Bamboo gives you a year-round screen. You can also use it to add height to a border or to create a focal point. It sways gently in the breeze, making a soft swishing noise which can be very relaxing. But bamboo is a very divisive plant – some people love it while others feel passionately that it’s a thug, invading your garden and your neighbour’s, and should never be planted.

Bamboo as a screen. Sarah Buchanan

Bamboo as a screen. Sarah Buchanan

How to choose

Bamboo is part of the grass family. It grows from underground rhizomes and has hollow, evergreen stems known as culms.

There are two main types: the running variety and the clump-forming variety.

Running bamboos are aptly named. They are extremely vigorous, sending new canes from their underground rhizomes to pop up as far as several metres away from the main plant. Varieties of running bamboo include Phyllostachys – including the black and golden bamboos - and Sasa. Phyllostachys loves the sun, necessary to get a good colour on the culms. Phyllostachys edulis is said to be the fastest growing bamboo outdoors in the UK, given the right conditions, reaching its eventual height of 6m in 60-90 days.

Bamboo canes (Phyllostachys edulis) at Trebah Gardens, Cornwall.

Bamboo canes (Phyllostachys edulis) at Trebah Gardens, Cornwall. © Rod Allday and licensed for reuse under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Clump-forming bamboos spread more slowly. These are the kind to consider for pots. Bear in mind, though, that even clump-forming bamboos can bolt – after behaving nicely for years, perhaps. Varieties include Fargesia and Pleioblastus.

Grow it in a trench

For hedging or screening, it’s best to grow bamboo in a trench, 60-120cm deep. Line the trench with an impenetrable material (paving slabs, corrugated iron or a root barrier fabric) leaving 5-7cm proud of the surface. Fill the trench and compact the soil well. Watch how to install a root barrier here.

Some people recommend digging a maintenance trench of the same depth, about 30-60cm in front of the bamboo trench. This allows you to see if any new rhizomes have grown which you can then cut off with a sharp shovel or clippers.

Grow it in a container

Grow bamboo in a very large container  and then sink it into the ground. Leave it a little proud of the surface of the soil so the plant does not spread beyond the container.

Caring for bamboo

It needs a lot of water, especially when it is first planted, to get it established but it does not like being water-logged. It also responds well to feeding with a general purpose (not tomato) feed. Find three tips about caring for bamboo here.

The choice is yours.