Over 1000 species of bamboo have been classified under the grass family – Poaceae. Many people believe that while beautiful to look at, it is an uncontrollable pest that can render large areas of land unusable when left to take over. This belief stems from the fact that very often an incorrect species is planted, resulting in undesired results.
Essentially there are two types of Bamboos – running and clumping.
Running bamboos are the ones most likely to become a pest, though this can easily be controlled with the right management. The roots are very shallow so surrounding the garden bed with a barrier of no less than 150mm into the ground will limit the advance of this plant. The barrier could be a path or driveway, garden edging or even water. Running bamboos are also well suited to pots though they require about double the water of most common pot plants.
Clumping Bamboos, on the other hand, will struggle if put in a pot. In the ground, the clump can be controlled by simply breaking off a new culm (shoot) when it emerges. This culm can be popped straight into a pot, boiled and eaten in your stir fry. Some species are more palatable than others. These plants love friable soil, so proper soil preparation is essential to get the most out of your selection. Heavy clay soils will slow growth considerably.
Depending on the species, it can be grown as a lawn replacement, ground cover, hedge, screen or shrub. It can be used for erosion control, wind breaks and temperature stabilization with bamboo forests being up to 10 degrees cooler than the surrounding environment.
Bamboo is a love or hate type of plant and I guess if you don’t dig it then you won’t dig it into your garden. However, if it’s something that you’ve always dreamed of, but been too scared to give it a try, take heart. Do your research and you’re sure to find the perfect species for your needs.