Worldwide, coral reefs are degrading due to increasing anthropogenic pressures. Yet, management of reefs still falls short of effectively addressing these threats, and active restoration methods are increasingly being called for. Coral transplantation is frequently advocated as a possible means of coral reef rehabilitation. Fragments produced in coral nurseries or farms have been proposed as a potential source for transplantation, and culture media (inexpensive but non-durable materials such as wood or bamboo) may serve as transplantation substrate if placed directly in the reef. However, the performance of coral transplants attached to such substrates has not been examined yet. Here, the long-term survival of transplants attached to bamboo substrates is reported. A total of 6,164 fragments of 4 coral species (Acroporids and Pocilloporids) were monitored for up to 20 months at three sites in North Sulawesi/Indonesia. Bamboo failed as a suitable inexpensive substrate in at least two of the three sites examined. Mortality of transplants 2 years after transplantation was high in three of the four species (67–95%) and was partially linked to substrate disintegration. The results show that, in places were currents or waves threaten to dislocate transplants, a higher effort needs to be directed at a strong and durable attachment of transplanted corals.