Maintenance / Care
There are four conditions that optimize the growth of tropical bamboos:
Sunlight, regular irrigation, good drainage, and at least occasional
fertilization. If any of these conditions is lacking, the growth rate
be affected in direct proportion to the deficiency. You can certainly
a beautiful bamboo, but again, the growth rate will not be maximized.
Most tropical bamboos grow quicker and do their best in full sun. As
at least four hours of sun reaches the leaves, your tropical bamboo
happy. If grown in broken light or partial sun, the number of shoots
year will not be as high as if it were in full sun. Some tropical
species will stretch - elongating its internodes - if grown under the
of another tree in an effort to reach the sun. These bamboos have
that have been measured much longer than their standard ABS listing.
When you first plant your bamboo you will need to make sure that it has
enough water every day for at least a month or so. This means you may
to hose soak it if you irrigation system only hits the area every other
or less often. Even if your irrigation system covers the area daily,
the leaves of your new bamboo. If they start to curl, the bamboo needs
water. This is easily the number one problem reported by new growers. I
certainly donít want you to keep your bamboo in standing water but
make sure it gets off to a good start with a bit of early watering
The most important part of your bamboo plant is under ground. The
and root system will not survive if planted in muck or boggy
Good drainage is important. If necessary, build up a small berm and
this area so that excess water can drain into lower areas.
FERTILIZING and MULCH
Tropical Bamboo Nursery now is offering our own Bamboo
Fertilizer in 2 lb. jars. This is a timed-release mix that we use in containers as well as
New bamboos can be fertilized with a balanced lawn or, especially, palm
fertilizer. After the first year, higher nitrogen formulas can be used.
supplements are beneficial. If your soil is somewhat alkaline (as in
Florida), there are many sulphur/iron mixes (granular or liquid) that
well and show favorable results quickly. Donít use a weed-n-feed lawn
Compost and mulch are the easiest way to maintain healthy soil and
If your mulch is fresh and uncomposted, fertilize before mulching. The
microorganisms that break down the mulch will rob the nitrogen from the
so youíll have to feed them as well as the bamboo.
After the second year you can remove some of the original growth. Do
take more than 1/3 of the culms. Cut out only the old culms (usually
smallest in the clump). Cut them near the base, just above a node. If a
is tan, itís dead and should be removed. I use a small handsaw or
a reciprocating saw. You can thin the clump each year. Avoid removing
newest culms unless they are growing awkwardly or into an unwelcome
You can also remove branches to reveal the canes or to create a more
effect. I do this with all of my low-branching species as a personal
If youíre planting several bamboos to create a screen, hedge, or
the spacing will vary depending on the species, density required, and
speed required for establishment. Tropical bamboos can be planted as
as 3 feet on center but 5 feet on centers is the average spacing.
How do I care for my bamboo that grows in water & pebbles (Lucky Bamboo)?
The popular "lucky bamboo" plant is technically "dracaena sanderia," -
lily, not an actual bamboo plant. It is a houseplant that is most often
rooted in water and supported by pebbles. We only grow tropical bamboos
can only offer expert advice on our specialty. Real tropical bamboos
survive if planted in water, or even with constant wet feet. Ours are
landscape ornamentals that grow relatively large, depending on the
and are happiest if planted outdoors.
Are there any pests or diseases that infest or infect tropical bamboo plants?
Tropical bamboos are less susceptible to pests or diseases than most
tropical plants. However, there are a couple of pests, a fungus, and a
that, in the U.S., may be introduced to you in conversation or you may
suspect on your tropical bamboo plant. Most are not fatal and usually
greatly affect the growth of the bamboo. We, and our local Plant
inspectors, monitor our stock to ensure that no problems originate at
Fungal spots - On older culms, especially in humid conditions, fungal
can appear - usually in a circular ring pattern. The effect is mostly
cosmetic. This can be treated topically with a copper-based product
labeled for plant fungus problems. Alternatively, since the affected
are usually old, the culm(s) can be simply removed from the clump.
BaMV (Bamboo Mosaic Potex Virus) - This is a virus that is transmitted
by physical vectors (usually cutting tools). It is actually difficult
transmit but people do manage to spread it - especially in places where
bamboo is grown in plantations for edible shoots. Reputable ornamental
growers do not freely distribute infected plants so, hopefully, you
encounter this disease. The effects can range from a mosaic pattern in
leaves to complete death of the bamboo. There is one species
Mei Nung) that is a carrier of the virus but shows little to no
you have this species and insist on growing it , it is certainly
so take precaution to sterilize all tools that come in contact. There
other species that known to be infected in some areas. These species
include: D.latiflorus, B.oldhamii, B.edulis, B.beecheyana, and
B.dolichloclada. There is no cure for the virus but all of the plants
Tropical Bamboo Nursery have been lab tested. Infected bamboo varieties are not
sold without an educational (verbal) discussion with they buyer.
Black Sooty Mold - this is probably the most common reported issue
on tropical bamboos. In South Florida, the B.multiplex varieties are
susceptible. Any bamboo species with dense branch compliments at the
are good candidates. The problem is caused by aphids that secrete a
honey-like substance that accumulates mostly in the branch bases. The
mold grows on this secretion. Ants favor the secretion and will farm
aphids, moving them around to other parts of the bamboo. Treat with
center products labeled for control ants and/or aphids. You can also
pressure washer to blast off the mold.
