In short, yes. Certain varieties of bamboo can be safely grown in the UK, but choose the wrong type of this species and it could be costly.
Gardening with bamboo may seem harmless at first. But the wrong type of bamboo could grow invasively, spreading out of control.
You may be aware that bamboo has a reputation for its aggressive growth and prevalence across the UK. As a non-native plant species to Europe, bamboo was initially introduced to the UK as a beautiful ornamental grower.
From everyday gardeners to site managers, the problem with bamboo is when it becomes invasive, spreading rapidly and affecting more than just your property, but growing into neighbouring land. Left alone, bamboo can be intrusive, disrupting the surrounding natural wildlife and even resulting in costly litigation if you become entangled in boundary disputes.
Not all types of bamboo are as invasive or potentially damaging to your property. That’s why it helps to understand which types of bamboo have aggressive growth habits. Without proper identification and management, bamboo can be a problem too significant to manage alone. Stop it before that happens when you learn about the varieties.
How Many Types of Bamboo Are There?
In ecosystems where bamboo is a native species, it’s believed that there are large varieties of this plant in tropical, sub-tropical and temperate climates, such as those found in Asia and South America.
In the UK, however, there are two major species of bamboo that property owners need to be aware of.
Bamboo Plant Types
There are two categories of bamboo plants that are seen in the UK landscape, including:
Here in the UK, running bamboo is the variety of bamboo causing problems for landowners and development projects, especially with Litigation claims due to the private nuisance it can cause.
It’s advisable to avoid growing ‘running bamboo’, and this is because they have an aggressive growth habit, often spreading uncontrollably and affecting surrounding areas. Whilst you may be wondering whether this growth is manageable, not every type of bamboo is this aggressive. What’s called ‘clumping/clump-forming bamboo’, which is considered a tamer type of bamboo, can be better for a garden. Clumping bamboo stills spreads underground, but it’s not invasive enough to evoke the panic of identifying a plant like Japanese knotweed.
In recent years, the RHS has even updated its guidance on “bamboo control”, including advice for managing varieties of this plant. If it causes a problem to your property, you will have two options: either bring it back under control or remove it altogether.
The Role of Rhizomes
All types of bamboo will spread through their root systems underground. A bamboo’s rhizomes, which are a stem-like system of roots, spread horizontally beneath the soil. As new roots firm up underground, making them stubborn to remove, new plant shoots will start to come through the soil above ground.
As bamboo varieties will flower late (between every 65 and 120 years), it can make identifying the invasiveness of its different types more challenging. That’s because the rhizome will be what experts use to determine the invasive varieties of bamboo.
Here’s what you need to know about rhizomes for each type of bamboo:
Running bamboo (monopodial) are capable of spreading via long, horizontal rhizomes.
Clumping bamboo (sympodial), which are less aggressive in their growth habit, have shorter rhizomes and tend to grow closer to their origin (as opposed to spreading further outward).
Clumping bamboo tends to shoot from a single point, whereas running types will quickly and invasively spread, often reshooting above ground and in locations you may have not planned for. Uncontrollable root growth, which is often invisibly spreading underground, can even cause disruption to a building’s foundations.
Running Bamboo Types, Explained
Characteristics of running bamboo (vs clumping varieties)
Underground runners will shoot, spread and affect surrounding areas and, soon enough, one of the few remedies for an invasive bamboo problem is professional excavation.
Did you know, that in invasive varieties, the rhizomes can grow rapidly, spreading up to 30m before they reshoot above ground? At this point, bamboo can affect multiple properties.
The following are types of running bamboo:
Phyllostachys (can be clump-forming in cold conditions)
Clumping Bamboo Types, Explained
Characteristics of clumping bamboo (vs running varieties)
This shoots in large ‘clumps’ above the ground, most often in the area where it was originally planted.
Did you know, that compared with other bamboo types, this is most well-behaved of the different varieties?
The following are types of clumping bamboo:
Don’t Let Your Bamboo Run Away
When bamboo becomes an uncontrollable problem, you should seek out support and guidance from the professionals. If it’s left alone, the problem could spread alarmingly to other properties, at a rate similar to Japanese knotweed.