Bamboo is often mentioned as the fastest growing plant on the planet. And that is true. But it is not the full truth.
While there are certain species of bamboo that grow extremely quickly, not all of them grow with the same speed. With more than 1400 bamboo species growing in all sorts of climates and conditions there is a wide variety of growth among them.
I think it`s very interesting to look a bit deeper into bamboo growth. So here we go!
How fast bamboo grows on average
It is hard generalizing growth patterns for bamboo because of how many different types of it grow in various climates. How fast it grows will depend on many things like the age of specimens, placement of planting, whether they’re runners or clumpers.
Specifying the species will give a more precise idea of what to expect of a particular bamboo.
However, if we do try to generalize, we can say that runners grow an average of 3 to 5 feet (0.9 – 1.5 m) taller in a year.
Clumping varieties grow slower, averaging 1 to 3 feet (0.3 – 0.9 m) in height per year.
Timber bamboo species grow 2 to 3 feet ( 0.6 – 0.9 m) a day until they reach their maximum height.
One thing to keep in mind is that older, more established plants will grow faster than newly planted ones. It takes at least 3 years in the ground for most bamboo species to be considered well established.
Fastest growing bamboo
If different bamboo species grow at a different speed, which is the fastest?
Guinness World Records states that the world record for the fastest growing plant on earth belongs to a certain bamboo species that grows up to 91 cm (35”) per day, which is almost 4 cm (1.5”) an hour, or at a speed of 0.00003 km/h (0.00002 mph).
Notice it says “certain” species, not specifying which ones. Why? Because there are several species that can grow at this rate.
A widespread opinion of bamboo experts is that these include members of the genera Bambusa and Phyllostachys, for example, Giant timber bamboo (Bambusa oldhamii), Chinese Moso bamboo (Phyllostachys edulis), and Madake bamboo (Phyllostachys bambusoides).
Such amazingly fast rates of growth can be witnessed in the shooting season if optimal soil and climate conditions are present.
How growing conditions affect the growth rate
There are many factors that influence the growth rate. Growing conditions play a big role in determining the maximum size bamboo can reach and how fast it grows to get to that size.
So what are these growing conditions? Temperature, winds, whether it grows in sun or shade, soil, water, nutrition – all of this has some influence on bamboo. Size of initial planting, species, the age of grove also plays a role in determining size and growth rate.
This is why the same bamboo species can look and behave differently in Texas and Pennsylvania, for example.
There is no magic recipe of growing conditions that will fit all bamboo perfectly. This is a case by case issue and you should find out what species feel best in your climate. Or alternatively – if you have chosen a specific bamboo you like for your landscaping needs, find out how big it`s going to grow in your yard.
Why bamboo grows so fast
The way bamboo grows is common for grasses. Which is not unusual as bamboo is a type of grass even if many species are huge and quite woody.
To put it simply, bamboo plants create all the cells they need to grow when they’re small buds. These cells simply stretch out without needing the time for division. They are then filled with water, which causes them to expand quickly.
However, even if this is common for grasses to grow that way, bamboo is definitely the fastest of them. So what is different about bamboo?
In a recent article, researchers have concluded that fast growth in bamboo may be possible due to a higher level of coordination between cell division, cell growth, and cell wall biosynthesis, optimized for rapid growth.
How to make bamboo grow faster
Bamboo is a fast-growing plant by nature. However, if you want to make it grow even faster then there are some things you can do to help it speed up.
Before doing anything additional, you must learn the best conditions for the specific bamboo species you have. To make it grow at maximum speed, the first thing is to ensure your plants have optimal growing conditions.
Then you can understand how to improve the conditions further.
Do not try to buy and grow bamboo from seeds. It is a challenging and long process even for professional bamboo nurseries and not really worth it if you`re growing them just for your own needs.
To achieve faster growth, you want to buy big established and stabilized plants
Bigger plants have a larger rhizome system that grows larger shoots faster than if you get small seedlings.
Do not buy freshly dug plants because they are the least stable at that point. These plants will take more time to establish in the soil and that will slow down their growth.
A simple way to make bamboo fill the area quickly is to get multiple plants. For example, if you want to grow a dense privacy screen as fast as possible, you plant multiple divisions of bamboo with closer spacing between them.
In the first season after planting, bamboos require regular watering. For some species, this need for water can last even up to 3 to 5 seasons. Lack of water at this stage can seriously slow down their development.
After they become well established, bamboos only require additional water during drought or severe heat.
Bamboo is not picky about soil conditions, but in order to speed up the growth rate, you should ensure it has well-drained, light loamy soil with high organic content.
Bamboo does not grow well in standing water, in fact, it can even start to rot away if there is not enough drainage. Add gravel, sand or mulch so that the water does not get trapped around the roots.
Most bamboo require at least 4 hours of filter sunlight for optimal growth.
This is not universal, however, and you should check what kind of sun conditions your bamboo species prefer. There are bamboos that prefer full sun, partial shade or shade and the best growth rate will be achieved if you provide the preferred amount of sun to your bamboo.
If you have provided bamboo with optimal growing conditions, fertilizing is what`s going to make the most difference. While fertilizing is not a necessity for growing bamboo, it is important if you want to get the best growth results possible.
Experts say by giving the plants extra energy, fertilizing can accelerate growth by a year!
It is generally recommended to apply an organic slow-release fertilizer during mid-spring, to give time for bamboo to absorb lots of nutrients right before the shooting season begins.
Why choose a slow-release fertilizer? It means less leaching as well as provides nutrients gradually which helps increase the uptake of nutrients and provides them for a longer time.
Bamboo consumes a lot of Nitrogen. It also benefits greatly from Potassium, Phosphorous, and Silica. A great option is to choose an organic fertilizer like this High Nitrogen Horse Manure compost that`s tested for its nutrient levels and can be used not only as a slow-release fertilizer but also as a soil mixture.
Sawdust, chipped wood, compost, manure, leaf mulch, and bark are all good mulch materials for bamboo. The layer of mulch protects the rhizomes and acts as insulation.
During drought, severe heat or freezing temperatures in winter, mulching can slow down evaporation or protect soil from getting too cold.
Additionally, mulch provides additional nutrients for the plants.
In-ground bamboo should have between 2 and 6 inches (5-15 cm) of mulch. Container bamboo can do with less mulch, just enough to cover the soil is usually enough.
Pruning or trimming bamboo can encourage rapid growth.
Annual trimming of older and dead culms allows the plant to conserve more energy for producing new shoots.
Also, an annual pruning for some bamboo species is done for aesthetic reasons, which also diverts the plant’s energy into producing more root growth and new shoots.
How fast bamboo spreads
Clumping bamboo spread very slowly. They gradually expand outward only a few inches a year which makes them very predictable. This is why they are very easy to maintain and make an ideal variety for home backyards.
Running bamboo generally spreads 3 to 5 feet per year. But there are species that are faster to expand so before buying be sure to check how fast the specific species are.