What should she do about neighbor’s bamboo?

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.

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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.


67 Comments on “What should she do about neighbor’s bamboo?

  1. Hi Jen:

    When I say “leaf out” I mean when it actually gets leaves. The plant must have leaves in order for it to create the process of storing energy. It stores this energy in the underground rhizomes so it does not always require sunlight in order to grow and survive. This energy can last as long as 2 – 3 years before it is depleted. If the plant is connected underground to another plant somewhere else(a neighbor’s plant perhaps) it will continue to store energy and you will never kill it. You really do need to remove all of the underground parts of Phyllostachys to get rid of it, or you can choose to keep on top of it for 3 years continually guarding and cutting. I personally think this is a monumental task that would be darn near impossible for one to accomplish. Constantly monitoring my property for 3 years is not the life I want!

  2. Hi Carol!

    I hear you! That is definitely not the life I want either! We excavated and dug up all the roots that we could get to. We are going to install a barrier that will hopefully ‘protect’ about 2/3 of our back and side yards that are in danger of regrowth from the neighbor’s grove. This will also protect our front yard, which has never had roots. There are parts of our back and side yards that we cannot barrier because of trees, slopes, gas lines, water lines, etc etc. And we live on a corner, so we can’t attach the barrier to the road. But we are going to do the best that we can. We’re trying to figure out the best way to bring two pieces of barrier together and attach to a deep conrete wall, but there are so many obstacles; I’m going crazy every day trying to make the best decisions possible while the excavating is underway. The back portion of our yard that we can’t barrier… well, we’ll just have to keep knocking it down, but we can’t really stop the roots. No way we can dig them all up each time they grow. My neighbor’s bamboo is right there. About 300 stalks right on the border of our property. So basically, I just want to protect our house and driveway. I realize we will never be able to get all of the roots beyond the barrier. The man we hired to excavate didn’t go down as deep as I wanted, and he couldn’t get to certain places under a concrete stair/stoop, under concrete under the deck, under a sidewalk, but he hand dug as much as possible near those places. Since we will have roots just on the other side of the barrier, we will never be free from it. But, I love this house. We’ve lived here for 20 years now and have raised/raising both of our children here, so it is what it is and we’re doing the best we can to keep it within reason.

    Do you know about these little ‘bushes’ or short leafy bamboo sprouts that we are getting ever since we cut down all of our stalks and poisoned the roots? Do those tiny plants allow much energy to get to the roots? They will be my main concern after the barrier goes in. The stuff on the other side of the barrier that will still be attached to my neighbor’s bamboo grove, well, not much I can do about that except not let it grow stalks. But on this side of the barrier around my home, I’m sure going to try to not let anything grow, and hopefully we dug up most of it, but no doubt there will still be some. I no longer want to go out there every day and cut off all of these tiny, little leafs off of these tiny, little bushes just in case they give the rhizome energy! Like I mentioned prior, they come out of the ground with leaves! Even though I whack them off every day, the next day, more are out there. I could watch them grow! These are my main concern now.

    I’m sure they are just from the bamboo fighting to survive after being cut down and poisoned… but I just don’t know how much energy they can help the rhizomes that may still be left underground store, if any at all. It’s their last ditch effort to survive, but by golly, they sure are trying hard.

  3. Hi Jen:

    I feel very sad for you. I o not think you will be able to get rid of it. Please call me at 352 686-3975 or 757 232-5970. Maybe I can offer some advice. Good luck to you and please be careful. My husband injured his knee from the constant digging and had to have surgery. It never was the same again.

  4. I may have missed something on this thread but the defeatist and exasperated tone regarding bamboo and its eradication has hit a point that deserves once again some comment based on known facts and long experience with these grasses in Western New York. Please note that I am referring to the growth of Phyllostacys in zone 5.
    In zone 5, the behavior of running bamboo is markedly more indolent than that in the warmer parts of the USA. The culms are smaller in diameter, fewer per square meter, and shorter in stature. The bamboo is INCAPABLE of breaching solid barriers of concrete and normal thicknesses of public asphalt paths and roads. Further, it is contained by 60 mil SOLID barriers of plastic properly installed.
    In order to eradicate a grove of running bamboo in Zone 5 you must remove at ground level all existing culms and IMMEDIATELY step on or cut any subsequent shoots that appear in order to deny the rhizome the necessary energy to produce further growth. Letting any shoot “leaf out” is the last thing that will promote eradication. This plant cannot grow in the absence of necessary energy stores and this hysteria regarding its “Zombie” like growth is absolutely unwarranted inout area.
    There is anecdotal experience with Roundup and with flooding the area with 2-3 inches of water for 7-14 days to accelerate the rhizomal death but these methods have not been universally adopted.
    I am not discounting the considerable work it takes to achieve eradication, but the descriptions of heavy equipment, massive excavations and “constant”digging to the point of knee damage is over the top. It will take several years of simple surface cutting and surveillance but the plants will die back and follow the laws of nature that applies to all plants. In an established garden of multiple species of plants that are being preserved, this is, of course, more difficult to achieve but will be successful if faithfully executed for a couple of years.
    Of note, Area code 352 is Florida and Area code 757 is Virginia. These locations have nothing in common with the experience in Western New York.

