Many of us think that bamboo and its shoots are simply found in Chinese cooking, and we would be half right. Bamboo shoots are found in oriental dishes, but bamboo also has other uses which are not related to cooking.
Bamboo makes a great privacy hedge as well as adding an oriental appearance to your garden.
Unfortunately, bamboo also gets a bad rap because it spreads so fast and grows so quickly. Many an avid gardener who has bamboo in their garden will be unpopular with neighbours because it simply keeps popping up next door.
There are two types of bamboo and choosing the right one will avoid confrontation with your neighbours.
Bamboo comes in a running type and a clumping type. Clumps grow in clumps while running bamboo does exactly what the name says – it runs – all over the place!
Running bamboo puts out long underground stems which will happily head for the nearest source of water, even if it is your neighbours swimming pool.
Choosing the right species and the right place to grow it will keep you in your neighbours’ good books.
Can you Grow Bamboo in Florida?
Many people are of the opinion that bamboo growing in Florida is illegal, when in fact it is completely legal to grow it in this state.
The bamboo genus which is native to North America is the Arundinaria. This is found primarily in the south/central region and the south-eastern parts of the US.
There are three species which make up this genus, namely the ones known as canes.
- Arundinaria tecta – switch cane
- The arundinaria gigantea – river cane
- Arundinaria appalachiana – hill cane
These plants are found from Maryland to Florida and from southern Ohio Valley to Texas. You will also find them growing in medium elevations of the Appalachian Mountains.
All these are classified as running bamboo and they can spread as far as 8 meters. For this reason, it is better to go for the clumping variety for your garden.
What are Florida Bamboo Laws?
If you look at the Florida Noxious Weed List you will find that Bamboo is not on the list, making it legal to grow in the state.
Now, while the state of Florida does not name bamboo as illegal there are some states that do.
New York was the first to ban bamboo, followed by Connecticut where they did not ban it outright, just stated that any plantings should be set back a minimum of 40’ from a property line.
Is it Easy to Grow Bamboo in Florida?
Yes, it is relatively easy to grow bamboo in Florida. Most plants do well in moist soil which is well draining. Bamboo is not fussy about the soil type although they do not like wet and boggy soils. They do much better in acidic soils.
Most bamboo will do well in sun although there are one or two which you can grow in shade.
Planting your bamboo in the spring will encourage the development of good roots and strong canes before the plants go dormant in the colder months.
Bamboo enjoys a balanced fertilizer right through the growing season.
If you plant the clumping type you should dig a hole which is twice the size of the root ball and then backfill with soil.
What Types of Bamboo Grow Well in Florida?
Below are three clumping types of bamboo, all of which grow exceptionally well in Florida.
1) Seabreeze Bamboo
This makes a great hedge when planted in containers. In a 40-gallon pot you can expect this bamboo to grow to around 15’. It will do well in temperatures of down to about 15 degrees F.
2) Oldhamii Bamboo
In a container this bamboo can reach up to 20’ in height, the shoots grow tall and straight and the foliage is recognised as one of the most beautiful of the bamboo groups.
The shoots make an excellent option if you want a screen, instead of a blocking bamboo.
3) Multiplex Bamboo
This species will reach between 10’ and 25’ and you may have heard it called pencil bamboo because of the thin canes which can be planted close together.
One good thing about this species is that it handles temperatures of down to 12 degrees F.
When Should Bamboo be Planted in Florida?
Spring is the best time when planting bamboo in Florida, so aim for planting between March and June.
However, fall is also considered a good time, namely September to the end of October.
If you must plant in the height of summer you need to make sure that the new plants are watered regularly.
If you live in a very mild part of the country you will be able to plant bamboo all year round, as long as there is no severe weather during the colder months.
How to Control your Bamboo
There is basically only one way to control bamboo, and this is by pruning or removing the rhizomes which are found below the ground. Simply removing anything above the soil will only encourage further growth.
There are three ways to control the spread of bamboo, namely:
- Root pruning
- Open sided barriers
- Fully enclosed barriers
For this to be successful you need to prune the roots back twice a year. Thankfully the rhizomes are found just below the surface as they tend to grow in loose soil rather than compacted ground.
You can remove the roots by inserting a sharp knife or spade down into the ground and you will be able to feel when you hit a root.
You should cut the roots back to about 2’ from the main plant. This will still leave the plant in a healthy condition but restrict shoots from emerging further away.
Open Sided Barriers
This is where you restrict the growth and spread on one side of the bamboo and let it spread on the other out to the distance you like.
This method is often used between neighbours as a border between two gardens and is ideal to use in small areas.
The open sided barrier should be in the shape of a half circle with the open side where it is convenient to prune the roots during the year. You will still need to cut the roots back although only on one side.
Fully Enclosed Barriers
For this method to work you will need to dig a trench about 2-3 feet deep all the way round the area where you are growing the bamboo.
You should plant your bamboo inside the barrier and make sure that no roots are able to creep over the barrier. If you leave the top 4” of barrier visible you will be able to see any escaping roots and remove them.
While this method ensures that you have very little maintenance through the year, you should still keep a watchful eye for roots that wander.
How to get Rid of Bamboo
While bamboo is not that hard to get rid of, it can be physically hard as there are miles of roots.
There are of course chemical ways to remove bamboo. There are no listed herbicides although according to the Institute of Food and Agricultural Services in Florida there are some that are effective.
- Glyphosate (also found in Roundup)
- Imazapyr (found in Alligare)
For these to work effectively the bamboo needs to be cut back to about 3’ when the leaves start to expand. You then apply a 5% solution of Glyphosate or a 1% solution of Imazapyr directly onto the leaves.
It is important to note that the application must be applied to the leaves. If it is simply sprayed around the plants it will not reach the roots and kill the bamboo.
It may take more than one application to kill the bamboo so be ready to spray the leaves several more times.
Bamboo often gets a bad rap because it spreads so rapidly and is very invasive. Not everyone likes a yard full of bamboo which is spreading from next door!
The good news about growing bamboo in Florida is that if you choose the clumping kind instead of the running variety, you will be able to control it and very quickly have a great privacy hedge as well as an attractive foliage plant in the garden.
If you enjoyed this article, check out our article on why is your outdoor bamboo dying.