Does Bamboo Destroy Concrete?

Are you considering planting bamboo and have some concrete near your desired planting area?  Bamboo is a beautiful plant and makes for great natural fencing, however it grows rather quickly and can actually spread rapidly.  This plant can spread so much that it has been known to grow underneath sidewalks, home foundations and more, doing extensive damage.  

It is not advisable to grow bamboo anywhere near concrete as it may take over quickly and destroy it from the ground up.  If left to grow, bamboo can spread all over your yard and threaten growing under other objects you’d rather not, such as your home.  Some bamboo, however, can be grown without worry.

It is important to learn about what types of bamboo you can successfully grow around your home and near concrete without having to be concerned.  Different types of bamboo can either coexist with your concrete or exploit its weaknesses, causing it to crumble.  

How Varying Bamboo Types Grow

There are two different types of bamboo: running bamboo and clumping bamboo.  Clumping bamboo tends to spread much slower compared to running bamboo and usually stops spreading after sending out a few of its shoots.  Clumping bamboo sends out shoots that turn into new bamboo immediately.  

Running bamboo spreads much more aggressively than the clumping variety.  Its shoots can travel approximately 8-12 inches underground in which they can sprout new shoots which also grow quickly.  This process repeats over and over and can eventually destroy already weakened home foundations and sidewalks.

Although clumping bamboo is the safer of the two types of bamboo to grow near concrete, you should also be cautious when planting it next to weakened concrete structures as this type too can still find cracks and weaknesses in concrete to damage.

Some bamboo species (running bamboo varieties) grow up to 2.91 feet a day or 1.5 inches an hour.  Bamboo is a grass but is very strong and sturdy and has long rhizomes and growers consider certain species of running bamboo an invasive species in the USA.         

How Bamboo Can Destroy Concrete

Running bamboo, although pretty, can be pretty devastating to home foundations and other concrete structures.  This is an opportunistic plant that seeks out cracks and holes that it locates in concrete so that it can shoot its rhizomes through them to reach better sunlight and aeration.  

If running bamboo is left to grow it will eventually destroy concrete by cracking it.  These rhizomes later grow into strong canes, later producing leaves and limbs.  Since it is a colony plant, it spreads quickly and uses energy from shoots grown previously to grow new shoots in the future.

Running bamboo is considered more damaging to property than Japanese knotweed.  Running type bamboo is notorious for sending out long roots that spread long distances from the mother plant.  If growers aren’t careful, these types of bamboo can spread near patios and deck areas, causing damage.

There have been reports of running bamboo becoming so out of control that mini diggers were called in to remove a giant underground root ball to dispose of the invasive plant.  If your home foundation is made of bricks, you should be ever-cautious of planting this variety nearby.      

Preventing Bamboo From Destroying Concrete

There are some tactics you can employ if you still wish to grow bamboo near concrete.  You can purchase a bamboo barrier/shield.  These barriers are plastic rolls you unravel and bury deep enough underground so that bamboo rhizomes can not continue spreading in that direction.  Weed killers can be used, but use it as a last resort. 

You should also consider installing an above ground bamboo barrier (about 4-6 inches above ground) to prevent your bamboo from growing over the fencing.  When installing fencing, be sure that the top is leaning away from the bamboo and the bottom leaning towards it so that it will grow vertically.

It is also advisable to overlap any joints or end pieces with at least four feet of overlapping barrier to prevent bamboo rhizomes from growing through the shield joints.  As your bamboo grows, you should be careful to cut any rhizomes that grow over the barrier.  This habit will also ensure the longevity of your bamboo barriers.

Another alternative to growing bamboo near concrete is to grow it in pots.  This may not be what you had in mind originally, but it can really accent walkways sides of homes, especially when grown in nice containers.  Finally, severing bamboo rhizomes/root pruning is an effective way to prevent bamboo from spreading.

Removing Troublesome Bamboo

To remove bamboo that is threatening or has already begun to destroy nearby concrete, cut its culms and foliage to prevent it from photosynthesis.  This method must be done habitually to completely kill the plant.  Another method of removal is removing rhizomes by hand that pop out of the ground.

More removal methods for already established bamboo include using herbicides such as glyphosate.  To successfully eradicate the bamboo using this method, be sure to cut down culms before applying the herbicide to reduce chemical waste.  Apply the herbicides onto the fresh bamboo cuttings.             

Using Bamboo And Concrete Wisely

All of this being said, as long as you have sturdy, quality, solid concrete near your bamboo, it is not likely going to be directly affected.  Even with running bamboo, those who maintain healthy concrete with no cracks, crevices or slats will have the most success with growing.

Bamboo has only been known to destroy concrete that has been previously weakened by other sources such as being weathered or just old in age.  As long as growers keep wandering rhizomes maintained and their concrete in good shape, concrete and bamboo can easily coexist together.

Summary 

Bamboo is a beautiful plant that comes with many benefits- as well as some cons, especially for first time growers who grow their bamboo near concrete.  Now that you’re informed about types of bamboo and how to prevent it from destroying concrete, you can give this project a try yourself.