Tall Bamboo trees growing towards the sky

Watering Bamboo: How Much, How Often & When

Last updated on July 21st, 2023

You must have heard that once the bamboo is planted, it doesn’t need much care in order to thrive. This is true! But there are some basic factors that’ll determine the growth and health of your beautiful bamboo plant. One of these factors is watering. In fact, the way you water your bamboo will significantly determine its appearance.

This is why it’s important to water your bamboo properly. A lot of people wonder how much water their bamboo needs, how often they should water it, and what could go wrong if they don’t water bamboo appropriately. Well…Your bamboo plants sure love to get a lot of water. They badly need it! You should get your bamboo watered at least once in a week under normal circumstances. What’s important is that your soil remains moist, not soggy.

However, there are certain reasons why you’ll want to water your plant otherwise, you’ll uncover that here. In this article, I’ll not just be giving you a guideline for proper watering of your bamboo, I’ll talk about the indications of overwatering and underwatering. Keep reading!

What you need to know about bamboo?

The species of bamboo you’ve planted or you intend to plant will greatly determine your watering schedule. There are over 1,000 distinct species of bamboo. Different bamboo species have various water needs.

For instance, there are drought-resistant bamboos which can thrive without much water. I’ll talk about a few of them much later in this article. Then, there is tropical bamboo which requires at least 4 months of rain to remain healthy and lush.

Tropical tall bamboo trees in a forest.
Tropical Bamboo

So, you see, the species of bamboo will definitely affect the way you should water it. But you should also know that bamboo is actually known as one of the most resilient plants out there. And while the absence of water might not kill it, it will certainly impede its growth.

Here, I’m going to focus on general bamboo watering tips. You can do well to find out what species of bamboo you have and find out their specific water needs. Your bamboo would thank you for this!

So, how often should I water my bamboo plant?

Generally, this will depend on both the area you live in and whether your bamboo is in a planter or grown in the ground. Other factors to consider are the maturity of your bamboo plant and your soil type.

Let’s take these factors one after the other:

Cold vs hot weather

Ideally, you should water your bamboo plant 3-4 times a week if you’re in a hot environment and during the summer season. In cold weather, you should reduce this frequency to once within 7-10 days. This also applies to the winter season.

However, you should ensure that the soil is always moist in every season or weather. You can easily do this by feeling the soil with your finger. Simply push your finger down until your first joint and check if it’s dry. If it is, you should water your bamboo.

Container vs in-ground

A bamboo plant in a planter/container will require more water than one grown in the ground. This is because bamboo grown in containers does not retain moisture as much as one grown in the ground. This is due to the fact that it has a smaller amount of soil and would normally dry out quickly.

So, you should water bamboo plants in containers once a week in normal weather and about 4 to 5 times a week in the summertime. To be more careful check out the soil moisture daily and water as needed.

Moreover, you could try mulching around the roots of a potted bamboo. This would help to keep the soil moist.

Newly planted vs established bamboo

In addition, newly planted bamboo should be watered more frequently than their established counterpart. During the first year of bamboo, it’s crucial that you protect the plant from drought. So you should water newly planted bamboo twice a week during summer and more often if the weather is hot and windy.

Newly planted bamboo plants on a wheel barrow with hands holding a small bamboo plant.
Newly Planted Bamboo

As the bamboo gets established, it will not require much water as in the first year. You can water it once every 7-10 days in the absence of rain.

Nevertheless, you should know that bamboo can easily get distressed from lack of water during the shooting season. And water stress can cause the bamboo to abort new shoots.

Sandy vs clay soil vs loamy soil

Sandy soil will have a lower water reserve than clay soil. Bamboos planted in sandy soil will, therefore, need to be watered more.

Most times a moisture-retaining soil will require less watering. At this point, you can’t underestimate the importance of maintaining soil with good structure and texture. Clay soil for example retains more water but comes with other challenges. Read more about growing bamboo in clay soil here!

Loamy soil is the preferred type of earth. It is full of organic matter and remains moist for longer than sandy but shorter than clay soil.

How much water should I give my bamboo?

Bamboo plants do well when it gets at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water a week. The water could be from rainfall or manual watering.

It’s important to deeply water bamboo, this would help to encourage deep roots and protect your bamboo from drought.

Allow your bamboo leaves to litter around the roots, it’ll increase mulch and help the soil to stay moist. Plus, they will return as essential nutrients to the soil as they decompose and encourage growth.

Is it bad to water bamboo too much?

Yes, bamboo plants grow best with adequate watering but it’s important that the roots do not become waterlogged. If your soil is always drenched with water, it’ll be harmful to your plants as it could restrain the roots from getting air.

However, overwatering will not be a problem if the soil drains well and is well aerated. So you wouldn’t need to bother about it too much water if you’ve got a well-draining soil.

This is where the kind of soil you have would play a role. Clay soil retains much water and overwatering this kind of soil would definitely be a problem.

