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How to plant bamboo for a privacy screen

Bamboo can provide a lush evergreen privacy screen or hedge in a very short time if planted correctly. First, species selection is critical. Species should be selected based upon climate zone, desired appearance and height. Make sure you get a species cold hardy enough for your climate zone so that it will be evergreen and you can enjoy privacy year around. There are many species for climate zones 5 and warmer that will give great screening.


Soil can have an impact too. Most temperate bamboo will survive in range of soil conditions from clay to sand. This will really only effect the bamboo ability to spread. Most bamboo if you asked them (don’t let anybody see you do this) prefer PH neutral to acidic sandy loams.


Sunlight conditions vary great from deep shade to full sun. Most all of the good screening bamboos (the Phyllostachys genus) is tolerant of all sunlight condition. As long as there is 4+ hours of filtered sun or better, bamboo can grow. The more sun, the faster the growth and development of the privacy screen. Sunny sites require more water because of evaporation and feeding the higher growth rate of bamboo.

How Many Plants Do I Need?

One division of bamboo will start a grove or screen over time. However, if you want a privacy screen fast, I recommend planting 3 gallon sizes 3 to 5 feet apart, plant 2 gallon sizes 1 to 3 feet apart. This will hopefully allow you to have a good screen in three years. There are a lot of factors such as water, sunlight, and climate zones that speeds up or slows down the process. Three years is about the average on this spacing, closer planting will allow you to screen or develop your grove faster. You cannot over plant bamboo.

How Bamboo Grows

Bamboo grows a little different than most plants. The bamboo that you get initially never grows vertically again. It has babies that are taller, that has babies that are taller. Every generation should be taller that the previous year’s shoots. The intriguing aspect is that each year’s growth emerges and grows to it complete height in 60-90 days. They spread as they produce larger growth, filling in and providing a screen.

This link will help you learn how bamboo grows. It will give you an idea of what kind of growth to expect from your planting. It also goes over some methods of controlling bamboo and how to keep your bamboo healthy. It is a lot of information, but well worth your time.

How bamboo grows

Planting bamboo is also easy. You want to dig a hole about twice the size of the root ball. When you plant the bamboo amend your soil with composted manure and a good top soil. Bamboo can be planted at ground level or slightly deeper. It is not a picky about it conditions but this will help get it off to a good start. More details can be seen here:

Planting Instructions

Finally, I will share with you a tip that will really help your bamboo screen develop quickly. Watering is the key. Especially during the establishment period. Bamboo should be watered heavily but make sure that you allow the soil time to dry between watering cycles. This can vary greatly between soil conditions so you will have to monitor it at first until you find the correct amount and schedule.

The method of delivery can be very beneficial too. Soaker hoses are great because bamboo rhizomes tend to follow the path of least resistance. A soaker hose tends to help your bamboo screen develop much faster because it encourages growth along your screening axis. For best results align the soaker hose directly where you want your bamboo screen to grow and coil it around initial plantings to provide the most water to the plants.

With these elements in mind, developing a bamboo screen is easy and fast. In just a couple of years, you will be able to watch your screen grow and enjoy your privacy.

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3 mistakes to avoid when buying bamboo

1. Don’t buy seeds.

Bamboo seldom flowers. Temperate bamboo typically flowers in 75 year cycles. These seeds have a very limited viability and poor seed set. Bamboo need very exact conditions to propagate by seeds and the likelihood the seeds are still capable of growth is low. It should also be noted that many bamboo seeds you find online are imported from out of the country, this is prohibited by federal law.

2. Pick the Right Species for your climate

Make sure that you select a species cold hardy enough for your climate and application. Bamboo plants start receiving foliar damage about 10 degrees outside of their cold hardiness range. Selecting a species a little more cold hardy can allow you to enjoy bamboo as an evergreen. Also containers and the earth don’t provide the same amount of insulation. If you are planting in containers, make sure that you get a species recommend to survive a zone colder than your climate zone.

3. Decide how to contain your bamboo.

A little for thought will go a long way. Bamboo is a beautiful plant but some species spread quickly. It doesn’t take but a little bit of effort and you can keep even the most aggressive species of bamboo contained. Click here to learn more about controlling bamboo.