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Bamboo is the common name for a very large group of plants in the grass family.  World-wide there are over 1000 species, but only about 30 or so are common garden ornamental varieties in the UK.  
They are popular screening plants as they grow fast and produce attractive foliage.  However, experience tells us that these invasive plants can be aggressive spreaders i.e. ‘invasive’ and are capable of producing many of the problems typically caused by Japanese Knotweed

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How bamboo can cause problems for homeowners

With its fast growth rate, certain Bamboos can cause homeowners problems due to their ability to break through tarmac, grow beneath patios/decking/paving, potentially cross boundaries leading to conflict with neighbours, and even its potential ability for the roots to spread into our homes through cracks or weak mortar. 

Bamboo - growth near property - PCA

Bamboo - Under Slabs - PCA

Bamboo - Canes like Knotweed - PCA

Legislation & Bamboo

As awareness of the problems with so-called ‘running’ bamboos is fairly recent, there are no statutory controls such as those which apply to plants listed in Schedule 9 of Section 14 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act (England & Wales).  

In Scotland, some bamboo species would fall under the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011 but this legislation may only apply where bamboo is impacting wild habitats.

The similarities between Bamboo & Japanese Knotweed

Despite the absence of a specific legal duty to control bamboo there are many similarities between bamboo and Japanese knotweed...most notably fast growth, aggressive spreading potential and the ability to cause physical damage to hard surfaces, possibly even shallow foundations or brickwork.  As a consequence the PCA and its members are frequently asked to provide advice on bamboo control and we are aware that bamboo encroachment disputes between neighbours are increasing every year.

Other Invasive Plants & Weeds

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Professional guidance on Bamboo & Invasive weeds

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Controlling bamboo

An effective treatment strategy for bamboo may depend on the species involved and how well established it is. As such we recommend a site assessment before deciding on the best approach which will be either or a combination of:

  • 1. Herbicide treatment:  Usually a glyphosate-based herbicide works best.  This would need to be applied for several years (once a year in late summer) consecutively to ensure adequate migration to the rhizomes in the soil.  Even then, like Japanese knotweed, the rhizome network in the soil may retain some viability so there is a small risk of re-growth in the future and regular annual inspections are advised.

  • 2. Excavation:  Bamboo rhizomes and even their shoots (culms) are very tough and if you want to reduce or remove bamboo you’ll likely need to use a mechanical digger to make any impression!  Quite apart from the cost and physical disruption of this approach it will also produce a lot of waste rhizomes and soil which need careful handling to avoid spreading the problem elsewhere. The key benefit is that, with some cautionary monitoring, it is likely to be the best way to achieve long-term control and give you the ability to re-assign that part of your garden for e.g. landscaping or re-planting.

Many PCA Invasive weed control members have substantial experience with bamboo management and should be able to advise the best approach in each situation.  To find a PCA invasive weed specialist, simply run a search using the search tool below.

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