4 things to know before planting bamboo in your garden

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Did you know that bamboo is the fastest-growing plant on earth? Some species can grow as much as one metre within 24 hours!

Bamboo can be a spectacular addition to any garden. It provides height, drama and colour and is easy to grow. But be warned, it can be very hard to remove once it has been planted.

There are more than 1000 species of bamboo with canes that come in a spectrum of greens as well as yellow, black and blue. There are two main types: clump forming and running. Depending on the species and type, height can range dramatically from 30cm to 5 metres.

This decorative plant is popular with homeowners looking for a privacy screen, windbreak, or natural fencing. However, there are a few really important factors everyone should consider before planting bamboo. In some cases, bamboo can prove to be far more hassle than it is worth. Make sure to do your homework before introducing any bamboo into your garden.

1. Bamboo can spread aggressively into neighbouring properties

Bamboo can spread aggressively. In one growing season it can quickly take over vast areas if no controls are in place. Running bamboo in particular does not respect boundaries or property lines so beware of it extending outside of your garden.

It grows particularly well if it's planted near lawns or borders with an irrigation system. Instead of simply offering some privacy and attractive décor you could find yourself grappling with an uncontrollable menace.

Some bamboo species can even be categorised as noxious weeds, meaning your neighbour could legally force you to remove your bamboo. You could also be liable for the cost of any damage to the neighbour’s property caused by your bamboo.

2. Bamboo can be an invasive threat to biodiversity.

Bamboo that spreads and escapes from your property could cause serious ecological problems. This plant commonly chokes native plants due to its extensive root network and tendency to block out the sun for ground-level plants.

Containing the spread of bamboo can be expensive and complicated so think carefully before committing to introducing this into your garden. Even if you strictly follow containment guidelines, there is a risk of spread.

Clump forming bamboo can be managed with relative ease with regular pruning and close monitoring. Running bamboo, on the other hand, is another story. Root barriers and chemical treatments are essential to contain this kind of bamboo. A sub-surface barrier should prevent shallow bamboo rhizomes from spreading but you should closely monitor the area for escaping shoots, particularly during the early summer peak growing season.

3. Getting rid of bamboo can take years.

Bamboo is a long-term commitment that you should carefully consider.

It can take years and vigorous effort to remove unwanted bamboo. The first step in the process is to remove all the root mass and rhizomes. This is easier said than done. It can sometimes seem that no matter how much you dig, the shoots keep coming back. Frequent mowing can deplete and starve the bamboo, but it takes at least two years of regular mowing to see any results.

Spraying bamboo with herbicides is often necessary. For this to work you must mow or chop the bamboo and let it regrow. When the new leaves have expanded you can spray them with the chemicals. It can take years of chopping and spraying to reach the desired outcome. For expert help in removing bamboo, hire a professional landscaper.

4. The right bamboo can be hard to find.

Bamboo’s supporters will argue that not all species of bamboo are invasive. They recommend clumping bamboo species rather than spreading types. The problem is that even clumping species spread, albeit not as vigorously.

Bamboo may seem like an attractive garden option, but it poses serious problems. Stick to bamboo in pots or, if you are not prepared to put in the work required to manage it, you should avoid growing it all together.