What to do if you find ‘invasive’ bamboo in your garden – essential steps to control it

Bamboo plants have highly ornamental attributes and are a popular choice for gardeners looking to improve privacy in their outdoor space. Often positioned on the boundary of a property, the tall canes and feathery leaves are known to spill over fencing and walls – though this can be incredibly problematic for neighbouring homeowners. While potted bamboo is generally safe from earning the title of an invasive plant, Nic Seal, founder of invasive plant specialists Environet UK, explained that ground-grown varieties can be “extremely expensive to rectify” when they grow out of hand.

Unlike Japanese Knotweed, there is no legal requirement for homeowners to declare bamboo growing on their property when it comes to selling up.

However, Nic Seale noted that it is “sensible” to notify neighbours if you spot it creeping over the boundary.

Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, he said: “If unpotted bamboo is growing on a neighbouring property, it’s sensible to notify the homeowner as soon as possible and alert them to the risk.

“They are perfectly entitled to have bamboo in their garden, but it’s their responsibility to prevent it from spreading to yours and if it does, as long as you’ve informed them and they’ve failed to act, you could seek compensation for the cost of removal and repairing any damage caused, through private nuisance legislation. We’re seeing more and more customers successfully claim where neighbours have failed to act.”

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Similarly to Japanese Knotweed, removing bamboo is not cheap – though the extent of the cost is determined by how bad the infestation is.

Nic explained: “The cost of bamboo removal depends on how far the roots have travelled and whether they’ve spread beneath patios, sheds and buildings, which can make the job more complex and expensive. Prices typically start from around £2,200 plus VAT, with the average homeowner spending around £4,000 plus VAT.”

As with any invasive plant, spotting the signs early is crucial to managing the problem more easily, but first, you need to know what to look for.

New shoots

Nic said: “When bamboo is on the run, the first thing people notice is new shoots emerging in new locations, away from the original plant.”

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He added: “Homeowners might be able to remove small bamboo infestations themselves by physically digging the rhizomes out from beneath the ground.

“From this point, the energy depletion method is most suitable to tackle any regrowth, which involves cutting the canes to ground level before new leaf appears and repeating the process for many years in the hope of depleting the energy reserves in the root system.

“Realistically this can take many years with no guarantee of success.”

If bamboo is getting out of control, the best option is to have it professionally excavated before it can spread any further.

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While some homeowners may attempt to use natural methods or herbicides, Nic noted that these are not effective against the strong canes.

He noted that when bamboo growth is well-established or excessive, it can be difficult for homeowners to tackle it successfully using everyday garden tools.

Research has shown that for herbicides to be remotely effective, the bamboo should be mowed or chopped and allowed to regrow to a height of approximately three feet.

Not only is this a lengthy process, but also incredibly risky if you are unsuccessful.

Left unchecked, bamboo can penetrate buildings, growing into cavity walls, through floors and into drains which can be extremely expensive to rectify.

Nic explained: “We had one case where bamboo had encroached from next door, exploited a weakness in the foundations of the house and emerged through the floor in the kitchen, hall study and living room.

“The entire ground floor of the house had to be dug up at a cost of over £100,000 – a salutary tale which demonstrates the power and ability of bamboo to spread with no respect for property boundaries.”

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