How to Grow and Care for Buddha Belly Bamboo

buddha belly bamboo

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Buddha belly bamboo is a large ornamental bamboo plant popular for its unique bulbous canes or "shoots." The species (Bambusa ventricosa) is usually grown indoors in containers, which heightens the swelling belly effect, making it extremely popular as a bonsai specimen. Outdoors where the plant is likely to get more water, the canes swell less and grow upwards, occasionally to heights of 40 to 50 feet. When grown in containers, you do not need to worry about this explosive height; Buddha belly bamboo only grows to about 5 feet under those conditions.

Whether you are planting in a container or outdoors, Buddha belly bamboo is a stunning plant that can spark conversation or serve a purpose. Ornamental in a container or in the ground, it controls erosion and works as a privacy screen or hedge. One advantage this bamboo has over others is its clumping habit, making it preferable to other bamboos as it is less likely to spread and overtake an area.

Common Name Buddha belly bamboo, Buddha's belly
Botanical Name Bambusa ventricosa
Family Poaceae
Plant Type Grass 
Mature Size 5-8 ft. tall (inside), 40-50 ft. tall (outside)
Light Full sun, partial sun
Soil Type Rich, well draining, loamy
Soil pH Acid, alkaline, neutral
Hardiness Zones 9-12 (USDA)
Native Area South Asia

Buddha Belly Bamboo Care

Whether growing in the landscape, in a container outdoors, or inside, you should not have many issues growing this awesome plant. Outdoors it can get quite large but does not spread readily. The growth that occurs can be curbed by cutting back new shoots. Like all species of bamboo, Buddha belly bamboo is pretty forgiving when it comes to planting location but has its preferences.

Tip

Note the nodes it is famous for will always be a bit bulbous. Still, as seen in most photographs, the exaggerated aspect can be forced to be more pronounced by potting your plant in a pot that is a bit too small, under-fertilizing it, and underwatering it. In short, stressing your Buddha belly bamboo plant will cause the trait the plant is famous for, but taking these measures too far will harm the plant.

Light

The Buddha belly bamboo plant enjoys full to partial sun. If planted outdoors, place it in a location that gets 6 to 8 hours a day of sun. In a container in a landscape, you should consider placing it in an area that gets some cover in the afternoon sun.

For those using their bamboo as an indoor plant, keeping it in an area that gets full or bright, indirect sun most of the day should be fine.

Water

The amount of water you give your bamboo depends on whether or not it is planted in a container or the ground and the type of soil you've provided. If your soil does not drain well, you should not water as frequently as the species will not tolerate overly wet conditions.

Soil

The soil Buddha belly bamboo prefers is organically rich, moist, and well-draining. Unlike some bamboo, Buddha belly bamboo does not tolerate standing water. If you need to increase the drainage in your soil, you can add perlite to either the bed or the soil mixture in the container.

 Temperature and Humidity

Buddha belly bamboo will thrive in areas with a subtropical climate as it like moderate temperatures and humidity. It does not do especially well in cold areas, and survival is not guaranteed in places with harsh winters. Stick to the USDA recommended hardiness zones of 3 through 10 unless it is grown in containers. If you experience cold weather, planting in a container or cutting back during the winter may help.

Fertilizer

Giving your  Buddha belly bamboo supplemental fertilizer will negatively affect the plant's ability to achieve the desired trait of bulbous nodes. The bamboo genus is exceptionally vigorous and adaptable and should not require supplemental nutrition.

Pruning

Pruning your Buddha belly bamboo will be a regular but easy task. The main purpose is to maintain the plant aesthetically and promote growth of new shoots. When grown as landscape plants, inspect your bamboo regularly for dead, damaged, or inferior shoots and cut them back as close to the ground as possible. Be sure to remove all refuse from the base of the plant.

Indoor plants need pruning to keep the growth manageable. This pruning should be done as needed to keep the plant the right size for its pot, unless you plan to repot into a larger pot as it outgrows its current pot.

Potting and Repotting Buddha Belly Bamboo

To pot Buddha belly bamboo, you will need a large pot as the bamboo will quickly use up the space and outgrow it. Normally a plant getting too large for the pot is ideal, but in this case, it will help you achieve the desired look of the species.

After the plant is established in a pot for a year or two, consider moving it into a new pot. During the repotting process, consider whether your plant needs to be divided and whether you want to start new pots to grow indoors, plant outside, or give away.

How to Propagate Buddha Belly Bamboo

Propagating Buddha belly bamboo is simple, easy, and rewarding; it is a great way to make a hedge or a privacy screen affordably and relatively quickly. All it takes is dividing your plant when it gets too full. Wait until the bamboo has grown into a thick clump to propagate.

  1. Separate the clump of bamboo near the rootstock with a spade.
  2. Place the newly divided bamboo into pots of growing medium. Moisten the soil.
  3. Move pots of bamboo to an area that receives indirect sunlight, keep the soil moist, and wait for roots to establish on the newly divided plants.
  4. In a month or two, the plants should be ready to transplant to whatever location you want them, whether it be in another pot or in the landscape.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

Another great reason to choose Buddha belly bamboo, especially as an alternative for a hedge or screen, is that the plant is almost disease-free compared to other plants that are used as hedges and screens. The same cannot be said for your run-of-the-mill boxwood, arborvitae, or privet.

While disease will not be source of frustration when it comes to your bamboo, you may get irritated by the occasional pest. Again though, the plant will leave you feeling lucky, as these are few and far between and not that serious, save the bamboo borer. Other pests to look for are aphids and cotton scales.

FAQ
  • How long does Buddha belly bamboo live?

    While constantly throwing off new canes, a single Buddha belly bamboo cane lasts on average 10 years or so.

  • Is Buddha belly bamboo considered lucky?

    Yes, this particular species is considered a sign of luck and prosperity. Just be sure to not have four stalks as that is bad luck.

  • How fast does Buddha belly bamboo grow?

    The species grows at an average rate of 3 to 4 feet per year, which is a moderate growth rate for bamboo. You may need to wait longer for the swollen nodes to appear on the canes, though vertical growth will occur before the cane swelling.

Article Sources
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  1. Buddha Belly Bamboo. Missouri Botanical Garden