What should she do about neighbor’s bamboo?

June 19, 2012
bamboo and fountain in Niagara County

Jaime Pabilonia of Youngstown grows bamboo, which can be invasive. He said the sidewalk helps keep it from spreading too much.

From time to time, we post a question and ask for input from our readers. If you have an idea on how to help, please leave a comment.

I hope you can help with a gardening concern I have. My neighbor has bamboo growing in their front yard. Right now it’s sending shoots out into just their yard. However, I’m terrified it will creep into my yard. I’ve read some scary things online about bamboo. Can you tell me how damaging this can really be and if there is anything I can’t do to protect my house from this stuff? It’s an old Buffalo neighborhood where the houses are quite close and the foundations are over 90 years old! Scary thought.

Readers, can you help Alissa? Does her neighbor’s bamboo pose a threat to Alissa’s foundation? How should she handle this problem? Please leave a comment below.



More resources

When you have gardening questions, you can call the Master Gardeners with Cornell Cooperative Extension Erie County at (716) 652-5400. These knowledgeable volunteers are available from 9 a.m. to noon weekdays. You can also email them at mgeriecce@gmail.com. There are helpful Cornell Cooperative Extension offices in other counties, too. Find contact information here for your county’s Cooperative Extension office.

You can also stop at a garden center to get great information. Check out our advertisers, click on their ad and you’ll be taken to their website or Facebook page to get their hours, address and other important information.

Turning to Cornell Cooperative Extension or your local garden center is probably the fastest route for getting your questions answered.

However, if you have a question and you’d like to get a wide range of opinions, email the question to me and I’ll pose it to my readers in an upcoming issue.

Tags: , , ,

36 Responses to What should she do about neighbor’s bamboo?

  1. Penny on June 20, 2012 at 8:11 am

    First thing that I would do is to talk to the neighbor since running bamboo spreads by rhizomes even a tiny piece leaft behind will start growing and spreading. If talking to the neighbor about your concerns doesn’t work, I have heard that using salt water or rock salt on the emerging bamboo will work. Be aware it will also kill any surrounding vegetation too

  2. Donna on June 20, 2012 at 8:19 am

    I agree with Penny. Running Bamboo is hard to contain, even if planted in restricting containers. It will eventually find your yard.

  3. connie on June 20, 2012 at 9:08 am

    Those are great suggestions. If the neighbor isn’t trying to control the bamboo, it sounds like the neighbor will have a problem soon, too. I had thought of trying to slow down the bamboo by planting it in a pot and placing the pot in the ground, but judging from these comments, that might not be as effective as we’d like. Can bamboo be destructive to the foundation of a house?

  4. Penny on June 20, 2012 at 10:17 am

    yes it can be destructive to the foundation. As those rbizomes spread and reach the foundation it it like so many tree and shrub roots and cause crazing or fissures in the foundation and possible water seepage into the basement or crawl space but bamboo is even more aggressive. Because of its extra fast growth and spread it does make a good and environmentally friendly building material but that is probably its only redeeming grace.

  5. Kirsten Reitan on June 20, 2012 at 11:40 am

    The first thing I would do is find out WHAT KIND OF BAMBOO it is. There is a house on LeBrun in Amherst which has bamboo that is in thick clumps but does not spread the way running bamboo does. Also check to see that it isn’t Japanese knotweed…it looks like bamboo and is highly invasive….it will have white flowers in August/September. I would definitely talk to your neighbor first to find out the kind of bamboo, and then discuss options.
    Hopefully your neighbor is open to solutions.

  6. Kirsten Reitan on June 20, 2012 at 11:57 am

    I found two websites that may be of some help.
    1. The first is from a site that sells bamboo and discusses running vs. clumping. That’s why I mentioned checking which kind you have. Clumpers do spread too, but are not invasive. You need to scroll down a bit to find the section on the two types.
    2. The second webpage gives suggestions for how to deal with running bamboo. Timing of removal of new shoots and mowing apparently are important.


    Hope that helps.

  7. connie on June 20, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Thanks for all that information. I talked to someone who had Japanese knotweed in his yard, and it sounds horribly invasive. He had to use a backhoe to get it out.


  8. Penny on June 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    Alissa did mention that it is already sending out runners. Clumping bamboo to my knowledge will not send out runners. So that does suggest running bamboo as opposed to clumping bamboo.

  9. Manheim Garden Center on June 21, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    This can cause a lot of problems if it isn’t dealt with quickly. The roots can grow over into your property, even if the stalks themselves don’t.

  10. Michelle Schmitt on July 16, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Trenching metal flashing will deter for a short while. Bamboo will eventually overcome the barrier. Trenching& then extreme salting have been my best defenses. It leaves the bamboo in a natural clump, while giving definition to the garden. The salt is contained in the trench& also accessible to runners so no salt burns to any other plants.

  11. connie on July 16, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    Thanks for this new idea. How do you keep the salt in the trench?

  12. Michelle Schmitt on July 16, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    I water the trench then salt. The salt sticks to the muddy walls.