So, what’s the problem with overwatering and underwatering?

Generally, overwatering and underwatering of bamboo would lead to excessive yellowing of foliage. Excessive watering can also lead to rotting of new canes, and withering of the leaf tip.

Dried up leaves in brownish color.
Withered Leaves

Plus, your bamboo plants would be poorly aerated when it’s constantly wet. This might also cause the rhizome and roots to rot. In extreme cases, you can kill your plant just by watering it too much or too little.

How do I know if I’m overwatering my bamboo? Signs of too much watering

Bamboo leaves that are receiving adequate water are usually flat and open, so to determine the condition of your plant, you should check the leaves.

Most times the leaves on your bamboo would tell when you are overwatering. The tips of your leaves would begin to turn brown. At this point, you should stop watering it for some time. Wait until the leaves start to curl up into themselves before watering again.

How do I know if I’m underwatering my bamboo? Signs of too little watering

Many varieties of bamboo show that they are thirsty by rolling up their leaves or turning their leaves yellow. In severe cases, bamboo plants can also start dropping their leaves.

Note: You shouldn’t mistake certain things for signs of watering problems. For instance, bamboo renews its leaves in the spring period. At this time, the bamboo would naturally lose its leaves and develop new ones. Bamboo is a very unique plant. So unlike normal plants that renew in autumn. Bamboo renews in spring.

In addition, some species of bamboo (i.e. Fargesias) are shade lovers. When they are exposed to direct sunlight, they’ll curl up their leaves. Not to worry, they’ll uncurl once the sun disappears. This also shouldn’t be misunderstood for a lack of water.

Preventing watering problems: Irrigation systems for bamboo

Irrigation systems are essential in areas where there is insufficient rain and when you want to make judicious use of water.

In addition, you’ll need an irrigation system to ensure effective watering all year round. Bamboo plants need water to ensure the development of the rhizomes and to make its reserves which will enable the shoots to emerge the following year.

Watering adequately is very vital as it would improve the overall growth and performance of your bamboo. Irrigation systems provide reliable sources of water to ensure that your plant stays happy and healthy.

However, there are several factors you’ll have to consider in order to get the best choice of irrigation system. You should consider the soil you are working with.

Most times, your in-ground bamboo would require you to moist the entire root-ball/rhizome which can be as much as 3 feet in-depth and will have a diameter slightly larger than the footprint of the bamboo at ground level.

There are only a few effective irrigations that can achieve this result. You’ll have to consider one that can provide the right condition for your plant.

Most gardeners prefer drip irrigation. The sprinklers are deemed to waste water and might drown any other crop planted close-by.

Water pipes running through small plants for a drip irrigation system.
Drip Irrigation System

Drought-tolerant bamboo species

Here, I’ve listed a few drought-tolerant bamboo plants you can consider planting.

Drought tolerant plants have the ability to endure periods of drought and survive them as well. These plants would live even without rainfall. Although, they’ll flourish more and look better with little water.

These plants are great options for you if you live in areas that experience less rainfall or environments with a shortage of water. If you are considering bamboo that won’t bother you much on water, select one from below.

Drought-tolerant clumping bamboo species

Otatea acuminata aztecorum ‘Mexican Weeping Bamboo’

  • Height: 20 ft (6 m)
  • Stem diameter: 1.5 in (3.8 cm)
  • USDA zones: 8b-11
  • Hardiness: 20°F  (-6°C)
  • Light:  Full sun, part shade
  • Soil: Sandy to clay, well-draining

This bamboo has very fine leaves. These evergreen leaves are very thin and long. They give the Mexican weeping bamboo plant a smooth appearance.

Although this plant is drought tolerant, you should protect it from hard frost. In fact, its leaves can be damaged temporarily when exposed to cold winters.

Mexican Weeping Bamboo is a beautiful arching bamboo. You can make a great privacy screen from this plant.

Picture of mexican weeping bamboo with a lot of green leaves.
Mexican Weeping Bamboo (Source: flickr)

Bambusa malingensis ‘Seabreeze’

  • Height: 35-40 ft (10-12 m)
  • Stem diameter: 2.5 in (6.35 cm)
  • USDA zones: 8b-11
  • Hardiness: 20°F  (-6°C)
  • Light: Full sun, part shade
  • Soil: Moist, well-drained soil

This beautiful bamboo plant is endowed with unique bluish-white culms, you’ll especially notice their umbrella-shaped arch when they are mature.

The color and shape of this bamboo make it awesome for windbreaks and hedges. In addition, Sea breeze is salt tolerant and can thrive in areas exposed to coastal winds.

Chusquea culeou ‘Chilean Bamboo’

  • Mature height: 15 ft (4.5 m)
  • Mature diameter: 1.5 in (3.8 cm)
  • USDA zone: 8a
  • Hardiness temperature: 0-15°F (-18 to -9°C) – mild climate
  • Light conditions:  Full sun
  • Soil: Moist, well-drained soil, not recommended for containers

Chilean bamboo is known for its aesthetic value. It forms a dense clump of arching canes. It has multiple short branches, so this gives a look of a bottle brush. You’ll admire this bamboo for the beautiful red blush on the canes, at sheath fall.

Although Chilean bamboo is drought tolerant, you’ll see its best in moderate water. This bamboo is not recommended for planting in containers.

Oxytenanthera abyssinica

  • Height: 30 ft (9 m)
  • Stem diameter: 3.9 in (10 cm)
  • Hardiness: 33.8°F (1°C) 
  • Light: Full sun, part shade
  • Soil: Nutrient-rich fertile soil

This is a drought-resistant species of bamboo also known as Savannah bamboo. It grows in savanna woodland, semi-arid wooded grassland, and thicket.

This bamboo flowers after long periods of vegetative growth. It is a vigorous evergreen bamboo that forms dense clumps of about 20 – 100 canes. The canes are usually 3 – 9 meters tall. This species sometimes forms immense, impenetrable thickets that can spread over several square kilometers.

Group of bamboo trees in a jungle environment with the bamboo type: Oxytenanthera Abyssinica
Oxytenanthera Abyssinica (Source: flickr)

Drought-tolerant running bamboo species

Phyllostachys aurea ‘Koi’

  • Height: 27 ft (8 m)
  • Stem diameter: 1.75 in (4.5 cm)
  • USDA zones: 7-10
  • Hardiness: 0°F (-18 °C)
  • Light:  Full sun, part shade
  • Soil: Moist, well-drained soil

This is a drought-tolerant bamboo with dense bamboo culms. This makes it a great option for a thick screen.

The culms of this bamboo are yellowish-orange with green stripes.  Some of the culms turn red when exposed to the sun.

Phyllostachys aurea ‘Golden Bamboo’

  • Height: 30 ft (9 m)
  • Stem diameter: 1.5 in (3.8 cm)
  • USDA zones: 6-10
  • Hardiness: 5°F (-15°C)
  • Light:  Full sun, part shade
  • Soil: Moist, well-drained soil

Golden bamboo is a great choice for privacy screens. It grows very fast in warmer climates but is less aggressive in cold climates. This beautiful bamboo has strong and upright culms that grow close to each other at maturity. Usually, this improves the terrific visual of this species.

Its green culms turn golden in the presence of sunlight. Golden bamboo has evergreen thick foliage. So the contrast of both colors makes it even more appealing. This bamboo tolerates heat and does well in USDA Zones 6 to 10.

Phyllostachys nigra  ‘Black Bamboo’

  • Height: 40 ft (12 m)
  • Stem diameter: 2.25 in (5.7 cm)
  • USDA zones: 7-10
  • Hardiness: 5°F (-15°C)
  • Ligh:  Full sun, part shade
  • Soil: Moist, well-drained soil

This is another amazing option for hedges. The culms of this bamboo plant come up green and slowly turn a shiny black at maturity.

Black bamboo does well as an indoor plant, this is normally the case with many subspecies of nigra.

Phyllostachys nigra ‘Daikokuchiku’

  • Height: 57 ft (17 m)
  • Stem diameter: 3.3 inches (8.3 cm)
  • USDA zones: 7-10
  • Hardiness: 5°F (-15°C)
  • Light:  Full sun, part shade
  • Soil: Moist, well-drained soil

This bamboo is also known as the giant black bamboo. This variety would do well in containers and any garden size. It has feathery, lacy green foliage. 

Daikokuchiku bamboo grows larger and turns black quicker than the typical nigra bamboo. It loves full sun and is more drought-tolerant than many other bamboos.

Drip irrigation system on top and thick bamboo forest on the bottom with the text: How to properly water your bamboo?

Phyllostachys glauca ‘Hedge Bamboo’

  • Height: 25 ft (7.6 m)
  • Stem diameter: 2 in (5 cm)
  • USDA zones: 7-10
  • Hardiness: 5°F (-15°C)
  • Light:  Full sun
  • Soil: Moist, well-drained soil

This bamboo is known for its sparkling turquoise culms. The sparkling culms appear when the bright green culms are shrouded in blue-gray powder. This stunning effect is only existing in younger plants, as the powder is lost with age, and then the canes eventually fade to a yellow-green.

The culms of this bamboo have an upright growth habit. Phyllostachys glauca grows faster in warm climates and it stops growing in cooler weather.

You see that watering your plant properly will make a huge difference. I hope you’ve found out how to water your bamboo adequately. If the whole process sounds very strange or bothersome to you, you can consider getting a drought-tolerant bamboo.

Are you experiencing any watering problems? Did this article answer your questions? Let us know! Did we leave any question unanswered? Leave a comment!
Woman (Natalie) and man (James) in front of bamboo

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