A popular choice for boundaries and an easy way to add privacy to your garden, bamboo can generally be left to do its thing. That's if it's not a 'running' variety planted directly into the ground – as one family has learned the hard way.
Experts have issued a warning about how to grow bamboo after homeowners in Hampshire, UK, were left with £100,000 of repairs when their neighbor's bamboo took over their home.
‘It’s unfortunate that bamboo is still sold at garden centers and plant nurseries around the country with little warning about the risks,' says Nic Seal, founder, and MD of Environet UK. He describes this particular infestation as the worst he has ever seen in the UK.
'It would be a good deal less popular if people realized that within a few years they could be dealing with an extensive infestation that can spread across boundaries into neighboring properties, resulting in legal disputes and serious damage to homes which can be extremely costly to repair.’
In this instance, the bamboo spread laterally and grew up through the concrete floor of the property, entering the living room, kitchen, hallway, and study. Nic explains that once it’s on the run, the only way to deal with bamboo decisively is to excavate the root ball and dig every long rhizome (subterranean plant stem) out of the ground.
'I would urge anyone considering planting bamboo to think twice,' Nic says. A trade body representing invasive weed control contractors and consultants has also been calling for bamboo to be added to Schedule 9 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act to enable effective regulation.
If you already have running bamboo growing in your garden as one of your garden privacy ideas, ensure it's properly contained in a pot. When buying bamboo, make sure it's the 'clumping' variety rather than 'running,' and remember to prune it regularly and thoroughly.
The hardy plant has much to offer your garden design ideas, even blocking out traffic noise. It just needs to be kept in check.
If not, it can wreak havoc similar to that of Japanese knotweed and potentially cost thousands to remove.
Keeping bamboo growth in check
If you’re set on growing bamboo, planting it in a suitable container can be a good option as the pot will help to contain the root system and restrict the plant's growth. Opt for a material such as metal or fiberstone that will be strong enough to contain the roots and prevent the pot from splitting.
A zinc planter, like the tall trough from Primrose UK (opens in new tab), has the necessary built-in drainage holes and will give your bamboo a modern look. Alternatively, an on-trend Corten steel planter, available from Amazon (opens in new tab), will give you plenty of strength while the color will create a striking backdrop for your plant.
You can also keep bamboo growth in check by trimming the roots regularly (a set of the best secateurs will come in handy for this) and dividing the plant. If you don’t do this, the roots can spread rapidly and crack the pot.
Millie Hurst has worked in digital journalism for five years, having previously worked as a Senior SEO Editor at News UK both in London and New York. She joined the Future team in early 2021, working across several brands, including Gardeningetc. Now, she is Senior Content Editor at Ideal Home, taking care of evergreen articles aimed at inspiring people to make the most of their homes and outdoor spaces.