You must have heard that bamboo is very invasive and that it can damage properties planted close to it. Are you now wondering if you should carry on with planting bamboo or get rid of the bamboo in your garden? Let’s find out!
When left unchecked, bamboo can grow into buildings through cracks and holes. Bamboo rhizomes can send up shoots and invade a building and finally cause damage to properties. However, bamboo will not damage solid concrete due to its strength. But there’s one thing most people don’t understand: Not all bamboo does this!
Only the running types of bamboo species do this. They are invasive in their growing behavior. But they are really pretty! You might fall in love with them and decide to plant them. In this article, I’ll show you how to stop them from spreading.
First, how does bamboo grow?
In spring, bamboo plants produce new culms. These culms appear and grow both in diameter and height for about 60 days (this may vary for some species). Within this time, they bring forth leaves.
After then the bamboo culm would never grow in diameter and height again. Although bamboo does not experience secondary growth, it puts up new foliage yearly.
Now, you should know that bamboo is a member of the grass family. So it’ll usually produce more plants and expand its roots structure. However, bamboo takes around three years to get established.
New shoots emerge in spring and will continue to grow. Depending on the species, they will reach their maximum size in various time periods.
However, some factors can determine how fast a bamboo plant will grow. These factors include soil quality, sunlight, climate, and water conditions.
Now, you must have known that there are two types of bamboo plants: clumping and running. The way they grow is slightly different, I’ll tell you what I mean!
Clumping bamboo grows in large clumps of culms. The shoots of this type of bamboo would go straight up from where you initially plant it.
Normally, clumping bamboo would only expand a few inches around the primary root yearly. So the rhizomes stick to a spot and you won’t have to worry much about spreading.
On the other hand, running bamboo spreads quickly through far traveling rhizomes. These give rise to new shoots across a very long distance.
Its root can travel as far as 100 feet (30 m)! So you see, the rhizomes of running bamboo expand quickly and this makes the plant invasive. Most people have complained about how bamboo destroyed their concrete and building, but let’s find out how bamboo does this.
How does bamboo destroy concrete and buildings?
The running bamboo destructs structures by finding openings. Generally, bamboo rhizomes stay 1 foot below the surface, except they have no space to grow. They can wriggle their way between roof shingles. And yes, bamboo can also grow into buildings through pipes, such as heating ducts.
Bamboo rhizomes can send up shoots through cracks in patios. Even driveways are not safe, the bamboo plant can buckle them as the rhizomes spread underneath.
In a building with a weak foundation or cracks, the bamboo rhizome would get into the crack and begin to grow thicker there. Eventually, they’ll cause problems and damage the building.
Planting bamboo close to your building can become a nightmare. It can damage the foundation of your house, especially if it is made of bricks. On the other hand, bamboo will not easily damage intact concrete due to its sturdiness and density. It can destroy wooden structures and asphalt, though.
This doesn’t have to happen, though. Don’t get me wrong that bamboo ALWAYS does this. Bamboo rhizomes travel in search of water. Granted, if they can travel. If they are not maintained and they are thirsty, they might take over your pool or pond.
How to prevent bamboo from damaging your property?
All these horrible scenarios may have turned you away. Well, I hope you stick with me a little longer to learn how to prevent bamboo damages to your property.
In fact, these scenarios are the worst cases. If you maintain your runners and take precautions, you won’t have these issues at all. Another way is planting clumping bamboo. They are the safe choice for people who don’t want a plant that needs much attention.
Before I tell you what precautions you should take and maintenance work you’ll have with running bamboo, let’s have a look at some invasive but beautiful bamboo species.
What running bamboo species can ruin concrete and buildings?
Here, I’ve listed out some of the most invasive bamboo plants. They spread out quickly so if you have to plant them you must have a method of controlling them.
Phyllostachys aurea ‘Golden Bamboo’
- Average height: 27-35 ft (8-11 m)
- Average diameter: 1.5-2 inches (4-5 cm)
- Hardiness: 5°F (-15°C)
- USDA zones: 6-10
Golden Bamboo is probably the most invasive species in the USA. In fact, it is even prohibited in many areas. It can invade a large field and might prevent other plants from growing in the area.
