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You'll Regret It: Bamboo

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Running Bamboo: Destroying Relationships Between Neighbors Since…well, since the first person figured out that the height, thickness, and quick-spreading nature of bamboo made it a great privacy fence. Unfortunately, without taking precautions and regular maintenance measures, along a fence line, property edge, or deck isn’t where it is likely to stay. If planted along a property edge, it probably isn’t even going to stay within the limits of your property.

The two main types of bamboo grown ornamentally are clumping and running bamboo. If either are allowed to grow untamed, they are equally hard to destroy; however, running bamboo is the true villain. Clumping bamboo grows exactly the way you’d think—in a big clump. This means it stays in a relatively small area. On the other hand, running bamboo, as you could also guess from the name, will accept the place you’ve given it and will proceed to run with it (and quickly). This is because running bamboo reproduces via rhizomes that creep along underground and send up new shoots. That’s why bamboo can be so hard to kill completely—you’d have to dig up and eliminate every part of the rhizome, and while the rhizome might be relatively shallow, roots can go down quite deep. Because of this growth method, running bamboo is capable of spreading several feet every year when in ideal conditions. This is frustrating news for the family that might share your fence.

It isn’t impossible to plant bamboo and not lose control of the situation, but it takes dedication. If you’re planting bamboo simply for the look, stick to clumping varieties that stay in a particular area and take longer to reproduce (though, remember, when left to run wild, it will be just as hard to remove as running varieties). It you already have running bamboo on your property or have your heart set on planting a running variety, you will need to control it. Landscaping and bamboo specialists offer underground root barrier systems to control the reach of rhizomes. If you are not using a barrier (or in conjunction with the use of a barrier), you will need to prune the rhizome regularly. To create easy access to the rhizome, experts recommend creating a trench around the bamboo planting. As rhizomes try to bridge the gap to the rest of your yard, you will be able to prune the rhizome back easily. If you don’t want a trench in your yard, it can be filled with mulch, sand, or a similarly loose material that can be turned up easily to expose rhizomes. Young unwanted shoots can be cut, mowed, or kicked over to terminate growth of an individual cane.

Eradication, like with ivy, will be physically taxing. Attempts to destroy the bamboo with herbicides will likely fail as they won’t kill the rhizome. Digging up huge chunks of bamboo will require very strong tools to split and remove it, not to mention a very strong person. Also like ivy, if fragments are left in the soil, you can expect to see new shoots next season. These shoots will have to be cut or kicked over immediately to kill the root (which can take years), or you will need to go through the digging process all over again.

Photos:

François Obada / CC-BY 2.5