Confining Bamboo

Bamboo is very beautiful but it has an ugly reputation. It can be terribly invasive if not confined. But it is worth the efforts for control to have this unique plant in the garden.

There are two type of bamboo, clumping and running. Clumping bamboo spreads a few inches a year, so needs no confinement. Running bamboo can send out underground shoots five feet or more in the Pacific Northwest in a year, so in a decade, it can cover quite an area. Two of the most common forms of bamboo, black and golden, are runners.

Small bamboos can be grown in pots to confine them, but larger ones need some kind of barrier. A heavy guage mylar, 24 to 30 inches wide, works best. The barrier redirects rather than stops the bamboo shoots, so it should lean slightly outward and extending a couple of inches above ground. The shoots then turn upward and break the surface, where they can be trimmed off each year. (Bamboo has been known to tunnel under a four-foot barrier when deflected down.) Mylar barrier is available at many bamboo nurseries.