How to Repot Bamboo

Container-grown bamboo will eventually outgrow its pot. Root-bound bamboo may eventually die from lack of nutrients and space, or – especially with running bamboo – may exert so much pressure that it splits or breaks the pot. Repotting isn’t difficult and can allow you to increase your bamboo collection or to continue to use the same pot over several years.


Bamboo – Clumping or Running?

The bamboos most people grow in containers are either running or clumping types, which grow differently. Both have a single root mass. Clumping bamboo sends up individual spouts, or culms, from the root mass. Running bamboo sends out rhizomes from the main root mass. Multiple culms sprout along each rhizome and this kind of bamboo can spread very fast.

Preparing the Soil

Like the rest of its grass relatives, bamboo grows better in fertile soil; that’s even more important for container-grown plants. Commercial potting soil is a good start, but you might want to add some perlite or vermiculite to promote better drainage. Work organic compost or a slow-release high-nitrogen, low potash fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 28-14-14 or 17-6-10 into the soil.

Protect the Root Mass

Bamboo roots are sensitive to direct sunlight and dry rapidly when exposed to air. For best results:

  • Repot bamboo on a cloudy, mist day or at least work in the shade.
  • Set the bamboo root mass upright in a bucket of water.
  • Don’t allow the plant to lie on its side.
  • If repotting multiple bamboo plants, do one at a time.

Using the Same Container

Remove the plant. Clean the inside of the container. Rinse well and allow to air dry while you prepare the plant. Use sharp, clean scissors or a knife to prune the root mass back by about one-third. Place clean, broken pottery or rocks in the bottom of the pot; add soil. Set the plant at the same level and trickle soil around the roots. Firm soil and water well.

Dividing the Plant

If you want more bamboo, you can divide the plant when repotting. Remove the root mass and cut straight down through the plant with a sharp-bladed shovel or knife. Cut each of the remaining sections in half the same way. Trim roots if necessary to fit the newt pot. Replant each section in its own pot as directed above.

Caring for the Plants

The best time to repot is usually late fall. Once you have your bamboo replanted, it needs a little extra TLC. Water well immediately after moving to the new pot. Keep the plant in a shaded area for several weeks to a month. Don’t fertilize until the next spring when active growth starts again.