Bamboo pruning: a must, when to prune and from what height? Read all about pruning bamboo here.
Apart from the fact that bamboo is very suitable for making utensils such as toilet paper, the plant can also be used outdoors, for example, to build a bamboo screen or hedge. A bamboo plant – like all grasses – grows quickly, so keeping up with it is a must. The new shoots of the strong plant grow quickly, so the bamboo will need regular pruning. The following discusses the main points regarding bamboo pruning.
Important question: should you prune bamboo at all?
When the bamboo plant reaches mature height after one to three years, it is advantageous to prune the bamboo once in a while. Pruning the bamboo plant prevents excess culms from taking up unnecessary space at the end of their life cycle. These culms usually last about ten years. Removing old stalks helps encourage new growth and create space for new culms. Pruning is usually not necessary until the bamboo is established. This is usually after the third to fifth growing season. The time bamboo takes to establish depends on many factors such as the planting area, species, climate zone, water, sunlight and soil. So it is indeed advantageous to prune bamboo.
How can you prune bamboo?
First of all, keep in mind that thanks to the persistent nature of the bamboo plant, there is no reason to prune carefully, as the bamboo culms regrow in a short time. Of course, be careful not to prune the plant so much that the bamboo is damaged. There are four different methods of pruning and trimming bamboo. These are briefly highlighted below.
The main reason to prune bamboo is to maintain the plant. In maintenance pruning, the first step is to cut off the dead bamboo culms. Dead or barren bamboo culms can be recognized by their yellow or brown color. In some cases, the culms no longer have leaves at all. Removing the dead culms makes room for new shoots to grow.
Part of maintaining is also thinning. Thinning involves cutting off the oldest stems that have dried out or threaten to take up too much space. In principle, any stem that takes up too much space could be cut off, but always choose the oldest and least attractive-looking bamboo stem first. In this case, it is beneficial to cut off the stem as close to the ground or root as possible so that no unwanted brown stalk is visible.
Another method of pruning the bamboo is to thin out the plant because, for example, too many bamboo canes are growing next to each other. This causes airflow to decrease and less sunlight to shine in. Thinning in this case should be done when the bamboo is fully grown. The purpose of thinning is also mainly to preserve the beauty and elegance of the bamboo. The process of thinning the bamboo can be repeated up to several times a year. This often happens at least after winter, on stems that have suffered from winter cold. Thinning the bamboo will leave room for new and young culms with beautiful leaves.
Pruning up – trimming up the bamboo plant – is the third method of pruning bamboo. When one wants to showcase the intriguing colors of bamboo culms, pruning up is the best pruning method. During bamboo plant pruning, the lower branches of the bamboo trunks are trimmed. This makes the colorful stem of the bamboo plant clearly visible. It also prevents the stem from re-growing because all shoots are removed. As a result, the bamboo plant retains its trimmed appearance of a culm with a large bunch of leaves, similar to the appearance of a tree. Note that pruning does cause the bamboo plant to provide less privacy. A solution might be to place a low Celestial bamboo hedge behind the trimmed bamboo so that as yet the bamboo covers the entire wall or fence. The heavenly bamboo hedge looks different every season: it blooms, can get berries AND has deep red leaves throughout the winter.
The final method of pruning the bamboo plant is “topping. When the bamboo is topped, the upper part of the bamboo plant is pruned to the desired height. Topping is done to eliminate an uneven appearance and limit upward growth. It is also a good way to make overhanging bamboos bend less. Cutting off the top of the culm and branches also removes the weight of the leaves, allowing the bamboo plant to stand upright.
However, once topped, the bamboo plant will never grow vertically again and remains at the same height throughout its life cycle. First, the desired height is determined. Bamboo hedges in particular may require a certain height and width. In fact, the trunk will no longer grow, only the branches. Next, the bamboo plant is pruned with sharp secateurs, loppers or hand saw. Always ensure that the tools being used are cleaned before pruning to avoid chances of contamination. Finally, when topping bamboo, it is important to cut the culms just above a knot, about half an inch. When cut below the knot, a brown top is created.
When can I prune bamboo?
