More than 1,200 species of the grass plant known as bamboo have been discovered. Although bamboo is not known for its flowers, many species do produce flowers. Thus seeds are not the best way to propagate this plant. These grasses grow rapidly, clean the air and provide many people with food and shelter. Bamboo is also decorative, adding color and vertical appeal to the landscape.
Bamboo grasses are believed to have evolved 30 million years ago, making them a young species when compared to other plant life. Bamboo has long been indispensable to the way of life in Asian nations such as Japan where many items made for daily use are made from bamboo grasses.
The uses for bamboo are as varied as the varieties of the plant. In China and Japan, bamboo is used for food and building material. Many animals, from rodents to elephants, eat bamboo seeds. The timber harvested from bamboo plants is used for flooring, fencing material and furniture as well as a number of other items. Bamboo plants are also used for environmental projects such as nature preserves because of its fast growth and ability to cleanse the air of toxins.
Bamboo can be classified by how it grows. Few bamboos spread by dropping seeds. Some types of bamboo spread by “clumping” or forming dense clumps while “running” bamboos spread through runners. Clumping bamboo is the type most often seen because of its aesthetic appeal and easy care. Running bamboo can also be grown in home landscapes but it is highly invasive and far more difficult to control than the clumping variety.
One of the best features of bamboo is that it is a highly renewable resource. Bamboo grasses grow quickly. Some tropical bamboos have grown up to 100 feet in just three months.
Although growth requirements vary from species to species, most bamboo plants will grow best in at least six hours of sunlight a day. Soil with good drainage is a must and a soil pH level of 6.5 will enhance growth. (See Reference 2) When caring for taller varieties of bamboo, shake the canes to remove dead leaves.