Bamboo grows quickly, and most gardeners recommend planting only clumping varieties that generate new stocks near the existing root structure. Running bamboo grows horizontally underground and is considered invasive. While there are hundreds of varieties of bamboo, most can be propagated by cuttings.

This process involves selecting a young healthy bamboo stock, cutting off a small section and allowing to grow in water until roots appear from the base of the cut stock. One mature stock can produce several new bamboo plants.

Bamboo cuttings are a form of vegetative propagation that uses part of a parent plant to produce a new plant. The new plant shares the exact same genetics as the parent plant, thus growing up to be identical to the parent. There are three methods of bamboo cuttings that are easily performed at home: root mass divisionsrhizome cuttings, and culm burial.

Dividing Bamboo

Some varieties of bamboo are easily propagated by dividing the root mass. Many varieties that clump have root masses that consist of dense rhizomes (underground stems) that allow bamboo to grow new culms (shoots/stalks). Bamboo that is at least 1 to 2 years old can be divided. Divisions can be accomplished by using a sharp spade or shovel. Some bamboo root masses are so dense that a reciprocating saw is needed to remove the mass from the ground.

Tools for Bamboo Divisions

  • Sharp shovel/spade
  • Knife
  • Water
  • Reciprocating saw (optional)

How to Grow Bamboo from Cuttings

  1. Select a healthy bamboo stock from a plant that is less than 3 years old. Older bamboo stocks may still grow, but younger plants tend to do better when rooting from cut stocks.
  2. Cut a 10-inch section of the stock using a very sharp knife. Make sure that the section you take contains at least two nodes — the hard growth around the cane — and two internodes, appearing as green sections between the nodes. Make clean horizontal cuts through the stock at a 45-degree angle.
  3. Melt about three tablespoons of candle wax and dip the top of the horizontal cut into the wax to prevent the cutting from rotting.
  4. Immediately place the other end of the cutting into water that does not contain fluorine. Roots will begin to appear from the base of the cutting in about two months.

Tools for Bamboo Divisions

  • Sharp shovel/spade
  • Knife
  • Water
  • Reciprocating saw (optional)

Dividing Bamboo

Some varieties of bamboo are easily propagated by dividing the root mass. Many varieties that clump have root masses that consist of dense rhizomes (underground stems) that allow bamboo to grow new culms (shoots/stalks). Bamboo that is at least 1 to 2 years old can be divided. Divisions can be accomplished by using a sharp spade or shovel. Some bamboo root masses are so dense that a reciprocating saw is needed to remove the mass from the ground.

Dividing tall bamboo can be very labor intensive. The root masses can be very heavy, and the culms add even more weight. Use proper lifting techniques and be careful.

How to Divide Bamboo

  1. Select a clump of bamboo that is overgrown or out of place.
  2. Dig up the clump of bamboo.
  3. Set the clump upright (culms facing up) on the ground.
  4. Decide how the bamboo clump should be divided (halves, thirds, quarters, etc).
  5. Drive the shovel into the bamboo root mass. If needed, pour some water on the root mass to loosen the dirt and roots. A reciprocating saw can be used if the mass is too dense to separate by hand.
  6. Pull the sections apart using the hands. Try to separate the clumps as much as possible before using a knife to cut and separate the roots and rhizomes.
  7. Replant the clumps in a new area or container. Backfill the new hole or container with soil from the area. Soil native to the site of the parent plant is the best backfill soil.
  8. Press the backfilled soil firmly into the hole and around the new division to eliminate air pockets.
  9. Thoroughly water the newly planted division.

Tools for Rhizome Cuttings

  • Shovel/spade
  • Sharp knife
  • Container
  • Sterilized soil

Bamboo Rhizome Cuttings

Certain varieties of bamboo can easily be propagated via rhizome cuttings. These varieties are commonly referred to as “creeping” or “running” bamboo. The rhizome is removed from a parent plant and buried in early spring. The rhizome will eventually begin to grow roots, and later grow culms if the rhizomes remain moist. The key is slightly moist, and not wet. Rhizomes that remain wet will eventually rot. Rhizome cuttings can be performed easily, especially when already dividing bamboo.

How to Perform Rhizome Cuttings

  1. Dig up a clump or stalk of bamboo.
  2. Locate a large, healthy rhizome about 12 to 18 inches long with many feeder roots and buds. Rhizomes that contain swelling buds are ideal for cuttings.
  3. Remove the healthy rhizome from the parent plant with a sharp knife.
  4. Place the rhizome in a pot and cover it with a few inches of potting soil. Sterilized potting soil is best used to prevent disease, insects, and weed seed germination.
  5. Keep the soil moist, but not constantly soaked. Rotting will eventually occur if left in too wet of soil.
  6. Small culms will grow within the first year, and new rhizomes will begin to grow within the second year.

Tools for Culm Burial

  • Sharp knife/pruning sheers
  • Container
  • Sterilized soil

Bamboo Culm Burial

Culm cuttings are a little more difficult than rhizome cuttings and divisions. This type of cutting involves cutting segments of the culm and burying them, or burying the entire culm. Roots will begin to grow at nodes (junctions where branches meet the stem), and eventually send new shoots to the surface.

How to Perform Culm Burial

  1. Select a culm that is two to three years old.
  2. Cut the culm into a few segments, or leave it whole if performing an entire culm burial.
  3. Remove nearly all existing branches on the segments or entire culm, except for one or two small branches at each node.
  4. Bury the culm segments in a container with sterilized soil. Make sure to bury the branch nodes. The entire culm burial is usually too large for a container, so place it into the ground if climate permits.
  5. Keep the soil moist, but not soaked or waterlogged.
  6. Roots will begin to develop at the nodes within a few weeks.
  7. Plant the segments in new areas. A rooted culm can also be divided or left in the ground whole.

Propagation Overview

MethodPart of BambooEase of Propagation
DivisionRoot massEasiest
Rhizome cuttingUnderground stem (rhizome)Moderately easy
Culm burialStalk (culm)Somewhat difficult

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