The “best” time to prune bamboo varies by species. Generally, this is usually around the end of the winter season or as late as the end of spring. Bamboo pruning in the winter allows the bamboo plant to grow again in the spring. Moreover, bamboo stays green in winter. Toward the end of spring, it is good to prune bamboo to revive the plant. At the end of the winter period, it is useful to clean up the plant and remove dry and damaged stems. Late spring (June-July) pruning is the most appropriate time to prune the tops and to thin out.
The above mentioned periods are the most common bamboo pruning periods. Nevertheless, fully mature culms can actually be pruned year-round should the need arise. It is only inadvisable to prune the young shoots. These grow around mid-April to late May. Dwarf bamboo plants can be pruned at the end of winter. This gives the bamboo a more beautiful, dense and regular shape.
From what height can I prune bamboo?
Bamboo can be pruned at any height. However, to avoid damaging the new shoots emerging from the ground, it is advisable to wait to prune until after the annual spring shooting season, when the new shoots are larger and therefore more visible. Basically, bamboo can be pruned year-round as long as no new shoots emerge from the ground.
Most bamboo can be pruned without damaging the plant. To discover at what height the bamboo should be pruned is mainly also a matter of taste and personal preference. Because the bamboo plant grows so quickly and can therefore actually be trimmed year-round, it does not matter so much at what height the bamboo is pruned. So above all, do not be afraid to put the scissors well into the bamboo until it reaches the desired height.
The reason for pruning then is usually to shape or keep the plant in size. In maintenance pruning, older, dead or unattractive culms can be cut down to ground level. Dead branches can be cut off at their origin. If only part of a culm or branch is removed, cut just above a knot. That way, there is no stump left over that will die and look ugly. If the top is pruned back, it is desirable perhaps to shorten some side branches as well, so that the plant looks more balanced and no long branches remain at the top. Remember to cut just above a knot.
Bamboo hedges can reach a height of up to 3 meters. A bamboo hedge between two pieces of land, according to the Field Code – a Belgian code that regulates rights and obligations regarding nature problems – may be no more than 2 meters high. If the bamboo subsequently becomes a nuisance, the court can impose a lower height.
Pruning rampant bamboo
There are two types of bamboo: proliferating and non-proliferating bamboo. Weedy bamboo plants are more difficult to prune than non-weedy bamboo. Therefore, rampant bamboo is less advantageous to plant in the garden or on the balcony. The bamboo species grows uncontrollably, and is so strong and fast that it is difficult to control. It is therefore wise to purchase a bamboo limiter when proliferating bamboo is placed in the garden. An example of a proliferating bamboo species is the previously mentioned Phyllostachys. Other common proliferating bamboo species are the Pseudo Sasa and the Sasa. Phyllostachys aurea and Pseudosasa japonica also belong to the non-growing plant species bamboo.
Weedy bamboo forms underground shoots, also called rhizomes. The new shoots do not grow very deep into the ground, but rather spread very far horizontally. These offshoots create new bamboo shoots. In the case of proliferating bamboo species even years after the first bamboo shoot grows out, a new plant can emerge meters away. This makes it harder to keep up with pruning.
Pruning non-spreading bamboo?
Unlike proliferating bamboo, non-proliferating bamboos do not grow offshoots and grow from a compact clump. A tussock is a u-shaped rhizome that develops upward. These new rhizomes arise from shoots on an existing rhizome. This encourages the shoots to multiply within the existing surface area, giving the bamboo pollen a clumpy shape. An example of a non-spreading bamboo species is the bamboo fargesia.
Non-growing bamboo plants do not “proliferate,” making it safe to place this species in the garden or even on the balcony. Yet bamboo plants grow so fast that they need regular pruning to look their best. Take, for example, the Alphonse Karr bamboo. This non-spreading bamboo species still grows so vigorously that it is desirable to prune it twice a year so that it does not look rough and unkempt. If not pruned often, the culms will block views and possible exits. Click here to learn more about the different types of bamboo.
In short, because bamboo grows so incredibly fast, it is desirable to prune the bamboo plant at least once a year. Bamboo pruning can be done in different ways with different purposes, but the bamboo plant must be maintained regardless. The most desirable time to prune bamboo varies by species. Still, this is generally around the end of the winter season or as late as the end of spring. Learn more about bamboo and our Bamboi toilet paper. Or immediately order Bamboi sustainable toilet paper in our webshop. Also read how to plant bamboo and care for bamboo.