Sheath senescence is an important part of bamboo shoot development during the fast growth stage. However, no information has been reported about this distinctive process until now. Using multiple approaches, we found that sheath senescence is a complex process that occurs sequentially with chloroplast corruption, chlorophyll degradation, and water loss. Reactive oxygen species (ROS), salicylic acid, and abscisic acid also accumulate in the senescing sheath. Transcriptome analysis showed that NAC and WRKY transcription factors, such as NAC2 and WRKY75, as well as their possible downstream target genes, such as those involved in ROS production, proteolysis, and nutrition recycling, constitute the gene network of the bamboo sheath senescence process. Furthermore, the initiation of sheath senescence might be triggered by hexokinase genes, such as HXK6, which is localized to the mitochondrion and could promote leaf senescence when overexpressed in Arabidopsis. Sheath senescence occurs after the growth decrease of the internodes, which provides assimilates. The slowing of internode growth possibly results in sugar accumulation, such as glucose, in the sheath, which finally upregulates hexokinase genes and initiates sheath senescence. These findings reveal that sheath senescence is a multilevel regulation process and has a close link to the corresponding internode growth, which provides new insights into the shoot development of bamboo during the fast growth stage.© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.