  13. connie on July 16, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    I think I’m understanding now. You dig a trench around the bamboo plant. You coat the inner wall, the one closest to the bamboo plant, with salt. Then you add the metal flashing and fill any gaps with soil. The salt may leech downward, but it won’t leech outward because of the metal blocking it from the rest of your landscape. Do I have that right?

  14. Michelle Schmitt on July 16, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    Yes that is how I do it. The metal degrades after a while but I’m usually ready to change things by that time.

  15. connie on July 17, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    Thanks so much for taking the time to explain it. I couldn’t quite picture it.

  16. Alissa on July 17, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    Thanks for all the information. It sounds like I may have to go on defense.

  17. viki on August 11, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    Bamboo growing from your neighbors yard into yours is a criminal trespass. It is also a legal nuisance. It is their financial responsibility to remove the bamboo from your yard, to make sure the bamboo does not trespass in the future, and to return your yard to the condition is was in prior to the invasion. I would start by contacting your city attorney. If she can’t be of assistance then you need a real estate attorney.

  18. connie on August 13, 2012 at 8:26 am

    I hadn’t thought of the bamboo situation that way. It’s another option she can consider. Thanks for writing.

  19. Carol Merritt on October 19, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    I almost bought a house in Virginia where the bamboo had grown through the sidewalk. It had grown up through the expansion joints where the concrete broke and cracked from its own weight leaving room for more bamboo to grow. I am so glad that we never bought that house. At the time I didn’t know what this plant could do. I thought we could just dig it out like any other plant.

  20. connie on October 19, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Carol, that is amazing! Until a couple years ago, I didn’t even know that bamboo would grow in our area, much less that it was so invasive. Thanks for sharing that.

  21. Carol Merritt on October 19, 2012 at 5:15 pm


    Bamboo seems to grow anywhere. It is as far north as Canada. I have seen it covered with snow and I have seen it growing in sand in a drought. I am sure that it has qualities that some people find valuable, but I think it does not have a place as a landscaping plant in a residential neighborhood. There needs to be laws.

  22. Carol Merritt on October 20, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    Here is a website that will explain all. https://www.facebook.com/InstituteOfInvasiveBambooResearch
    Caryn has been doing research for many years now and has spoken with many authorities on the subject as well as having to deal with the plant on a personal level. The U.S.D.A. is sending people with questions to Caryn. If you need help please call Caryn at 203 734-6344.

  23. connie on October 22, 2012 at 7:41 am

    Carol, that’s very helpful information. I see that there are towns in New York State that have banned the growing of this bamboo. The link you listed is for the Facebook page. The website has even more information: https://sites.google.com/site/invasivebambooresearch/

    I think Alissa will find it helpful.

  24. Carol Merritt on October 22, 2012 at 10:36 am

    There are towns in New York State, Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey that have already passed ordinances. North Carolina Beach towns are looking to have ordinances passed as well as Connecticut and Massachusettes. This (Phyllostachys) invasive bamboo is really a problem. I have a neighbor who planted it on the property line, and I am hoping our county looks into the situation soon as it has already cost us 3,000 dollars to keep it off of our property. I live in Florida, and I just got back from a trip to Georgia where I saw it growing wild on the side of the road. You are right, Caryn’s website if full of great information. The sellers of this bamboo are trying to discredit her. Do not be fooled!

  25. Cathy on May 30, 2013 at 11:10 am

    Believe me, there is NOTHING that can be done to get rid of running bamboo. My neighbor allowed it to grow uncontrollably for years and I asked over time that something be done – even at mutual expense. Last year over the spring/summmer season I nearly collapsed digging out the roots, which were now up to my foundation. Finally I sent a letter asking for compensation to have a root barrier installed and asked that he pay for it; otherwise there would be court action. I won the case and was reimbursed $3k for the barrier. However,that’s not the end because next year I’ll have to have the topsoil removed to get out all the rhizomes. Don’t think bamboo will go away if mowed, sprayed with chemicals, etc. NOTHING WORKS short of digging up ALL the roots. Good luck!

  26. Connie on May 30, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    Wow– $3,000! That’s a lot of money to have to spend to keep out running bamboo. Up until a couple years ago, I didn’t even know that there was a type of bamboo could grow in our area, and I didn’t dream that it could be so invasive. Thank you for spelling it out for us, Cathy.

  27. Theresa on June 10, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    First of all, NOTHING kills bamboo – you MUST dig up the roots and the rhizomes. Without long dialogue, my neighbor’s bamboo spread into my yard and I had considerable damage. After refusal by the neighbor to work something out, I had a bamboo barrier put down in my yard (cost $2900) and sued the neighbor in small claims court. I won. Of course, I then had to restore my side of the property. I lost friendship of a neighbor, but gained control of my property. As a side note, no one will buy your property with bamboo growing on it! Excellent article below from Phila. Inquirer 3 weeks ago. That about says it all.

