Growing Bamboo for Privacy

Written by dale devries
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Growing Bamboo for Privacy
bamboo (Javier Rodriguez)

Many people think of Bamboo as a tree or a shrub when in fact, bamboo is a grass. Some bamboo shoots can grow 100 feet tall given the right circumstances. That doesn't sound much like grass, but it is. Although there are many species of bamboo, there are basically two types: clumping and running.

The clumping type of bamboo is the type you most likely find in a tropical climate. The temperate bamboos tend to be the runners. Bamboo is an extremely hardy plant and sometimes difficult to get rid of. Clumping bamboo will form a clump type root system that is very short. They can only expand a couple of inches each year. They need between 2 to 10 feet between the plants for them to reach their height and they like a hotter climate than the runners.

Running bamboo grows quickly and spreads far from the main root. When growing this type of bamboo in a yard, it needs to be contained or it will spread into neighbouring yards where it may not be wanted. Containment can be achieved with cement, plastic, containers or water. Runners will survive in a colder climate than clumpers and make quick growing screens and hedges. Which type of bamboo you use for privacy will depend on your location and how much work you want to put into keeping up with the growth.

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Two Types of Bamboo

Many people think of Bamboo as a tree or a shrub when in fact, bamboo is a grass. Some bamboo shoots can grow 100 feet tall given the right circumstances. That doesn't sound much like grass, but it is. Although there are many species of bamboo, there are basically two types: clumping and running.

The clumping type of bamboo is the type you most likely find in a tropical climate. The temperate bamboos tend to be the runners. Bamboo is an extremely hardy plant and sometimes difficult to get rid of. Clumping bamboo will form a clump type root system that is very short. They can only expand a couple of inches each year. They need between 2 to 10 feet between the plants for them to reach their height and they like a hotter climate than the runners.

Running bamboo grows quickly and spreads far from the main root. When growing this type of bamboo in a yard, it needs to be contained or it will spread into neighbouring yards where it may not be wanted. Containment can be achieved with cement, plastic, containers or water. Runners will survive in a colder climate than clumpers and make quick growing screens and hedges. Which type of bamboo you use for privacy will depend on your location and how much work you want to put into keeping up with the growth.

How to Contain the Bamboo

If you want to grow the bamboo quickly as a screen for privacy, then the running type will work the best. You can also grow this type in almost any location although special care must be taken to protect it during long freezes in the north. The problem with growing the running bamboo is containing it to the area you want it to grow. The most effective and common way to do this is to use a 5ml. thick plastic barrier. It would have to be installed 24 to 36 inches deep around the entire area of your planting. This type of barrier deflects the running system, so the plastic should be sloped up at the ends. This way when the underground root runner hits the plastic it will be pushed up causing the area to be even thicker with bamboo. The barrier edges should be checked at least once a year for some runners that try to arch over the top. These can simply be cut off. This type of plastic comes in rolls and can be taped together at the seams. You can find it at nurseries or bamboo growers and it is commonly known as "root barrier" or "rhizome barrier," as that is what the running roots of the bamboo are called.

You can also use cement, but that is not the preferred method as it can crack and the root system will go through those cracks. Containers are popular, but sometime cause the demise of the plant because they hold too much water. And because bamboo doesn't like too much water, it can be contained by a small stream or mote around it. That can be an interesting part of the landscape for someone who has the time and knowledge to create it.

Planting the Bamboo

Bamboo will grow the thickest and tallest in full sun. Some species will do well in partial shade, but only during the hottest part of the day. They need to be protected from wind and scorching as young plants, which can be accomplished by location or physically building protection. The bamboo should be planted in a loamy soil. Heavy soil will need to have organic material added to it and place 2 or 3 inches of mulch around the area.

Bamboo is a grass and grass loves nitrogen. Grass clipping, hay and commercial compost make great mulches for bamboo. It's best to leave the leaf dropping under the bamboo, too. Young bamboo should be watered at least twice a week until it gets very hot and then daily. When the plant is full grown it will usually be fine on its own unless there is no rain for extended periods of time.

Bamboo can be planted any time of year in warmer climates. However it should be planted in the spring, after the last frost, in the colder climates. Protecting the plants with a lot of mulch in the winter will normally keep them healthy for the next growing season. This is another reason for leaving the plants leaf droppings. They protect the root system in the winter by keeping the ground from freezing around the plants.

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