Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing evergreen grasses on the planet and it is also regarded as one of the most invasive plants.
However, it also provides us with wood for construction, tasty food to eat, and can be grown successfully in a garden or a planter. Whether you want to build a planter box for bamboo or to build a planter box from bamboo, keep reading!
What materials should I use for a planter box made for bamboo?
A planter for bamboo needs a very firm base to prevent root escapes unless you want a bamboo forest! A stone planter is ideal but you will also need to ensure reasonable drainage or the roots might rot.
A liner could be added to the planter to make double sure! I would then add a slab of stone or some heavy rocks and a layer of smaller pebbles to ensure your plant stays upright and also to allow some drainage at its roots.
Other materials. Any sturdy container will do, for example, a barrel that was used for winemaking or storage would give the roots plenty of space and the firm base would prevent the bamboo from toppling over as it increases in size. Any leftover wood from pallets could work too.
I wouldn’t recommend plastic because I’ve seen bamboo roots break through concrete in Brazil and a plastic container may crack under the sustained pressure from a growing bamboo over time. So make sure your container is sturdy, won’t unbalance easily and it might help if it has pulley wheels so that you don’t strain your back moving it around your house or garden.
The planter could even be made from bamboo – find out how to do this below.
How do I build a planter box from bamboo?
You will need sharp scissors or secateurs, bamboo canes of your choice, a pencil for markings, a drill to cut holes, a wooden base cut to shape, and string or raffia to secure the whole planter in shape. Varnish is optional. An ability to work like a skilled Brazilian craftsperson will help too!
- You need to decide if your planter is round, square, or hexagonal and then cut the bamboo to similar lengths for the upright walls of the containers. In Brazil, other wood besides bamboo is often used to make the base.
- Mark holes with a pencil where the canes will sit, then drill the holes to support the canes.
- Fit the bamboo canes through the holes in the wood.
- Secure the bamboo canes by tying with twine or raffia and then soften one piece to make the top of your planter.
- Place the bamboo (to line the edge) in water to soften it up and then attach it (damp) to the top of the box and tie it carefully with string. You can also add a layer of wood glue which will strengthen the bond. Tie as many knots as you can to make an attractive pattern.
- Allow the glue to dry and then turn the planter over to check the bottom is level. Sand off the end of the base and varnish it if you really want to make sure it stays dry.
How do I build a planter box to grow bamboo in the UK?
Where bamboo grows wild, there are daily, heavy, downpours of tropical rain. This grass can stand a lot of moisture, which is a relief to British gardeners.
Check the expected height of the bamboo you propose planting. I’ve worked in gardens where the label said 6 feet maximum but I remember standing on ladders with a trimmer to reach the same bamboos at over 9 feet tall. Bamboo is a very opportunistic plant and wherever it can grow, it will. If the sun reaches the higher parts of your garden, more often than not your bamboo plant will grow to reach it.
Tina’s tips for growing bamboo successfully in the UK
Bamboo is an amazingly beautiful material and it’s water-resistant and durable too. There are 2 main types:
- Clumping bamboo, which has short underground roots known as rhizomes. This type of bamboo grows slowly compared to the running types below. The roots expand slowly and progressively providing the soil conditions and climate are suitable.
- Running bamboo has much longer underground rhizomes, and this type is the one that invades really easily. You will see these runners in a lawn as culms, or new bamboo growths in lawns, which are capable of producing new growth at every point. If this type is in soil, they can quickly overtake other plants in your garden.
This is why I recommend planting your bamboo in a planter box!
Soil: Good drainage is a must. Bamboo takes 5-7 years to reach full maturity, sometimes it flowers (more below) and then you may notice a fungal growth on the exterior, which indicates that its life may be coming to an end.
Watering: Where it grows wild, there are heavy downpours of tropical rain every day so this grass can stand a lot of moisture, which is a relief to British gardeners. Check the soil and if it feels dry, water it generously.
Depth of planter: Should be at least 2 feet (61 cm) but if you can give it some extra depth, do so.
Temperature: Most bamboo is used to warmer climates and some varieties will not tolerate any frost at all. There are hardier bamboo varieties that are reported to survive super-low temperatures down to −29 °C (−20 °F). Hopefully, we don’t test that over here in the UK!
Frost hardy: This depends on the variety. Check the label carefully before buying! Consider moving your planter box indoors for winter or into a more sheltered place. You can drape a cloth cover over a bamboo in time for Christmas to protect it and make it part of your Christmas decorations. However, don’t panic if the whole cane seems to die off outdoors in winter. Usually, the plant sends out new growth each year in spring.
Can I prune the bamboo in my planter pot?
Yes, it’s actually essential to contain bamboo growth in the wild and thin out the stems, which ensures good lighting for the rest of the plants. If you grow bamboo indoors, occasional pruning is a good idea. However, gardeners report that it can cause the cut edge to produce leaves at either side of the pruning which adds more greenery. If you want the classic look of one cane bamboo, topped by gorgeous foliage, it may be better to divide the root system when the clump looks unhealthy. Then top-dress the pot with mulch and move the divided part to a new pot.
How fast does bamboo grow?
In the time it takes you to read this article, a bamboo plant will probably have grown 300 mm (12 inches). There are species of bamboo that grow 1mm every 90 seconds! This should tell you something about how you will need to care for this attractive, exotic plant. Many bamboos are hardy and will grow outside, some can tolerate frost but won’t thank you for it. Bamboos are native to Brazil, Argentina, warm Latin American countries and Asia. Bamboo is grown in China, Japan, Korea, and Malaysia, providing bamboo plants, wood for furniture, construction, and food delicacies such as bamboo shoots.
Do bamboo plants flower?
The flowers of bamboo are really rare and striking, dazzling white against the sharp brown or green bamboo canes. If a forest of bamboo flowers, it usually happens simultaneously, and the whole forest is doomed to die. This is when a population of rats generally overwhelm the area in bamboo forests, feasting on the flowers, giving rise to the idea in India that the flowering of the bamboo signifies famine. If your bamboo plant flowers, then I’m afraid it may have come to the end of its natural life.
Did you know?
- There are over 1,462 varieties of bamboo worldwide.
- Lucky Bamboo, which grows in water in so many UK homes, is not actually a bamboo plant at all! Dracaena senderiana is this plant’s Latin name and it is native to Madagascar. The Latin name for Bamboo is Phyllostachys Aurea so the Lucky Bamboo is badly named. However, bamboo is of great cultural significance in many Asian countries.
- Shinto shrines in Japan are often surrounded by bamboo and this was believed to be a protection from evil.
- In China, bamboo presents are given at New Year to attract luck for the year to come. It is also given as a wedding present or as a moving home present for the same reason.
- Bamboo has a great cultural significance in South Korea, Japan, and many Asian countries. Temples have been made with bamboo, where its beauty can be enjoyed in cultural and religious settings. Palaces in South Korea usually have bamboo gardens, which were displayed as a sign of their riches to their visitors and citizens.
- Bamboo is a valuable addition to carbon sequestration in impoverished soil and has recently been introduced to parts of Africa as a way to solve diminishing soil fertility and also helping with reforestation worldwide. Planting bamboo helps to sequester carbon and ultimately aims to reclaim land.