Bamboo can make a very good privacy screen or hedge. The difference between a screen and a hedge tends to be the level of pruning and training. Screens are generally left more natural, while hedges are pruned to a more uniform height. Bamboo is easy to prune, as long as you prune when it is green. Pruning bamboo after that sometimes requires a saw.
Bamboo has been cultivated for privacy and visual divisions in gardens throughout Asia for generations. As a fast-growing grass, bamboo can create a dense visual barrier or shade area in as little as two or three years. Many parts of the world have native bamboos, which are also cultivated as food or for building materials. Different types of bamboo do well in different climate zones, so selecting one that is right for your climate is very important.
In nature, bamboo usually grows under a natural forest canopy. This is especially true for shorter varieties that may be more suitable for hedges than taller bamboo. Locations suitable for bamboo hedges should be partly or mostly shaded to prevent leaf burn. If possible, try to plant your new bamboo growth in a spot protected from constant high winds. However, most bamboo will tolerate occasional high winds.
Some types of bamboo propagate via runners. Other bamboos either propagate slowly via runners or propagate via other methods. This second type of bamboo is called "clumping" bamboo. Bamboos that propagate via runners can become invasive if not planted properly. Clumping bamboo is generally not invasive and doesn't require the same precautions as bamboos that propagate via runners.
If you plant bamboo that propagates via runners, you will need to install a plastic barrier to prevent it from spreading to unwanted areas. Many bamboo growers use 60 mil polyethylene sheets to prevent runners from escaping the desired growth area. When using bamboos that propagate via runners for a hedge, you will need to dig down at least 3 feet and allow the barrier to extend around 3 inches above the ground. Surround the entire bamboo planting with the barrier to prevent escape.
Bamboo tends to grow very quickly. Plant your bamboo lightly at first and allow it to grow in naturally to fill in your hedge area. Some varieties of clumping bamboo grow more slowly than others, so check with your nursery on the recommended initial planting density. Many bamboos that propagate with runners will fill in empty areas in a matter of a year or two.