A Guide to Bamboo: How Fast Does Bamboo Grow? - Public Goods Blog

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A Guide to Bamboo: How Fast Does Bamboo Grow?

Bamboo is a lightweight, durable, and versatile plant that provides immense value to mankind and the planet alike.

bamboo growing in a forest

It’s a sustainable alternative to consumptive packaging and building materials, and its cultivation even helps to combat climate change.

The global bamboo trade was valued at nearly $70 billion in 2018, largely due to its wide-ranging applications. One key factor has been crucial to the rise and success of bamboo: its ability to grow incredibly quickly.

How Fast Does Bamboo Grow?

There are more than 1,000 species of bamboo and each grows at different rates, but collectively, bamboo grows faster than any other plant on earth. Bamboo has been recorded as growing 35 inches, or almost three feet per day! Other types, like Moso bamboo, can grow up to 47 inches in 24 hours.

Bamboo grows so quickly because when it’s young, the bamboo bud already has all the cells it needs. The plant grows by elongation rather than cell division, simply gathering water as it shoots skyward.

There are two types of bamboo: running and clumping bamboo. Clumping bamboo doesn’t grow as quickly as running bamboo, which is considered invasive in some places because of its ability to take over land in a short amount of time.

3 Factors That Affect How Quickly Bamboo Grows

Not all bamboo grows at the same speed, and the plants you’ll find growing naturally in India or China are unlike those found in home gardens in the United Kingdom or the United States. Various factors affect how quickly bamboo grows, including the climate and quality of the soil.

1. Region and Climate

Bamboo grows best between March and May in areas with substantial rain. China has the most bamboo variety, followed by India and Japan. These monsoon climates provide the right amount of humidity, warmth, and rain for bamboo to grow quickly.

Certain varieties can grow in colder climates, like Golden Bamboo, as long as there is ample sunlight.

2. Soil Quality

Some bamboos can grow in infertile soil and redistribute nutrients to the soil when it’s ready for harvest. Since bamboo is very resilient, it can grow in a variety of circumstances. Rocky or sandy soil is no match for this rapidly growing weed, although it prefers well-drained and slightly acidic soil.

3. Sunlight

Depending on the variety, bamboo needs at least 4 hours of direct sunlight per day. Without adequate sunlight, the grass won’t grow as quickly.

3 Ways to Help Bamboo Grow Faster

It takes 1-3 years for a bamboo plant to become established after planting. Adequate care in those first years is crucial to extend the life of the plant and help it grow quickly.

1. Watering

It’s nearly impossible to overwater most species of bamboo, and they’re thirsty plants! Soaking bamboo on drier, hotter days will ensure that the grass reaches its full growth potential.

2. Sun Exposure

Bamboo can tolerate many conditions but most species prefer direct sunlight. If you’re growing bamboo at home, trim back other plants that may be shading your bamboo to make sure it’s the star of the show. Sun-loving bamboo will grow much faster if it receives adequate sunlight throughout the day.

3. Feeding

Although bamboo doesn’t necessarily need fertilizer, it can help to boost the health of your bamboo and help it grow faster. Use a fertilizer high in nitrogen to ensure that your grass is receiving all the nutrients it may not be getting from its soil.

bamboo forest

What Are the Environmental Implications of Fast-Growing Bamboo?

Although there are perfect conditions for bamboo to grow as fast as it can, it is a resilient plant that can grow in many circumstances, making it a wonderful asset to the planet. It also doesn’t require irrigation or pesticides like other plants do, which makes it better for the planet.

Plus, its high growth rate means that it can be harvested and replenished rapidly, without the devastating effects of deforestation associated with tree cultivation. Here are a few more reasons that fast-growing bamboo is a wonderful asset to the planet.

1. Sustainable Products and Packaging

In 2018, packaging waste alone accounted for 82.2 million tons of municipal solid waste. Bamboo packaging is the perfect alternative because it’s a natural, renewable material that doesn’t cause pollution when it’s disposed of like plastic does.

Products made with bamboo are becoming increasingly popular to replace plastic and paper goods, which reduces the demand for these consumptive and polluting materials. Bamboo is naturally antimicrobial, so it’s great for products that need to get wet like bamboo straws or a bamboo razor handle.

Like trees, bamboo can be made into paper products. Tree-free toilet paper and bamboo wet wipes are safer for our bodies because they often aren’t treated with high levels of chemicals like other papers. Plus, they’re biodegradable!

2. Soil Protection

Soil erosion is a key contributor to desertification, the process by which agricultural land becomes desert land, significantly reducing the amount of farmable land globally. The roots of bamboo bind the first foot of topsoil, which reduces erosion. Fast-growing bamboo can be planted near riverbanks to protect communities from flooding and provide economic value, all while keeping the soil healthy.

3. Sustainable Building Materials

Bamboo’s durability and strength are akin to concrete, which makes it an excellent building material. In areas with frequent earthquakes, bamboo is actually a preferred building material due to its flexibility. Using bamboo instead of wood reduces the demand for timber and by effect, deforestation.

4. Slowed Effects of Climate Change

Bamboo has long been regarded as a tool in the fight against climate change due to its absorption of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Some data has accredited bamboo with producing 35% more oxygen than trees and absorbing 12 tons of carbon dioxide per year per hectare.

Bamboo: The Material of the Future

bamboo sticks

There are few things that bamboo can’t do. As staggering as its many applications are, the key to bamboo’s success is its unique ability for extraordinarily fast growth and replacing itself unlike any other renewable resource on the planet. So how fast does bamboo grow exactly? Pretty fast in the right conditions!

Whether you’re planting a privacy fence to let your lawn grow wild in peace, or you’re cultivating bamboo as an indoor houseplant, there are many benefits to growing bamboo. At the very least, consider why you should give bamboo straws a chance to bring this versatile grass into your everyday life.

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