How to Propagate Bamboo

Every day people search out information on bamboo propagation and stumble upon my website.  I even get email questions from some of these people asking for additional information.  I’m hoping with the format change of this site that I will be able to share my bamboo propagation information, tips and tricks more easily, as well as propviding an open forum for which people can get their questions answered regarding the subject.

Being there are two types of bamboo, runners and clumpers, the easiest and fastest way to propagate bamboo is through division.  Quite simply this is the act of digging and separating culms from the primary plant.  Runners by far are easiest as the rhizome mass is limited.  Clumping bamboo can be a little more difficult as the rhizome mass is thick, and often requires the use of a sawzall, prybar, shovel and a few gallons of sweat.

The second method of bamboo propagation is through vegetative means.  This method is reserved for the tropical clumping varitety of bamboo and can be accomplished in one or more ways, culm node cuttings, branch node cuttings, whole culm burial and lastly through air layering of branch nodes.  Not all methods work with each type of clumping bamboo either, and some work better for some than others.  Time of year the the cuttings are taken are also a very important factor and vary from species to species.  I’ll go into more detail in another post, but if you want you can view some pics of some bamboo I have successfully propagated here Bamboo Propagation Info.

The third method of course is through bamboo seed germination.  Being that bamboo plants do not flower very often makes this one method that many will not see in their lifetime unless they are fortunate enough to get access to fresh seed.  Bamboo seed loses it’s viability rather quickly unless stored properly, but I have had success with germinating Moso bamboo seed after several years in cold storage with a germination rate around 50%.  For more on bamboo seed germination, you can see my pictures and detailed instructions here Bamboo Seed Germination.

The fourth method of bamboo propagation which is still in early stages of development and is probably the most difficult is  through tissue culture.   This mass production of bamboo seems to be the fastest way to get the most plants, however, many bamboo experts have found bamboo grown from tissue culture to be problematic when it comes to growth rate and bamboo development.  I have zero experience when it comes to this, but I know there have been many headlines regarding this, and I’m sure as the technology develops it will become a more viable solution to bamboo propagation.  If you are an amateur bamboo propagator I suggest you try out a few of the above methods before attempting tissue culture propagation.

8 thoughts on “How to Propagate Bamboo

  • July 2, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Hi Mr. Wallace-

    I too use a sawzall although my cordless is a Dewalt. My question is what type of blade do you use? I us an “Ax” blade but it gets dull after about 6 culms. Any suggestions on blade type?

    All the best
    Richard Creagan
    Kiolaka’a Mountain Farms
    Naalehu, Hawaii 96772

    • July 2, 2011 at 11:38 am

      Funny, my Milwaukee cordless did not have the battery life to dig an entire stand of bamboo, so I recently bought a corded DeWalt to facilitate the process!

      For the thicker, more established bamboo stands I use a 6 inch blade designed for ripping through wood as it has deeper serrations and goes through the rhizome mass easier. Otherwise I just use a 10 inch blade. I’m not sure how many divisions I can take per blade, but it certainly is easier taking them this way vs hand digging with slammers, prybars and hand saws!

      I just looked on Amazon, and they have what’s called “pruning blades”. These come in a five pack and are the same price as the 10 pack of regular blades I use. They also show they make them in 9 inch lengths, whereas my local Lowe’s only carries them in 6 inch lengths. Guess I know where I might by my next batch of blades!

  • August 6, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    That’s going to make things a lot easier from here on out. Thanks!

  • October 4, 2011 at 3:09 am

    Hi. Thanks for the pics and info on propagating boo. I’m wondering if you’ve found any particular time of year to be best for culm/node cutting propagation? I notice you got fairly good results with the October starts. I’ve been told April is best, but haven’t done enough controlled experimenting to really know if it makes all that much difference. It seems to me that the species may be more influential than the time of year… but… if you have any info I’d appreciate it.
    george pace
    mountain view, hawaii

    • October 4, 2011 at 4:58 pm

      Glad you found the info useful George.

      As for your question, I have found that indeed time of year is dependent on species, and yet for some it doesn’t matter. Likewise, some are also more finicky than others and thus I’ve experienced varying degrees of success from species to species. Also, age of the culm used as propagation stock is said to make a difference as well, with some suggesting to use 2 or 3 year old culms.

      As for exactly specifics on particular varieties, I have only successfully propagated B. dissemulator, B. vulgaris, B. multiplex ‘silverstripe’ and B. Multiplex ‘Alphone Karr’. I tried some B. dissemulator in the spring but none took. I’ll be looking to try some again here in the next few weeks, along with some other tests that should be better documented. Check back for the posts and updates.

  • October 8, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Hi scott,

    thanks for your response. what you have said re time of year and age of culm reflects what i have mostly heard and read, but i like to ask people anyway. when i was just getting started with bamboo, and knew even less than i do now (hard to imagine!) i took some culm cuttings from a wild running bamboo forest and stuck them in pots. one of them actually sprouted and started. it was shortly after that that i began checking out all the bamboo books from the library and every single one of them asserted that runners can only be vegetatively propagated from rhizomes, and NOT from culm cuttings! uh… i’ve got one out there in a pot! i’ve had really good luck with s. brachycladum (golden bali), and really bad luck with b. lako. same time of year, same age culms, treated identically. go figure. like you say, each species seems to have it’s own tendencies for reproduction.

    thanks again,
    george pace

  • March 18, 2012 at 7:44 am

    I read your website about propagating bamboo.
    I have some culm cuttings which I buried.
    They put up new shoots with leaves but no roots yet.
    Do you know how long it takes?
    Also , what kind of temperature is your soil?
    Do you use rooting hormone?

    Also, I have propagated running bamboo by division. It says they running bamboo cannot be propagated this way?
    Or did you mean it can’t be propagate by culm or branch cutting?



    • March 18, 2012 at 7:51 am

      Hey Matt.

      When I have done propagation from cuttings in the past, I never cared about soil temp or used rooting hormones. I merely made the cutting, trimmed the branches and stuck it in the ground. Some bamboos are easier and root faster, some take longer. I’ve had a few that took upwards to 4 months from the time I saw new growth to root development. The only other tip is that any other plant propagation process, you need to keep them moist but not drenched. Also, keeping the culm filled with water may help as well.

      For your running bamboo question, yes it was referring that a running bamboo cannot be propagated from cuttings, both branch and node. Sorry for the confusion.


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