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Experts issue urgent warning to homeowners looking to add ‘invasive’ bamboo to their gardens

 Bamboo in planter next to chair and firepit.
Bamboo in planter next to chair and firepit.

In recent years, the popularity of bamboo has grown exponentially. But that’s not the only thing that’s grown, as experts are now warning homeowners of the risks associated with this popular plant.

As one of the fastest-growing plants in the world, bamboo is typically praised for its ability to serve as a garden screening idea. It can be trained to hide an ugly fence, and it’s one of the fastest-growing privacy trees you can buy to block out your neighbours. However, growing bamboo isn’t as zen as it may seem.

Experts are warning homeowners to understand how fast bamboo really grows, as this ‘invasive’ plant can quickly overwhelm your space and cause chaos and destruction in your garden.

Invasive bamboo warning

Although bamboo is incredibly easy to grow in most soil types, this popular plant isn’t all it's cracked up to be.

Steve Chilton, garden expert at LeisureBench, explains, ‘Certain types of bamboo are highly invasive, with wide, deep roots that can take over a garden. Running bamboo is generally more invasive than clumping bamboo, although any bamboo can be invasive if not properly looked after and cared for; it's just easier for some than others.’

Bamboo surrounding hot tub
Bamboo surrounding hot tub

In fact, bamboo can quickly grow out of control and invade your whole property if you don’t intervene - and one couple found this out for themselves when bamboo invaded their home and left them with a hefty £100,000 repair bill.

This is the case for the bamboo varieties that spread by underground stems called rhizomes, which can often grow out as far as 30ft from the main plant, creating new shoots in new (and often unplanned) areas of your garden.

However, there is still a fairly distinct difference between running bamboo and clumping bamboo. While both will spread across your garden, clumping bamboo tends to ‘clump’ together and stick within its territory. As you can tell by the name, running bamboo doesn’t follow the same rules. It’ll grow horizontally from ‘runs’ off the main plants quickly and unpredictably.

To make matters worse, bamboo is so strong and hardy that nothing will stop its path. Craig Morley, a gardening expert from Budget Seeds says, ‘If bamboo is left to grow unchecked, it can become invasive and spread beyond the boundaries of your garden, especially running varieties.’

garden with moveable planter with bamboo, chair on the right, painted fence
garden with moveable planter with bamboo, chair on the right, painted fence

How to avoid bamboo damage

‘They are capable of appearing in many places where you may think you have a sufficient barrier, such as a patio or conservatory floor, and some weed suppressing fabrics are also unable to stop the spread of bamboo.'

As a result, your plants may suffer, nearby structures could disintegrate, and you’ll be left with a bamboo forest garden. To prevent this, most experts suggest adding bamboo to a container garden instead of planting in-ground. You should also add a bamboo-specific root-barrier - like this Todds Bamboo Root Barrier from Amazon - to keep the roots contained in the pot.

If you can, you should also choose clumping bamboo rather than running bamboo. More specifically, Steve says, ‘Bamboo to avoid in the garden includes: golden bamboo, black bamboo, red margin bamboo, yellow groove bamboo, and arrow bamboo. These can be particularly fast-growing and will be difficult to contain and keep under control once they spread.’

Bamboo in planter next to chair and firepit
Bamboo in planter next to chair and firepit

How to control planted bamboo

But what happens if you’ve already planted bamboo in your garden and are worried it’ll take over your precious flowerbeds? Well, there are two things you can do.

‘I recommend regular pruning of your bamboo,’ says Steve. ‘Don't go for extended periods of time without pruning it, as this could encourage it to grow out of control. Prune before new growth begins and as soon as you notice any shoots that are too long or wild.’

And if you notice your bamboo plant starts popping up all over the place, you may need to work up a sweat to get rid of it. Craig explains, ‘You can try to restrict the size of a bamboo plant by digging out some of the clumps, but this may be difficult if you have larger plants or heavier soil.’

‘Using a sharp spade, dig up the whole clump or remove sections from the edge that have grown beyond any limits. You should sever the rhizomes of the plant as you go and lift and remove these with a garden fork or trowel.’

However, this task can be incredibly difficult - so it’s best to do your research and grow bamboo responsibly to avoid this invasive plant from taking over.

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