Help! Invading Bamboo!

It looks cute, but this thing could take over your yard and your neighbor's yard.

It looks cute, but this thing could take over your yard and your neighbor’s yard.

Question: Could you post an article on the responsible way to plant bamboo? Proper selection and planting could help neighbors retain friendship as well as money. My neighbor’s bamboo invaded my landscape, costing us a few thousand dollars and a huge headache. Thank you, Riley E.

P.S. Thanks for the previous post on horsetail. I just had my $5 initial investment removed for $300!

Answer: From landscape designer and TV outdoor living expert Pamela Berstler, co-owner of Flower to the People in Los Angeles:

You have two main choices when selecting bamboo for a landscape: clumping bamboo or running bamboo. In general, the clumping types are native to tropical climates, and the running types are native to areas that get cold winters. Clumping bamboos will create ever-widening circles (yes, clumps), and may, over time, require re-introduction of plant material into the middle of the circle.

Running bamboos spread out horizontally, in an almost straight line; hence the name “running.”

Clumping bamboos are relatively easy to keep in check. When new shoots appear, they can be removed using a sharp spade or tree saw.

But running bamboos are very difficult to keep in check if not planted right. It is best to install running bamboos with a solid root barrier at least 30 inches deep that defines the area within which the bamboo can “run.” The barrier can be 30 millimeter or thicker plastic with UV protection, or poured concrete. Again, it just has to be deep beneath the grade, and we recommend bringing it above the grade at least 4 inches. Some of the more aggressive running bamboos can “jump” the barrier, so stay on the lookout for escapees.

One way to keep all types of bamboo in check is to reduce the irrigation provided them. Bamboo should be watered infrequently and deeply. Since bamboo is a grass, it will store a lot of water in its stalk; reducing the supplemental water will slow down the growth rate. If you border a bamboo area with completely compacted, dry soil, and you follow the reduced irrigation method, even running bamboos may be held in check. But, and this gets directly to the question posed here, they may run to a neighbor’s yard, if there’s a lot of irrigation going on within 15 feet to 20 feet of the bamboo planter area.

More instructions for controlling and removing running bamboo are available from George Shor of the Southern California Chapter of the American Bamboo Society.

2 Comments on Help! Invading Bamboo!

  1. riley

    Bamboo neighbors can face $5000 in small claims court to remove bamboo and rehab an adjacent yard. The court views it as trespassing.
    The barrier cost under $2 a linear foot — Prevention can save a pretty penny.
    Hope everyone considering bamboo plants it responsibly. The American Bamboo Society has great info.

  2. Manitou

    Also some running bamboo are easier to control than others. Black Bamboo is one of the least aggressive running bamboo and looks great. I’ve maintained it for other people and I’m planting it this weekend!