Neighbor's Invasive Bamboo

betzrossMay 2, 2008

Our neighbor's have bamboo planted on the property line between our houses. I don't need to tell you that it is EXTREMELY invasive and fast-growing, it has ruined our backyard. We've done the research and know what are options are for attempting to stop the growth or contain it at best, but it's a costly and extensive effort. My questions is how best to approach the neighbors about this. Do we ask them to pay for the work? Insist they get rid of the bamboo? We just moved in July and certainly don't want to make any enemies, but this has become a serious problem and has destroyed our backyard. Any thoughts and/or experiences with this?

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vlf4230(z6 Pa)

I grew up with bamboo that was given to my parents and grew out of control. Through trial and error my father finally found a way to keep it from being a pest.

First, having them remove their bamboo will not do any good as there will still be extensive root systems in your yard. Short of removing all the dirt in your back yard there is no way to remove it. Even a small section of root will take off.

My father has had his bamboo under control, over 300 square feet of it, for 25+ years now. It still pops up a shoot here and there every spring but it has caused no damage to an established rock garden, a small fish pond, a flag stone patio and assorted other flower beds.

This is what he does.

1. Anywhere shoots pop up (usually in April/May) unwanted he cuts them down. He uses a lawn mower for when they are in grass walkways and pruning shears in flower beds.
2. After cutting them down he sprays INTO the shoots a strong weed killer. This kills the shoots and surrounding roots but not the main stalks. This way you can not be accused of killing your neighbors bamboo.
3. Repeat this every year. Each year the amount coming up was fewer and fewer. We also noticed that in some would come up stunted. Sort of a bonsai bamboo tree.

This was not really hard or time consuming to do. The first year will obviously take the longest but after that it was more maintenance. About the same as weeding a flower bed once a year.

You should bring this to the attention of your neighbors. They may not be aware of it. If they are rude and ignore you then I'd suggest planting some morning glories or other vigorous vines right next to their bamboo. The morning glories will take off and shoot up the bamboo in no time flat and reseed them self for ever and ever and ever...

Hopefully, though, they'll understand and offer to help in the labor and cost of weed killer.

good luck

    Bookmark   May 3, 2008 at 1:53PM
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gardeningwithlcgrace(7 Delaware)

That was the same advice that was given to us. Our "bamboo" seems to have a flowering year and then a non flowering year. I have also heard that you cut the stalk and pour the weed killer down the stalk in the FLOWERING year to try and kill more of the "mother" plant.

Our bamboo was brought in years ago by the road crew. Previous owners wanted some "free dirt". We're now finding the little "nubs" everywhere.

They are actually very easy to lift out with a shovel right now. I'm not sure if these were spread by seeds or a misplaced piece of root. They seem to be individual plants and not connected.

There are other patches of it all over the neighborhood. The state workers would love to know how to get rid of it with just one simple spray. We've identified ours as Japanese Knotweed. Is this what yours is?

    Bookmark   May 3, 2008 at 8:33PM
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vlf4230(z6 Pa)

I'm not really sure what type my dad has. It was given to him by one of my aunt's years and years ago. I've never seen it flower. The stalks in the mini forest where he lets it go free are up to 2"+ in diameter.

I still remember finding a stalk that had sprouted up under a heavy wooden picnic table. The stalk hit the table, turned 90 degrees, traveled a few inches to the edge of the table, turned back 90 degrees and kept on growing. Kind of scary now that I think about it. Plants with survival instincts...

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 11:18AM
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ladyslppr(z6 PA)

Japanese knotweed is often called 'bamboo' but it isn't really a bamboo - it is a knotweed related to several small weedy plants you can find around PA. It is much more invasive than bamboo in natural habitats because it readily spreads long distances when small pieces of it are carried in water or moved with fill dirt. Japanese knotweed is currently destroying thousands of acres of riparian forest all across PA. Once it takes over, it isn't long before almost all other smaller plants are overwhelmed and die from crowding, shade, or some similar death. One example is the James Mayer wildflower trail in Johnstown. The trail used to have beautiful stands of Turk's Cap Lilies, Blakc Cohosh, and a lot of other great native plants, but now is almost completely covered in Japanese knotweed with little else (except the trees, which are still there).

True bamboos, on the other hand, don't generally spread far from the original clump that usually has to be deliberately planted. I don't think there are many clumps of bamboo that were accidentally spread, as is the case with japanese knotweed. That isn't to say that some species of bamboo aren't invasive in the garden. They do spread underground very aggressively, and can be harder to stop than japanese knotweed. I wouldn't want either one in my garden.

There is one native bamboo called Giant cane - Arundinaria gigantea. this plant may grow wild in the southern parts of PA and would be a neat plant to have. Farther south Giant Cane used to form huge canebrakes that depended on occasional fires to keep them healthy. Now there are few large canebrakes left, and the loss of canebrakes is thought to be responsible for the exinction of at least one bird, Bachman's Warbler (although every 10 years or so someone claims to see a Bachman's Warbler).

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 10:13AM
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Your neighbors are responsible for containing the bamboo.
You should show them your yard.
Tell them to call someone to come dig it all up, and have their bamboo contained, on their side.
If they don't do it, you could get estimates from a professional landscaper for
1. the cost of digging the bamboo up in your yard
2. the cost of installing containments on YOUR side of
the property where the property lines are
3. the cost of restoring your yard with fresh sod and whatever damage it has done.
Then sue them in civil court.
You won't need an attorney, jsut lots of pictures and your estimates.
You will win.
People have to be considerate to their neighbors by not making their neighbors lives miserable or destroying their property, period.
Good Luck.
Put on your bear suit and do it.
Don't be afraid of your neighbors getting mad at you, what is the worst thing that can happen?
You will get your yard fixed, the bamboo will be contained to their property, and you won't have to speak with inconsiderate neighbors.
I hope your neighbors come through for you, but I doubt it.
The sooner, the better, bamboo can be a real mess.
Good Luck!

