Growth Habits

Monopodial vs. Sympodial

There are two main types of growth, determined by the root, or ‘rhizome’ structure: clumpers (sympodial) and runners (monopodial). In general, the clumpers are tropical and the runners are of temperate climates.


Aside from its beauty, bamboo’s most striking characteristic is its immense vitality. A grove at Hiroshima in 1945 at ground zero survived the atomic blast and, within days, sent up new shoots. One species of bamboo has been known to grow over four feet in 24 hours. New shoots emerge from the ground with the diameter they will have at their mature height, which will be attained within 60 days. New shoots are quite vulnerable and should be treated with care. A rough touch or any type of damage could cause the culm to abort (die back).


Bamboo does best in well-drained, light, sandy soil. Organic supplements (compost, peat, mulch, and manure) are beneficial. It does like a lot of water, but once established in the ground, it is much more drought tolerant than is commonly believed. Adequate water during establishment (approximately twelve months) cannot be over emphasized. Good drainage is also critical.


Bamboo will respond impressively to a heavy fertilization schedule – fast release, slow release, and foliar feeding of major and minor elements are all recommended.

Sun Exposure

As with all plants, newly acquired bamboo will do best in the light situation in which it was grown. The tropicals tend to prefer full sun. This means full sun must reach the leaves. The base of the plant may be grown in shade and is often more attractive this way.


Singular flowering habit. Bamboo does not flower annually, but once every 7 to 120 years, depending on the species. At that time, that species will flower (and generally produce seed, depending on the genus) all over the world – with variances due to environmental and horticultural influences. The parent plant may then die completely.

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