Growing Concerns 526: Bamboo problems, Jerusalem artichokes, Japanese maple


How to fight the neighbor's plant that comes under the fence



I have a problem with my neighbor's bamboo plant. They planted it along the fence line. It is spreading down an unmowed bank. It has to be pulled in order to keep it out of my yard. From there it could spread into my woods which is about an acre. Is there anything I can do to keep this off my property?

Bamboo fighter

Dear Fighter,

Property line wars are fought every day over running-root invasive plants, from traditional groundcovers such as snow on the mountain (Aegopodium podagraria) to the bamboo you're battling (probably not a true bamboo but an August flowering jointed-stem plant known as Mexican bamboo,(Polygonum cuspidatum). Basic defenses are the same for every plant.

Dig down along the property line. Note how deep the plant's roots run. All along the front, maintain a trench that deep -- roots don't grow through air -- or bury an impermeable, vertical barrier. If black plastic edging isn't deep enough, buy carpet runner and cut the roll to make strips the width you need. Carpet runner is 27-inch wide clear or tinted plastic mat with carpet-gripping nubbles on one side, meant to protect carpet in high traffic areas and sold by the foot off a large roll.

Be prepared to dig deep for some plants, including Mexican bamboo which may have runners from surface level to 12 inches or deeper.

If digging isn't feasible or if as in your case creating a trench separator still leaves you with live runners on your side, use a herbicide such as Roundup to kill everything in a four or five foot wide strip or however much area is already infested. Cover it with a thick mulch and continue to watch for sprouts and spot treat with the herbicide. Once the area is clear, if it's protected by a trench or root barrier, you can replant with a desirable plant. Without a trench or root barrier, the no-plant zone must become a permanent fixture, mulched and killed regularly.

Be sure to tell your neighbor what you're doing and that you would have appreciated a no-plant zone being established on their side of the property line in the first place. Keep in mind that many people make mistakes or are misinformed about a plant's true nature, so your neighbor may be looking for a chance or a way to say I'm sorry.


Hello Janet,

I am unable to get seed or tubers to raise Jerusalem artichokes. No one knows what they are! They look like sunflowers.

I"m also looking for the Mediterranean herb oregano.


Dear L.S.,

For uncommon species, don't look in department superstores. Ask at local garden centers, preferably those that specialize in the type of plant you're seeking. Yours are classified with vegetables and herbs rather than ornamentals so check garden centers known for those.They'll help you with the oregano and if they don't carry Jerusalem artichoke they may suggest a source.

To shop by mail, search the Internet for the plant's scientific name. Find the scientific name from a common name index in a plant encyclopedia such as Hortus Third or from the Internet. Oregano is Origanum and there are many varieties. Jerusalem artichoke is Helianthus tuberosus.

If you don't have Internet access at home, go to a library. I was delighted while searching for Jerusalem artichoke to find it in multiple places.  The great thing about searching this way is that you can find out of state suppliers easily if your local locations do not cary them.

Short reports

Want to multiply your Japanese maple?

Are you like M.H.? She read of the probable dollar value of her 45 year old dwarf laceleaf Japanese maple, in recent news of such a tree being stolen. So she's looking for a way to make more of or find a buyer for her tree.

It's not likely your maple will be stolen -- such thefts, despite their rarity as front page news stories, have been going on now and then for as long as nurseries have been in business and usually happen at nurseries. If you're serious about selling, put an ad in the classified, but don't expect the high dollar value reported in the news. That applies to only choice varieties of nursery grown, ready-for-transplant Japanese maples.

It is a good time to make clones of the tree. Take tip cuttings about six inches long. Strip off the lowest leaves and dip that end in a rooting hormone -- available at garden centers as Rootone or Dip n' Grow. Insert the cut end into a small pot filled with moistened potting mix and make a terrarium type tent over the pot. In about six months, about one third of such cuttings will root.


Green thumbs up

to common sense. No, you can't seal-coat rocks, plants or siding to prevent rust stains. But you can redirect the spray, place sprinkler heads to shoot out away from a house rather than toward it, or install drip lines rather than spray heads!


Green thumbs down

to softened water as irrigation water. If you can arrange for outdoor water lines to bypass your water softener, that's better for plants and the soil, which don't appreciate the added salts.

Originally published 7/26/03