Bamboo control idea & variety suggestions

htuttleOctober 31, 2008

IÂve been reading up on bamboo, rhizome barriers, raised beds, rhizome pruning and clumping versus running and all that I can find. I havenÂt yet come across anything on what IÂm considering.

I have a 50ft fence line between me and my neighbor. I want to cultivate a nice thick minimum of 6 foot high bamboo screen along this length. IÂm in zone 6.

The soil within 2-3 feet around the fence line is too difficult to trench because of dense tree roots along most of the run. I only need to block invasive growth towards my neighborÂs side. Any spread towards my side I feel would be manageable through mowing and trench pruning. I think I could create a shallow (6 to 12 inches) trench 3 to 5 feet out from my side of the fence line for seasonal rhizome pruning.

I thought I might put in an, 18inch high wood wall using PT 2x6Âs and 4x4 stakes along three sides of the 50ft run. Kind of a three sided 50ft long, 1.5ft high, 4 ft wide raised bed. I would line the inside of this walled area with 30inch 60mil HDPE. I would then back fill the walled area with soil and compost, sloping downwards towards the open side and plant various bamboo rhizomes or plants.

Can I get some thoughts on whether encouraging growth on one side only will effectively restrain invasive growth into my neighborÂs yard? In other words, will using a raised bed HDPE barrier on the one side and an open side on the other create a "path of least resistance" effectively controlling bamboo spreading?

Also, given my zone 6 hardiness needs and my goal of creating a dense screen (at least 6ft high), what varieties can be recommended?

Thanks in advance

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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

That's an interesting and complex plan. It will be somewhat effective, but not foolproof. I don't believe it's possible to "fool" rhizomes to prevent them from growing in one particular direction. I also have seen HPDE pond liner that was breached in multiple locations by rhizomes. I have rarely seen rhizomes go deeper than 12", though, so one thought I have to improve your design is to use real bamboo barrier instead of HPDE, and to install it at the backside of your raised bed so that the top side is leaning substantially back from the bamboo. That way, when the rhizomes start moving out and hit the barrier, they should slide up the barrier and pop out of the ground where you can see them and snip them off. In your Zone, clumpers may take a long time to size up and you would need quite a few for a 50' fence line, so runners are probably your best choice. If you go with runners, you'll want the hardiest ones you can get. One of the best ones for that purpose is Ph. nuda, which is hardy to about -20F. If you go to the link I have provided below, you can do a search on bamboo using various criteria to help you narrow down your list. One last thing: when growing a bamboo hedge, it is always wise to plant at least two species. You never know when bamboo might flower and die, and it's always best to have only part of your hedge fail. It might not happen in your lifetime...but you never know. You could also consider a combination of hardy runners and hardy clumpers, as some of the Fargesia species can also handle temps down to -20F. Good luck.

Here is a link that might be useful: BambooWeb-Species

    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 2:38PM
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Thanks for the reply. I've read many of your posts here in doing my research. I have a couple of follow-up questions.

I thought HDPE 60mil or thicker *was* bamboo barrier. Whats the difference, and can you suggest an on-line source ?

Also, your hardiness recommendation is -20F. When I punch in my zip I get Zone 6 which is listed as -10F. I wanted to pick from the largest selection, but I don't want to get something that would likely be wiped out. On Ebay I see a lot of Phyllostachys Aureos and the sellers claim this is very hardy, any thoughts on this?

Thanks Again

    Bookmark   November 2, 2008 at 9:41AM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

First, you're right on the barrier...sometimes my typing is faster than my brain! For some reason, I was thinking EPDM (pond liner), and not HPDE (which is, indeed, bamboo barrier).

As for the hardiness recommendation, you have to bear in mind that that is a temperature at which the plant's root system dies: loss of foliage and culm death can occur well above that. So, in a Zone like yours -- which can be challenging for growing bamboo -- if you want to try to maximize the viability of your hedge and its appearance, you want to go with the hardiest bamboo you can find. Ph. aurea is hardy, but the hardiness rating is only 0 degrees F; it may or may not survive in your particular micro-climate.

I also usually recommend against buying from eBay sellers of bamboo. Many of them barely know what they are doing, and, while their prices often look good, it's not uncommon for these folks to ship just rhizomes or bare root plants, and you may not be happy with the result. I won't condemn all of them since some of these folks are competent...just be careful and read the fine print. I've seen statements like: "It's normal for your bamboo to lose all its leaves during shipment." No, it's not!

If you want to get some suggestions on places to buy bamboo and have an idea of your per plant budget, email me and I'll see if I can recommend a reliable nursery.

Lastly, there are a couple of knowledgeable folks on this forum who grow bamboo in Zones 5/6 (foxd, lkz5ia) and you may want to contact them for specific plant recommendations.

Here is a link that might be useful: Zone 5 bamboo thread

    Bookmark   November 2, 2008 at 1:07PM
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I have a p. nigra (henon), that is actually for zone 7. I've had it planted in 2002, and it spreads very VERY slowly. When the temp goes down below zero, the top dies down but it still survives, it comes back next year, but is extremely slow to spread.

The reason for telling you this is that maybe you can get an aggressive spreading bamboo that is recommended for zone 7. The 'plus' is that it's slow to spread (which is also a negative because you have some area to cover), but it's also a running bamboo which means it will spread out more, unlike clumpers. Mine has spread about 10 feet now, and it took about 5 years to do anything.

I bought my plants from, they have the best prices and don't gouge you on shipping.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2008 at 2:22PM
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I would suggest Phyllostachys aureosulcata 'Spectabilis'. Hardy as most, and has beautiful culms.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2008 at 8:09PM
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