Choosing Bamboo Plant Food

Bamboo can become very large plants, but all are actually members of the grass family. You can even use lawn fertilizer on bamboo. Plants grown outdoors in USDA Zones 5 or higher have different nutritional needs than plants grown in containers. The houseplant known as lucky bamboo is from an entirely different family and has different plant food needs.


Bamboo Nutritional Needs

Although there is very little actual research on bamboo’s nutritional requirements, empirical observation among expert gardeners indicates that nitrogen is critical – as it is for most grasses. In addition, bamboo needs the other members of the “big three,” phosphorus and potassium. Trace elements such as calcium and magnesium are also required. Whatever fertilizer you choose, make sure it has all the major elements.

Bamboo Indoors

Bamboo grown indoors has the same fertilizer needs as outdoor bamboo unless it is lucky bamboo – a member of the dracaena family. Here’s what makes lucky bamboo different:

  • It is an indoor plant only, although it can go outside for the summer.
  • It grows just fine in plain water.
  • If fertilized, it needs no more than a drop of liquid fertilizer once a month.

Check the Soil

Bamboo prefers a soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0 – which is slightly on the acidic side. Soil pH affects nutrient absorption, so it’s a good idea to have your soil tested, especially if you plant to mix your own for container plants or grow bamboo outdoors. In addition, the soil test will indicate if you have major nutrient deficiencies or too much of a particular substance.

Using Compost

Compost is a good choice for outdoor bamboo. Used as a mulch, it will often supply everything your bamboo needs. Compost is especially helpful for running bamboo, as they may otherwise respond to fertilizer by taking over and becoming invasive. Make organic compost with plenty of well-rotted leaves and aged manure. Wood ash supplies calcium and potash, and helps neutralize acidic soils.

Dry Fertilizer

Dry commercial fertilizer is typically available as a powder or in timed release pellet form. These are good choices to fertilize plants in late fall prior to the dormant season. Container plants may also benefit from timed release pellets as liquid fertilizer may quickly drain out of the pot. Fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 20-5-5 or any good lawn fertilizer will do.

Liquid Fertilizer

Bamboo grown in containers often does better with more frequent feedings. Liquid fertilizer is ideal for this, because it can be diluted and used every few weeks. It also allows you to combine watering with fertilization, decreasing the risk of over-watering. Some liquid fertilizer is available in organic form. Dilute to one-quarter or one-third strength with water.