The Bamboo Growth Cycle

by philinshelton on February 2, 2009

in Bamboo Basics,Botanical

In this article, you will follow the growth of Chinese Walking Stick Bamboo to learn some basics about the processes that take place in the bamboo grove over the year.  If you are brand new to bamboo, you should read Bamboo Plant Parts I, and Bamboo Plant Parts II if you aren't familiar with the terms in this article.  Click on a picture for an enlarged image, and click in the enlarged image to close it.


new shoot at the end of April

In general, temperate bamboos respond to warming temperatures and increasing day length, sending up a wave of new growth in spring, referred to as "shooting".   Shooting starts with the emergence of new culms from the soil, (pictured right) and ends when they attain their full height.  At the onset of shooting in spring, the culms are full of starches and sugars stored from the previous growing season.  Those food stores move down through the culms and rhizomes, to provide food for the rapid growth of the new shoots. As temperatures warm and day length increases, the foliage leaves produce more and more food, which along with the food reserves in the culms and rhizomes, allows the shoots to reach their full height in 30-45 days. Pictured below, the new shoots have nearly reached their full height by the end of May. finished shooting by the end of May By the time shooting is complete, stems are emerging from the nodes and branching out, a process sometimes called "starbursting" (pictured below).
Branching out in the beginning of June

Branching out beginning of June

Summer Branching out is complete after 30-45 days, and the protective culm leaves have fallen away, revealing the bare culms (pictured below).  Leaves are developing on the new branches, and the existing foliage leaves are busy with the manufacture of food.

Branching out completed by mid-July By mid-August, leafing out is complete, (pictured right) and the food manufacturing and storage for the following year is at its peak.  Sugars are transported and used by new rhizomes as they grow through the soil , or converted to starches and stored in the culms and rhizomes for the following year's shoots.

Fall & Winter

The foliage leaves continue to photosynthesize well into October.  The buds along the length of the rhizome initiate new shoots for the following year during this period as well.  After October and through winter, temperate bamboos are mostly dormant.  In the mild winters of my region, however, leaves continue to unfurl during warm spells all winter long, and the culm buds initiated earlier in the growing season continue to develop.  In spring, the cycle starts over once again with the emergence of new shoots. Although there are an infinite number of variations, the majority temperate bamboos have a similar cycle that includes shooting, branching out, and leafing out over the course of a single growing season.  If you have read my article on Bamboo vs Wood, you will recall that the culms and branches of woody bamboos do not increase in size from year to year.  Rather, they attain their full height and girth in that first growing season.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

M.O. Looney March 10, 2010 at 4:48 pm

I am interested in growing bamboo and would appreciate any information.
I have a grove about 6 years old and it flurnishes a nice plrivace fence. so far each year the new shoots are larger in diameter and taller than the previous year.

thank you M.O. Looney

Tahnea Carter June 10, 2010 at 8:39 pm

How does bamboo start growing.

Anna September 27, 2013 at 7:52 am

I have large clump of bamboo in my front garden which is becoming more and more dense each year. It’s green and black bamboo together for decorative purpose. Never has been trimmed or tinned yet. The branches are tin in ircumference and I would like them to grow ticker . Should I tinned this clump/ seen your clip/ or what shall I do tho get less bramches but ticker ones? Will appreciatevery much your advice.
Anna London UK

philinshelton October 26, 2013 at 9:07 am

Thinning out the older canes will stimulate new growth, and make for a healthier, better-looking plant, but it will not increase the size of the canes. Without knowing the species name (botanical name required) I am just guessing here, but the size of the canes is probably an expression of the genetics of the plant, so there is nothing you can do to increase the diameter. Environmental factors (i.e. low light/heat, inadequate nutrients or water) could also limit the size of your bamboo.

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