Bamboos grow well in sandy soils, with good irrigation and fertilising, and generous use of organic material to improve the soil. Clay additives, available from nurseries, should also be incorporated into sands to help them retain water and nutrients.
Bamboo plants grow poorly in heavy clays or where there is high salinity or extended water-logging. The optimal soil pH (by the water system of measurement) is between 5 and 6.5. Apply lime if the pH is too acidic (low pH).
The underground swollen, woody, rhizome is the foundation of the plant; it produces beautiful arching stems and graceful leaves. Flowering is rare, and plants that flower and set seed soon die.
Several plants are falsely called bamboos. The ‘lucky bamboo’, Dracaena sanderiana, is a popular indoor pot-plant and the small bushy panda bamboo, Pogonotherum paniceum, is a true grass. The sacred bamboo, Nandina domestica, is a small garden shrub, with reddish leaves. The giant reed (Arundo donax) is a grass, but resembles a bamboo, because it has cane-like stems to 6m high. Unlike bamboo, it flowers readily at the top of the stems. It is often found in waste areas and chicken-runs, but may be useful for stakes.