You may love the look of bamboo and want to include it in your garden for a more diverse look. However, before you start planting, read on to find out what is so bad about it and if you really want it in your garden.
What is bad about bamboo? Even though bamboo looks cool and makes for a great privacy feature in your garden, it has its downsides. Bamboo roots, called rhizomes are thick and will spread easily, so your small patch of bamboo can quickly take over the whole garden. Then, if you decide to remove it, you need to dig long and deep to completely eradicate it.
Is bamboo bad for your garden?
Bamboo isn’t necessarily bad for your garden but it can be a pain. Bamboo is still just a plant and won’t harm the environment around it.
In fact, bamboo has some positive qualities to it. The thick network of rhizomes helps decrease soil erosion.
If you want a privacy screen, bamboo is excellent and if you want to harvest it, you only have to wait a year or two before it is ready to be cut down.
What are the negative effects of bamboo?
By far the most negative aspect of bamboo is that it is an invasive species. No matter where you plant it in your garden, it will quickly take over as much area as possible.
Most people want to plant bamboo because its height adds a unique element to gardens. However, if bamboo is not contained, this tall plant will overshadow, quite literally, the rest of your plants.
While it is true that you can find some varieties of bamboo that are not as invasive as others, these are still able to spread easily. If you insist on planting bamboo, be sure to place it in a container so it won’t take over your whole garden.
One of the reasons bamboo is so invasive is because of its root structure. These roots are called rhizomes, and they are similar to the structure of the grassroots.
You can pull a piece of bamboo out and think that you have killed it off, but its rhizomes have many tendrils and will simply continue to spread.
Furthermore, these rhizomes can burrow deep into the soil. Some can even go as far as 10 feet underground.
If you ever decide to get rid of your bamboo once and for all, it will be a lot of labor involved to remove all the rhizomes. If even some are left behind, they will continue to grow more bamboo.
Threat to native plants
Any time you have an invasive plant, you risk damaging the natural ecosystem in your region. Native species won’t be able to compete against bamboo as it takes up all the nutrients in your soil.
Bamboo will also take over the space that other plants had and even native species don’t stand a chance.
It knows no boundaries
A major problem with bamboo is that it doesn’t care if there is a fence in the way. Many plants don’t have roots that go very deep, so if there is a fence, they will naturally stop growing there and stay in your yard.
With bamboo, however, their deep rhizomes mean they can easily burrow under the fence and pop up in your neighbor’s garden. What was just a problem that you had to deal with is now someone else’s problem too, and you might not be friends with your neighbor much longer.
There are many options if you want a garden that takes care of itself. Drought-resistant, native perennials are perfect if you want to go away for weeks at a time and don’t want the back-breaking labor of spring and fall cleanup.
Bamboo is not a low-maintenance plant. To keep it from taking over your garden, you need to constantly pare it back which can take a lot of effort.
Furthermore, the fact that it is so hard to get rid of means you won’t be able to change your garden very often in the future. If you are somebody who likes to try new plants and systems, bamboo can quickly get in the way of this process.
How Does Bamboo Harm the Environment?
Bamboo on its own does not harm the environment. As a plant, it takes in carbon dioxide and emits oxygen.
It only really becomes harmful to the environment if it is planted and harvested in particular ways. With the recent explosion of bamboo as a construction source, farmers are planting it as a crop instead of a more diverse, native species.
Like most crops, bamboo is planted as the sole crop, also known as a monoculture. While more efficient for harvesting, this translates to a loss of biodiversity, including the interactions between bacteria, insects, and fungi.
The displacement of wildlife is a major concern with massive bamboo forests. As more natural forests are cut down to grow bamboo, wildlife has a smaller territory, which leads to fighting over resources.
Which Type of Bamboo is Safe to Grow?
If you have read this far and still want to try growing bamboo, we recommend sticking with a clumping variety. This is in contrast to the far more invasive running types of bamboo.
Running bamboo will propagate much faster and easier and is the type to take over your garden. In contrast, clumping bamboo only grows about 2 to 3 inches in diameter each year and spreads out at a slower rate.
With running bamboo, a long rhizome grows underground parallel to the surface. From this main branch, bamboo will grow up.
With clumping bamboo, the rhizomes don’t extend as far. You will have bamboo that is not as spaced out and if you decide to dig it up, you won’t have to dig as far or as deep.
Bamboo is a wonderful plant but grows extremely rapidly. If you are considering planting bamboo in your garden, aim for a clumping variety that doesn’t grow as fast and doesn’t spread out as much.