Bamboo shoot growing out of the ground

Bamboo Plant Food – What’s the best fertilizer?

People who want to take good care of their plants feed them fertilizer. They thrive better, grow bigger, and get stronger with the right food. If you are growing bamboo plants in your garden or indoors, you may wonder if this applies to them as well and what bamboo fertilizer you should use.

In short, bamboo doesn’t necessarily need fertilizer. It can grow very well on its own. However, there might be certain situations when you still want to use fertilizers.

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So keep reading in order to learn everything you need to know about fertilizing your bamboo plants!

Does bamboo really need fertilizer?

As mentioned above, bamboo plants don’t necessarily need fertilizer in order to grow. With the right soil, it will be healthy. However, if you want them to reach its maximum potential in terms of height, strength, and density, you can use the “special” food.

What are the benefits of using fertilizer on bamboo plants?

Just think about it this way: Your lawn may look nice without fertilizer but adding a bit every now and then will make it look like a thick lush green carpet. The same applies to bamboo as well because it belongs to the grass family.

Fertilizers will result in bushier, taller, stronger, and more vibrant plants if used correctly. It can have the opposite effect if you do it wrong, though. 

Fertilizing also may help your plants to regain vitality. Sometimes they may get damaged by a harsh winter. Cut back the dead canes and use fertilizer in spring to give it an extra boost.

Healthy bamboo plants with yellow canes fed with the right bamboo fertilizer

What fertilizer should you use for your bamboo plants?

Bamboo like any grass loves nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. You can simply use any lawn fertilizer that doesn’t contain weed killer.

If you are looking at fertilizers you will notice there are numbers on it (e.g. 10-5-5). If you are new to this I’ll explain it for you really quick. These numbers are percentages of the nutrients. The first one is nitrogen (N), the second number represents phosphorus (P), and the last is the potassium (K) level. You may find questions asking “What’s the N-P-K?” Well, now you know what this means.

I found sources that all say different percentages, for example, 20-5-5, 18-5-12, 19-8-10, 16-6-8. However, I would either recommend organic fertilizers or the 16-6-8 as it will be sufficient for your bamboo plants.

Is there a difference between planters and ground fertilizing?

Yes, there is. For planters indoors or outdoors, you want a balanced slow-release fertilizer.

Is there a difference between seasons?

You don’t have to change the fertilizer in the certain season but you can. High-nitrogen fertilizers promote the growth above the ground whereas more phosphorus and potassium encourage the roots and shoots. Therefore, it is good to use lower nitrogen (e.g. 6-24-24) in late winter and spring and higher nitrogen (16-6-8) in late spring and summer for taller and bushier plants.

Chemical vs organic fertilizers

Fertilizers have a great impact on our water bodies, groundwater, soil quality, and our health. Nitrogen breaks down into nitrates which are the growth boosters. If the plant cannot absorb all the nitrates, it will simply flush down into the groundwater. The same applies to phosphorus. Hence, you should always go for organic and as less nitrogen and phosphates as possible.

Beware that some states or regions started limiting the usage of synthetic fertilizers, such as Maryland, New Jersey, Flanders in Belgium, and Ireland.

What’s the best bamboo fertilizer out there?

There are hundreds of fertilizers out there. So, which one should you pick? We give you a little insight into the options you have. Be advised to be careful with kids or pets playing around freshly fertilized areas.

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Chemical options

LawnStar 16-4-8 Fertilizer is a fast-release spray that is great for fertilizing just around the time when the shoots grow (late winter, early spring). Don’t use this at the end of summer through mid-winter. Buy LawnStar Fertilizer on Amazon!

Lesco Professional Turf Fertilizer has a slow-release formula (16-4-8) which makes it perfect for applications from March through September. Buy Lesco Professional Turf Fertilizer on Amazon!

Osmocote Smart-Release Food Plus can feed your bamboo plants for up to 6 months. This is perfect for the start of the season and container bamboo. Buy Osmocote Smart-Release Food on Amazon!

Osmocote 18-6-12 Classic is another slow-release fertilizer (8-9 months) that can be applied in fall and winter. Buy Osmocote Classic on Amazon!

Organic options (pre-packaged)

Organic Liquid Fertilizer by Simple Lawn Solutions is a well-balanced spray fertilizer that will boost the growth of your bamboo with a 16-4-8 blend. It is supposed to be one of the best mixes for bamboo plants and on top of that it is organic! Buy Simple Lawn Solutions Liquid Fertilizer on Amazon!

