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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Air layering running bamboo shoots for small divisions

Last year, I did an experiment where I took a phyllostachys dulcis shoot that hasn't formed its anchor roots yet, and forced it through the drainage hole of a nursery pot, filling it up with soil. As expected, it turned out to be a viable division as 4 rhizomes grew out of the based of that shoot after it was severed from the mother plant.

The biggest problem was that the shoot that emerged was too big, and had too many anchor roots that dried up it's little 2 gallon put very quickly. Last year I grew a rhizome close to the surface on purpose in order to promote the formation of smaller shoots which are easier to work with, and I can get plenty of which will be less of a burden for the mother plant since they are so small. As expected, the mini-shoots formed. This propagation method can be used for running bamboos that have a hard time running, or juvenile bamboos where you want to turn small shoots into divisions without draining the energy of the mother plant too much. These are clearly true shoots because you don't always have whip shoots available in the spring.

I'll guess I can name this shoot bud activation, air layering propagation.

Here's the shoots that were downsized while the shoots on both ends of the same rhizome are full size.

Notice how the rhizome is barely below the surface of the soil to force smaller shoots.

The next step is to rub some cloning gel (juicy roots) all over the shoot, and put a nursery pot over it.

The next step is to fill up the pot with some potting soil, then mulch it and give it a good watering to help promote rooting on the buried nodes.

I usually don't fill it up all the way until the shoot is a bit further up just to make sure I don't end up suffocating it. My only concern is whether or not these shoots are large enough to develop their own rhizomes in a reasonable amount of time to shoot the following season since they will be producing by far less energy than that of a larger culm.

Here are some pictures of my successful air layered phyllostachys dulcis culm from last year. This set of pictures shows how rhizomes can be formed at the base of a regular culm on phyllostachys dulcis.


  1. To update on this blog, only 1 of these propagules rooted out in its pot, and it happened to be the big one(2/3 incher) which had the ability to generate roots on the lower parts of the culm not in any of these pictures. The other ones either aborted or never rooted out in the pots. Tiny shoots don't have the ability to generate roots on the lowest nodes of the culm.

  2. Have you tried air layering on the upright stems on MOSO?

    1. I have not tried this method on moso, but I have seen moso rhizomes develop from the lower nodes of the culm before. A lot of bamboos seem to have this ability, especially the species that tend to store a lot of starch in their culms.