Bamboo is a member of the perennial grass family, known for its usefulness as a building material, clothing material and food product. Running bamboo is one of two bamboo growth types. It is known for its ability to spread quickly when left unmanaged, as well as its beauty if properly controlled. The other bamboo variety, clumping bamboo, grows in dense clumps and is slow to spread, meaning it is also easier to control.
Running bamboo is an evergreen plant which continues growing throughout the winter. At full height, it will reach anywhere from 16 to 40 feet tall. The stalks are segmented by thick nodes which produce branches. Running bamboo has long, pointed leaves, which grow in dense bushes.
Running bamboo is invasive due to its extensive root system. Thick, underground stems called rhizomes can spread up to 100 feet away from the mother plant. Rhizomes are resilient against harsh weather and will continue to grow bamboo even if the stalks are removed from the surface. The rhizomes allow the grass to spread quickly throughout an area.
So invasive are the bamboo rhizomes that other plants in the area are often killed as their resources are used up by the running bamboo. Running bamboo will easily ruin an area's biodiversity if left unchecked. Plants that are native to the an area with shallow roots between 2 to 18 inches are highly susceptible to running bamboo invasion. Those with very deep roots, running at a depth greater than 18 inches, such as trees, will be able to survive.
Infestations of running bamboo require complete removal of the rhizome system. Any small part of rhizome left over will produce new bamboo. Small infestations can be removed by a shovel, but larger installation may require power digging equipment to remove the large rhizome system. Rhizome grows fairly shallow, within 1 foot of the soil's surface.
For decoration in the home garden, a barrier in the soil is required to keep the rhizome system in check. A concrete, metal or plastic barrier buried at least 18 inches into the ground keeps the rhizome system in check and prevents the running bamboo from spreading. The barrier will deflect a rhizome and send it in another direction. The area of the running bamboo should be monitored for escaped rhizome, which should be cut back immediately. Rhizome requires cutting all the way back to the mother plant, as it will grow back quickly.