Bamboo being a grass requires water, in dry climates such as California, it can be controlled by limiting the area of irrigation to those areas desired with drip irrigation. We have a 500 foot privacy hedge of timber bamboo along our road frontage. The Bamboo will send out runners to other areas but they do not flourish because of lack of water.
A small 12 inch deep exposed trench around the perimeter of your desired area also works, you must however prune the visible rhizomes a couple times a year, in late Summer and Fall. Once you prune a rhizome, the growth is diverted perpendicular to the cut, filling in your desired area.
Installing a 30 inch rhizome barrier (60 mil in thickness of “HDPE” high density polyethylene), keeping 3 inches above ground around the perimeter of your desired growth area. (We now carry barrier and sell it by foot. Please inquire). This also requires an annual visual examination and pruning of any rhizomes wanting to escape over the 3 inch high barrier. When filling the hole after placing the barrier, tightly compact the soil next to the barrier. Any soil amendments must be added only in the top foot or so. You must not encourage deep rhizome growth.
Another benefit of using a barrier, is that all growth is directed where you want it, producing a faster fill-in than without a barrier. Digging to 27” inches to install your barrier is a bit more work, but you have much better control of your bamboo growth.
You can also enjoy bamboo in pots and planters, even Timber. Every 2-3 years you must divide your potted clump to provide room for rhizome growth. Leave at least 2 inches around the pot for the next year rhizome growth. We have some 30 foot vivax planted in 25 gallon half wine barrel set against our mission style house and it is quite striking.
And some 15 foot temple bamboos marking our entrance.
Another great option is to use raised beds. This will restrict your bamboo to the size and shape of your bed. One easy way to form curved raise beds is to use rhizome barrier as your “bed” material. You can also place chicken wire below your bed to protect your bamboo from gophers. You can then cover your raised bed with rock or any material you choose.
If you do get an “escape”, that is a culm that grows in an unwanted location, it is very easy to break it off with your foot when it is emerging in the spring.
The new culms are very tender and are easily removed. If you want to remove the escaped rhizome, just dig where the culm emerged and pull on the rhizome to the scape location and cut.
For a long screen you can also mow bamboo shoots that grow outside your designated border. This is how we maintain our grove borders.
Generally, unless you abandon your bamboo and never do any annual maintenance, you should not have any trouble 🙂