type you’d like to grow – and when! Knowing how to plant bamboo seeds is, of course, just the start of your journey – but it’s still worth getting right.
Below, I’ll help you decide how to plant your seeds and what to expect. I’ll take a look at caring for bamboo seedlings, too. Firstly, let’s think about sourcing these little gems!
How to grow bamboo from seed: Gathering matters!
Bamboo produces seeds in a similar way to grass – they’re fairly easy to plant once you have a few available. It is unusual for many of us to source our seeds from specimens growing in our garden, however – because some species only produce seeds every 75 years! Others, too, also have long intervals between flowering. If you do have some outdoor bamboo that is flowering, it’s therefore definitely worth collecting its seeds.
A useful tip is to consider tying a muslin seed catcher beneath flowers or forming seeds.
This will allow air to circulate so the seeds won’t rot, and will also prevent them falling to the ground. Birds and mice will be tempted to eat bamboo seeds which have fallen, so act fast!
If the growing conditions are good, you may come across tiny shoots bursting up in a few weeks’ time – so don’t worry if any fall to the ground. When stems are around 30 to 40cm tall, it could be a good idea to lift the young bamboo and pot it up or replant elsewhere.
Buying bamboo seeds to grow at home
Of course, you can also buy bamboo seeds to grow from scratch if you prefer. Beyond choosing a bamboo plant that appeals to your tastes, it’s a good idea to think ahead about how many bamboo seeds you will need, as well as to plan for the space required. Usually, one packet is sufficient to grow several plants.
When buying bamboo seeds, check the features of the plant. Is it a ‘clumper’ or ‘runner’? The root formation will be restricted by the walls of the container, too – and this will affect how frequently you may need to repot the plant. Usually, potted bamboo plants can live happily in a well-drained container for up to seven years in ideal growing conditions.
Lucky bamboo tends to be a popular pick to grow from seed – mainly because it’s so easy to care for. A cautionary note, however – some types of bamboo are easier to grow than others.
Be sure to check these details on any bamboo seed packets you buy – so you can plan your time ahead.
Planning for space
By selecting seeds for a particular space, you will likely have considered the space it will occupy. If not, let’s look at some points worth thinking about.
Before planting your bamboo, it’s best to think about what plants are nearby that will impact seedlings’ development, and how your new bamboo seeds will impact the living conditions of its neighbors.
For example, for indoor seeds to germinate and survive they will require a good source of light. Will the plant you are considering overwhelm the space and restrict light from its neighbors? Conversely, are there other plants which will need to share limited light? Will they influence your size of container, or the position you are thinking of?
Once you’ve planned out where you’d like to grow your bamboo, it’s time to actually prepare your seeds. But, first, make sure your container is adequate for planting in.
Mold or pest eggs can cling under the rims of pots and cause problems as they feast on new plants. Therefore, clean containers before planting seeds in them.
Once you’ve got your pots ready, here are a few simple steps to follow.
How to plant bamboo seeds:
- Around springtime, make sure to soak your bamboo seeds in a pot of water for up to 24 hours.
- Add a generous amount of compost or soil to a pot or container you’d like to grow your bamboo in. Again, preparing for size is a must here – too small, and your bamboo will easily outgrow its home!
- Then, plant your seeds in your chosen medium, normally around half a cm apart. They should only be lightly covered by your medium, around 30 mm.
- Be sure to give your soil a quick spray with water (so it’s damp, but not soaking), and cover with plastic.
- Seeds will normally take around two weeks to start growing, but don’t worry – they will get taller much faster before you know it!
- To really care for your bamboo seeds, make sure your soil is at most 80 degrees F, and dampen your soil occasionally. Bamboo thrives well in occasional light, so don’t be afraid to place it somewhere well-lit, but away from drafts.
If you’re concerned about drainage, many bamboo plants are accustomed to living with some degree of gravel or stones. At the outset of sowing seeds, it’s good to use gravel or stones to facilitate drainage.
Wash stones in a clean bucket or old colander – then, allow them to dry and arrange them in the container/s of your choice for seedlings.
Caring for seedlings
Do you have access to a greenhouse or an outdoor growing area? Germinating bamboo seeds in a special nursery area may mean looking after them is easier than nurturing them in an area where light or drainage can be an issue.
That said, be careful. In a hot, sunny greenhouse, tender seedlings can dry out or cook if steeped in ill-draining pots. Competing for light is also detrimental to seedlings, and they may begin to lean excessively in one direction.
A useful tip is to position the germinating seeds in a place of easy access – ideally, away from drafts and not in direct full sun for too long. Tender seedlings suffer from extremes – the perfect nursery area for your bamboo seeds could be a well-lit kitchen window sill, greenhouse, or workshop – you choose!
When it comes to watering your bamboo at this precious stage, take special care. It is easy to drown seeds and seedlings. Equally, allowing them to dry out is as bad as drowning them! Ideally, again, you should moisten the growing medium before planting the seeds – then, water again slowly so that you reduce the stress on the seeds/seedlings.
Once germinated, you should protect seedlings from invasions of aphids, bamboo mites, and other nasty critters. You may choose to place them in a mini or indoor greenhouse, for example, for extra safety.
After germination, be sure to turn the container every few days to ensure shoots get an even distribution of light, and that they are grown uptight. Failure to do this may result in bent stems!
But, what about creating interesting shapes and frames with bamboo? Seedlings are ideal to frame and train, and tender stems are particularly malleable. With patience, you can train freshly planted young bamboo plants – for example, get them to follow a distinct course and fix your bamboo plants with gift wrap ribbon. This is cheap to buy on the roll, easy to handle and could even color coordinate with your pot!
If leaves begin to wither or turn yellow-green or yellow-brown, it is most likely the seedlings have been allowed to dry out. If caught in time, moistening the growing medium could be the solution. It may take a few days for your plant to look happy!
Growing bamboo from seed: a quick summary
If you want to grow bamboo seeds, the great news is they shouldn’t need much encouragement! Simply make sure you have an adequate container to house them in, and be careful with the moisture of your growth medium. Offering your seedlings plenty of light is a good idea, too – but keep an eye out for drafts.
Bamboo is one of the most rewarding plants you’ll grow in your home – and it’ll shoot up in no time! Take my advice to heart and see how you get on.