How to Propagate Bamboo

Although bamboo may flower and set seed, this may occur only once every 50 years in many varieties. Seeds are often not viable and not readily available, so propagating through root division or stem cutting are more common methods. Bamboo may be bigger, but you treat them much as you would any other perennial plant.


Bamboo Growth Patterns

A member of the grass family, bamboo has a similar growth pattern. Culms develop in spring through early summer and quickly shoot up to their mature height. Rhizome or root development takes place in later summer and fall. It’s best to propagate from roots in the dormant season – late fall and winter. Stem cuttings can be obtained during the active growing season.

Clumping or Running?

Bamboo generally falls into one of two main types. Clumping bamboo grows a tangled thick root mass in which individual culms develop from a single rhizome. Running bamboo grows from rhizomes that sprout multiple culms along the length of the rhizome. In must be kept under control with frequent root pruning, which makes it very easy to take root cuttings.

Preparation and Tools

You’ll have better results if you prepare carefully when propagating bamboo. Here are the basics:

  • Prepare containers or a permanent garden spot for the new plants.
  • Water the bamboo well about 24 hours before propagating.
  • Make sure all tools are clean and sharp.
  • Collect a flat-bladed shovel, pruning shears, a knife and a handsaw, hacksaw or chainsaw.

Taking Stem Cuttings

Select a healthy one- or two-year old culm. Cut it to the ground. The middle nodes usually make the best cuttings. Select a node with no more than three branches, one of which is about 18 inches long. Cut the stem one either side of the branching node. Trim branches back by half. Fill hollow stem with soil and plant about three inches deep.

Using Root Cuttings

For clumping bamboos, split the root mass with a sharp shovel or knife. Try to have several stems in the mass. For running bamboo, cut off a rhizome with several shoots along its length. You can plant the entire rhizome or cut it into sections, each with one or more culms. In both cases, work quickly so the roots don’t dry out, and replant immediately.

Growing On

It’s best to choose a misty, overcast day for propagating bamboo, especially outdoors – bamboo grows outdoors in USDA Zones 5 and above. The roots are very sensitive to sunlight and air. Keep a piece of damp burlap over the root mass or place cuttings in a bucket of water. Once planted, water well and then keep shaded for several weeks. Bamboo will usually root within three months.