Bamboo is Not a Four Letter Word
Updated: Aug 6, 2019
Head for the hills, you neighbor has planted bamboo to block you out, but we all know it's going to take over the entire block. No doubt you've heard something along these lines in the past right? And no doubt you've seen or experienced first hand the invasive capabilities of bamboo. But bamboo, honestly, isn't all that bad. And I'm honestly tired of people writing articles about it that have very little understanding about how it grows, but plenty of hate for it. Ha! I must already sound crazy. Here's my lighthearted approach.
Lets start with my history, I used to own a bamboo nursery called Jade Mountain Nursery. It's out off Canyon Road and 116th towards Puyallup. Yeah, believe it or not there are nurseries that sell primarily bamboo. It's a huge market! I owned the nursery for roughly 5 years with two business partners and I probably know more about bamboo than most ever will. That said, I've seen the horror stories and I've heard every complaint you can think of. But bamboo is an amazing privacy screen. Picture a 20 foot green living fence between you and whatever you don't want to look at. Doesn't that sound nice? Read along for some facts regarding the biggest complaints and my recommendations.
BAMBOO WILL TAKE OVER EVERYTHING
You're right! You're absolutely right. If you're unprepared, or lazy it sure will. Bamboo more or less comes in two flavors, running and clumping. Leptomorph bamboos, or running, are typically the invasive bamboos in our climate. I've seen mature groves with ample water spread up to 10 feet a year easily. Scary right? Wrong! These guys can be contained with very simple methods. Bamboo barrier and root pruning get the job done easily. Its about maintenance. Bamboo is like any other part of your garden, it requires maintenance. You know what else can grow out of control? Your lawn. Grass will get 3 feet high in no time if you let it. Bamboo is a grass people. If you're willing to take the time to mow your lawn every week, water it, seed it, pull weeds, etc then why are people so unwilling to root prune bamboo once or twice a year?
Another solution is pachymorph, or clumping bamboos. These guys barely spread at all, we're talking only inches a year. No more than that overbearing laurel or arborvitae hedge.
The truth is, most people are unprepared for bamboo. Typically this is due to lack of knowledge. Bamboo can be expensive and time consuming to remove. Make sure you're prepared before you purchase a home with a bamboo invasion. Or if you're buying it yourself, take the time to chat with a local bamboo expert. Bamboo will be your friend with the right knowledge.
BAMBOO WILL CRACK YOUR FOUNDATION AND STRANGLE YOUR SEWER PIPES.
Preposterous. Bamboo will not crack your homes foundation. Lets use some common sense here. It takes a jackhammer or sledgehammer to break up foundation concrete and you think bamboo can do it too? If bamboo is growing through cracks in your foundation, then those cracks were already there. And they would have to be some big cracks to begin with. Most bamboo rhizome, or roots, grow too large to fit in the commonly found, non-problematic, cracks that often occur in foundations. And the smaller roots would never have enough power to penetrate and spread out thousands and thousands of pounds of concrete with a house sitting on it. Bamboo roots can grow through some pretty tight spaces, and I've seen them make their way through cracks in sidewalks or driveways many times. But to cause and spread open a crack on a foundation with a house on it... come on.
Sewer pipes are the same deal. If its getting into your pipes then your pipes were old or in trouble already. I've seen bamboo destroy concrete side sewer lines as if it was just for fun. But guess what, any plant with roots capable of growing within range of that pipe would have done it. On top of that, bamboo roots typically stay within the the first foot of soil level. So if bamboo is growing into and destroying your sewer line, it was probably on its way out already.
BAMBOO IS WAY TOO MESSY
Depending on the variety, but typically once a year bamboo will shed and replenish a good amount of leaves to keep its ability to photosynthesize up to par. The leaves fall off, and into your yard where they look brown and messy. If only someone could invent a tool to gather large quantities of these leaves into easily removable piles. Like a broom, for your yard.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
I do feel bad for the homeowner with a great garden, but lazy neighbors. If your neighbor lets their bamboo run under your fence and into your rose beds, I totally get it. Bamboo just becomes a nuisance then. Or if you buy a home and bamboo was under every square foot of the grass, but the seller kept the lawn cut so short you couldn't tell.... Yeah bamboo is a nightmare then. Maybe we should have background checks for planting bamboo as well. They could check your thumbs. Green ones get a pass, lazy pale thumbs are a no go.
With minimal proper maintenance bamboo can add significant value to your home. It can block out neighbors, noise and provide great privacy. Bamboo is like the pitbull of plants, it gets a terrible rep because of its owner.
I recommend calling Jade Mountain Nursery and asking for the current owner Chris Davidson. He can help you with all your bamboo needs. As well as with any other ornamental gardening needs. 253.548.1129