The common name bamboo is applied to over a thousand plant species. In the wild, several of these species can grow to towering heights of 50 feet or more. However, it is possible to grow certain types of bamboo in containers—even indoors. Golden bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea) is one of those species. This bamboo features bright green upright canes that turn to a golden color with age and sunlight exposure. Its narrow, lance-shaped leaves grow in clusters on short stems off of the canes. The plant grows quickly and can easily spread throughout a garden if you let it. Thus, planting it in a pot is ideal to keep it contained. It won’t grow as large, but that means it will be much more manageable. It’s best planted in the spring or early fall, though indoors you generally can plant it any time of year.
|Botanical Name||Phyllostachys aurea|
|Common Names||Bamboo, golden bamboo, fishpole bamboo, monk’s belly bamboo, fairyland bamboo|
|Plant Type||Perennial, shrub|
|Mature Size||15–30 ft. tall, 8–15 ft. wide (outdoors), 5–8 ft. tall, 2–4 ft. wide (indoors)|
|Sun Exposure||Full, partial|
|Soil Type||Loamy, moist, well-drained|
|Hardiness Zones||6–10 (USDA)|
Bamboo is usually a low-maintenance, hardy plant. It rarely has issues with pests or diseases, and it typically doesn’t require pruning. You can remove old canes at their base if they begin to look unsightly. And you also can remove new shoots as they pop up from the soil if you want to limit your plant’s growth.
Regular watering and feeding will make up the bulk of your plant maintenance. To maintain the soil moisture bamboo likes, you might have to water your container plant more than once a week. But especially for an indoor plant where the climate doesn’t change drastically, you should be able to establish a predictable care routine fairly easily.
Bamboo prefers a spot that gets full sun to partial shade. Too much shade can result in a weak plant that does not grow to its fullest potential or develop its brilliant color. Indoors, keep your bamboo by your brightest window, and rotate the pot every week or so to be sure all sides of the plant get light.
This plant can tolerate a variety of soil types, but it prefers organically rich soil with good drainage. A quality commercial potting mix should be fine for container plants.
Bamboo has some drought tolerance once it’s established, and it can handle soggy soil for a short time. However, sitting in pooled water can ultimately rot the roots and kill the plant. The plant ideally should have evenly moist soil. Test the soil by sticking your finger an inch or two in it and watering whenever it feels dry. Never let the soil dry out completely. But during the winter months, slightly cut back on watering.
Temperature and Humidity
This species of bamboo is known for its cold tolerance. It can survive temperatures even around 5 degrees Fahrenheit for short amounts of time. However, cold weather can cause the plant to drop foliage and might eventually kill it. The plant will thrive in typical indoor temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep it away from cold drafts, such as those from an air conditioner, as well as from drying heat vents. These plants prefer fairly humid air but can tolerate some indoor dryness as long as you keep them well watered.
To maintain an optimal amount of nutrients in your container plant’s soil, feed your bamboo with a balanced liquid fertilizer once a month, following label instructions. It also can be helpful to mix some organic compost into the soil, especially in the spring, to promote healthy plant growth.
Potting and Repotting Bamboo
When starting with a small nursery bamboo plant, choose a container that is at least 12 inches wide and deep. Pick a pot made from a heavy material to anchor the weight of the bamboo canes. You can even add some rocks or gravel to the bottom if you feel the container isn’t sturdy enough to anchor the plant’s weight. Also, make sure the container has ample drainage holes.
Place the root ball in the pot, and fill in around it with a loose, nutrient-rich potting mix. If you wish, mix in some compost at this time to encourage growth. Then, water the bamboo well.
You likely will have to move your bamboo to a larger pot every year or two once the roots have spread through the entire pot and you see them coming out the holes in the bottom or poking up out of the soil on top. Don’t allow your plant to remain in a pot that’s too small for it for very long, as it won’t be able to get enough nutrients to remain healthy. An indoor plant typically will do fine being repotted at any time of year, but at the start of the growing season in the spring when the plant is revving up its growth is generally the best time for repotting.
There are several varieties of Phyllostachys aurea, including:
- Phyllostachys aurea ‘Flavescens Inversa’: Some lower sections of the canes of this variety can have a yellow stripe.
- Phyllostachys aurea ‘Holochrysa’: The canes of this variety often turn golden faster than others of the species.
- Phyllostachys aurea ‘Koi’: This variety has canes that turn yellow with green stripes.
- Phyllostachys aurea ‘Takemurai’: This variety tends to grow larger than other plants of the species.