Let me start out by saying that there are many ways to propagate bamboo but I’ll only be describing the way that has worked best for me.
I’m fairly lazy so all this business about digging up the rhizome clumps for bamboo propagation was never going to happen. I’m sure it’s a wonderfully effective method, but I’m not about to go digging up my perfectly healthy bamboo just to move it somewhere else. I like my rhizomes just where they are thank you very much!
The method I use for bamboo propagation is the cloning method. Classic clipping, though for bamboo there are a couple of extra steps I take to ensure that most of the cuttings “take”.
The Set Up
Before I start I set up my soaking bucket. This is a bucket (usually the biggest
one I can find) that I mix Miracle Grow in. After I cut and trim the “joint” of
thebamboo I let them soak in a light Miracle Grow solution for about two hours to give them a boost until their own roots system starts growing. I’ve never measured how much
I use; I just put in enough to make the water a pretty blue. I also make sure I
have a handy jar of rooting enzyme close at hand. You will use this just before
planting the cutting in soil.
The tools I use they are pretty basic. A nice hand saw, a pair of long handled branch cutters, and a set of pruning clippers. Oh, and most importantly for me, a good pair of gloves. As a massage therapist I have to watch out for my hands, and the cracked edge of bamboo can be as sharp as a razor blade, so be careful.
First, make sure the culm (single bamboo shoot)
you are cutting is at least a year old. Immature ones can
work, but you’ll get fewer successful starts from them. I’ve also found the thicker culms tend to work a little better then the thin ones. I try to use ones that are at least an inch thick. Of course, if your bamboo clump is more than a year old all of them will be over an inch thick. Cut just below the lowest knuckle that has a branch coming out of it. If there is no
branch coming off it there is no reason to cut it off
(unless your just a bit obsessive, then go ahead). If you leave the lower branchless part intact I’ve found they eventuallygrow branches themselves. More cuttings, Yea!
Next, cut each knuckle off. I cut about 2 inches
both above and below the joint to try and avoid splitting into it. As I cut off each one I usually clean up the knuckle before putting it in the bucket. I try to find the branch that seems the healthiest (not to long, not too short, with no brown or damaged areas) and cut all the branches but that one off. I’m not sure if it makes a big difference but my theory is that having only one branch will need fewer roots to sustain it. And since your cutting will not have any root… you get the idea. Also, the further up the culm you go, the thinner the culm gets. Remember, less then and inch and they don’t “take” as well. Of course, that doesn’t stop me from using them (I am a bit obsessive myself).
As you finish each "node" place it in the bucket of
Miracle Grow and water. Occasionally I do all my cutting and cleaning first and then put them in the bucket all atonce. This usually happens when I forget to make up my bucket of water. I've never let them soak for more than about three hours so I'm not sure what that would do. Probably nothing, but you never know.
I have tried planting the "nodes" straight into the ground but have found it much harder to control the water level in the soil. In a pot (the black nursery pots work fine) I can keep the soil wet for the first month or so until the roots start, so that is what I suggest.
Fill up enough pots with soil so that you can get 3-4 nodes per pot in them. Even with the 80%+ survival rate I get with my cuttings you will stillwant to make sure that each pot produces a surviving culm. Before you place a node make sure to put some root enzyme around the base of the branch (I sometimes put it
on both ends of the cutting as well). This will really help to establish the root system in the shortest possible time. The bamboo is much easier to care for once it has a good root system. Once all the nodes are planted in soil I take the bucket of Miracle Grow and
evenly water all the pots. Again, just to make the rooting a little easer. That isn't usually enough water to make all the soil wet so after that I soak the pots with the hose.
I live in Florida and in the summer we get rain almost every day, so watering is pretty easy, but in the winter it can get very dry. For the first month or so I make sure to soak the pots every day, even if I know it's going to rain. When it rains, very little falls directly into the pots, so they still need watering. If you allow them to dry out before there is enough of a root system for the nodes to find and store water it will die. Just like that. If you live somewhere that is a bit cooler I imagine you won't have to water quite as often.
It takes at least 4 months before the cuttings are ready to transfer out of the pot, usually a bit longer. I know it sounds like a long process, and it pretty much is. But instead of digging up a couple of rhizomes and transferring only one or two plants, when your done with your cuttings, you'll have dozens of plant ready to landscape willi nilli. Have Fun!