What Are the Best Growing Conditions for Bamboo?

Different Types Have Different Requirements

Forest of blue bamboo plants.
You may associate bamboo with jungles, but some kinds can be grown in the North -- if given the right growing conditions. Chiara Salvadori/Getty Images

Due to its growing popularity in North America for use as a "living privacy screen," more and more gardeners wonder, What are the best growing conditions for bamboo? Unfortunately, because there are many different kinds of bamboos -- and they do not share exactly the same growing requirements -- the question does not admit of a single answer that covers all the bases. But a general answer will be provided below.

The American Bamboo Society (ABS) writes, "There are more than 70 genera divided into about 1,450 species. Bamboo are found in diverse climates, from cold mountains to hot tropical regions." They observe that, while bamboo, generally speaking, is a fast-growing plant, growth rate will depend on growing conditions.

How to Grow Bamboo

The answer to any "how do you grow plant X?" question must address the basic requirements, and it is no different here. So below we get down to basics in presenting the best growing conditions for bamboo. You need to master the fundamentals first, concerning:

  1. Amount of sunlight needed (or degree to which the plant requires protection from bright sun).
  2. Optimal soil for the plants to grow in.
  3. Recommended nutrients for the plants.
  4. Watering needs.
  5. How cold-hardy your type of bamboo is (although if you will be growing it as a houseplant, this does not matter).

On the subject of one particular growing condition for bamboo -- namely, sunlight requirements -- the ABS states that "most large bamboos grow quicker and do their best in full sun." However, they are also quick to point out that "Fargesias and most Thamnocalamus are happier with some shade during the hottest part of the day." Take note of that requirement, because later in this FAQ series we will be looking at one of the Fargesias.

Bamboos prefer a soil pH that is slightly acidic (with a pH reading of about 6). In terms of soil texture, bamboo plants prefer a soil that is loamy.

To stimulate growth in the plants, apply a fertilizer high in nitrogen. The amount of nitrogen in a fertilizer is indicated by the first number in the NPK sequence (which is a string of three letters that should appear somewhere on the fertilizer bag).

Bamboo likes a lot of water, but it also needs a well-drained soil. While it is necessary to saturate the entire planting area when growing running bamboo plants, you can restrict watering for clumping types to the area around the base (or "clump") of the plant.

Now you know not only how to contain bamboo plants, but also how to grow them. But for those who live in cold climates, there is another key piece to the puzzle yet to be supplied: growing a bamboo suitable for your climate. For, as with another tropical favorite, the palm tree, there are both tender and cold-hardy bamboos. Cold-hardy types are treated here.