Bamboo has a reputation for spreading everywhere! But it can create a beautiful privacy screen, once you learn how to contain bamboo properly.
I've dreamed of creating a serene Japanese-style garden in our backyard, with a small grove of bamboo to hide our boring fence and drape over a small pond.
But bamboo has a bad reputation for growing out of control, and I was concerned that it would take over! I recently cleaned up this garden bed so I could start with a blank slate, and I don't want to do it again!
Luckily, if you select the right bamboo and prepare your planting area properly, you can create a beautiful bamboo privacy screen without making enemies of your neighbors or choking out your other plants.
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Choose non-invasive bamboo
There are two types of bamboo, clumping and running. Both types grow new shoots, called culms, but their root structures are very different.
Running bamboo sends out rhizomes that can pop up many feet away, causing it to spread quickly. Clumping bamboo forms in tightly packed groups and doesn't spread more than a few inches a year. Clumping bamboo = non invasive bamboo.
Fargesia robusta and Fargesia Rufa are the most common varieties of non invasive clumping bamboo. They're both cold tolerant and grow to a reasonable size for a backyard garden.
When purchasing bamboo for your garden, check your local nursery, or purchase it online from reputable sellers. They'll know their bamboo better than anyone, and can tell you what will work best for your space.
How to Stop Bamboo from Spreading
If you didn't buy a clumping bamboo, or you bought a house that already had bamboo running wild in the backyard, there's still hope!
Bamboo is a grass, and like the grass in your lawn, it spreads by putting out new rhizomes in any available space nearby. Have you ever had a clump of grass appear on the wrong side of your garden edging? If your border isn't buried deep enough, the grass will just send a rhizome to set up camp on the other side. Think of bamboo the same way.
Create a barrier
The spot in our garden where I plan to plant bamboo is bordered by concrete on two sides (a retaining wall and a walkway), which makes creating a proper barrier easier.
If you don't have a solid border like concrete nearby, you can dig a deep trench and install a very thick plastic barrier material such as Bamboo Shield underneath and along the sides to help the bamboo stay in check.
If you have your heart set on running bamboo, this is the method you would use to keep it contained in the landscape. But even with these precaution in place, you still need to keep an eye out for those sneaky ones that escape! Cut the stragglers off underground before they get out of hand.
Use a raised bed
You can opt to grow your bamboo in a raised bed to control their spread. Bamboo roots typically don't go down further than 20", but you'll need an extra tall bed to prevent the rhizomes from popping up elsewhere.
This raised planter kit allows you to stack two kits together to form a raised bed that is almost 2 feet tall! That should be deep enough to prevent any pesky rhizomes from escaping.
There are also metal raised beds like the ones below. If you opt for shallower beds, make sure to add a layer of thick barrier plastic at the bottom to prevent running bamboo from spreading.
Grow bamboo in a pot
Planting bamboo in a pot is the perfect solution for a deck or patio that needs a little privacy. Just be sure to thin out the older culms to make way for new growth, and switch to a bigger pot when the root ball gets too large.
Even clumping bamboo will eventually grow beyond where you want it to go. By thinning the clump and removing any rhizomes that have strayed too far, you can keep your bamboo privacy screen from turning into a whole forest.
Tools such as this serrated spade can help to cut the roots and divide a clump that has gotten too big. The video below shows you how to thin your clumping bamboo to weed out the older or weaker canes.
If you notice new shoots popping up where you don't want them, dig them up quickly before they get too big. Look for pointy sprouts like the ones below, and sever the rhizome close to the mother plant. You can even pop them in a pot or another part of the garden!
Don't be afraid to plant this beautiful grass in your garden! Now that you know how to contain bamboo, you can plant it anywhere with confidence!