Bamboo plants – As home improvement advice it might be an unusual one, but all homeowners need to be wary about what is becoming the great British bamboo plant invasion.
Indeed, gardeners are now being urged not to grow bamboo because it threatens your home’s foundations and also your neighbour’s land.
Worryingly, bamboo plants cannot be killed-off with herbicides and will need extensive work to destroy the roots.
And even more of a worry is that experts are now predicting the issues with bamboo will become more of a problem than we have seen with Japanese knotweed since they have similar properties and can push through cavity walls, drains and brickwork and also exploit weaknesses and cracks in concrete.
To underline this point, there has been a recent court case involving a homeowner in Chandler’s Ford, Hampshire, who discovered bamboo was growing between the skirting board and his living room wall. The bamboo plant had encroached into his home from next door’s garden by exploiting a weakness in his property’s foundations.
The roots of a bamboo plant
The issue is that the roots of a bamboo plant are so robust they can break through brick and some variants of bamboo have roots that extend laterally – by up to 30ft!
Bamboo has grown in popularity, particularly in urban areas as it is easy to grow and helps create privacy in those properties that are overlooked by neighbours.
Now one firm that is increasingly dealing with issues of bamboo plants growing out of control and they say that gardeners and homeowners need to be wary about the plant – and if they have bamboo then they must check it regularly.
The warning comes from Environet UK, who are also Japanese knotweed specialists, and they say that when bamboo is left unchecked it will take over your – and your neighbour’s – garden.
However, most homeowners will not realise that all bamboo species are invasive if they are not checked regularly so while they are a hardy plant that grows quickly in British gardens – you could be leaving yourself open to an expensive and potentially legal problem if the plant runs out of control.
Are all bamboo invasive?
All varieties of bamboo can be highly invasive and will spread out of control if they are not cultivated and checked. You need to understand there are two varieties and they are:
- ‘Running’ – these have roots that spread out or ‘run’
- ‘Clumping’ – is a better choice though all bamboo plants have large underground root systems.
Homeowners particularly need to be aware of the running types as these will cause major potential headaches.
The main reason is that they will send out long lateral roots, known as rhizomes, for up to 30 feet from the main plant. This then causes the plant to spread with new roots that will appear in new locations.
The problem is when this bamboo then encroaches into the next-door’s property and can lead to disputes – legal and otherwise.
How do you stop bamboo from spreading?
The best way to prevent bamboo from spreading is either to not plant any, or if you do ensure it is regularly kept in check though you should really put bamboo in containers so the roots do not spread.
However, Wyevale Garden Centres say it has seen a ‘huge surge’ in sales this year so this is a problem that homeowners will need to be on alert for – particularly if their neighbour plants it or they buy a home with bamboo.
Is it a good idea to plant bamboo?
The short answer is probably not, unless you are going to maintain your bamboo plant so the roots do not grow out of control.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) says that anyone thinking of planting new bamboo plants should consider planting them within a physical barrier to prevent the roots spreading through borders and beds. This means either:
- Placing bamboo in a container with root restrictors;
- Digging a trench that’s at least 60 cm (2 ft), or preferably 1.2m (4 ft) deep, and then line this trench with solid materials such as paving slabs or corrugated iron sheets or use a root barrier-proof fabric;
- Ensure the barrier protrudes above the surface by at least 30cm (1ft) to ensure that the bamboo stems do not then arch over the top of it.
Bamboo and the law UK
While a home seller is under no obligation to tell a buyer that there is bamboo in their garden currently, it may be best to be honest.
The managing director of Environet UK, Nic Seal, is warning homeowners about planting bamboo and he says: “Bamboo is a fast-growing and vigorous plant that has risen in popularity over the last 10 years. It’s very difficult to contain and nearly impossible to kill with herbicide.
“If you decide on planting bamboo, then you’ll need to choose a clumping variety such as Chusquea or Bambusa and avoid the running type that sends long roots out.”
Mark Montaldo is a solicitor with CEL Solicitors who deal regularly with claims over invasive plants.
He told Property Road: “Bamboo is a problem that is growing and there’s been an increase in the numbers of neighbourly disputes following bamboo encroachment across garden borders.”
He added that bamboo is not classed as being an invasive species and there are no restrictions on those wanting to plant it.
Mr. Montaldo said: “I have acted for clients taking action against a neighbour for the nuisance as a result of bamboo infestation and the offending party has paid legal bills and removal costs.”
However, if you are a homeowner with bamboo in your garden, then you need to be aware of what he went on to say: “Mortgage companies are looking closely at this because of the increasing nuisance claims and I would not be surprised seeing mortgage companies imposing lending restrictions on those properties that are suffering from bamboo infestations.”
Types of invasive bamboo
According to the Royal Horticultural Society, they say that while clumps of bamboo make for an ideal focal point or give structure to a border, they can become unsightly and invasive if left to grow unhindered.
They say the issue is with running bamboo plants, as mentioned previously, and they include species such as: Arundinaria, Bashania, Clavinodum, Phyllostachys and Pleioblastus.
Types of non-invasive bamboo
Strictly speaking, there are no types of non-invasive bamboo plant. The RHS says that the types of non-invasive bamboo that gardeners and homeowners should consider includes clump-forming bamboos. These grow in tight clumps and are less invasive than other types.
These bamboo plants include: Bambusa, Chusquea, Fargesia, Shibataea and Thamnocalamus.
In the summer, the Royal Horticultural Society was so concerned over the potential problem – which could end up being more serious than we have seen for Japanese knotweed – they issued a warning over bamboo saying the plant is one that can swiftly grow out of control.
Issues when buying a house with bamboo
For those considering buying a house with bamboo in the garden, then you need to be aware that this is an issue to look out for. However, it is also a potential problem for those who are wanting to sell their property with bamboo plants and you should consider declaring that bamboo plants are in the garden – even though you have no legal obligation to do so.
Be aware that making this declaration may lead to your property being devalued.
According to Environet, the average amount that a property that has Japanese knotweed being devalued is between 2% and 5%.
And should bamboo be classified as an invasive species in the future, then expect this issue to affect you as a potential buyer.
The one problem for those who are buying a house with bamboo is the cost to remove it when it becomes an issue.
And you may be looking for similar costs to remove it as you will for knotweed. The figures make for startling reading:
- For an average garden in London, the cost to remove knotweed is around £2,500, plus VAT, and that’s just for treating the plants with herbicide;
- The bill for digging out the plants means you could be looking at forking out between £5,000 and £10,000.
This increasing problem is also a potential issue for surveyors, so you may see mention of bamboo plants in a structural report even though you may not think of bamboo currently as a problem.
Essentially, when it comes to the question, ‘Is bamboo invasive’ the answer is yes. If you plant it, you need to maintain bamboo properly and if it is left unattended then you risk putting your home’s foundations in jeopardy – as well as your neighbour’s. And with the number of complaints about bamboo plants growing, you can expect this issue to grow substantially – just as it did for Japanese knotweed.
If you really want to have bamboo plants in your garden, then this RHS advice will help.