Bamboo is a strong, fibrous plant with a variety of uses. It can be made into textiles, musical instruments, or be used as building material. It can also be eaten or used as an ornamental plant. In recent years, bamboo has become a popular substitute for wood and plastic in laminate flooring because it is a more sustainable option. Bamboo grows quickly and is relatively easy to propagate. There are three main methods of bamboo propagation.
The most difficult method of bamboo propagation is growing it from seed. Most species of bamboo tend to flower and produce seeds only at the end of their lifetimes, if at all, and some species of bamboo can live up to 120 years. Flowering is unpredictable and inconsistent, which makes it challenging to collect seeds. Bamboo seeds have a short life, and must be kept under carefully controlled conditions to keep them viable.
Another approach to bamboo propagation is called clump division or rhizome offsetting. A rhizome is an underground stem that produces both roots and shoots. When a rhizome with a budding stalk is cut off from the main rhizome, it is capable of growing into a new plant. There are two approaches to this type of vegetative propagation. One way involves cutting single budding rhizomes from the parent rhizome and re-planting them. The other method is to cut the parent rhizome into two or more parts and plant them separately.
The third type of bamboo propagation involves growing new plants either from cut branches or from culms. The culm is the hollow stalk of the bamboo plant that grows above ground. In both of these methods, the resulting plant is a clone of the parent plant, making this propagation method useful for selecting plants with desirable qualities. The cut branch, or culm, is usually placed in water with a rooting enzyme to encourage fast root growth, and then the cutting is placed in the ground.
One challenge of bamboo propagation is that the grower needs to know the exact age of the plant. A rhizome cut from a parent rhizome will only live as long as the parent, so it is not effective to plant rhizomes from older plants. Cuttings taken from immature bamboo plants less than a year old are weak and less likely to thrive. A bamboo farmer must keep careful records of the ages of all plants in order to propagate them effectively.