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How to Install Bamboo Properly

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Learning how to install bamboo properly can make all the difference.

Learning how to install bamboo barrier properly can mean a gardening dream-come-true. Not installing it carefully can result in a garden maintenance nightmare. And even if you do install it “properly” it can still become problematic. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

Bamboo works well in many garden settings.

When this plant is carefully selected and properly planted, bamboo can be a wonderful garden plant.

In some situations, Bamboo can be a favorite choices for instant screening in the garden. Plus, this plant is readily available in many shapes and sizes. Too, it is available in forms that clump and forms that run.

  • Bamboo will grow in many different soils and exposures. As well, it is usually evergreen. Plus, Wildlife loves it. And Bamboo rustles in the breeze adding distraction from noise pollution. Moreover, it’s just plain beautiful.
bamboo installed with barrier in garden

Contained Bamboo within a Beautiful Planting Bed

But, let’s face it. This stuff can be invasive.

I’ve been invited to consult in gardens where bamboo had not only left the bed it was meant to live in, but it had invaded the root systems of a massive Western Red Cedar. And, it had spread further to grow over and around every brick in a patio. Plus, it insinuated itself into a cement house foundation and busted through the asphalt of a nearby street.

Improperly planted and left to its own devices, this stuff can become a nightmare. But, with a little prep work and proper long-term care, bamboo becomes a fantastic addition to the garden.

Here are some tips for installing bamboo.

If you do plan to install bamboo in your garden, start by having a conversation with the nursery owner where you procure your plants. This is important because there may be some additional caveats to go along with installing your particular bamboo in your particular location.

For instance, in some areas bamboo plantings or unconstrained bamboo plantings are flat-out illegal. So if that’s the case, find something else to plant.

If you do decide to install bamboo, consider taking the following steps to help you keep your bamboo in check.

Do you want a clumper or a spreader?

Determine if your bamboo is a clumper or a spreader. And then assume it is a spreader no matter what. I’ve had clients insist they put in a clumper because it didn’t need to be barriered. But in the end, they  find out it traveled into their garden anyway. So, always plan for the most invasive potential!

Don’t skimp on the barrier!

Don’t assume that burying bamboo in a pot in the ground is going to keep it contained. For instance, when bamboo is installed in wooden containers like wine barrels, they can escape. That’s because wood eventually decomposes. And it’ll escape plastic tubs submerged in the soil. So know bamboo can bust through flimsy plastics. Then it can travel downward several inches to escape through drain holes. Plus, it can eat away at wooden materials or cracks. That way it can free itself of any constraints you tried to impose on it.

paint out your planting bed to start

White Paint for the Bamboo Area

So what kind of barrier works with bamboo?

Instead of using a pot or flimsy plastics, most quality bamboo suppliers sell rolls of thick plastic sheeting. And it is anywhere from 24″ to 36″ deep. As well, itt can be cut to any length for lining your planting bed. Usually, this material is sold by the linear foot. And you’ll need something to seal it tight.

How to plant your bamboo & bamboo barrier:

Overlapped bamboo barrier & bolting system

Overlapped barrier & bolting system

  • Determine how much barrier you need: Begin by painting out the area where you plan to install the bamboo. And, keep in mind that you’ll need the hole to be wide and long enough to get the bamboo out of the pot and into the ground. Less than 2′ wide is generally going to be too tight. Then measure the area. This will tell you the length of barrier you’ll need. But, be sure buy a length longer than your exact planting now. Adding on a extra feet helps ensure you’ll have plenty of material to overlap.
  • How to seal the barrier:
    Some recommend using thick two-sided tape to seal the barrier material. But, this won’t work. Instead, the bamboo bust through tape eventually. Other suppliers offer two thin pieces of metal and a matching bolt and screw system designed for this job. As shown in the photo here, the material is overlapped and then the bolting system is installed to tightly complete the barrier loop.

Traveling roots and trenching tips:

  • How deep do I dig and use the barrier:Depending on the type of bamboo you plan to install, you will want to dig a trench to meet its needs. Again, talk to your bamboo supplier to find out how deep you’ll need to dig and which depth of barrier material to install for your bamboo.
  • Some bamboos can travel more deeply underground and therefore require a deeper barrier material.
    Some bamboos are stronger than others and may require a thicker barrier materials than others. Once you have your barrier material in hand, you can use it to measure the depth of your bamboo hole or trench.
  • Tips on digging your trench: Over the years I’ve found that digging the outer perimeter, which I line with barrier, and leaving the inner soil nearly intact is easier than digging everything out of a long trench. I tamp the middle of the trench hole to help compact it, which may deter the bamboo from traveling downward initially. If it travels outward where it hits the bamboo barrier, it will send up new shoots more rapidly.

Bamboo barrier isn’t the prettiest stuff…

  • The top of the barrier material should remain exposed above the soil about 4″ to ensure that the bamboo rhizomes don’t hop over it and escape!
  • The barrier I left above ground is ugly: Yes, exposed bamboo barrier is unsightly. But, if you don’t leave it exposed, your bamboo will escape and your efforts will have been wasted. I always leave a nice planting border around a bamboo barrier so I can install evergreen plants to eventually hide the barrier. Since it does take time for plants to mature and completely hide an ugly barrier, I use garden artwork like the willow fence and bamboo fencing shown here. Stone also makes a nice barrier to hide the ugly plastic.

It is critical that you monitor your bamboo regularly.

Even if you plant bamboo with a barrier, it is critical that you check to see if any rhizomes have escaped. That’s because they probably will escape, especially if you’ve planted a running bamboo.

If your bamboo does break through the barrier.

If, or maybe we should say when your bamboo busts through the barrier, you’ll probably need to remove everything and start over. And, that can be quite a difficult job. So, part of learning how to install bamboo is being prepared for on-going maintenance. Learn about how to remove escaped bamboo here.

4 comments on “How to Install Bamboo Properly

  1. Sally on

    This is a great article to keep, thank you for the help!!
    I ordered both types, clumping and the ‘all-over-the-place-eventually’, from an online site out in Oregon.
    After 5 years in the Midwest, it’s the latter…even the clumpers trailed off into the yard! The ‘running’ was right at the above- ground pool liner when hubby discovered it this spring! Great save there, honey:)
    He shoveled a ways to pull it up and section if for replanting…like THAT is a great idea:( Gave some away, with the usual ‘warning’ and hope for the best. Thank goodness it travels slowly here, but they told me on the phone upon ordering to ‘mow it off’ as he mows! That wasn’t the best advice, we find.
    Wish I could put a couple pics on here for you to laugh WITH us:)

  2. Sondra on

    I have a neighbor that didn’t contain their bamboo. They refused to fix it, so I buried a 36 inch deep x 24 foot underground barrier with DeepRoot barrier. Some of the Rhizomes have hit the barrier and gone down. Will the roots be able to continue to grow UNDER my barrier fence?

  3. Garden Mentors on

    Sondra, I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve got a bamboo invasion to try to manage. I’m not familiar with the specific root barrier you’ve mentioned. It may take time to figure out whether the bamboo will travel over or not. Some varieties are more aggressive than others. Some can travel more deeply than others. Too, if the barrier doesn’t encircle all of the rhizomes, it is possible that when they hit the barrier they will travel along it until they find the point where the barrier ends. Then, the bamboo may travel around that end. Best of luck!

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