Everything You Should Know About Bamboo Bonsai Maintenance

Despite the fact that bamboo is one of the world’s fastest-growing plants, it is just as popular as bonsai. This is due to the fact that bamboo bonsai can be much easier to care for than other types of bonsai.

Bamboo bonsai styling is a little more difficult than styling other types of bonsai. Because bamboo lacks real branches, you don’t have as many options.

Having said that, bamboo bonsai is visually appealing and is styled in group planting to resemble a forest. Bamboo is also more resilient than other more delicate bonsai options, making it a better choice for beginners. Bamboo, on the other hand, is not just for beginners. Bamboo is a popular accent in the collections of bonsai enthusiasts.

Do you think bamboo would be an interesting addition to your bonsai collection? Continue reading to learn how to choose and care for a bamboo bonsai.

Selecting Bamboo for Bonsai

Bamboo is grass with a hollow, woody stem. There are thousands of bamboo species that grow in a variety of climates, from tropical to cold. Not all bamboos are suitable for bonsai.

Bamboo is well-known for its rapid growth. As a result, dwarf bonsai is typically the best choice for bonsai. Otherwise, your bamboo bonsai will quickly outgrow its container.

Here are a few examples of varieties that work well as bonsai:

  • Bambusa ventricosa: The dwarf variety of this species, also known as Buddha’s Belly, is very popular as a bonsai. Growing this plant as a bonsai encourages it to develop bulges and zigzags that give it character.
  • Bambusa multiplex: To get one of the smallest types of bamboo, choose the dwarf varieties called tiny fern or tiny fern striped. They have small leaves that are the right size for bonsai. This is the type I would recommend for beginners.
  • Pleioblastus fortunei: This species, also known as Dwarf White Stripe, is compact and suitable for bonsai. To keep this plant at the proper size, you’ll need to prune the roots on a regular basis.
  • Pseudosasa owatarii: This variety naturally grows to be about a foot tall, making it ideal for bonsai. This species can also withstand temperatures as low as 0 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing it to be left outside all year in most climates.

Other types of bamboo can also be used to make bonsai. When selecting a variety, consider whether you want tropical bamboo or a more hardy bamboo. You’ll have the most success if you choose a dwarf bamboo or one that grows naturally small.

There are also some common houseplants with the name bamboo but are not actually bamboo plants. Despite the fact that they are not members of the bamboo family, these plants are still lovely:

  • Lucky bamboo: This lovely plant resembles bamboo but is actually a type of water lily. Lucky bamboo appears to be a bamboo plant, but it is not.
  • Heavenly bamboo: Despite its name, heavenly bamboo isn’t actually bamboo. Although it is a shrub rather than a grass, it grows in conditions similar to bamboo. Heavenly bamboo grows well in containers and makes an attractive houseplant. If you want real bamboo, however, choose a different plant.The care you provide will differ slightly depending on the variety of bamboo you choose. Following that, we’ll go over some general guidelines for growing bamboo as a bonsai.

Position

If the climate in your area allows it, bamboo grows best when grown outside all year. Bamboo that grows naturally in a temperate climate can withstand constant exposure to the elements (unless you live somewhere with extreme cold). This bamboo will go dormant during the winter and resume growth once the weather warms up. Because most bamboo prefers a lot of sunlight, don’t put it in a shaded area. 

Tropical bamboo will almost certainly need to be kept indoors all year, or at least during the winter (unless you live in a tropical climate). When growing bamboo indoors, make sure it gets at least 10 hours of sunlight per day. If natural light is insufficient, you may need to use artificial light. During the winter, tropical bamboo continues to grow.

Tropical bamboo prefers a humid environment. If you keep tropical bamboo indoors, make sure it receives adequate humidity. You can increase humidity levels by grouping plants to create a more humid microclimate, using a humidity tray, or placing open containers of water near the bamboo. If the humidity in your home is low, you may need to use a humidifier to keep your tropical bamboo bonsai happy.

Temperature

The best temperature for bamboo varies depending on the species. Bamboo can withstand high temperatures in general, but it may require additional shade and water during this time.

Most people think of bamboo as a tropical plant, and many varieties are native to the tropics. There are, however, bamboo varieties that grow in temperate and even cold climates. These cultivars will go dormant in the winter and can withstand colder temperatures.

Soil

Bamboo thrives in loamy, well-draining soil that is slightly acidic. Most commercial potting mixes are specifically designed for these characteristics, so you don’t need to buy a bamboo-specific potting mix.

Bamboo is not as picky as some other common bonsai plants; however, each time you repot your bonsai, you should use fresh soil.

How Often Do You Water Bamboo Bonsai?

Bamboo dries out quickly, so it must be watered on a regular basis. Before watering, always check the soil. It’s time to water again if the soil is mostly dry.

