Gardening Pros and Cons

Pros And Cons Of Planting Bamboo In Gardens

By Shelley Pierce | March 13, 2018
And Mary H. Dyer
Image by PJ66431470

Pros And Cons Of Planting Bamboo In Gardens

by Shelley Pierce March 13, 2018
and Mary H. Dyer

Pros And Cons Of Planting Bamboo In Gardens

By Shelley Pierce | March 13, 2018
And Mary H. Dyer

What are the pros of planting bamboo in the garden, and are there any reasons not to grow bamboo? That is what’s at question here, and we hope to provide some insight into both sides of this common debate. Read on for information about bamboo benefits vs. bamboo disadvantages so you can decide which choice is best for you – to plant bamboo or not to plant bamboo.


Pros of Planting Bamboo

Mary’s viewpoint: There are countless good reasons to grow bamboo, a fast-growing plant that provides many benefits in the home garden and beyond. Let’s learn more about the many advantages of planting bamboo.

Versatility. There are more than 1,000 different types of bamboo in a nearly endless range of heights, colors and growing habits. Some prefer shade and others thrive in bright sunlight. Hardy varieties may tolerate winter chill to -20 F. (-29 C.), while some types can’t tolerate a light frost. There’s bound to be a perfect bamboo for your particular situation.

Pest resistance. Bamboo is definitely not on top of the food list for deer, which for many gardeners is one of the best reasons to grow bamboo. Rabbits and other mammals also tend to stay away. Bamboo is rarely bothered by insect pests, with the exception of bamboo mites, which may be a problem in dry climates.

Environmental benefits. Bamboo absorbs greenhouse gases and releases oxygen into the atmosphere. It is also a renewable resource that may help save the world’s dwindling forests. A hardwood forest isn’t replaced for many decades, but bamboo, among the world’s fastest-growing plants, can be harvested in one to five years, depending on the species. Because of its extensive root system, prevention of soil erosion is a valuable bamboo benefit in many soil-depleted areas.

Aggressiveness. Bamboo has a well-deserved reputation for invasiveness, but not all types are rampant spreaders. If you’re worried that it will get out of control, plant clumping bamboo, a well-behaved bamboo that spreads only about an inch (2.5 cm.) per year. Clumping bamboo isn’t as gigantic either, topping out at about 6 feet (2 m.).

Easy to grow. Pros of bamboo include the plant’s easy growth habits. As long as the climate is right, bamboo grows in nearly any type of reasonably fertile well-drained soil. It requires little maintenance and is relatively drought tolerant, although it performs better with regular irrigation.

Privacy screening. Bamboo is an attractive, inexpensive, fast-growing privacy screen. If invasiveness isn’t a concern, running types can grow more than 3 feet (1 m.) per day. Climbing types take a little longer to fill in.

Used around the world. Bamboo is a highly nutritious plant that provides food and medicine for people (and livestock) around the world. The strong fibers are used for building material and to make necessities ranging from floor mats or paper to fishing poles or musical instruments.


Cons of Planting Bamboo

Shelley’s viewpoint: Bamboo may make a very attractive hedge or privacy screen but don’t let aesthetics bamboo-zle you into growing it. Read on to discover the downsides of growing bamboo in the garden.

Bamboo is invasive. It is world renowned for being one of the most invasive plants on the planet. That alone is one of the best reasons not to grow bamboo. Sure, some types are less invasive than others, but do you really want to run the risk of planting the wrong or *gasp* even a mislabeled variety? Bamboo rhizomes can grow underground several feet (upwards of 20 feet/6 meters or more) in just a single season and it is said that some bamboo varieties, under the right conditions, can grow 3-4 feet (1 m.) in height in just 24 hours! Wow!

A threat to biodiversity. Like any invasive plant, bamboo is a threat to native plants and will outcompete them for habitat.

A strain on neighborly relations. Let’s say you bucked the advice not to plant bamboo and now it has taken over your yard. And now the neighbors are raising pitchforks and giving you the stink eye because it has taken over their yards as well. That invite you received for the cookout? Consider it revoked. Talk about bamboo disadvantages!

