Lots of people are planting bamboo and if you’re interested in doing this yourself, you should first learn the difference between clumping and running bamboo.
Running bamboo has runners that grow horizontally just like grass does. The runners or roots of clumping bamboo grow practically vertically. Because of this, clumping bamboo needs to be contained.
Clumping bamboo does need a barrier to prevent it from taking over. While it does stay more contained compared to running bamboo it can keep expanding in size.
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Six Ways to Contain Clumping Bamboo
Here are 6 easy ways to contain clumping bamboo plants.
1. Install Subsurface Barriers
Bamboo isn’t actually a tree but is a grass instead. Most subsurface barriers are made out of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) materials and installed a full 18 inches below the ground.
Keep in mind that this depth is sufficient because clumping bamboo roots do not go very deep.
Always bury it around the perimeter of the area you’re trying to protect, but make sure you don’t leave any holes in it because otherwise, it’s possible for the roots to push through and wreak havoc on the area.
2. Plant Clumping Bamboo in a Pot
Instead of planting your bamboo outside, you can always grow it in a pot instead. This way, it’s much easier to contain the roots because they can only spread out a certain distance and that’s it.
You’ll want to make sure the pot is large enough for the roots to spread out at least a foot or so deep.
The pot itself does a great job at containing the roots of the bamboo, but you should also make sure your pot has enough holes in it to keep the soil well-drained at all times.
3. Prune the Roots
Pruning the roots of the bamboo will help to keep the clumping bamboo to a manageable size. Simply use a spade or shove to remove the outer rhizomes or roots to reduce the size.
The remaining rhizomes will continue to grow but removing the excess from the outside will keep the bamboo contained.
For larger bamboo you may need to call in some heavy machinery but for smaller bamboo clumps you can do this yourself.
4. Eliminate New Bamboo Shoots
When new shoots pop up, you can eliminate them either by using a saw or by mowing them down with your lawn mower. Usually, this only needs to be done once a year when the new shoots come up, which usually happens in the spring.
If you choose to eliminate the shoots manually or by hand, you might have to do this throughout most of the year just to make sure you get all of the shoots and not just some of them. Otherwise, they can inundate your yard and get out of control before you know it.
5. Smother the Roots
Simply use a saw or secateurs to cut the protruding bamboo as close as possible so they are very short. Then, place a tarp over the roots and weigh it down with landscaping pins or heavy rocks.
You may have to leave it there for several weeks or even several months, but eventually you’ll smother the roots and no more will grow. If you see some protruding in the meantime, cut them close to the ground and recover the area.
6. Use an Over-the-Counter Weed Killer
This should be done only as a last resort, but you can always use a chemical weed killer or herbicide. When you use a herbicide, it kills the roots of the bamboo plant and therefore it dies.
This is the method to use if you no longer want your bamboo plant to grow. Bamboo is a tough and hardy plant that is difficult to get rid of once it has established.
Killing it first with weed killer then digging it up is the best method to get rid of bamboo entirely.
Do You Need a Root Barrier for Clumping Bamboo?
A root barrier is a good idea before planting clumping bamboo. Clumping bamboo does not have aggressive roots but they can still continue to expand wider and wider.
Installing a root barrier before planting is an easy way to prevent the bamboo from taking over other garden beds. It just makes growing the bamboo a lot less trouble all the way around.
How Do You Keep Clumping Bamboo from Spreading?
There are several ways to stop clumping bamboo from spreading. First, you can eliminate all of your new shoots that appear every spring, once they get to about a foot tall.
You can also prune the roots with a spade in order to get rid of them. The key is to get rid of the shoots at certain times to prevent them from growing back.
Does Clumping Bamboo Have Invasive Roots?
No, clumping bamboo does not have invasive roots. In fact, the roots of clumping bamboo tend to grow only 2-12 inches per year. Some bamboo roots are considered invasive, but clumping bamboo does not fall under this category.
How Deep Are Clumping Bamboo Roots?
Most roots of clumping bamboo only go about one foot deep into the soil. Some of the thinner roots may go two to three feet deep. The majority of clumping bamboo roots go no deeper than one foot into the soil.
Do Bamboo Barriers Work?
If they are constructed properly, bamboo barriers work. You have to keep in mind that the barriers you use for clumping bamboo are different from the ones you use for running bamboo.
Pay attention to the material you use and heed the instructions so the results are what you were hoping they’d be.
Remember that the suggestions mentioned in this article are meant specifically for clumping bamboo and not running bamboo. Running bamboo grows much faster and therefore has a different set of rules for containing it.
In most ways clumping bamboo is easier to contain and control but that doesn’t mean you should leave it without pruning. Clumping bamboo can continue to expand in size getting larger and larger until it takes over a space.
Contain the roots with a root barrier to stop it from taking over.