This unique fast-growing bamboo is commonly known as Buddha Belly Bamboo for its unique bulging culms. It is a common choice as a privacy screen or windbreaks in warm climates.
- Common name: Buddha Belly Bamboo or Giant Buddha Belly Bamboo
- Botanical name: Bambusa ventricosa
- Type: Clumping
- Average height: 40-55 ft (12-17m)
- Average diameter: 2.25 in (6cm)
- Hardiness: 18°F (-8°C)
- USDA Zones: 9-12
- Light requirements: Partial to full sun
- Best use: Privacy screen, hedge, windbreak, ornamental, container
Buddha Belly Bamboo is a beautiful bamboo species that makes for a great addition to any garden. Because of its glossy, evergreen culms, it’s frequently used as a windbreak, privacy hedge, or as an ornamental container plant. Buddha Belly Bamboo is drought-tolerant and therefore relatively low-maintenance.
If you’re looking for a standout decorative bamboo for your garden, or just want something that can survive the hot summer while you’re on vacation, Buddha Belly Bamboo is an excellent choice! Keep reading to learn how to identify, plant, and care for this stunning bamboo.
What does Bambusa ventricosa look like?
Buddha Belly Bamboo is best known for its swollen culms that bulge out like bellies. This unique feature occurs when the bamboo undergoes periods of stress such as drought or low nutrients. Although it grows quickly, it’s a clumping bamboo and is generally non-invasive.
The culms of Buddha Belly Bamboo are typically deep dark green in color. They grow mostly upright or in an almost zig-zag fashion, but tend to arch as they grow taller with the weight of the canopy.
One particular variety, Bambusa ventricosa ‘Kimmei’, or Yellow Buddha Belly Bamboo, even has beautiful yellow culms that make for a graceful addition to any home or garden.
Unlike other bamboo species, Buddha Belly Bamboo tends to grow clusters of thin, long dark green leaves. When pruned along the bottom half, they can take on a tree-like appearance, with bulging shoots at the base and clusters of graceful leaves in the canopy.
When planted in the ground, Buddha Belly Bamboo can easily grow up to 40-55 ft tall. Alternatively, you can plant it in a container where it will grow to about 6-15 ft. Additionally, its hardiness and unique features make it a popular choice for bonsai. Whether in the ground or in a container, this bamboo can reach its mature height in as little as 3-5 years!
Where to plant Buddha Belly Bamboo
Buddha Belly Bamboo thrives in warm climates such as Southern California, Florida, and Hawaii. While it can survive drought, it’s frost-sensitive and won’t survive long periods of cold. Therefore it’s best to grow this beautiful species in warm regions with mild winters.
If you do live somewhere with freezing temperatures, you can still grow this bamboo in containers and bring it inside during the winter.
Plant your Buddha Belly Bamboo in full sun or partial shade for best results. This shouldn’t be a problem if your garden naturally receives plenty of sunshine throughout the day, but you may need to pick your spot carefully if there are a lot of shady trees or structures around.
When growing this bamboo in a container, make sure it receives a minimum of six hours of bright light per day. You can either place it near a bright window or move the bamboo outside during the day.
Buddha Belly Bamboo can adapt to most soil conditions but prefers clay-based, loam, or sandy soil. Most soil PH levels are suitable for Buddha Belly Bamboo, as it can survive in slightly acidic, neutral, or slightly alkaline soil.
Regardless of where you are growing Buddha Belly Bamboo, the soil should be well-draining. Bamboo has relatively shallow roots, so ensuring the topsoil has good drainage is important to avoid water-logging the roots.
As with other bamboos, Buddha Belly Bamboo will thrive in healthy, nutrient-rich soil. You can amend your soil with compost and fertilize once or twice per year with a nitrogen-rich feed. If your bamboo is in a tight grove or has been shedding too many leaves, fertilize more frequently.
Note that restricting nutrients can also produce unique bulging culms.
How to take care of Buddha Belly Bamboo
Buddha Belly Bamboo is known for its hardiness and drought resistance, so you’ll be getting a low-maintenance bamboo if you choose to grow this unique species of bamboo. This is also why it’s considered a good bamboo plant for beginner growers.
While Buddha Belly Bamboo needs plenty of water to thrive, a small amount of neglect is actually what produces the protruding bellies. By carefully managing the plants’ water intake, you can cultivate a beautiful bamboo with unique bulges on its culms.
When growing Buddha Belly Bamboo in a container, it’s best to let the soil dry out completely before watering. When grown in the ground, check the top few inches of soil for moisture before watering. The more you starve it of water, the bigger the bellies on its culms will be.
However, be careful not to starve the bamboo of water too often or for too long. Without enough hydration, it can become weak and start to shed leaves, leaving a mess and resulting in a less aesthetically pleasing stand of bamboo canes.
Regular water will help your bamboo grow taller faster, but overwatering can be detrimental to the bamboo’s overall health, too. A well-draining soil and/or container, with regular watering when the soil is dry, will keep it happy year-round.
Pruning Buddha Belly Bamboo will prevent it from growing too tall. Pruning can also promote faster and bushier growth on its canopy. You can prune a Bambusa Ventricosa any time of year.
When trimming, remove damaged or dead leaves, dead branches, and any diseased culms (which appear mushy, crumbly, spongy, or spotted).
To make the bellies more protruding and diagonal, you can routinely trim the tops of the culm. This isn’t necessary, but if you like to experiment with your plants, this is a good way to promote growth in unusual patterns.
Pests and diseases
Buddha Belly Bamboo isn’t subject to particular pests or diseases, so you shouldn’t have to worry about keeping up on regular pest control. However, overwatering can cause root rot and other fungal infections, so you’ll need to carefully monitor your bamboo’s water intake and how well the soil is draining. This is especially important in the first few years of planting.
Propagating Buddha Belly Bamboo is fun and easy to do! If you’re growing your bamboo outside, it’s best to propagate during the rainy season rather than during a drought to reduce plant stress.
To propagate, cut just below the leaves at a node and internode. Only cut healthy parts of the bamboo for propagation. If a cutting has dead or dry leaves, simply trim these off. Taking smaller cuttings will lead to a smaller plant, while larger cuttings will become larger in less time.
Immediately after trimming, place the cutting in water. This will boost the success rate of your propagation. You can then either plant the cutting in a container with soil or keep it in a glass full of distilled water for 2-4 weeks or until it has a clump of healthy new roots. If you’re propagating in water, ensure you change the water at least once a week or whenever it becomes murky.
Propagation of Buddha Belly Bamboo works best on plants that are at least 3-4 years old.
Uses of Bambusa ventricosa
Growing Buddha Belly Bamboo is ideal as a self-sustaining privacy screen or hobby project. You can leave it to its own devices and watch it grow into a fantastic ornamental bamboo, or you can take pride in shaping it to cultivate something truly unique for your garden.
Its non-invasiveness and pest resistance make it low-maintenance and neighbor-friendly, as it won’t spread across the gardens in your neighborhood. If you’re lucky enough to see flowers on your Buddha Belly Bamboo, you may even find that hummingbirds and butterflies follow suit!