Containing Bamboo in the Landscape

Because the tendency of bamboo is to grow quickly into your neighbor’s rose garden, containing outdoor plantings of bamboo is an important consideration. This can be done with man-made barriers, natural barriers, or various other containment methods.

The easiest way to contain bamboo is to mow an area around the planting. Mowing will sever any emerging culms, keeping its spread in check. To be effective, a mowing band around the planting should be as wide as the bamboo is tall. For a timber bamboo, a 20’ to 30’ band would work; a dwarf might only need a two to six foot band.

Trenching or deep edging around a grove can also be used to curb the rhizomes. This maintenance should be done once or twice a year to cut errant growth. This is a more labor-intensive method but might work in a tight planting area. Bamboo will not grow into water, so ponds and streams are considered natural barriers. Other natural barriers that will slow down a bamboo are very dry soil, rocky areas or deep shade.

Concrete or heavy gauge polyethylene can be used as physical barriers. These barriers should be three feet deep and carefully installed to seal all seams. It is best to slope the barrier away from the planting so any rhizomes are deflected upward. A one to two inch lip should extend above the soil line. Yearly inspections should be made to check for wandering rhizomes.

Heavy rubber pans, normally used for agricultural purposes, work well to contain a small planting. Half-inch holes are drilled in the bottom center of the pan, which is then sunk into the ground. Leave a one to two inch lip above ground and check to make sure the bamboo doesn’t “jump” the pan. A sixteen-gallon size pan will contain a dwarf bamboo for four to six years or a larger species for three to four years. The rhizomes of a hardy bamboo would eventually fill the pan and need to be divided. This is an easy way to enjoy bamboo in a small garden and minimize maintenance worries.

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