Is bamboo the super prepper plant it is made out to be or a nightmarish menace?

At first glance many preppers may be drawn to bamboo for it’s multitude of uses and extremely quick grow time. But for those who have dealt with it know that it is an invasive plant that will quickly overgrow the area in which it was originally planted and can cause more of a headache than anything. 

If you do choose to grow it, make sure to install a barrier like is pictured below. You dig a 3+ foot trench around the bamboo and place this strong and thick plastic around it to keep the roots from spreading out. Growing in a raised planter is another option.


If you have acres for it to run loose in, then go ahead and plant it. But for the average suburban backyard, avoid it unless you know what you are getting yourself into.

Benefits of bamboo:

  • Some varieties can grow a foot a day and can be harvested as it grows. 
  • Extremely strong and entire civilizations have survived off of building bamboo houses. They even make motorcycle helmets out of this material and it passes safety guidelines.
  • Bamboo can be eaten and is rich in nutrients.
  • It can be made into fabrics and clothing. I even have a set of bamboo socks and bed sheets.
  • Can be turned into weapons, hunting tools, or fishing poles.
  • In a grid-down situation you may not be able to buy lumber and need to cut down trees for firewood or construction. A standard tree might take forty years before it’s ready to be chopped down, but bamboo could replenish itself in a matter of weeks.
  • Bamboo can be made into roofing, furniture, flooring, musical instruments, fences, utensils, paper, and more.

  • Comments (17)

    • 3

      I grow a variety that is supposed to grow to 40+ feet tall and several inches in diameter when the roots are mature.  This will be its 4th year.  Each year, the new plants on old roots get another 4-5 feet taller.  And yes, it can be invasive if planted near a house or paved walkways/drives.  In my case, it is down in a pasture & for it to grow, I have to fence it in.  Otherwise my horses on my side will eat it all and the neighbor’s cows on the other side will do the same.  Forage animals love it.  It is evergreen here in north Mississippi and when I thin it in the winter, I throw the plants in the paddock.  The horses will eat all the leaves.

      Keep in mind it doesn’t grow all year.  It only puts out new shoots for a few weeks in the spring.  You cut that shoot or if the shoot is eaten, and that shoot won’t come back.  And a bamboo plant will only grow for around 3 months.  After that, that plant will never get any taller or larger in diameter.  So a plant that is 50′ tall got that big in 3 months time.

      The fact that it reproduces so well that it is considered “invasive” makes it an awesome prepper resource, IMO.  You just have to understand its traits, like most anything.  Kinda like amaranth.  Many consider it a weed because it can be so invasive.  I consider it maybe the top prepper garden plant of all.

    • 3

      Bamboo is super useful and when used as construction material for anything from houses to woven baskets and spoons, I reckon it’s the bees knees.

      When it comes to bamboo fibre, however, things get a little tricky. Yes, it grows quickly and doesn’t require much by way of water (I’ll leave off my thoughts about fertiliser and pest control chemicals), but affordable, large-scale processing of the bamboo to create fibre for textiles and yarn uses some toxic stuff.

      There is this article explaining everything you never needed to know about bamboo and bamboo fibre production. I confess to have only read the Abstract and skimmed the rest (saved it for later digestion), but the section on the mechanical process for fibre production sounded remarkably similar to that used for centuries on flax (linen). 

      Once you have useable fibre, it needs to be spun together to form threads or yarn. Threads need to be woven to make fabric. It’s an incredibly laborious process to get from fibre to fabric, made so much easier with industrial machinery. I admire and fall at the feet of any who have done it by hand!

      Anyone here tried making fabric from plant fibres from scratch? 

    • 3

      Interesting. I’d always heard what a villain it is, but it sound like I could plant it in the back of my property (5 acres) and have a useful plant that wouldn’t really overrun everything. Good to know about animals eating it @Redneck, I’d guess our wandering deer and elk would appreciate it also. 

      Suggestions on varieties? I live in Western WA and we can grow most things well here (zone 6-7ish).

      • 3

        I just love my bamboo & it just started sending up shoots since last weekend.  Since last Saturday, when I checked it, I now have some shoots that have grown 6′ tall… in a week.  Many other shoots are popping up.  I had a really big diameter one coming up but it was too close to the fence, and I see where the horses reached over & ate the top out of it.  If you want to control it, just cut it or mow it.  It won’t keep coming back.

        The older the root, the taller & bigger diameter the plant will be.  This is now the 4th year for my plants.  First year the shoots got around 4′ tall.  2nd year the new shoots got 8-10′ tall.  Last year the new ones got over 15′.  I expect this year the big ones will be 20′ tall and around 1 1/2″ in diameter.  Keep in mind, bamboo only grows in their first few months.  After that, each cane will live for about 10 years, but never get a bit taller or wider.

        I purchased my bamboo plants online from Lewis Bamboo in Alabama.  You can browse all their varieties & make your choices.  Each variety will have a USDA zone map showing where it can grow.  You might be interested in something like Robert Young or Red Margin.

        Bamboo Plants

      • 4

        Outstanding! This is exactly the information I needed. It wasn’t even something we’d considered, because you know bamboo is scary and will literally overwhelm the world (lol!). My wife and I discussed it after reading your post—both of our minds were changed from our previous (uninformed) opinions—and are going to plant some. I  look forward to seeing the results, I had no idea how they grew or how they increased and expanded over the years. 

      • 3

        If you have room to let it spread some, you can control the size of your patch simply by cutting the new shoots with a mower.  If you note in the pics, you don’t see any shoots in the pasture, beyond the fence.  Between the cows & them cutting their pastures a couple of times, the bamboo is constrained.  

        And yes it is funny that people think it will overcome the world if planted.  My biggest concern is protecting it, so that it can spread.  

      • 5

        Was down working in my muscadines a few minutes ago & decided to take a few pics of the bamboo patch.  All of the shoots have emerged in the past week… even the tall ones on the fence line.  I’m holding onto one of the bigger new shoots to give some perspective.  To give additional perspective, that fence is a bit over 4′ tall.

        bamboo 1

        bamboo 3

        bamboo 4

      • 2

        What do you do with your bamboo Redneck?

      • 5

        Right now I’m just growing a small, narrow patch of it.  The patch expands by about 20′ each year.  You can harvest around a third of the canes each year, in the winter.  This thins out the smaller canes and allows room for larger canes to come up the next spring.  The canes I’ve been harvesting each winter are the smaller ones, so I just cut them and throw them into the paddock for the horses to eat the leaves.  When they have finished, I’ve just disposed the canes.  My bamboo is evergreen and the horses love the leaves.  They love the new shoots in spring even more and will reach thru the fence to get at them.  That is why my patch is narrow.  The cows, on the other side of the patch aren’t as interested in the shoots, so canes will grow along the back fence.

        This next winter I will be harvesting some of the larger canes & will use them in the garden.  Gonna build some bamboo trellises. 

      • 3

        That is incredible how fast they grow! Thank you for taking the time to take some pictures.

      • 4

        Just took this while feeding the horses.  You can see those two on the left have grown a foot or two in the past 2 days.

        bamboo 5

      • 4

        1 week later.

        bamboo 6

      • 2

        Bamboo sure looks happy! Is that a well in the picture or a watering trough for the horses?

      • 3

        That is a hay feeder that we built.

      • 1

        That’s really cool!

      • 3

        One week later and the last I’ll post.  You can see that the new large plants are already 4-6 feet taller than the tallest plants from last year.

        bamboo 7

      • 2

        Great info here, on usefulness and management. Will have to put some in the ground when we have more room cleared.