Each year invasive bamboo species cause thousands of dollars of damage in North America. The most invasive species of this ornamental grass fall into the category known as “running bamboo.” A more benign kind of bamboo, which does not spread, is called “clumping bamboo.”
Running Bamboo Vs. Clumping Bamboo
There are literally hundreds of species of bamboo in the world, however most of it falls into one of two categories, clumping bamboo or running bamboo. Tropical, clumping species grows in tight clusters and tends not to send out long rhizomes are runners into your yard. Clumping bamboo is almost always the better choice if you live in an area with a temperate climate. If however, you live in an area which experiences cold weather in the winter, you may have a hard time growing clumping varieties. Clumping types of the plant will only grow well in warm climates. Running bamboo is much more hardy than clumping bamboo and grows in most places in North America. Because it grows in a wide variety of climates and is typically heartier, running bamboo is the kind most usually sold in nurseries. Below is a photo of the plant beginning to invade a yard.
How To Prevent Running Bamboo From Taking Over Your Yard
The fact that running bamboo can be invasive does not mean that you cannot plant it in your yard. Many species of running bamboo make excellent landscaping plants which can provide shade and privacy for urban yards. If you're going to plant any species of bamboo that sends out rhizomes you will need to contain it using a plastic or metal border.
To contain running bamboo simply bury some kind of thick plastic or metal material around the edge of the planter. This will prevent rhizomes from leaving the planter and entering your yard. If you already have bamboo invading your yard you will need to act quickly to contain it. Start by digging a trench around the main area where you want to contain the bamboo and insert a plastic or metal barrier is deep into the ground as you can bury it.
Next you will need to pull up any rhizomes that you can reach and dig out those that you cannot reach. When new bamboo shoots emerge, treat them with Roundup herbicide applied with a painters glove. keep applying herbicide as each new shoot pops up. This process may take many months or even years to be effective. You can prevent a bamboo invasion in the first place, which is much more desirable than dealing with the situation after it is out of control.
If you have neighbors nearby and your bamboo is invading their property you are liable for containing it. There have been many lawsuits in the US and Canada where neighbors have successfully sued homeowners for damages and the cost of bamboo removal. You don't want this to happen, therefore it is essential that you use preventive measures to keep your plants from invading your neighbor's yard.