Scale - This is often ignored by growers as it can be difficult to
It can, however, become so dense that it can completely cover culms in
clump, changing the color to brownish/gray. Regardless, the bamboo
seems to notice their presence so treatment is often a matter of
preference. Scale affects many of the Bambusa species as the culm are
glabrous. Some of the Dendrocalamus, like giganteus, are also
Scale are tiny sucking insects with waxy-coverings on their backs. They
be either removed physically or treated systemically. Contact
are ineffective because of the waxy shield. If systemic insecticides
(insecticides that are absorbed into the plant tissue and consumed by
sucking insect) are used, the dead bugs will remain attached to the
branch, or leaf. It's easy to blast them off the culms, dead or alive,
a pressure washer. Use garden center systemic products labeled for
Insecticidal oils and soaps may be effective but must be applied at
Bamboo Mealybug (Palmicultor lumpurensis) - This is a bamboo-specific
mealybug so it should not affect other plants. It was first officially
reported in 2002 in Central Florida hhttp://www.freshfromflorida.com/content/download/9805/135098/palmicultor-lumpurensis.pdf.
The mealybugs are multi-stage insects and are easily identified when they are surrounded by sticky white webbing - almost always on new shoot tips (culm tips or branches). If you see unusual white substance on shoot tips, peel back the culm leaves and you should see small pink bodies in the webbing or on the culm. Sometimes natural white powdery bloom on the new shoot can appear to be the webbing but is a false alarm. Make sure you look for the bugs before making an assumption of infestation. Usually the bamboo shoots develop with no adverse affects. Occasionally, the infestation is so severe that the culm, or culms, abort. Mealybugs won't kill a clump of bamboo but they can get ugly and possibly cause shoots to abort.
The mealybug destroyer(Crypt)
Beneficial predatory insects can be effective at least short-term. The mealybug destroyer (Crypts) especially loves these mealybugs and will quickly eat any active colonies. Crypts can be ordered from many online sources. The problem is that mealy bugs are multi-stage and the Crypts only stay around as long as there is live food (not eggs). As soon as the Crypts leave, new mealys hatch and you may have to buy more Crypts. In November/2006, I spoke by telephone with Dr. Greg Hodges (see link above on first report) and asked him if there was anything new since his report. He told me that in 2004 the original infestation at the Lake Buena Vista, FL location was severe and that, strangely, without chemical treatment, the condition seemed improved in 2005. By 2006, there were only minimal signs of mealybug but close inspection revealed colonies of ladybeetles (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri - Crypts or Mealybug Destroyers). I don't know yet if the Crypts were manually introduced or just naturally appeared but the situation appears to have been balanced at this location. Dr. Hodges also said that, when he first wrote his report, he could find very little published reference data worldwide on this bamboo mealybug. He thought that might have meant Palmicultor lumpurensis was not considered to be much of a threat in the countries where it has been established.
"Systemic and contact insecticides are effective and there are several
available at garden centers labeled for mealybugs. A detergent (Ivory
soap is great) should be added as a surfactant if you foliar spray with
contact insecticide as the webbing is difficult to penetrate with a
water-based solution. The key is to thoroughly spray your bamboo - all
sides, top to bottom. Don't miss any part of the bamboo and spray out
drip line on the ground. Then re-apply every 10-14 days for at least
cycles. Do this even if you don't see any new mealys that have hatched.
have to break the cycle. If you spray once or twice and think you've
eliminated the problem, new bugs will appear in a few weeks to taunt
The most-effective treatment to date for homeowners is one of the Bayer
Advenced Tree & Shrub products. These are available at most garden
and home improvement stores. They are applied simply by drenching the
zone or by spreading slow-release granules around the root zone. If you
can't find these specific products, look for a similar product that
the active ingredient imidacloprid which is a synthetic form of
On a commercial scale, or for a bamboo-hobbyist with a large collection, the formula below is thoroughly effective in eliminating and preventing any mealybugs (and most other sucking insects). These products are not yet labeled for use on bamboo plants (although they are labeled for mealybug control on other plants). That means I'm only providing information on what works for me, not suggesting anyone follow my experimental formula. I do not assume any product liability:
Three different tank mixtures, rotated every 2 months:
1) (Dinotefuran) Safari together with Joint Venture surfactant (or
dish detergent) in the spray tank. The Safari is mixed with 50 gallons
water at 5 oz. total. I mix in 8 oz. of Joint Venture. I also mix in
20-20-20 water-soluble fertilizer to provide some nutritional benefit
the bamboos. Soak the infested bamboo top to bottom - especially the
and branch shoots. Make sure the inner culms are covered as well. You
to re-apply after 14 days to make sure any new hatchlings are zapped.
2) (Acetamiprid) TriStar - This is a neonicotinoid like Merit or Marathon (Imidicloprid). Any of these products will work for this rotation. Two TriStar 70 WSP water-soluble packets per 50 gallons. Joint Venture surfactant 8 oz. Per 50 gallons (or Ivory dish detergent) and Tracite 20-20-20 water-soluble fertilizer is mixed in. NOTE: For homeowners, TriStar 30 sg is available and mixed at 3 oz. per 50 gallons. Bayer Advanced Tree & Shrub (Merit) is available in Home Depot. Both of these are diluted versions of the professional formulas but, for one or two bamboos, they should be effective.
3) (Buprofezin) Talus, which interrupts the larval stage of the growth cycle. This comes in bags containing 24 water-soluble pouches. One pouch per 10 gallons. Dimethoate (Cygon) can be mixed in at 16 oz. per 50 gallons. Joint Venture surfactant 8 oz. Per 50 gallons (or Ivory dish detergent). No fertilizer is added to the tank with Talus because it is labeled to not be mixed with boron, chromium, or other micronutrients.
The Safari treatment seems most powerful immediately with contact and systemic controls but it is important to rotate insecticides. I haven't used Orthene (acephate) but reports indicate that it is also an effective control. A .773# can of Orthene makes 150 gallons.
Obviously, take measures to prevent getting any of this stuff on your skin or in your lungs.