Selecting a Bamboo Plant

by philinshelton on February 11, 2009

in Bamboo Basics,How To

To get the best plant for your money, you need to consider the condition of the top growth and the development of the roots and rhizomes in the container.  Here are some things to look for that will help you select the best plant for your money.

Top Growth

In general, plants with more stems, bigger stems, and lush green foliage are better plants.  However, it is normal for healthy plants to have a speckling of yellow leaves, especially in the late fall through spring.  Over winter, it is normal for some bamboos to sustain some leaf damage in the form of burnt leaf margins and leaf tips, or a slight overall yellowing of the foliage, but they will recover.  Even plants with severe winter damage or leaf drop can snap right back in the spring.  Confused?  If you are worried about the condition of the top growth, ask a nursery employee.  If you are at a specialty bamboo nursery, chances are you'll get a knowledgeable, honest answer.

Inside the Container

Even if the condition of the foliage has you doubting, you can get a good idea of how healthy the plant is by looking at the root ball.  At minimum, a retail-ready plant should be rooted out enough to hold the soil in the shape of the container when it is pulled out.  For running bamboos, it's even better if the rhizomes wrap around the outside of the root ball.  For clumping bamboos, a great plant will have new shoots developing at the outside of the root ball.  As a rule, I don't go around pulling plants out of the container when I am shopping at a nursery, but I do with bamboo!  And I do the same when I am choosing plants for my customers to make sure they get an established plant.


In a nursery setting, the pest you are most likely to find on a container bamboo, is the bamboo mite.  When I see lots of mite infested plants at a nursery, (very rarely) I do my shopping elsewhere.  However, most bamboo nurseries will have some mites in their groves, but maintain clean container plants.  I'll save my full  commentary on mites for a future article, but in general, don't go running just because you see a few signs of mites, but do select a clean plant to take home with you.

Takin' it Home

So, if you're shopping in summer, look for plants that are full and lush.  From late fall to early spring, it may be normal for the foliage to show some wear and tear.  Look at the root ball.  If the plant has a bucketful of roots and rhizome, it's nearly certain you're getting a plant that will establish and spread quickly.  Don't be shy!  Ask for help if you are uncertain about the health of the plant.  If you're not sure what to do with your plant once you get home, the links below may help. When to Plant a Bamboo Where to Plant a Bamboo How to Plant a Bamboo

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