Purely Organic Plant Food doesn’t contain any phosphorus but it still works for lawns and so should it work for bamboo. It is for those who just want to boost the shoots and strengthen the roots with the 10-0-2 level. Buy Purely Organic Plant Food on Amazon!

Bamboo specific fertilizers

Around 80% of the bamboo fertilizers you find are meant for Lucky Bamboo, which actually isn’t bamboo. Lewis Bamboo, however, came up with their own fertilizer. They nurture and sell bamboo plants in the US. The Lewis Bamboo – Biochar Fertilizer 18-5-12 has slow-release properties. They recommend applying it only twice a year. Check out the product on Amazon!

Animal waste or manure as organic  bamboo plant food

How to make your own organic bamboo food?

The chemical and pre-packed organic fertilizers aren’t an option for you? I gotcha. You can, of course, make your own bamboo food. That’s actually my preferred, yet more labor-intensive, way of fertilizing bamboo.

Like with other plants, you can use compost, manure, and mulch to create the perfect bamboo food as long as it is well matured. If your compost and manure are too fresh (hot) they can burn your plants.

This will also need more thinking from you because you’ll have to know what ingredients are good sources of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. You also have to find a good balance.

The manure that has the highest nitrogen and phosphorus level is coming from chickens.

Organic nitrogen sources: Coffee grounds, eggshells, alfalfa, cotton seeds, corn gluten meal, soybean meal, gelatin, hair, fish meal, seaweed

Organic phosphorus sources: Eggshells, fish bone meal, steamed bone meal, rock dust (granite), chicken manure, pig manure

Organic potassium sources: Hardwood ashes, bananas or their peels, alfalfa, sheep manure

For more information and fertilizer recipes, read this article.

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You can use this type of plant food in the soil or as a topdressing. When planting, you should use a very mature compost-manure mix. Then you can add a 3-inch layer once or twice a year. Spread the homemade fertilizer outward from the stem towards the area you want it to spread. In the end, this will provide fertile soil to the roots. Wherever you put it, the bamboo will grow towards.

Before it gets too hot or cold you should put a layer of mulch on top. This will not just work as a slow-releasing fertilizer but also protect your plants from dehydration and freezing.

When and how often should you feed your bamboo?

There are 2 main growth seasons for bamboo. The first one is in spring when the roots shoot and then in summer, it is rather the upward growth of canes. This means you can address these two periods with fertilizing.

You can use a fast-release liquid fertilizer when the bamboo shoots start developing in spring (March-April). A slow-release fertilizer will do it as well but you may want to apply it a little earlier (February-March, unless you are still expecting long frosty periods). Then in summer, do another round to give them the support to grow taller.

How to apply fertilizer and how much should you apply?

If you are using packaged fertilizer go by the instructions. They will tell you how much you will need because the concentration of nutrients differs.

For people who like it more specific: Bamboo plants can feed on 0.5 lbs (226 g) of nitrogen in an area of 100 sq.ft. (9 sq.m.). So, let’s say you have a 10ft x 10ft grove and you have 16-4-8 fertilizer. You would spread 3 lbs of fertilizer (3×0.16=0.48 lbs) twice a year. You can obviously apply less but definitely, don’t go over that. All excess nitrogen will be washed into the regional water supplies.

Simply spread the fertilizer crystals/balls around the plants and into the area you want it to expand. You can do this manually by hand (wear gloves!) or with those spreaders.

If you are using a liquid product, spray it onto the soil but not the canes themselves.

If you have organic plant food you may have to apply more because generally, the blend is weaker.

What you definitely need to avoid!

  • Don’t over-fertilize! A little goes a long way. If you use too much fertilizer, the number of canes may just increase. It might make it weaker and thinner instead of tall and thick. It is also not friendly to the environment to use too much fertilizer!!
  • Don’t use too much of high-nitrogen fertilizers like Urea because it burns your bamboo plants. They will drop all your leaves in the worst case.
  • Don’t use a fertilizer that contains a weed killer (herbicide) as well. It will ultimately kill your bamboo.
  • Don’t use fresh manure as soil because it is hot. You can use it around the plant as a top layer. However, you should be careful. If you use fresh manure while planting, it will cause death.
  • Don’t fertilize with chemicals in late fall and winter if you expect low temperatures during those months. It is usually the stagnant season where the plants don’t grow.

About Us

Woman (Natalie) and man (James) in front of bamboo

We are James and Natalie – newly-weds & nature lovers!

We want to give you the best information possible on bamboo. Get inspired to grow bamboo or to switch to natural bamboo products!

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