Bamboo wants a relationship, not something casual. Are you one of those gardeners who get bored easily and like to redo their garden layouts, ripping out plants every season to try something new? If so, stay away from bamboo. One of the downsides to growing bamboo is that it is a long-term relationship and, as you will find out, breaking up is hard to do…

Difficult to eradicate. Bamboo is difficult to control when it gets out of hand. Once a running bamboo is established, its thick and tough rhizomes, which are resistant to most herbicides, can stretch out more than 100 feet (30 m.) and send out shoots at any point. Your options are to repeatedly mow down the bamboo to stymie the rhizomes, physically dig up and remove the rhizomes (manually or with power equipment), or try applying many applications of herbicides.  You will probably use a combination of all those options. And, I hope you have a lot of time and energy on your hands, because it will take a few years and a lot of due diligence to totally eradicate. Maybe your neighbor will let you borrow their pitchfork to dig up the bamboo…


Do the Advantages of Planting Bamboo Outweigh the Disadvantages?

While there are many good reasons to grow bamboo, there are also a number of downsides worth considering. If you’re thinking about growing bamboo, don’t rush into a decision. Take time, and then select the best type for your garden. Bamboo can become a big bamboo boo-boo if you commit to it without carefully considering the cons beforehand. If you value biodiversity, your relationship with your neighbors, and maintaining a casual relationship with your plants, then bamboo is not for you.

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    Brian Lloyd
    Comment added July 15, 2019Reply

    Thank you all for your advice on bamboo eradication, I seem to have a long fight ahead of me!

    Heinz Hinrichs
    Comment added June 11, 2019Reply

    All of the cons are specifically targeting invasive running bamboo varieties. These varieties like cooler climates and clumping varieties are limited unless you are in zones 8 or higher where choices of clumping varieties increases. I believe problems have arisen due to a lack of proper information by sellers of bamboo or people accepting plants and information from novices. Just like any plant, it needs to be the correct plant for the right situation or conditions. Educating yourself before planting anything should be everyone's first step and don't rely on just one article, read at least 10. This one only got 100% pros right (and left out that it creates habitat for many birds and beifical insects along with providing material for build projects to numerous to list here) and about 20% of the cons right.

    Comment added April 3, 2019Reply

    does bamboo make a lot of leaf litter?

    Comment added March 7, 2019Reply

    I guess planting bamboo out of spite for your neighbours may not be a good enough reason to plant it.

    Comment added October 12, 2018Reply

    Funny reading!
    iv a bit of bamboo trying to grow for about three/ four years now and its just about three foot tall if that! Apparently takes five years to establish then Geronimo.... hopefully! its home has a concrete car park on one side and same on other so cant really go anywhere causing problems with neighbours thankfully but it is so slow to grow!

    Jim Willeford
    Comment added September 3, 2018Reply

    I planted bamboo as a privacy screen, between my in town plot lot and my neighbors. It has been in for 10 years. It is now 18-20 feet high. However, I have found it East to control. It seems the root depth is about 6-8 inches, before it starts to run. It runs springtime slowing down to mid summer. I just snip off the shoots when an inch of so out of the ground, and use them in stir fries. I also use a hedge trimmer, to keep the patch from taking up too much space, composting the excess. This allows for bushy tops, which are very pretty, and dance in the wind. I estimate no more than 8 hours a summer controlling the stuff, and fully appreciated the privacy, along my north lot line, love it.

    Maria Rose
    Comment added April 24, 2018Reply

    I only grow bamboo in pots inside which limits it’s growth. Very hardy plants but would never plant in a garden

    Comment added March 14, 2018Reply

    Can bamboo be grown in large containers in CT?

    chester marx
    Comment added March 13, 2018Reply

    It's difficult to get a strain that is "correct". Bought bamboo from a mail order, got 3 teeny dead looking roots. Planted and tried to baby them to life. Imagine my surprise a yr later when some shoots came up, and then imagine my surprise when I could almost see them grow. Then I spent a good portion of the next summer pulling up the roots, which spead quite agressively thru the yard. It is now OUT.

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