The bamboo plant is one of the easiest plants to care for in your garden, because it requires very little care and maintenance and also grows very fast.
One of the most common issues faced by bamboo owners is the speed at which the plant grows and the frequent need to repot it. You will know you need to repot your bamboo if the rhizomes have become so thick and chunky that when you water the plant, the water just runs off the top of the rhizome and does not penetrate the soil. The roots under the soil will therefore not have access to water, and this could cause serious consequences for the plant.
Repot your plant when the pot has become too small for the plant. This typically happens every one to two years. If you can see roots growing out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot, that means that the bamboo needs to be moved to a larger pot.
In this article, we will discuss more about the reasons you need to repot your bamboo plant, when to repot it, and how to do this.
If you have a bamboo plant that needs repotting, then keep reading to learn more about the process.
Why do you need to repot a bamboo plant?
A useful point to keep in mind is that in the wild, bamboo grows outward without the restrictions of a pot. Its roots and rhizomes have unlimited space in the soil around them to grow larger with no resistance. But, if you are growing bamboo in a pot, the plant will very quickly run out of space to grow. The roots will be affected in multiple ways when confined to a small pot, such as having difficulty getting the water they need to survive when there are more roots than soil in the pot.
The rhizomes can become so chunky that, when you water the plant, the water just splashes off the rhizome without even reaching the soil in the pot. No matter how much water you give the plant,none of it will reach the soil, leaving the bamboo plant underwatered.
You will know your bamboo is underwatered when the plant is unable to produce new leaves, and the few leaves that it does produce are noticeably smaller than normal.
To provide enough, but not too much, water for your plant, it is important to be able to tell when it actually needs watering. You can check this by touching the top two inches of soil in the pot. If the soil is dry, water the plant, but if the soil is still damp, wait one or two days before checking it again.
You can also tell whether the plant is rootbound by sticking your finger into the soil. If you struggle to get your finger into the soil, chances are that the roots have overtaken the soil in the pot.
When should I repot my bamboo plant?
There is no specific time of year to repot your bamboo. As long as the plant is healthy, you can repot it anytime.
If the plant is in a smaller pot, you will probably need to repot it once a year or every two years. When the rhizomes appear to have filled almost the entire pot, it is time to repot it.
If you are wondering whether the plant is ready to be repotted, look at the bottom of the pot. If there are roots growing out of the drainage holes, it is definitely time. If there are no roots coming out of the holes, repotting is not as urgent and you can possibly put it off for a month or two.
The best time to repot the bamboo is when the pot is about to fill with roots. This is the case if, when you remove the plant from the pot, the soil and roots hold together. Even if the soil and roots seem to be clumped together, there should not be any knotted roots, because those are bound, which means you are a little late in repotting.
A rootbound plant’s pot will noticeably bulge at the sides because of the limited space inside. If you keep the plant in a plastic pot, this will be even more obvious because of the plastic’s flexibility. The thick rhizomes are what push on the sides of the pot as the plant grows. The longer you keep the plant in a pot that is too small, the tighter the roots will become and the harder it will be to remove it from the pot.
If you planted your bamboo in a ceramic pot, the pot may simply shatter one day, without you having a clue that it was about to happen.
If your plant is severely rootbound, transferring it to a new pot will not be enough. You will need to untangle the roots and remove any dead and dying roots in order to make sure that it recovers. If this is the case, it is advisable to repot the plant when it is dormant, during the last weeks of fall and winter. This is so the plant is not actively growing and will not be as sensitive to the damage incurred by untangling its roots.
How to repot a bamboo plant
When repotting your bamboo plant, the first step is done the night before you plan on repotting. Make sure the plant is watered the night before and that the soil in the pot is sufficiently wet. The recent watering will also keep the plant happy as you perform the repotting procedure. Make sure that any excess water drains properly after watering.
Also ascertain before you start, whether you plan to transfer the whole plant to a bigger container, or whether you want to divide a rootbound bamboo plant into several plants.
If you are only planning to transfer the plant to a new container, it is fine if the soil and the roots in the pot are holding together as you pull it out. Do not worry about any old soil falling off the roots as you lift it out of the pot; you will be replacing it with new soil anyway.
If the plant is completely healthy and the roots are not tangled or bound, just transfer it to a pot that is one or two sizes larger than the old pot. Use a skewer or a stick to loosen the roots a bit and to remove any hardened soil. This will help the roots adapt more easily to their new soil.
Next, fill the pot with fresh potting soil and some good-quality organic compost. You can use mushroom compost or horse manure. Remember not to pack the soil, so that it stays loose and aerated.
What if I am planning to divide and repot my bamboo plant?
If your bamboo plant is very rootbound, you will need to cut back the rhizomes so that the root ball can breathe.
Use a saw to cut off the bottom portion of the root mass. You can throw this bottom part away. With what is left of the root mass, move pieces gently to see where natural sections can be pulled apart from the mass. If you need to use the saw to separate the sections, do so.
Despite the sawing, try to keep the culms and roots intact, but if there are any root parts that are unhealthy or look old, it is better to remove and discard those as well.
Once you have the sections separated, place them in their own pots. Choose pots that are two or three sizes larger than what is appropriate for the plant, and fill the pots with potting soil and compost.
Because these divided cuttings have been through a more traumatic and rigorous process than an ordinary repotting, they will need more attention. Make sure you keep them from the cold during winter and never forget to give them water and shade as needed.
If you divided and repotted successfully, you should see new shoots by the time spring comes around.
Bamboo plants need to be repotted when their rhizomes have become so big that they are warping the old pot. The roots will also start to grow out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
There is no specific time of year to transplant a bamboo plant that has outgrown its old pot. As long as the plant is healthy, go ahead and transfer the plant to a new pot.
If the plant is severely rootbound, dividing and repotting is best done during fall or winter, when the plant is dormant.
Repot the bamboo by removing it from the old pot and shaking off the old soil. Remove any dead or dying roots before placing it in a new pot that is one or two sizes larger than the old one. Fill the new pot with new potting soil and some compost.
Remember that most bamboo plants need repotting every one or two years.
Image: istockphoto.com / doji1989