Bamboos are a huge design trend and they are an elegant addition to a garden. But installation can quickly become expensive as many bamboos will require the installation of root barriers.
There are two types of Bamboo – running bamboos and clumping bamboo. When you are considering a plant, you will need to know if the variety is running or clumping. Running means that the root systems spread by running shoots that spread aggressively and quickly. Clumping bamboos will also spread but they will only do so in an ever-widening clumping fashion – they tend not to get out of control as fast as a running bamboo – but even if it is a clumping variety, you might still want to consider a barrier. A running bamboo will quickly outrun you and you will regret not installing a root barrier to keep it in line and prevent it from taking over your whole garden (and your neighbors!).
The best way to contain a running bamboos is to use a root barrier. There are high maintenance ways to also contain them, but I am not going to cover that. It is a nice idea that you will never forget to manage the shoots every year all the time – but unless you hire a gardener that is really diligent – it will get away from you. I recommend that you always use a root barrier. There are a couple of types of root barrier installation – one that contains the root system and one that protects the edges where you don’t want the plant to spread.
Root barriers are used for trees and other plants besides bamboo and can help to prevent root systems from upending other landscape features like side walks and foundations.
There are many options for root barriers but the main consideration is strength, depth and if the installation will be linear or surround. For bamboo, a surround system is probably the best and you will need to inquire with the nursery about the appropriate depth and size for the particular type of bamboo that you are planting. This is a great article about root pruning and keeping your bamboo healthy and under control and it also has some great pictures showing how root barriers are installed (it is not a small job! – but it is worth it if you love the look of the plant).
Bamboos are a great option for hedging and screening. They are also tend very easy to grow and they fill in faster than many other hedging plants. But – you really need to consider their aggressive nature and plan for it when you plant them – or you will regret it later.