Good trees for urban gardens: Is there bamboo in your future?

While we are distracted by all the challenges facing us we may forget that September and October are the best times for planting. There is rain to keep the trees healthy and winter soon comes.  Trees have a chance to put down roots.  When spring comes trees will begin to add growth for a healthy start for new trees.

Maybe you want a hedge for a privacy planting. Bamboo is beautiful and it seems like a good choice.  They grow quickly and are quite attractive.

If you do decide on bamboo, keep several things in mind. The first is that bamboo spreads. They are a type of grass and rhizomes spread from the main plant.  If you are using it along a property line, consider its effect on your neighbors.  The rhizomes can grow under a fence making it more difficult for neighbors to grow the shrubs and trees they desire. The dropping of leaves is constant so neighbors will have a new cleanup job.

Sometimes people decide to use clumping bamboo but eventually they spread.  Planting them in large pots keeps them under control.

Gardeners report that taking out bamboo is difficult. It usually requires heavy equipment.  Some fill the hole where the bamboo is removed with cement to make sure the bamboo does not return.

For those most successful with bamboo, they consider what is around the bamboo.

Some gardeners make a cement wall behind the bamboo and in front of the bamboo to contain it.  Planting bamboo in front of your house makes it easier to access and control. So if you decide to plant bamboo, choose your site  carefully. You will then  enjoy bamboo’s beauty without burdening your neighbor.

— By Barbara Chase

Barbara Chase is a Master Gardener who serves on the City of Edmonds Citizens Tree Board.

  1. We planted clumping bamboo(fargesia robusta,Campbell) in steel stock watering tanks to form a privacy screen after our backyard neighbor added a second story to the home. 2 years later it’s a great 15 foot bamboo screen and we don’t have to be concerned about spreading. This varietal is supposed to be non invasive but rather be safe than sorry.

  2. Having just spent $15,000 to remove bamboo and my neighbors spending some too to remove theirs, I strongly recommend that you not plant bamboo. If you feel you really really need it, get a bamboo expert to plant it and provide proper bamboo barriers. Our bamboo was planted by the previous homeowners and their barriers were inadequate. The bamboo was taking over our yard, and also went into our 3 neighbors’ yards. If we’d know that when we bought the house, we would have asked that it be removed before we bought it.

  3. I love bamboo, however, I spent $2500 to have a relatively small amount removed a few years ago. Even though it was planted inside a barrier, it “jumped” over the top and was starting to spread. Several of the runners traveled onto my neighbors property and their removal created some mess, which I also paid to repair. My neighbor, an attorney, informed me that unwanted bamboo invasion onto a neighboring property can be grounds for a lawsuit. Be very careful where and how you plant bamboo. Just sayin’.

    1. It seems to me that with bamboo, just like most plantings, you just don’t plant it and abandon it, you plant it and regularly monitor it.

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