Caring for a live bamboo plant is easy, as bamboo is a low maintenance plant that spreads easily. Bamboo is actually a grass. There are two different types of bamboo--clumping and crawling. Both spread easily, but clumping bamboo tends to stay in one area. Crawling bamboo, if allowed, can spread throughout the entire garden and yard.
Bamboo spreads by sending out rhizomes. A rhizome is an underground stem. Bamboo can be contained by keeping in a pot or by burying plastic edging (vertically) around the bamboo plant.
If the soil is very fertile, you may not need to fertilize the bamboo at all. It is a fast-growing plant and thrives in most soils. Bamboo should be fertilized if the soil does not contain all nutrients. Do a soil test (kits can be purchased at your local gardening store--follow the instructions per the manufacturer), then choose a fertilizer higher in the missing nutrient or choose a nutrient-specific fertilizer. Fertilize the bamboo based on the instructions on the package. If you are using a water-soluble, quick release fertilizer, you can fertilize every 12 to 14 days. Time release fertilizers may be good for a month or up to a year, depending on the brand.
Prune the bamboo throughout the growing season for dead or decaying wood and plant matter. No other pruning is needed. If the bamboo is in a pot, its growth will be restricted. Once the roots cannot spread anymore, the top of the plant will stop growing taller.
Bamboo prefers sun to full sun. Sun is defined as up to six hours of continuous sunlight and full sun is defined as six or more hours of continuous sunlight. Plant the bamboo where it will receive at least six hours of continuous sunlight.
Water the bamboo with at least an inch of water per week. The soil should be kept moist, though most bamboo is drought tolerant. If the bamboo is in a pot, water it enough so that the soil throughout the pot is moist, but not soggy. The soil should be well-draining, and the container should have drain holes. Layer about 2 inches of small stone at the bottom of the pot to help with drainage. If the bamboo is potted, you can let the top 2 to 3 inches of soil dry out before watering again. If the bamboo is planted in the ground, water it the same way, but the top 6 to 8 inches of soil can be allowed to dry before watering again.
If you want more bamboo plants, divide the rhizomes. Dig up a rhizome and plant it in amended soil. You can also carefully dig up any babies and transplant the babies. Always water well when you transplant the bamboo, as moving it will shock it. Watering deeply helps to establish a new root ball and helps the plant get over the shock of having the rhizome cut and moved.