However, Phyllostachys aurea is very great for screening and visual barriers. The beautiful canes are usually green but turn yellow in the presence of sunlight. People love the looks of this species and as long as you keep up with the maintenance you shouldn’t have any issues.
Phyllostachys nigra ‘Black Bamboo’
- Average height: 20-35 feet (6-11 m)
- Average diameter: 2.25 inches (6 cm)
- Hardiness: 5°F (-15°C)
- USDA zones: 7 to 10
Black Bamboo is a unique plant native to Taiwan and China. New canes come out green and turn ebony black within years of exposure to sunlight.
Phyllostachys bambusoides ‘Tanakae’
- Average height: 45 feet (13 m)
- Average diameter: 3 in (7 cm)
- Hardiness: -3°F (-19°C)
- USDA zones: 6b to 11
This bamboo has a stunning look that makes it different from other bamboo species. It’s got green culms with brown and purple spots. These spots come out when they become mature and they are the reason why the plant is known as Leopard Bamboo. Tanakae is a rare but very ornamental species.
Hibanobambusa tranquillans ‘Shiroshima’
- Average height: 6-16 ft (2-5 m)
- Average diameter: 0.75 in (2 cm)
- Hardiness: -5°F (-18°C)
- USDA zones: 6a-9
Shiroshima has gorgeous leaves and it is one of the tallest growing bamboos. Some of the leaves appear cream-colored with green stripes. The leaves also turn pink when exposed to sunlight.
However, Shiroshima is an aggressive bamboo plant. It can grow in almost any lighting conditions, both indoors or outdoors. It creates large privacy screens quickly.
- Average height: 5 feet (1.5 m)
- Average diameter: 5 in (12.7 cm)
- Hardiness: 5°F (-15°C)
- USDA zones: 7-10
This is an outstanding bamboo. New leaves emerge green and get a frosted margin during the fall. It is considered a shrub bamboo which is native to Japan. It is used for bamboo leaf tea.
Its winter foliage is undoubtedly beautiful. Kuma-Zasa Bamboo grows to a height of 5 feet at maturity. As an understory plant, it does very well in a partly shaded area. It can handle a lot of moisture.
How to stop the spread of bamboo?
You can use different methods to avoid the invasive spread of your bamboo plant. I’ll mention a few methods below but we also have a full article on stopping the spread of running bamboo.
Bamboo root barrier
This is a step you should always take. A root barrier will help you immensely with the rhizomes. It is the best way to control the running bamboo variety.
There are two types of root barriers you can use: you could use the open-sided barrier and the fully enclosed barrier. I would always recommend the open-sided barrier because you want a healthy plant. You can’t just think that bamboo will stop growing when it’s confined.
It will still spread. Having an open side gives bamboo room. On this side, you have to use one of the methods below in order to maintain the invasion.
Note: Regularly checking the root barrier is important too! It may have shifted or has a crack, and then it won’t help you anymore.
Aborting new shoots
This is an easy way to control bamboo spread. In this case, you’ll have to eliminate fresh shoots. New shoots grow once a year in spring and you can easily remove them once they’ve gotten to 6-12 inches tall.
Actually, new shoots possess high water content and this promotes the rapid growth of bamboo in its first 60 days. During this time, you can easily abort the new canes and they’ll never grow again at this particular spot.
To abort new shoots, you have to identify the unwanted shoots first. The shoots that emerge outside your desired growth area. New shoots are very fragile. You can get them away with one swift kick or by using a swing blade.
Once you’ve gotten rid of the new shoots, you can rest till the next spring. You should also know that there are late shooters. However, the majority will shoot in spring.
While aborting shoots helps maintaining a certain area, you haven’t entirely solved the issue. Root pruning should be exercised as well.
You can stop the spread of bamboo by cutting the underground roots – rhizomes. Root pruning is a good method to use when bamboo has been planted close to the property. This method would prevent rhizomes from traveling into undesired areas. Then these can’t produce new canes which would stop the spread.
Cutting roots can be done with a sharp spade, you only have to dig into the soil and eliminate the stubborn rhizomes. You can remove them about 2 feet away from the main plant. You can do this twice a year to keep the bamboo in check.