The buddha's belly bamboo (Bambusa ventricosa) naturally produces big culms, with sizes similar to thorny bamboo or kawayan tinik (Bambusa blumeana), bayog (Bambusa sp.) and botong (Gigantochloa levis). These plant species are among those recommended for growing bamboo to mitigate global warming and for commercial purposes.
But with little effort and patience, you can produce a dwarf clump which is ideal as a bamboo bonsai and as a landscape specimen.
I first learned about bamboo bonsai from an old printed publication. It said that to produce a dwarf bamboo, the leafsheaths which cover the growing culm should be progressively removed. I tried applying the technique, but I failed. I guess I was then too impatient because I stopped experimenting.
Then came the unexpected bonus. I happened to pass by a homelot with a hedge of dwarf buddha’s belly in front. A few days later, I went back to the lot and bought some offsets.
So how do we make an otherwise tall buddha belly dwarf?
Just remove the spearleaf from the shoot once it reaches a height to your liking. Do this regularly. The spear leaf is the tipmost, unopened leaf of the plant.
Tighten your fingers on the spearleaf, then pull upward. I shouldn't be worried, the plant will not die. If it does, it’s for another reason. Instead, it will promote the growth of branches.
But of course, you have to start from a clonal seedling, preferably propagated from a branch cutting or from a marcotted branch.
To grow as bonsai, plant in a suitable pot or container and provide with the necessary bonsai plant care.