Bamboo Containment

Proven Methods of Control

With proper planning and implementation, bamboo can be effectively managed and enjoyed without risk of it becoming uncontrollable. If you’re concerned about controlling the spread of bamboo, this page is for you.

At Almaville Bamboo Co, we understand that controlling the spread of bamboo is a common concern for many of our customers. Misinformation and myths about bamboo containment can deter individuals from enjoying this versatile and beautiful plant.

We’ve provided this page to address these concerns head-on using clear, evidence-based data, including  25+ years of anecdotal evidence from our extensive field work.  

Table of Contents

Let's Put Containment Concerns to Rest

Debunking Myths Of Bamboo Control

Despite two decades of successfully controlling the spread of bamboo for hundreds of homes and business, the myths surrounding bamboo spread still haunt the minds of many. 

Contrary to the claims that barriers do not work and are detrimental to the health of bamboo plants, our 25 years of experience in the field demonstrates otherwise. Almaville Bamboo Co’s founder, Chris Buker, along with numerous horticulture experts, assert that both in-ground and above-ground containment systems, when correctly installed, are not only effective but also essential for responsible bamboo cultivation.

How Effective are Containment Systems?

Research and practical experience have shown that containment barriers, whether above ground or in-ground, serve as highly effective measures to control the spread of bamboo. For instance, a study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology highlights that physical barriers, when properly installed and maintained, can significantly limit the spread of invasive plant species, including bamboo. Furthermore, the American Bamboo Society advocates for the use of barriers as a part of best management practices for bamboo cultivation, emphasizing their role in preventing unwanted spread.

With 25+ Years of Experience… We Know What Works

Our extensive experience with hundreds of residential and commercial installations stands as a testament to the efficacy and reliability of the containment options we advocate. We believe that with the right approach and materials, anyone can enjoy the beauty and utility of bamboo without concern for its invasiveness.

But if you’re still unsure about bamboo containment, a quick review of the science may help. 

Demytifying Bamboo with Science

How Bamboo Grows & Spreads

Understanding how bamboo grows and spreads is crucial for effective management and utilization in landscaping. Bamboo’s growth is characterized by its unique rhizome-dependent system. Rhizomes are underground stems from which the visible bamboo shoots emerge.

Bamboo undergoes a rapid growth phase immediately after the emergence of new shoots from the ground. These shoots can grow astonishingly fast, with some species capable of growing up to 35 inches within a 24-hour period. This rapid growth is due to the unique structure of bamboo cells, which elongate quickly, and a high concentration of growth hormones in the shoots. The growth rate slows down once the shoots reach their full height, which can vary from a few meters in some species to over 100 feet in others.

There are two primary types of bamboo based on their rhizome patterns: clumping and running. Running bamboo features long, horizontal rhizomes that spread rapidly underground, leading to fast expansion and the formation of extensive bamboo groves.

Bamboo’s ability to spread and grow quickly is beneficial for creating natural barriers or screens quickly, but it also necessitates strategies for containment to prevent unwanted spread into adjacent areas.

After 25 years testing countless in-ground and above ground containment methods, we’ve found that the following options are reliable in residential and commercial applications. 

Options For Planting Directly In The Ground

In-Ground Containment

There are several effective in-ground containment strategies that gardeners and landscapers can employ to manage bamboo growth responsibly.

  1. Mowing and Cutting the Rhizomes with a Spade: This is the most common low cost method of control.  By mowing around the perimeter of the bamboo planting or using a sharp spade to sever new rhizomes attempting to escape the designated area, you can effectively keep the bamboo contained.

    If you have a berm (i.e. a mounded hill of soil) in the middle of your yard between your patio and your property line, you can plant the berm and just mow around it each week in the summer. Your mower will never know it even clipped off the bamboo shoots. You can use this technique on perimeter plantings, too.