  5. Jim, yes, the recent discussion is by people who don’t live in Western New York. Jen, who wrote in with the question, is from East Tennessee. I don’t want to discourage people from outside the area from getting the help they need, but yes, this is getting a little off topic for Western New York. If people from outside our growing zones have follow-up questions on this topic, I’ll refer them to the cooperative extension in their area.

  6. Yes, I apologize for questions from East Tennessee! 🙂 However, I found everyone making comments on here to be friendly, talkative, and helpful, and I thought my question about leafing out pretty much applied to bamboo in general. We do have major rhizomes here and are dealing the best way we see fit. Thank you all for any help you gave/give me. Your kindness is much appreciated!

  7. I don’t feel that a blanket statement about this bamboo or the zone where it is growing is pertinent here when it is not even known what type of bamboo Jen is dealing with. If the bamboo is Phyllostachys aureosulcata it will grow in all zones and even up into Canada. This is a very cold-hardy bamboo, and it will grow in these areas with gusto! I guess the only people that can be knowledgeable about bamboo are the ones that live in the area. If you have moved away it erases your memory banks. 🙂

  8. Actually very simple and easy to deal with. If I am reading correctly it is not yet on your property so no worries easy to defend against. Rhizomes run in the top few inches of the soil and can be easily foiled by the proper installation of a bamboo barrier.


    This may seem a daunting task, but actually pretty simple process with the right tools from your local tool rental location.

    Another less sure fire way I have found is to make an alkaline barrier with a good soil additive. Bamboo prefers acidic soil so you can discourage its growth with proper soil treatments and the removal of leaves, mulch, and other ground covers.

  9. Check with your local city ordinance against invasive species and or bamboo in particular. contact your neighbor advising them in the event their bamboo roots encroach upon or damage any of your property that they in turn will be held financially liable to correct or immediate situation. if all else fails and your neighbors absolutely refuse to take action on their part then install bamboo barrier 36 inches deep along the common property line that now is in question. We have been successful in removal bamboo for 45 years.

  10. My mobile home is next to my property line so the new neighbor put up a fence and bamboo
    I have to constantly keep cutting bamboo from touching my home and hanging over over on to my fruit trees and proprty I keep my trees cut from touching her fence and property am I going to do this the rest of my life she is not a good neighbor I tried to talk to her her answer is I don’t have to cut anything.
    In Louisiana.

  11. Manual physical removal is the solution to ridding your property 100% of this plant, anything less and you are leaving yourself open to future problems, damage and heartache. Legally you can ask your neighbor to take responsibility to pay for their bamboo removal cost from your property. Should your adjoining neighbor refuse to comply with your request, remibd them that technically it remains their bamboo rhizomes that have trespassed on to your side of your property, which is without your permission. You have recourse against your neighbor for their financial liability to correct the situation. In the event your neighbor refuses to be compliant with your request, your second option is to sue them In court for monetary damages for whatever your incurred costs are for correcting the situation. This is you paying to have professionals remove all the rhizomes in addition to installing along the greater common property line length bamboo root barrier that runs 36 inches deep.
    Another option is to place an insurance claim directly against your neighbor’s homeowners liability insurance policy, seeking restitution similarly for the same damage just described.
    PS. I professionally have been removing bamboo successfully for over 40 yrs. I have both seen or encountered every type of bamboo situation imaginable.

  12. Steve, you are right on! I had to sue my neighbor to get them to remove the bamboo that was growing on my property and now a bamboo barrier is down. I won in court – a mess to go through, but NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING kills bamboo. If they want to have it fine, but once it encroaches on your side of the property, you’re doomed.

  13. I think we’ve covered this topic pretty well for Western New York. Unfortunately, I’m not able to field questions on this topic from other parts of the country where this plant may act very differently than it does in our area. I also can’t address what laws might be available for homeowners in other parts of the country facing a problem with bamboo encroaching on their property. I’m going to close comments on this post now. If you have a question regarding bamboo in your area, contact the extension service in your state. I hope that helps!

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