    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 1:24AM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

The bamboo was on your property when you bought it. Your neighbors may sue you saying that it came from your side. It is a preexisting condition you knew about when you bought the property, so don't wake up and say wow, they shouldn't have done this, I am going to sue them.

I would approach it from the point of view, "We like your bamboo, but it is close to the line and is coming over on our side. Do you know what can be done to keep it from coming over?"

Anyone contemplating planting bamboo should realize that there is a clump bamboo that is not invasive. The spreading bamboo will eventually take over the world. The clump bamboo is more restrained and will grow much more slowly.

Here is what the Montgomery County Extension Office wrote:


Our neighbors planted bamboo a few years ago along the property line, and now it has invaded our property. I keep cutting it down, but it continues to thrive. What can I do to get rid of it?


This is a common problem with no easy solution. Bamboo is a fast grower that quickly makes a living fence, but it unfortunately doesnt respect property boundaries. The underground rhizomes go under fences and pop up everywhere. There are ways to eradicate bamboo, but it takes patience and vigilance.

One method is to spray the actively growing plant with a glyphosate herbicide (Roundup). DO NOT cut the plants down and then spray it, as the herbicide must be transported through the plantÂs system as the plant grows. Make sure that you get good contact with the foliage. Repeat applications will be necessary throughout the growing season and probably the following year(s).

Another method would be to dig it out, but this requires a backhoe or some very strong arms and backs. You need to dig down a few feet since any rhizomes that you miss will start another patch of bamboo. The soil should be sifted before being replaced to make sure all pieces of bamboo are removed.

The best way to get rid of bamboo is to not plant it at all! Yes, it looks great in a garden and fills in a space rather quickly, but itÂs nearly impossible to remove. If you must grow bamboo, plant the dwarf varieties in containers to control root growth and keep peace with the neighbors!

If you have a question you would like address please send it to the Montgomery County Cooperative Extension office or email at

Note, the common bamboo that is used to make lawn rakes and fishing poles is in the true grass family, Poaceae, and doesn't bloom. The flowering "bamboo" is Japanese Knotweed, Polygonum cuspidatem also known as Japanese bamboo, is an attractive plant that will grow in many different settings. It has distinctive heart shapes leaves and clusters of white lacy flowers which develop in late summer. It has the potential to grow to a mature height of 10 feet. The flower clusters are composed of male and female flowers, with the female clusters producing as many as a thousand viable seeds. This difficult-to-control plant spreads by seeds, but more importantly, by an extensive root system of rhizomes, which will grow as much as 6-8 feet per year. Rhizomes, when cut or damaged will develop new shoots that develop into plants. This makes pulling or digging the plant fairly
ineffective as a means of eradication. The most effective method is with the use of herbicides that contain glyphosate, such as Roundup. Multiple applications are needed.

When you bought your new home you were bambooseled.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2008 at 9:32AM
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Bamboo can be contained, but you'll have trouble with it if you clear your yard but your neighbor doesn't. Trenching down about 18" can work to help prevent it invading your yard again, and if you can talk your neighbor into doing the work on his side of the fence it'll be easier on your back!

To clear your yard, you can keep cutting it and mowing it down, dig it up, poison it with Roundup. If you don't mind having an ugly yard for a while, you can try this solution that I read somewhere on the net: cut the boo down, feed with a high-nitrogen fertilizer, then cover with plastic, plywood and cinderblocks. The idea being that you stimulate the bamboo to grow, but the plants can't emerge, expend their energy, and all die. This does require full coverage with plywood, as plastic won't stop the bamboo all by itself. Haven't tried it myself....

    Bookmark   May 19, 2008 at 10:32AM
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westhighlandblue(z6 PA)

I don't think you can reasonably ask you neighbor to pay to remove bamboo that was on your property when you bought it.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2008 at 8:03AM
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But if the bamboo is originating from the neighbor's house, I would think it would be reasonable. I am glad I am not in that situation.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2008 at 9:20PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

Not if it was on both sides of the line when the person bought the house. There is nothing to say where it came from. If you went back far enough, it may have been spread by a seed on either side of the line many years ago and only one neighbor fought it. You can't reconstruct biological history from one point in time. You can only hope the present parties can agree on a common course of action.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2008 at 12:38PM
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Having installed a few rhizome bamboo control systems in the past I can state clearly that nothing is fool proof. Nothing is inexpensive. Certainly nothing is maintenance free. I have encountered groves where even a backhoe has trouble breaking ground. Sometimes the customer is the origional planter. Sometimes not. Dialog with the neighbor may just help. Most folk don't want war with the neighbor but some live for it. Get some estimates. Talk to the neighbor. If the mainj of the grove has entered your property then expect some major excavation. If it is but a few rhizomes coming across then maybe you can manage with less. If you go with the cut and roundup method then expect to do so for the rest of your days. I personally find that trenching down 3 feet and installing a epdm liner reinforced with a landscape fabric (rhizome barrier) works well. After that when you do the roundup on whats on your side you may very well be done. Of course it is imperative that the top of the barrier stay above ground and never be allowed to get covered in leaves or dirt.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2008 at 10:12AM
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