  2. Burying a Standard Plant Container: Utilizing containers such as pots, stock tanks, and water troughs buried in the ground can serve as an effective barrier to bamboo’s spreading roots. The container acts as a physical boundary, limiting the rhizomes to the enclosed space and preventing them from spreading uncontrollably. This method is particularly suitable for smaller bamboo species or when planting bamboo in smaller, controlled spaces.
  3. Building or Installing a Custom Free-Formed Barrier with Plastic Sheeting: For those needing a more tailored solution, especially in tight or irregularly shaped spaces, a custom free-formed in-ground barrier may be the best option. Using 60 mil High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) sheeting, one can create a barrier of any shape or size imaginable, essentially crafting a custom “pot” or container within the soil. The HDPE sheeting serves as the walls of this containment system, effectively limiting the spread of bamboo rhizomes. This method requires more effort, possibly involving laborious digging or even machinery, but its flexibility makes it an excellent choice for constrained areas, such as a narrow strip of land between a neighbor’s fence and a driveway.

Watch a 360° In-Ground Barrier Installation from Start to Finish

Installing an in-ground plastic barrier that completely surrounds bamboo is a proven way to prevent it from spreading.  The following images show a 360° barrier installation (AKA The Bathtub Method) from start to finish. 

Whether through regular cutting, employing buried containers, or installing custom barriers, these in-ground methods will contain the spread of your bamboo without requiring a visible, above-ground container.

Options For Planting Above Ground

Above Ground Containment

For gardeners and landscapers looking to harness the beauty of bamboo without its aggressive spreading habit, above-ground containment offers practical and aesthetically pleasing solutions. These strategies not only prevent bamboo from invading unwanted areas but also provide flexibility in design and placement. Here’s a closer look at the options available:

Option 1: Buy or Build a Standard Plant Container

Utilizing containers for bamboo cultivation can turn any space into a vibrant green area, with the added benefit of mobility and control over the plant’s growth. The variety of containers available caters to different tastes and requirements:

  • Pots: Ideal for bamboo, pots can vary greatly in size and material. It’s important to choose a pot that can accommodate the bamboo’s root system. Larger pots are advisable as they are less likely to freeze through during cold winters, a scenario that could potentially harm or kill the bamboo. Materials like terra cotta, ceramic, and even reinforced concrete offer durability and style.

  • Stock Tanks / Water Troughs: Originally intended for livestock, these sturdy containers are excellent for growing bamboo. Their durability and volume make them suitable for larger bamboo species, ensuring that the roots have ample space to grow without becoming pot-bound.

  • Custom Built Wood Planters: For those seeking a specific size or aesthetic, custom-built wood planters are a great option. They can be designed to fit specific spaces or match existing decor. Using treated wood or naturally rot-resistant varieties like cedar can prolong the life of the planter.

  • Creative DIY Containers: The sky’s the limit when it comes to DIY container gardening. Old plastic bins, barrels, or even large buckets can be transformed into unique bamboo planters. Decorating the exterior with bamboo slats, rope, or even fabric can hide the original material and add a personal touch to the garden.

Option 2: Build/Install a Permanent Built-In Above Ground Container

For a more permanent solution, built-in containers can be constructed from a variety of materials to match any landscaping theme:

  • Wood: Wooden containers or raised beds can be built to any dimension, making them perfect for custom bamboo installations. They can be placed on patios, decks, or integrated into garden designs. Using treated wood or a protective liner can help prevent rot and extend the container’s life.

  • Metal: Metal containers offer a modern and durable option for bamboo containment. Galvanized steel or aluminum can provide sleek lines and resistance to weather, though it’s important to consider heat conduction in sunny locations.

  • Concrete: Concrete planters are perhaps the most durable option for bamboo. They can be cast in any shape or size and are virtually impervious to the elements. Their substantial weight makes them ideal for permanent installations in gardens, commercial spaces, or on terraces.

For commercial installations, especially in urban environments or high-rise buildings, these built-in containers can create lush, green spaces that provide a respite from concrete and glass. Whether for residential enjoyment or commercial beautification, above-ground bamboo containment offers a blend of functionality and design versatility, making it possible to enjoy this magnificent plant in any setting.

