Bamboo is traditionally considered an outdoor plant, but under the right conditions, certain varieties will thrive indoors and can become the most interesting centerpiece in your home. What are these conditions? The factors vary between bamboo species, but here are some general rules of (green) thumb.
Indoor bamboo plants are usually of the Dracaena sanderiana variety, also known as “lucky bamboo.” They are bright and cheery, a chartreuse splash of color that invigorates an office space or an overlooked corner of various homes. Although it is somewhat similar in appearance to bamboo, indoor bamboo is a native of West Africa. Often found in garden centers and florist shops, indoor bamboo can be shaped by twisting and looping the stems when they are young and slender.
The cut canes will grow in soil or water and stay healthy with an occasional dose of fertilizer. If potted in pebbles and water, as shown in this project, change the water completely every two weeks, and add liquid fertilizer for aquatic plants (available at pets stores). To fertilize bamboo planted indoor that is growing in soil, use the aquatic plant fertilizer monthly when watering.
Bamboo Varieties to Try planting Indoors
Bambusa ventricosa ‘Buddha’s Belly’. Grows from 5 to 15 feet tall. This bamboo grows with unique, zigzagging bloated culms, giving it its common name, and the bulginess is a direct result of the plant’s water stress level—the less water, the more the plant “bellies out.” This variety is very adaptable to a wide range of conditions and even makes an interesting bonsai specimen.
Chimonobambusa quadrangularis ‘Yellow Grove’, a.k.a. Square stem bamboo. This variety is upright with graceful foliage and yellow-grooved, square culms. Grows 8 to 10 feet tall and requests optimal light.
Pseudosasa japonica ‘Japanese Arrow Bamboo’. A surprisingly happy indoor bamboo. A profusion of slim culms grow tightly together and adorn this tough plant. This is a more shade-tolerant variety because of its larger leaves.
Planting bamboo indoor
Place the bamboo plant in a pot of gravel and soil, and then put it in a tray of low water. This is a great way to raise the humidity levels of your plant. Although some varieties can grow directly in a vase with water, those may not last indoors as long, though.
The most important thing to think about when growing indoor bamboo plants is water. Because, indoors, they generally have less air circulation and light, it can be quite tempting to overwater them. Look for the tell-tale sign of browny-yellow leaf tips.
Humidity levels are also important. One thing you can do is to give the leaves of your bamboo an occasional misting.
Fertilizer is also very important. If dying yellow leaves are noticed on the bamboo, it might be an idea to add some fertilizer to the plant to give it a new lease for life.
Bamboo Plant Care
Bamboo is a relatively simple plant to grow, whether that’s indoor or outdoor. However, there are as always some important things to bear in mind when caring for bamboo plants.
- Of utmost importance is correct daily sunlight exposure. Most bamboo require at least six hours of direct sun per day. While some varieties tolerate more shade, the more sunlight you can offer, in general, the happier the plant. The ideal spot is in an atrium or greenhouse where light and humidity can be higher.
- Proper watering is a key factor. Bamboo is susceptible to and can be damaged from over-watering. This is the most common reason for an indoor bamboo’s demise. Also make sure the pot drains properly and has sizeable holes to enable excess water to flow out. Another suggestion is to use a spray bottle and mist the plant daily to keep it healthily humidified.
- Bamboo likes to eat, too. Because your bamboo is living in a pot and will be depleting nutrients every time it’s watered, you should be feeding it with a high nitrogen fertilizer to keep it green and lush. An organic lawn fertilizer will also work.
- Fresh air is greatly appreciated. If possible, bring your potted bamboo outside for a bit to get direct light from the sun, and to get a shower to help wash off any dust and bug intruders.
- Consider the pot you plant it in. At some point you will need to repot your bamboo because the rapidly growing rhizomes will completely fill the container. Therefore we recommend using one that has a squat shape and widens at the top for easier plant removal.
Bamboo grows hydroponically, meaning it lives in water, not soil. Place the plant in a container with about 1 inch of water, refreshing it as it is absorbed by the plant or evaporates. Add a diluted solution of liquid houseplant fertilizer every few months to provide additional nutrients. If the bamboo plant is in soil, fertilize with a high-nitrogen, slow-release formula in the spring, according to manufacturer’s directions.
Bottled, filtered and tap water all cause minerals and salt to accumulate over long periods of time, harming the plant because bamboo plants are very sensitive to chemicals and and salts in tap water. ; choose distilled water or rainwater to help mitigate this problem. In good conditions, bamboo leaves can grow up to 1 inch per month.
What kind of soil does your bamboo plant need?
As discussed earlier, bamboo plants do not have to be planted in soil, but they can be if you prefer. Just make sure the soil drains well. Keep soil moderately moist—not soggy, and not desert dry. Don’t ever let the bamboo plant become water-logged.
What kind of light does your bamboo plant need?
Bamboo plants enjoy bright indirect light, but can tolerate low light conditions, although they will grow more slowly. Ideal temperatures are in the 60 to 70-degree range, which isn’t a problem in most home or office conditions.
Troubleshooting Bamboo Plants
Yellow leaves on the indoor planted bamboo indicate either too much fertilizer or too much light. Yellow stalks indicate too much fertilizer. If this happens, remove the yellow portion of the stalk and re-plant the still-green portion. Brown or mushy stalks signal root rot.
Again, the affected portion of the plant will need to be removed. A white, sticky substance or snail-looking growths on the bamboo stalks indicate the presence of scale or spider mites. Wipe the stalks with soapy water, rinse thoroughly, and replace water.