The worst case of property damage by bamboo we’ve ever seen

A serious case of bamboo encroachment, reported in The Daily Mail and on BBC Radio 4 this week, has resulted in a Hampshire customer’s entire ground floor being dug up and hundreds of metres of bamboo runners excavated from beneath the property, after the plant emerged through the floor in the living room, study, hall and kitchen.

The bamboo had spread from a neighbouring property where it formed part of a border hedge or screen, planted directly into the ground. It travelled across the boundary and under the concrete ground floor slab of the entire house, before penetrating the floor. The plant had also begun to grow up through the cavity walls of the property, meaning if left untreated it could eventually have forced the wall apart.

To remove the bamboo and repair the damage caused, the entire concrete ground floor of the home had to be broken up and removed to allow the bamboo rhizome to be excavated, resulting in a home insurance claim exceeding £100,000 in value.

It’s the worst case of bamboo encroachment we’ve ever seen in the UK. Through no fault of their own, the homeowners have suffered considerable cost, stress and inconvenience, being forced to vacate their home for several months, as their neighbour failed to adequately contain their bamboo.

The truth is, most bamboos are invasive if planted directly into the ground and left to their own devices. It’s unfortunate that bamboo is still sold at garden centres and plant nurseries around the country with little or no warning about the risks. It would be a good deal less popular if people realised that within a few years they could be dealing with an extensive infestation that can spread across boundaries into neighbouring properties resulting in legal disputes and serious damage to homes which can be extremely costly to repair.

Once it’s on the run, the only way to deal with bamboo properly is to excavate the root ball and dig every long rhizome out of the ground, so if you’re considering planting bamboo please think twice, and if you already have it growing in your garden, take action now to ensure it is properly contained.

Despite the damage bamboo can do, it remains popular among homeowners and gardeners for its screening qualities, creating privacy in overlooked gardens – and the fact that it’s easy to grow, hardy and tolerates most soil types. A survey of over 2,000 people we carried out in conjunction with YouGov last year, showed that only 11% would refrain from planting bamboo because of the damage it can cause to buildings, patios and driveways, suggesting awareness of the risks is still worryingly low in the UK!