Written by Dale Richardson - Updated: June 23, 2023
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Bamboo is both beautiful and pesky at the same time. If you're growing it purposefully, it can add a whole new layer of beauty and sophistication to your garden. But if it's just... popped up in your garden, it's an absolute pain to remove. If your bamboo is not growing, you may feel like just giving up. But don't do that quite yet - you came to the right place. Fraffles can help walk you through exactly why your bamboo is not growing.
The most common reasons for bamboo not growing are pests, nutrient deficiency, over or underwatering, fertilisation, potting, lack of shade, and over-pruning.
Keep reading for a list of signs to watch out for, and what may cause them. Let's get into it, shall we?
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First things first - if you're having issues with lucky bamboo , you're in the wrong place. Not only is that not what this article is about, but it's not even actually bamboo! Technically, bamboo is a type of grass (believe it or not), while lucky bamboo is part of the water lily family.
Now, on to the major issues with Bamboo. And as a note, bamboo is slightly more difficult than the usual garden plant to troubleshoot. You'll see me say it's "either overwatering or underwatering" a few times here - you're going to have to experiment to find out which it is.
We're going to break down a few "sub-issues" here. Skip down to what you've noticed with your bamboo plant.
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This particular issue could be due to a number of things. You could have issues with pests, water amounts (over or underwatering), or nutrient deficiency. Some species even could have this issue caused by too much sunlight.
You are underwatering your bamboo. It's also possible that it doesn't have enough nutrients, but we'll get to that in time.
This is caused by, again, either over or underwatering your bamboo. If the leaves curl during the daytime and flatten as night approaches, it's likely that your plant is simply getting too much sunlight.
This is a sign of aphids or a similar pest. Don't worry - it's not a death sentence as long as you catch it early and treat it properly.
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This could be one of two things:
This is a sure sign that you're dealing with some form of animal that likes to chew on the bamboo. Rodents (like rabbits) never stop growing their teeth. That means that in order to keep them in check, the rodent will find something to gnaw on and file their teeth down. It's likely that your bamboo is the unlucky culprit - while this won't kill your plant, there are a few fixes to try.
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This is a sure sign of overwatering. Alternatively, if you have the plant in a pot, the soil could be draining too slowly to prevent fungus from growing. Cut back on watering and maybe add some drainage.
Here's where we talk about "industry best" practises for growing bamboo. Cross-reference your issue(s) above with the fixes below, and give them a try!
On average, bamboo needs to be watered 1-2 times a week. This will increase if you a) have the bamboo in a pot, or b) live in a hot or windy environment. If you notice extremely damp soil (stick your finger knuckle-deep into it), you need to cut back on watering. However, if the soil is dry, you need to water more frequently.
Bamboo prefers moist (not soaked) soil with good drainage. It does very poorly in standing water or overly wet soil and can develop root rot and a number of other infections if left unattended.
If you think you're overwatering, take a break and water it once less per week than you were before. Keep reducing water until the leaves curl, and then up the watering slightly .
This is vital to just about every type of plant out there. Think of fertiliser like plant food - it carries nutrients like nitrogen (which bamboo loves) to the plant. While you can certainly use synthetic fertiliser, I personally recommend using organic compost. Manure is another option if you have access to it, but composting isso easy .
I also prefer compost because overly fresh manure can cause your leaves to brown and actually damage the plant. Plus, who wants to let manure just sit in their garden, getting old? Nobody, that's right.
A good, organic fertiliser will be one of the best defences you can have against pests. Insects can tell when a plant is struggling and will target it and take advantage. Feed your plants.
It's hard to grow bamboo in a pot because bamboo likes to grow and expand. It needs a lot of room, so if you're forcing it into a small container, you need to be prepared. Be sure to check the roots of your bamboo at least twice a year and repot it if the roots ball up and seem to be doing poorly.
It's very common for bamboo to get root bound, causing the roots to struggle to get enough water. This, in turn, will kill your plant and attract pests like aphids.
To be clear - I don't mean insult your bamboo. Rather, keep it in partial sunlight in an area that it will be shaded for most of the day. Bamboo (especially temperate types, like dwarf bamboo) prefer to be in shade, just like me.
Now, this depends on the type of pest. If you're noticing a rodent gnawing on your bamboo, you can do one of a few things. First, you could create a sacrificial pile away from your plant for rodents to chew on. Using old trimmings and bits of bark works great, especially if you throw in a few nuts or other favourite snacks.
You can also wrap the bamboo with chicken wire to prevent the rodents from reaching it, though this will restrict the growth of your plant and cause other issues if kept permanently. My personal favourite treatment for rodents is to get a friendly outdoor cat to scare them off!
You can use pesticides for aphids and other insects, but be sure to look into them to see if they're safe to use. For a DIY pesticide, mix a few drops of dish soap into roughly a litre of water and mist it onto the plant once a week.
Mulch is the best way to ensure your bamboo will retain moisture and stay alive during the winter. Just be sure to upend the mulch occasionally to prevent any rodents from making it home. And, perhaps more importantly, check that it's not overly saturated every few weeks. It's super easy to let mulch get too wet, which in turn causes other problems.
Pruning is a good exercise in control. If you're noticing dying shoots of bamboo, or leaves that are clearly dead and gone, prune them! Just be careful to avoid over-pruning, as you can easily kill the plant by trimming off more than it can handle. Treat pruning like an amputation - it's done for the sake of the whole plant. You wouldn't just trim an arm for no reason, so don't trim shoots without cause.
If you notice shoots that are cracked or fading, trim them as close to the ground as possible. Make sure to get anything that's hanging really low, as well. This will allow your bamboo to focus on growing new, healthy shoots, rather than trying to keep a dead one alive.
Bamboo is hard to troubleshoot, especially with watering. There are a few things to look out for, though the most common issues almost always come back to either overwatering, underwatering, or a lack of nutrients. Try to fertilise and mulch your bamboo, and if you're growing it in pots, repot it!
If you follow all of the guidance above, you'll be sure to have your own garden jungle in no time.
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