Read all about pruning bamboo

February 12, 2024
Lees alles over bamboe snoeien
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Pruning bamboo: 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 for creating a bamboo screen or hedge. A bamboo plant grows - like all other grass species - quickly and maintaining the bamboo stems is therefore a must. The new shoots of the strong plant grow quickly, which means that the bamboo will have to be pruned regularly. Below we will discuss the most important points about pruning bamboo.

Important question: should you prune bamboo at all?

When the bamboo plant has reached adult height after one to three years, it is beneficial to prune the bamboo from time to time. By pruning the bamboo plant, you prevent excess stems from unnecessarily taking up space at the end of their life cycle. These stems usually last about ten years. Removing old stems helps stimulate new growth and create space for new stems. Pruning is usually only necessary once the bamboo has established itself. This is usually after the third to fifth growing season. The time bamboo needs to establish itself depends on many factors such as the planting area, the species, the climate zone, the water, the sunlight and the soil. So it is indeed beneficial to prune bamboo.

Pruning bamboo

How can you prune bamboo?

First of all, keep in mind that due to the persistent nature of the bamboo plant, there is no reason to prune carefully, as the bamboo stems will 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 to prune and trim bamboo. These are briefly highlighted below.

Maintenance pruning

The main reason to prune bamboo is to maintain the plant. With maintenance pruning, the first step is to cut off the dead bamboo stems. The dead or withered bamboo stems can be recognized by their yellow or brown color. In some cases, the stems have no leaves at all. By removing the dead stems, space is created for new shoots to grow.

Thinning is also part of maintenance. Thinning means that the oldest stems that are dried out or threaten to take up too much space are cut off. 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 the stem as close as possible to the ground or root so that no unwanted brown stump is visible anymore.

Thinning bamboo

Another method to prune the bamboo is by thinning the plant, because for example too many bamboo sticks are growing next to each other. This reduces the air flow and less sunlight can shine in. Thinning should in this case happen when the bamboo is fully grown. The main purpose of thinning is also to maintain the beauty and elegance of the bamboo. The process of thinning the bamboo can be repeated several times a year. This often happens at least after the winter, with stems that have suffered from the winter cold. Thinning the bamboo will leave room for new and young stems with beautiful leaves.

Lifting bamboo

Lifting - pruning the bamboo plant upwards - is the third method to prune bamboo. When you want to show the intriguing colors of bamboo stems, then lifting is the best pruning method. During the lifting of the bamboo plant, 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 regrowing, because all shoots are removed. As a result, the bamboo plant retains its lifted appearance of a stem with a large bunch of leaves, similar to the appearance of a tree. However, by lifting, the bamboo plant does provide less privacy. A solution could be to place a low Heavenly bamboo hedge behind the lifted bamboo so that the bamboo still 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.

Topping bamboo

The last method to prune the bamboo plant is 'topping'. When the bamboo is topped, the top 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. When the top of the stem and the branches are cut off, the weight of the leaves is also removed, allowing the bamboo plant to stand upright.

However, once topped, the bamboo plant will never grow vertically again and the plant will remain at the same height throughout its life cycle. First, the desired height is determined. Especially bamboo hedges may require a certain height and width. The stem will no longer grow, only the branches will. Then the bamboo plant is pruned with a sharp pruning shears, loppers or handsaw. Always make sure that the tool used is cleaned before pruning to prevent the risk of contamination. Finally, it is important when topping bamboo that the stems are cut just above a node, about half a centimeter. When cut below the node, a brown top is created.

How can you prune bamboo

When can I prune bamboo?

The 'best' time to prune bamboo varies by species. Generally, this is usually around the end of the winter period or at the end of spring. Pruning bamboo in winter ensures that the bamboo plant can grow again in spring. Moreover, bamboo stays green in winter. Towards the end of spring, it is good to prune bamboo to revive the plant. End of winter period it is useful to clean up the plant and remove dry and damaged stems. Late spring (June-July) pruning is the most suitable time to prune the tops and to thin out.

The above periods are the most common periods in which the bamboo is pruned. However, fully grown stems can actually be pruned all year round if needed. It is only not recommended 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 nicer, denser and regular shape.

From what height can I prune bamboo?

Bamboo can be pruned at any height. However, to prevent the new shoots coming out of the ground from being damaged, it is advisable to wait with pruning until after the annual spring shooting season, when the new shoots are larger and thus more visible. In principle, bamboo can be pruned all year round as long as no new shoots are coming out of 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 fast and can therefore be trimmed all year round, it doesn't matter much at what height the bamboo is pruned. So don't be afraid to put the scissors well into the bamboo until the bamboo has reached the desired height.

The reason for pruning is usually to shape the plant or keep it in size. With maintenance pruning, older, dead or unattractive stems can be sawn off at ground level. Dead branches can be sawn off at their origin. If only part of a stem or branch is removed, cut just above a node. That way, no stub will be left that will die off and look ugly. If the top is pruned back, it may be desirable to also shorten some side branches, so that the plant looks more balanced and no long branches remain at the top. Remember to cut just above a node.

Bamboo hedges can reach a height of up to 3 meters. A bamboo hedge between two pieces of land may be a maximum of 2 meters high according to the Field Code - a Belgian code of law that regulates rights and obligations regarding natural landscape problems. If the bamboo still causes nuisance, the judge can impose a lower height.

From what height to prune bamboo

Pruning invasive bamboo

There are two types of bamboo: invasive and non-invasive bamboo. Invasive bamboo plants are harder to prune than non-invasive bamboo. Therefore, invasive 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 keep the bamboo under control. It is therefore wise to purchase a bamboo limiter when invasive bamboo is placed in the garden. An example of an invasive bamboo species is the previously mentioned Phyllostachys. Other common invasive bamboo species are the Pseudo Sasa and the Sasa. The Phyllostachys aurea and the Pseudosasa japonica also belong to the non-invasive plant species bamboo.

Invasive bamboo forms underground runners, also called rhizomes. The new runners do not grow very deep into the ground, but spread very far horizontally. These runners create new bamboo shoots. In the case of invasive bamboo species even years after the first bamboo shoot has grown out, a new plant can come out of the ground meters away. This makes it harder to keep up with pruning.

Pruning non-invasive bamboo?

In contrast to invasive bamboo, non-invasive bamboo species do not get runners and they grow from a compact clump. A clump is a u-shaped rhizome that develops upwards. These new rhizomes arise from shoots on a present rhizome. This stimulates the shoots to multiply within the existing surface area, causing the bamboo clumps to get a clumpy shape. An example of a non-invasive bamboo species is the bamboo fargesia.

Non-invasive bamboo plants do not 'invade', making it safe to place this species in the garden or even on the balcony. However, the bamboo plants grow so fast that they need to be pruned regularly to look their best. Take for example the Alphonse Karr bamboo. This non-invasive 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 it is not pruned often, the stems will block views and possible exits. Click here for more information 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 can be pruned in different ways with different purposes, but the bamboo plant must be maintained in any case. The most desired time to prune bamboo varies by species. However, this is generally around the end of the winter period or at the end of spring. Read more about bamboo and our Bamboi toilet paper. Or order Bamboi sustainable toilet paper in our webshop right away. Also read how to plant bamboo and care for bamboo.

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