Clumping bamboos will give fastest, densest growth in
areas that get anywhere from full sun to at least a few hours of direct sun
during the course of the day. The small to medium types are more shade
tolerant than the giant types, and can do pretty well even if they get
just a few patches of direct sun moving across them during the day.
Another factor to consider is that having evergreen tree canopy
around offers considerable protection from winter cold. Depending on
what species you are planting and how cold it gets in your area, it
might be advantageous to compromise in choosing a site that gets shaded
for a portion of the day in exchange for the protection of an evergreen
canopy. See Cold Hardiness for more discussion of this.
Bamboos seem quite adaptable to soil type, doing well in either
sand or clay soils as long as their nutrient and water needs are met.
Even the limerock rubble 'soils' of South Florida can grow find bamboo
groves. The only thing to be careful of is planting locations that
might be prone to long periods of flooding. Clumping bamboos seem to be
somewhat more tolerant than runners of flooding, and can generally
handle a few days underwater without problem, but weeks with their roots
completely submerged could be fatal.
For best results, it is recommended to amend the soil with
organic matter when planting. One good, cheap material is composted cow
manure, readily available at retail garden supply centers in forty
pound bags for usually about ninety nine cents a bag. Depending on your
ambition level, allot anywhere from a half a bag to three bags per
plant (more is better, but it is a lot of work and weight). Other
sources of organic matter can work well, too, including homemade
compost, and well-aged cow, sheep, or horse manure.
In making your planting hole, figure on digging a space
approximately two to three times the diameter of the pot, and about one
and a half times the depth of the pot (or root-ball, in the case of a
field-dug plant). Start back-filling the hole with a fifty-fifty mix of
the existing soil and your added compost, preferably with a hose
running into the hole with enough water to turn the into soup as you
back-fill. Take the plant out of its pot, and set it in the hole so
that it will be slightly deeper in the ground than it was in the pot,
and continue to back-fill with soil and compost. Finally, shape the
last soil you replace into a donut-shaped ridge a couple of inches tall
around the plant, so the plant is at the bottom of a little crater.
This will help catch water and funnel it right to the roots.
The final step is to apply a thick layer of mulch around the
plant. Clumping bamboos develop a network of very fine roots near the
surface that benefit from the water retention effect and nutrient
release from mulch. Almost any course organic matter will work,
including wood chips, pine bark, raked up leaves, or pine needles. In
many areas, tree-trimming companies working on contract for local
utilities will dump a truckload of chips in your yard for free. It's
easy to skimp on the amount of mulch you apply, so try to make sure the
layer is at least three inches deep for at least two feet in all
directions from the plant. Mulch breaks down quickly in Florida's warm,
humid climate, so you'll need to top off the mulch layer at least once a
year. Also, make sure to remove any competing vegetation from the
After planting, the most important thing to do to insure rapid
growth is regular watering. Make sure the plants get a good soaking
once a week during the cool season, and three times a week during the
warm months (especially during the summer, rains will do this job for
you some weeks).
Fertilizing can also be helpful; a 10-10-10 granular type
applied three to four times over the course of the warm months will help
speed growth. Rake the mulch back and apply directly to the soil
surface in a ring no more than a foot from the plant, then pull the much
back. This will insure maximum absorption by the plant and minimal
runoff (which can pollute waterways).
One more tip: Once you're done planting your new bamboos, take
pictures! In two or three years when your bamboos are getting big and
beautiful, your friends won't believe you when you tell them what
scrawny little things they were when you planted them.
These planting and maintenance recommendations are for giving
your plants optimal conditions for maximum growth, and are not a strict
requirement if you don't mind the plants having a slower growth rate. I
have seen clumping bamboos set in the ground with no soil amendments
and little care beyond an initial bucket or two of water dumped on them
at planting. Some of these have done fairly well, especially those in
soil that is naturally somewhat moister and richer. These have grown
somewhat more slowly than under good care, but eventually became quite
respectable plants. In other cases this super-low care approach has
resulted in plants a decade old reaching no more than a quarter of their
ultimate possible height.