Running Bamboo for Narrow Space

kevinjohndoyleJuly 19, 2014

I'm considering planting bamboo in a small yard with a very narrow growth area. It's 45' long, but only 2' wide.

I've consulted with the local bamboo nursery, and someone they recommended who has installed rhizome barriers.

Has anyone else planted bamboo in such a small space and what issues have you had with controlling the spread of rhizomes, even with the barrier?

Even with the barrier, what regular maintenance will be required to keep the plants healthy, but contained?

I have neighbors on all sides and don't want to end up having issues over time. Having the neighbors on all sides, though, is why we are in need of a tall hedge, tall enough to cover a close two story building.

Also, any recommendations for particular plants would be greatly appreciated. Something that doesn't spread too much too quickly, but grows to a maximum of 25-30 feet would be ideal.

As of now, we're torn between going ahead with the bamboo or going with a much slower growing hedge like Dodonaea viscosa.

Thanks in advance for any advice or information. I'd had my heart set on going with bamboo, but have lingering concerns that it'll end up being a problem in such a confined space.

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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

You can make that work. If the barrier is installed properly, there should be no problems and no maintenance. It would be better if you had a little more width...even a foot. Given how narrow your space is, you should consider something like Semiarundinaria fatuosa, as it is very straight, and leafy from the ground up. It's often called hedge bamboo because of its characteristics.

Here is a link that might be useful: S. fastuosa

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 10:04PM
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Thank you! I had previously crossed S. fastuosa off the lost because of some forum accounts of deep traveling rhizomes. But, I got my copy of Ted Jordan Meredith's book today, and he writes, "Under most conditions, not an aggressive runner. Reportedly tolerant of salt air." Since I am on the coast, this matters.

I had settled on Spectabilis, but was disappointed to cross Fastuosa off the list because I was very taken with the coloring.

Japonica is also tolerant of salt air, but won't give me the height I want.

Any experience with Spectabilis? I'd be interested to hear of any experience with that, relative to the S. fastuosa. Both are recommended as screens and hedges, but any insight into what would make one better than the other for my situation would be greatly appreciated.

Really, my only concern over S. fastuosa was some mention of "deep rhizome growth." The Spectabilis and Japonica are supposed to have shallow rhizome growth.

All of this is just based on reading. I have no direct experience with them, and I am under the impression there are some contradictory accounts out there.

Any experience that you could share with any of the ones mentioned would be greatly appreciated.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 7:06AM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

I've grown all three you are considering, and I wouldn't worry about "deep rhizome growth." In fact, I've grown over 80 different species of bamboo, and -- in my experience in Zone 8 -- there is relatively minor variation in how deep rhizomes travel, even among medium-to-large bamboo.

Do you really care that one species might go down 6 inches, while another might go down 12 inches? The reality is that rhizomes are heat seeking and tend to stay close to the surface of the ground, rather than diving down like tree roots. Further, barrier installed at least 24"-30" inches deep should give you enough cushion to not worry about the rhizome habits of any bamboo. For those bamboo where I do use barrier, my deepest barrier is 20" deep and I have never had an escaped rhizome.

Any of the three you are talking about should work for hedge purposes. However, japonica has numerous and persistent culm sheaths that stay on a long time and look ratty unless you remove them by hand. It also will probably only grow to a little more than half the height of the other two. Spectabilis is beautiful, but will not give you the dense screening afforded by Fastuosa. Also, if you don't know, there is regular Fastuosa and a variant called Fastuosa 'Viridis'; they are both quite nice, with the difference being that the regular version's culms turn a brownish-red color over time, while the culms of the Viridis remain green.

My advice is to decide which bamboo provides the aboveground look you want, and let the barrier worry about what happens underground.

This post was edited by kudzu9 on Tue, Jul 22, 14 at 13:48

    Bookmark   July 22, 2014 at 1:44PM
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Thank you, kudzu9, foe the very helpful advice. We've decided to go ahead with the Fastuosa since the reddish coloring was what primarily attracted us, aside from its hedging abilities.

If you don't mind another question, what sort of irrigation do you use with your bamboo? I'm concerned that the rhizomes will cause problems with the irrigations lines and thought we would have to bring them above ground, with drip irrigation, but the installer seems to think it'd be fine to use the current system, which is below ground pipe with spray heads. Given your experience with these plants, any advice you would offer?

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 2:48PM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

Bamboo will not damage underground lines or invade sewers, etc. The only problem I can think of would be if you ever have a failed joint or break a line with a shovel: there might be some rhizomes that would have to be pruned away a bit to get access for a repair...but that is a minor issue. I use drip irrigation (umbrella spray heads, and gallon drippers for smaller bamboo) using 1/4" line connected to 1/2" black poly (which in turn connects to my white PVC supply pipe). Popup spray heads will work, too; it just seems like a waste of water to use them when drippers work fine.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 3:11PM
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I have installed bamboo in such areas and I will never use root barrier again. Elevated beds are so much easier to maintain once your bamboo has matured and filled the area for the roots to grow. I would build a 2ft planting bed that you can remove the ends to collect shoots. Once the bed is root bound then it is much easier to cut out mature plants then replace the hole with compost. This is the same as aerating your lawn, bamboo loves to grow you need to give it that space or it will go deep and spread, trust me it will go as deep as it needs to get out of the pot you created. Bamboo removal with Root Barrier is the worst, yes the Worst! Bamboo roots love the path of least resistance and with the root barrier you create the pathway of least resistance once all the space is filled up, the boo has no choice. All runners should be in elevated beds or raised mounds, I love them. I do make a living maintaining them, but most clients want them out for good and I hate when Bamboo gets a bad rap.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2014 at 4:46AM
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