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LeBeau Bamboo Nursery      Medford, Oregon 541-499-4992

Containing Running Bamboo Plants

Posted on April 1st, 2014 by LeBeau Bamboo Nursery in Bamboo Care and Maintenance

Containment Overview

Running species of bamboo can be controlled fairly easily as long as preparations are made before the plant spreads out of control. Runners spread through an underground network of rhizomes, which grow outwards from the plant and can send up new canes ten or more feet from the existing grove. These rhizomes tend to stay near the surface, usually in the top six inches of soil. Eight inches is more common in looser soils or with timber sized bamboo species. Also keep in mind that planting clumping bamboo avoids the invasiveness issue completely.

Using Trenches - Cheaper for Installation but Requires More Annual Maintenace

Trenches are the easiest and most cost effective method of controlling running bamboo, however it requires more regular maintenance than plastic barrier. Because the rhizomes tend to stay within the top six to eight inches of soil, a trench surrounding the bamboo eight inches deep will make containment much easier. The trench can be left open or filled with loose material, such as compost. Two to three times per year, run a shovel through the trench to find and cut off any rhizomes that are growing through the trench. The severed ends can be easily pulled out of the ground because the roots take some time to develop.

A trench with a rhizome which needs to be trimmed.

The end of the rhizome has been removed.
The trench can fully enclose the grove to keep the grove contained to one area. A trench can also be placed on only one side, such as a property border. Be sure to leave at least five feet between the trench and any fences, buildings, or property lines for maintenance.

Using Plastic Barrier - More Expensive to Install but Requires Less Annual Maintenance

Plastic rhizome barrier requries less regular maintenance than a trench, but takes more effort to install. Rhizome barrier is 28 inches in height and should be burried 26 inches deep. Leaving two inches above ground helps prevent rhizomes from escaping over the top.

Ends of the barrier should be clamped towards the grove to prevent rhizomes from squeezing their way through the joint.
The barrier can be installed to fully enclose the grove, or on only one side such as a property border. If encircling the grove, be sure to clamp the ends with stainless steel clamps bolted every two inches. When clamping the ends of the barrier together, point them inwards toward the grove so that the sides facing away from the grove are touching. If the ends are not clamped facing inwards, rhizomes travelling along the edges can squeeze through the clamp and escape.

In early and late summer, the barrier should be inspected for rhizomes which have gone over the top. Cut and remove any escaped rhizomes.

A rhizome which had grown over the top of the barrier has been cut and removed.

The barrier has prevented a rhizome from spreading.

Open vs. Close Sided Barrier

Barrier can either be left open on one side or fully enclose the grove. Open sided barriers are often installed on the side of the grove on property borders or against buildings where other containment would be difficult. However, the trenching method can be used on the other side of the grove where it is easily accessed, such as next to a lawn or other open area.

Pictured left is a diagram showing an open barrier from the top. The barrier surrounds most of the grove but is left open on side. Generally this would be used in situations such as long thin borders, where leaving one side open might save hundreds of feet of barrier. By curving the ends of the barrier back towards each other, any rhizomes running along the sides will be angled in when they come in contact with the pruning trenches, as seen on the bottom right corner.

Open sided barriers can help prevent groves from getting root bound inside their containment system, as well as providing easier access to divisions if more plants are desired later.

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