Containment Above The Soil

Managing Bamboo's Height and Spread Through Trimming

Controlling the height and lateral spread (or “thickness”) of bamboo plants is essential for maintaining the desired aesthetic and ensuring that the bamboo complements rather than overwhelms a space. Trimming and pruning are key techniques in managing both the vertical growth and horizontal expansion of bamboo, allowing for a tailored appearance and preventing encroachment into undesired areas. Here’s how to approach trimming for both vertical and horizontal control:

Vertical Height Management

Bamboo can reach impressive heights quickly, but with careful trimming, you can manage its growth to fit your landscape design or spatial constraints. To reduce height, trim the bamboo culms (stems) at the desired height using sharp, clean pruning shears or a saw for thicker culms. Cutting just above a node (the point on the stem where branches and leaves grow) encourages the bamboo to branch out at that point, leading to a fuller appearance at the top. It’s important to perform this type of trimming carefully to maintain the natural look of the bamboo and prevent damage to the plant.

Horizontal Spread Control

Managing the horizontal spread or thickness of your bamboo involves pruning the rhizomes and culms to control the plant’s footprint.  In addition to the containment methods discussed previously, such as barriers and containers, physical pruning of the rhizomes can keep the bamboo within bounds. Dig around the perimeter of your bamboo grove and cut back any rhizomes extending beyond the desired area. For the above-ground growth, selectively thinning out culms from the edges of the clump can reduce its overall density and prevent it from becoming too bushy.

Seasonal Considerations and Techniques

The best time for major pruning is in the late winter or early spring before the bamboo begins its rapid growth phase. This timing allows you to shape the plant while minimizing stress and maximizing its energy for producing new, desirable growth. When trimming, always use clean, sharp tools to make precise cuts, which help prevent infection and encourage healthy regrowth.

Trimming can also enhance the beauty of your bamboo by revealing the attractive culms, which are often hidden by lower foliage. “Legging Up:” Removing some of the lower branches can create a more open, elegant appearance, showcasing the unique characteristics of the bamboo’s stems.

Regular Maintenance for Long-Term Health

Regular maintenance trimming is crucial for keeping your bamboo looking its best. By periodically assessing and adjusting the height and spread of your bamboo, you can ensure it remains an attractive and manageable feature in your garden or landscape. This proactive approach not only maintains the desired dimensions of your bamboo but also promotes its health and vigor, leading to a more beautiful and sustainable planting.

In summary, managing the vertical height and horizontal spread of bamboo through strategic trimming and pruning is vital for integrating this versatile plant into your garden harmoniously. With the right techniques and a bit of patience, you can shape your bamboo to fit almost any design aesthetic or spatial requirement, ensuring it adds beauty and interest to your outdoor space for years to come.

We encourage our customers to view containment as a fundamental aspect of responsible bamboo gardening. With our guidance and the proven strategies we’ve developed, you can be confident in your ability to control bamboo’s growth, ensuring it adds beauty and value to your property for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

Containment FAQ

No, we sell bamboo plants and plastic barrier for in-ground containment, but we don’t sell any other containers. 

No, but we maintain a list of reputable installers that we can refer. 

While it’s true that installing containment systems involves an initial investment of time and resources, the long-term benefits far outweigh these initial costs. Effective containment prevents the need for more extensive and costly interventions later on. 

Concerns about bamboo becoming root-bound or suffering due to containment measures are understandable. However, these issues are largely avoidable with proper selection of container size, material, and regular maintenance. Bamboo, being a highly adaptable and resilient plant, can thrive in contained environments. Regular monitoring and occasional root pruning or division ensure that bamboo remains healthy and vibrant within its designated space.

Click here to view our comprehensive FAQ page with dozens of frequently asked questions.

Vehicle Loading & Towing Recommendations

To give you an idea of what you can carry, we typically load 25 Adult Screening Plants in a long bed pickup truck or 20 in a 6-1/2′ bed. You can get 80-85 plants on a double axle 16 foot trailer.

You will need a tailgate or ramps or need to build some elevation on the back of your trailer.

If you don’t have a tarp, we can cover the plants for you- we have successfully had plants make it to Colorado, Maryland, Michigan and Florida covered with carpet backing or “Leno.”

If you expect your order to be greater than 20 plants, please call ahead so we can be sure of availability of your particular species. We prefer to stabilize the newly dug plants for 2 weeks.