One major challenge in trying to grow bamboo from seed is the plant’s flowering cycle. Some varieties of bamboo flower frequently. Others take decades or centuries, up to 150 years in some cases. Once the plants in a grove – which is classically a mass of stems connected by a single root mass – have flowered and set seed, the grove dies.
Sourcing Your Seed
Bamboo seed is not readily available. You’ll be more likely to find it in specialty nurseries or from online sources. Since it won’t remain viable for very long, it’s crucial to find fresh seed. Even if you do find seed, odds are the varietal choices will be limited. Germination rates tend to be low and the tiny seedlings are fragile.
Gather Your Tools
Careful preparation increases the chances of getting viable seedlings. Set up the right environment well ahead of time by:
- Buying or making a mini-greenhouse.
- Using individual peat pellets as the planting medium.
- Cleaning all your tools – scrub, wash with dilute bleach and then rinse thoroughly.
- Obtain a pre-germination stimulant to treat the seeds.
Before You Plant
Boil a large pot of water and pour it over the peat pellets; allow to cool to room temperature. Inspect your seeds for cracks, mold or signs of shriveling – these seeds should be discarded. Apply the pre-germination stimulant. Soak seeds for 24 hours in distilled water warmed to 85°F (30°C). Place one seed in the top of each pellet. Sprinkle one-quarter inch of potting soil on top.
Place the mini-greenhouse in a warm but not hot window with bright indirect light. Avoid direct sun as it can cook your seeds. Check the greenhouse daily and spritz pellets with room temperature distilled water if they seem dry. Be sure the interior of the pellet gets wet. Expect to see sprouts anywhere from 10 to 20 days from planting.
You can keep your seedlings in the mini-greenhouse until the tops almost reach the lid. At that point, transplant by moving the entire peat pellet into a prepared pot. A commercial potting soil mixed with equal amounts of small bark-chip mulch is a good growing medium. Settle the peat pellet into the new pot, firm the soil around it and water it in.