  28. Kirsten Reitan on June 10, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    A really good example of a property that used to be nice with a smidgeon of bamboo but is now overrun sits on the corner of LeBrun and LeBrun Circle just one house away from the corner of LeBrun and Eggert Road in Eggertsville. The effect is one of jungle now. Check it out if you are near the VA hospital or traveling in Eggertsville.

  29. Carol Merritt on June 10, 2013 at 8:57 pm

    People who think running bamboo can be compared to dandelions or other weeds in their lawns are showing their lack of knowledge on this subject. We have been battling this plant for about 5 years. My husband injured his knee from the constant digging in an sttempt to keep the bamboo rhizomes off our property. He has had 2 surgeries and now walks with a permanent limp. We finally had a concrete barrier installed near the property line at a cost of 3,000 dollars. We have lost all the trees, landscaping, and the irrigation system on that side of our property. Running bamboo will destroy your foundation, concrete walks, driveway, pipes, watering system, landscaping, septic leach field, fences, and your pool. Once it is established on your property it will take a back hoe to remove it, and any peices left in the soil can then resprout and the nightmare begins all over again. Weed killers may harm an established plant but they usually will not kill it. The plant spread and does it’s damage underground where you cannot see it. It stores energy in the underground rhizomes so if you cut it down it simply grows back again. The underground part of it needs to be completely removed. You can continually mow, but if it leafs out in between mowings it stores more energy and the process begins again. It will take about 3 years of constant mowing before the energy is spent. The U.S.D.A. states that one running bamboo plant can spread 9.3 miles in its lifetime. Our neighbor planted 5 of them on the property line on 1/3 of an acre. This plant needs to be contained when it is planted and even then it will probably escape in time as the containment materials break down.I have photos of it coming up through the siding on a house, under wooden decks, under concrete, thorough a concrete pool, and growing through the asphalt in the middle of a road. I don’t think this plant has any business being used for landscaping purposes on the average residential lot. We need laws!

  30. Beverly on June 18, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    Yes. We need laws! I am currently trying to have a bill introduced in Baltimore County, MD. I’ve been digging out rhizomes from my neighbor’s bamboo for 15 years. If you live in Baltimore County please call your county councilperson and tell them your bamboo nightmare. Ask them to support a bill to ban or require containment of running bamboo and make the people who allow bamboo to destroy their neighbor’s property financially responsible for the removal of it. You can contact me at banbamboonow@gmail.com.

  31. Connie on June 22, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    To the person whose comment I took down: You’re welcome to express your opinion about a topic, but on this website, we don’t allow people to attack other people. You can disagree with someone, but you can’t call that person names. (For example, you can say a gardening technique is bad, but you can’t say a person who is a proponent of that technique is stupid.) Your comment had some useful information in it and if you’d like to reword your comment in a way that is helpful to all of our readers, I’d be happy to share it with my readers. (I can’t use any comment that includes the screen name you used in your first comment.) We want to make this a helpful site for everyone. I do hope you understand.

  32. Jim on October 11, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    For those readers in the Buffalo New York area it is useful to know the behaviour of the plants in your climate zone. Most of the spreading bamboos are grown in zones 7-9 and can be quite invasive. They do not generally invade foundations, sidewalks, concrete structures nor pipes as has been previously stated. They will breach fence lines and require barriers 3-4 inches above ground and extending up to 18 inches below grade of a thickness of 30-60 mil plastic.
    A relatively few spreading species are grown in temperate zones (3-6) and they tend to grow much more slowly, spread much less rapidly, and grow to only 30-50% the height of their southern brethren. They can be controlled by a 6-8 inch trench around the desired perimeter which allows you to visualize rhizomes that are spreading beyond the desired zone of containment, and they also can be mowed like grass to control their spread.
    The owners of the property on LeBrun have done nothing to control any of the bamboo growing there now for over 6 years, since the October Storm of 2006. This highlights the relatively indolent nature of the plants in Zone 5. Bamboo has the highly desireable property of simply bending over in snow/ice/wind and does not break nor represent any threat to people or property from heavy falling limbs or uprooted mass as with trees.
    When properly tended and maintained, bamboo is a beautiful addition to many gardens and should not be demonized by people with little or no experience in its cultivation in Buffalo New York. Reasonable care properly locating and caring for it will assure that it is MUCH less of a threat to you or your neighbors than most of the beautiful trees that we admire so much in the northeast.

  33. Michelle Schmitt on October 11, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    Thank you Jim! A voice of reason is a very pleasant sound.

  34. Connie on October 13, 2013 at 5:15 am

    Jim, thanks for that detailed explanation for dealing with spreading bamboos in Western New York.

  35. Tony C on April 26, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    Is there a garden center in western New York selling the “clump” bamboo?

  36. Connie on April 27, 2014 at 7:32 am

    I don’t know which garden centers, if any, sell clump bamboo, but you can contact them to find out. See a list of gardening businesses in our Gardening Directory and see more information under Garden Resources. You can also click on one of the ads on the right side of the Buffalo-NiagaraGardening.com website to go to those businesses’ websites and get their contact information. I hope that helps.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *