Bamboo is an eco-friendly raw material used in numerous industrial products, which creates the promise of a sustainable tomorrow. Even more, the cultivation of bamboo is beneficial in combating climate change. In all this, understanding the bamboo growth rate is crucial for a better perspective on its uses.
In this article, we will go over the aspects relating to the bamboo growth rate. Even so, let's first understand what bamboo is.
What is Bamboo?
Bamboo is a monocot and fast-grow grass with a hollow stem with parallel vein leaves and vascular scattered bundles. Most commonly, this plant is characterized by long stems known as canes that are usually woody ringed. The bamboo is reputable for its fast growth rate, holding the Guinness World Record crown for the fastest growing plant. Bamboo grows in tropical and humid countries, including China, sub-Saharan Africa, Australia, Central and South America.
The most common bamboo species is Chinese Moso Bamboo (Phyllostachys edulis). Besides this default image of bamboo, over 1,300 bamboo species flower simultaneously despite growing in different regions. In addition, different bamboo species appear in different stem and leaf colorations.
Moreover, bamboos are evergreen, putting on leaves all year round and each year. Specifically, new leaves gradually grow during the Springtime, and it is during this period, you will notice a carpet of golden-brown leaves around your bamboo plantation. You should not remove the shed leaves in the bamboo grove during this growth period since they serve as mulch and manure.
Most bamboo species are widely used for different purposes, including building and manufacturing raw materials and even in food. In addition, bamboo plants are revered as special and vital in the ecosystem. Think about this, bamboo was the only plant that survived the atomic radiation from the Hiroshima bombings. Therefore, we have taken a special interest in bamboo, and you can read on to understand its growth rate.
How Fast Does Bamboo Grow, and How Big Does it Get?
This is an important question that can be difficult to answer generally due to many species with diverse and distinct growth characteristics and requirements. For instance, dwarf and herbaceous bamboos grow a few inches tall, while woody bamboos/timber bamboos can reach a height of 100 feet. Also, contrary to other bamboo types, lucky bamboo has a slower growth rate of about 10 cm per year. Evidently, diverse bamboo species grow differently depending on diverse factors.
Furthermore, understanding the growth rate of bamboo is also anchored on the premise of the aggressive spread of its bamboo roots. Specifically, the growth habit of bamboo is characterized by around 35 inches/ 3 feet per day. Even more, other unique bamboo species like Moso bamboo have a faster growth rate at around 47 inches per day.
Generally, bamboo grows faster than most plants, and precisely, newly planted ones are so quick because the bamboo shoots/buds have all the cells that all types of bamboo require to sprout. It would interest you to know that new bamboo grows through elongation instead of cell division which gathers water as it grows skywards. There are two bamboo types, running bamboo/clumping bamboo, which grows quicker than the clumping/invasive species, which takes over land within a short period through its rapid growth.
Furthermore, let's go over the specific growth elements that highlight how fast bamboo grows.
- New plants produce individual bamboo culms during Spring, and these new shoots sprout from the ground and gradually expand outward and rise in height for about 60 days. It is within this first 60-day growth period that leaves, and limbs grow. In addition, maximum diameter and height are achieved within the short growing season.
- After the first 60 days, a bamboo cane ceases to grow in diameter and height. Ideally, bamboo doesn't go through secondary growth like most flora or trees. After the new growth for the initial 60 days, bamboo will live for 10 years by putting on new foliage annually.
- Instead of growing the existing canes past the 60 days, bamboo as a colony species of the grass family utilizes its energy from existing plants to produce more plants and expand its root growth structure. Subsequently, new shoots will grow in the same initial 60-day manner.
- After the initial planting, it can take you 3 years to get established plants from which new bamboo shoots emerge in spring and grow in 60 days. As the colony becomes more mature, it continues to have numerous and bigger canes. Distinct species reach maximum sizes at different times with a range between 4 to 15 years, also depending on the conditions of climate, soil, watering, and sunlight.
- You can find fast-growing bamboos that reach full maturity within 90 days, with most taking about two years.
Best Conditions for Fast-Growing Bamboo Species
1. Sunlight Conditions
Different bamboo species tolerate diversified conditions but with the common base of requiring sunlight. Therefore, bamboo is recommended to be exposed to at least 4 or more hours of filter sunlight per day. In most cases, you should ensure that your bamboo is the star in your garden. Therefore, you should trim back any shading plants to allow adequate sun exposure.
Reasonably, more sunlight translates to more available energy necessary for growth and photosynthesis. Also, a few species with large leaves and smaller canes of not more than 20 feet tall prefer a partial shade, unlike normal bamboo types. Overall, bamboo will achieve the fastest growth rate when it receives enough sunlight.
2. Use Multiple Plants
Bamboo utilizes a compounding growth mechanism that improves the growth rate and the amount of bamboo produced per year. Therefore, a dense bamboo grove collection will grow bamboo faster, unlike a single division grove. Accordingly, for a rapid grove, we recommend 5 foot or closer planting for an accelerated grove. Indeed, you can never overplant bamboo.
3. Soil Quality
We had earlier in this article highlighted that bamboo is resilient, meaning it can grow in diverse soil types. Moreover, you can find some bamboo species that can thrive in infertile soil and progressively redistribute nutrients before harvesting. Nonetheless, bamboo ideally requires mildly acidic and well-drained soil. Even without the need for fertilizer, a nitrate-rich fertilizer can ensure that your bamboo thrives better in optimal soil conditions.
After applying fertilizer, the growth of your bamboo can be accelerated by a year. Basically, fertilizer provides more growth energy to bamboo, considering that not all soils are equal. Consequently, you should apply a time-release fertilizer or an organic fertilizer with all the essential nutrients.
4. Region and Climate
Preferably, bamboo should be grown in temperate climates like China, where most bamboo variety is grown. In addition, the most appropriate growth period is between the months of March and May in areas that receive adequate rainfall. Climatic conditions such as rain, warmth, and humidity accelerate growth for temperate bamboo species like Chinese bamboo and Madake bamboo.
There are also certain varieties like Golden bamboo and black bamboo that can grow in freezing temperatures if there is adequate sunlight. Other varieties that tolerate mild cold climates include Mexican weeping bamboo and Weaver's bamboo. In consequence, you should ensure you match your specific bamboo species with the appropriate climate and region.
How to Grow Bamboo Faster?
We continue to emphasize that bamboo ranks as the fastest growing plant. Nevertheless, you might need to accelerate growth even more. Here are a few tips to achieve a faster bamboo growth rate.
1. Start with Stabilized Plants or Big Established
Under these circumstances, we do not imply that you can take a shortcut in the growth period. Even so, waiting for a new plant to sprout is different from starting with an already established plant with a larger rhizome system that will produce many and large shoots faster. Therefore, stabilized bamboo plants create denser groves that yield a shorter bamboo growth rate. However, you should avoid freshly dug plants because they will be unstable when recently removed from an adapted energy source.
Even as we highlight the resilience of bamboos, they also require plenty of water for the hastened growth rate. More so, soaking your bamboo hotter days translates to your plants reaching optimal growth. Despite no shortcuts in bamboo growth rate, adequate care, including sufficient watering during the first years, is crucial for a healthier and faster growth rate.
Benefits of Bamboo
1. Repairing Damaged Soil
Diverse bamboo species can thrive in infertile soil and consequently leads to improved soil fertility. It may sound like magic because infertile soils are rendered now productive. Therefore, it repairs infertile soil to render it useful again through nutrient-rich leaves, which drop during harvest or growth. Subsequently, these leaves decompose and transfer their nutrients to the surrounding soil.
2. A Rapidly Renewable Resource
Considering the short bamboo growth rate, it is now possible to have renewable raw materials within a shorter period than for trees that take more years to mature. Subsequently, you can use bamboo fiber and bamboo strips to make furniture and clothe material. 5 years might sound too long to wait, but that is a reasonable timeframe to wait for an eco-friendly material such as bamboo.
3. Countering Deadly Toxins
By now, you probably know that trees are crucial to the air circulation of the earth. Even with the classification of bamboo as grass, it still plays the same role as trees in reducing CO2 levels in our atmosphere. Actually, bamboo takes up 4 times more carbon dioxide than other plants and correspondingly releases more oxygen. During this age of increased air pollution, bamboo is the plant we need to reduce the effects of global warming.
Additionally, bamboo also removes toxins such as mercury and lead from the earth and stores them in its stalks. After harvesting, the toxins remain within the stalks eliminating danger from humans and animals. Nonetheless, the components of mercury and lead might sound scary at the thought of bamboo in the food industry. Lastly, bamboo doesn't need pesticides which can in turn harm human beings.
4. Harvested by Hand
Another eco-friendly fact about bamboo is that it is only harvested by hand. This premise might be blamed on the lack of the importance of large-scale harvesting, but the best harvesting method is by hand. Consequently, this means that no fellers are required during harvesting, meaning no CO2 pollution. Additionally, hand-harvesting ensures a more careful and harmless approach to the bamboo forests' existing ecosystem, such as plants and animals.
Also, cutting down the tall bamboo canes ensures that sunlight reaches smaller plants for healthier growth through improved photosynthesis. Eventually, hand-harvesting ensures that the appropriate bamboo canes are harvested without cutting down immature stems.
5. The Bamboo Regeneration
Even after cutting down mature bamboo stalks, they will still regenerate just like grass does. Therefore, you don't have to uproot the entire plant during harvesting but only the mature stalks. Subsequently, it prevents the denting of the earth with massive holes and instead reinforces soil stability. Therefore, bamboo prevents and reduces soil erosion.
What is the Bamboo Plant Used For?
From ancient times to modern-day industrialization, bamboo is still a critical raw material in improving livelihoods. Understandably, bamboo is stronger and versatile than other materials like concrete, wood, or brick. Also, bamboo has more tensile strength than steel and is flexible to work within delicate tasks. Some of the items that use bamboo include:
- Paper and books
- Alcohol (wine and vodka)
- Food items such as pickled bamboo and some dumplings
- Drinking straws
- Flooring material and other building materials
- Textures just like ornamental grasses
- Ornaments and jewelry
- Plumbing items
- Musical Instruments
- Cooking utensils, most notably chopsticks
- Water pipes
- Fishing Poles
- Bike frames
- Bamboo slats
Besides the above list of items, bamboo is in almost every aspect of our contemporary lives with the increased innovations. The benefit of using bamboo on these items is that it is durable and cheap. Other worthy mentions include using large timber bamboo to break fire spreads and having a bamboo hedge. In addition to human uses, bamboo is food for animals like gorillas, pandas, chimpanzees, elephants, caterpillars, and lemurs.
Bamboo: The Material of the Future
As more research is put into the benefits of bamboo, this plant is continually finding more uses in our world. For instance, researchers are working around bamboo charcoal as a natural nano-tube for conducting electricity. Nonetheless, bamboo is not the solution to all our problems, but it is definitely a life-changing plant with even more undiscovered uses.
Finally, bamboo having the fastest growth rate is a remarkable trait for a plant with such numerous uses. It might even seem literal that you can sit and watch a tropical bamboo or lucky bamboo grow by around an inch. Even more, certain bamboo species have even more incredible uses and traits that eventually improve the quality of life.