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Bamboo is a giant grass, and like grass in a lawn, responds well to nitrogen fertilizer.
We recommend providing bamboo with manure or compost, as a natural source of nitrogen for in ground plants.
People often use lawn fertilizer to feed their bamboo, which works reasonably well for promoting nice, green leaves and strong growth, but is not as complete of a food source as horse manure, cow manure, mushroom compost, etc. because they also provide a medium for the rhizomes to expand into.
21-5-6 with iron is an artificial fertilizer formula that has been effective with our potted plants.
It does not need to be precise, just fairly high in nitrogen. Bamboo is easy to please, and hard to over fertilize.
Fertilizer should be applied to correlate with the two main growth phases bamboo goes through in a season.
The first application should be done in early spring, late February through March, as the bamboo is gathering energy to produce new shoots.
The second should be applied in mid summer as the rhizomes begin to expand.
Bamboo should be watered thoroughly, two to four times per week from late spring through fall, or as needed.
Mature bamboo are fairly drought tolerant but will look and grow best if given a fairly consistent source of water.
In their native climate, bamboo get the occasional monsoon in the summer, so they are used to having plenty to drink during the growing season.
However, most also require well draining soil, avoid planting bamboo in boggy soils or areas that flood for long periods of time in the winter.
When a bamboo is dehydrated, the leaves will curl upward to prevent further water loss.
Water the bamboo thoroughly if you notice these symptoms.
Usually the bamboo will express its relief in a matter of minutes as the leaves begin to uncurl.
If not watered, the leaves will curl into tight rolls, then begin to dry out, turn tan, and fall off over several days.
The bamboo can still be saved at this point, by heavy watering, and preferably moved to a shady area, even if all the leaves are lost.
If the culms are brown and brittle, the bamboo has probably perished - don't give up though; water heavily, clip back all the brown culms, and hopefully the root mass will regenerate over a few months and be able to send up some new shoots.
During the winter months bamboo usually does not require much preparation.
Most of the species we sell are very cold hardy and do not require extra care.
However, small starts are less hardy than mature plants, and if exposed to winter lows of 10°F or less, they may suffer moderate damage to the foliage.
If expecting severe winters, one should provide an extra layer of mulch, 3-5 inches deep, around the root mass for heat retention.
Also, the culms and foliage can be wrapped with burlap, shade cloth, or other material to prevent leaf decimation from cold winter winds.
Nothing decimates a bamboo faster than strong, dry winds combined with frigid temperature.
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