Heirloom Expert: Should You Grow Bamboo?

Bamboo plants can add an interesting and unique look to a space, but Doug Oster warns against letting the invasive plant into your garden.

Green Bamboo

Bamboo is an invasive plant that can be difficult to eradicate once introduced to a garden.

Photo by fotolia/Jag_cz

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A friend has offered to give me some bamboo. Her plants grow 20 feet tall and are beautiful. Another gardener warned me not to take this gift as the plant can get out of hand. I love the interesting look of bamboo and I’ve got some room to let it run, what do you think? — Adele in Ohio

Adele, one of the biggest mistakes I ever made was taking some bamboo from a friend. He told me it wasn’t invasive, and now I spend countless hours battling the plant. It’s spread to my vegetable garden and has run under a path into a perennial bed. The original planting is beautiful, but if there was one thing I could change in my garden, it would be that bamboo.

Most types of bamboo are invasive, and when you plant them they can almost never be completely eradicated.

There are varieties that are referred to as clumping and not as invasive, but I doubt that’s what your friend is growing. Gardeners will also grow the plant in containers, but be warned, they can escape through drainage holes.

Think long and hard before introducing the plant into your garden and try to understand the repercussions of a stand of bamboo and what it might become over the next few decades and beyond.


Doug is the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Backyard Gardener (www.post-gazette.com/gardeningwithdoug) and co-host of The Organic Gardeners radio program on KDKA.