Because bamboo does not like to sit in a pool of water, it is critical that excess water drains from your bamboo container. Overwatering is the most common cause of plant death. Because bamboo requires more water than most plants, overwatering should be a problem only if the excess water cannot escape.

When the weather is cooler, bamboo can go for two to three days without being watered. Expect to water your plants on a daily basis when it’s hot. Smaller containers dry out faster than larger containers. Bamboo can withstand some drought, but don’t forget to water it regularly.

Bottom watering your bamboo is a good idea. Place the container in a tray of water for about 10 minutes. This ensures that the soil can absorb and hold as much moisture as it can. When the soil is too dry, it has a difficult time retaining water poured over it. Switch to bottom watering during hot summer days when everything dries out quickly.

When Should You Fertilize a Bamboo Bonsai?

Because bamboo bonsai grows in a small container, it requires regular fertilization. However, you don’t want to over-fertilize. Because bamboo grows quickly, providing too much fertilizer can cause your bamboo to grow out of control.

Once a week, apply a gentle, balanced fertilizer to your bamboo to provide it with the nutrients it needs to thrive without going overboard. To me, using a liquid fertilizer is the most convenient option because you have more control over the amount you apply.

Bamboo is a hardy plant, so don’t be concerned if you forget to fertilize it every now and then.

When to Repot Bamboo Bonsai?

Because bamboo grows quickly, you may need to repot your bamboo bonsai once a year if its roots appear to be running out of space. You might be able to reduce repotting to once every other year for a few varieties of slower-growing bamboo.

If possible, time the repotting to coincide with the main growing season. Between the end of spring and the beginning of summer, repot tropical bamboo. Other bamboo varieties should be replanted in the middle of spring.

Remove the old potting mix from the container before repotting. Remove any potting soil that has clung to your bamboo’s roots as well.

To remove old roots, use sterile scissors or pruning shears. This will not harm the bamboo and is required to keep your bonsai from growing too quickly.

You have the option of using a new container for your bonsai or returning it to the same container. Regardless of the container, use fresh potting soil.

Be aware that after being repotted, bamboo bonsai may lose a few leaves. This is not a cause for concern unless a significant number of leaves die. If more than a few of your bamboo bonsai leaves die, you may have another issue.

How to Bonsai Bamboo

Bamboo bonsai is not the same as other types of bonsai. Bamboo does not react in the same way because it is a grass rather than a tree or shrub.

You don’t have to worry about styling and shaping bamboo bonsai as much if you choose a small variety of bonsai and keep up with trimming and pruning.

Bamboo Bonsai Styling

Bamboo bonsai is commonly styled in the forest or group planting style. Because bamboo grows in this manner naturally, there are no other practical ways to style it.

Bamboo is a colonial plant that grows new shoots every year. You can remove some of the shoots, and new ones will eventually grow in to take their place. The beauty of bamboo is that if you mess up the styling, it will simply grow more shoots. Bamboo is not delicate, so you are unlikely to permanently harm it.

Unlike other bonsai, bamboo bonsai do not need to be wired into any specific shape. Just keep pruning and trimming up.

Bamboo culms (the stems or shoots) die after 5-10 years. Simply remove the dead culms when this occurs. There should be enough other stems that losing a few each year will not have a significant impact on the appearance of your bonsai.

Bamboo Bonsai Trimming and Styling

Pruning and trimming are important aspects of bamboo bonsai care. The majority of bamboo species want to grow quickly. Remove any unnecessary shoots and trim the leaves on a regular basis. Because bamboo grows quickly in warm climates, you’ll need to trim and prune it more frequently.

Bamboo, as a forgiving plant, is not stressed by trimming and pruning, so don’t be concerned about removing too much growth.

If you work with the natural characteristics of bamboo, you will have a beautiful bonsai specimen.

Bamboo Bonsai FAQ

Can you bonsai bamboo?

Certain bamboo cultivars produce stunning bonsai. Look for dwarf bamboo or slower-growing varieties. Bamboo is very popular among bonsai enthusiasts.

How do you propagate bamboo bonsai?

Bamboo bonsai can be propagated by rhizomes, culm cutting, or division. Depending on the type of bonsai, the best method of propagation differs.

How much sunlight does bamboo need?

In general, bamboo requires at least six hours of sunlight per day. Most bamboo species thrive in more sunlight. Provide as much sunlight as possible for indoor bamboo. It’s possible that you’ll need to supplement with artificial lighting.

Can bamboo grow in the dark?

Bamboo cannot grow in complete darkness. The majority of bamboo varieties require a lot of light to thrive; however, some bamboo varieties will grow in shade or partial shade.

Can you grow bamboo from seeds?

Growing bamboo from seeds is possible, but it is uncommon. Because the seeds do not germinate well, most people prefer to propagate bamboo using more dependable methods.

Have another question about caring for your bamboo bonsai plant? Drop a comment below! 

 

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