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Growing Bamboo From Seed

Moso bamboo seedlingGrowing bamboo from seed can be quite rewarding, if you are lucky enough to actually get some fresh bamboo seed.  I say that because bamboo very rarely flowers, and when it does it may do so for several years sporadically until it does a gregarious flowering, after which the primary plant is said to die.  I have witnessed only a handful of bamboo plants producing seed, and even more so only limited germination rate from that seed.  My friend Rich currently has some Bambusa tuldoides in flower, from which he has gotten a few dozen new bamboo seedlings from a few hundred seeds.  A few years ago there was a stand of unknown Multiplex bamboo in St Augustine that was flowering and had tons of bamboo seedlings growing around it as well as tons of seed.  I managed to germinate some of the seed, as well as dig a few seedlings.  However, only a few have survived, of which one of them is now growing in a one gallon pot in my backyard.  In 2008 I tried to do some branch node cuttings from a Dendrocalumus minor amoenus that resulted in the cuttings setting seed rather than rooting.  Unfortunately none of the seed turned out to be viable.

Anyways, the problem with growing bamboo from seed is that it is sporadic.  Bamboo seed is said to lose it’s viability quickly unless properly stored or planted immediately.  Another reason is growing environment.  Bamboo seed seems to like a damp growing medium and a little bit of warmth.  This is probably one of the reasons that the mystery Multiplex variety has so many babies growing around it as the mother plant was in a drainage ditch, so it stayed somewhat damp.  The third problem with growing bamboo from seed is loss of seedlings from transplant shock.  Dendrocalamus strictus seedlingsMy brother and I germinated thousands of Moso seeds that we were fortunate enough to get access to.  As the seeds germinated they were transplanted before the primary root go too long into water bottles.  However, much to my dismay it didn’t take long for these bamboo seedlings to become root bound in such a small container, and we lost a majority of these before we even realized what was happening.  Chock this up to inexperience.

So with that being said, if you are fortunate enough to have some bamboo seed you should germinate it as soon as you possibly can.  Germination rates will vary, and I have some detailed seed germination tips that you might find useful here Bamboo Seed Germination.  I actually use these directions for many of the various seeds I need to germinate, and it works.  If you have a large amount of bamboo seeds you can always try a few different methods to see if you get better results.  The only change to these directions would maybe to use the Jiffy pellets and plant one or two seeds in each pellet, as this will help avoid the transplant shock that I experienced in the past.