Bamboo is a highly versatile plant used for food (ask the pandas), construction materials, and as a wood-alternative. However, should you grow it in your garden or yard, you need to know how to get rid of bamboo.
Why? Because bamboo is an aggressive spreader, becoming a problem for gardeners and lawn owners who wish to contain it. Controlling bamboo can be a difficult task, especially once the stalks become taller than you.
What is bamboo?
Understanding a few terms regarding bamboo and its anatomy will help you in your quest to kill the plant, as numerous methods require you to target specific parts.
- Culm: the bamboo’s stem
- Rhizome: the part of the culm that grows underground. Note that rhizomes are not roots. The roots grow under the rhizome, while the culm grows above it.
There are two categories of bamboo: running and clumping. One is harder to remove than the other.
Running bamboo is an invasive plant. Its underground rhizomes grow outward from the culm and through your yard, possibly into your neighbor’s yard. Meanwhile, new culms grow from the extended rhizome system. Yikes!
Think of dealing with running bamboo like keeping your kids from running wild indoors; you have to run all over the place to catch the bamboo like you do your kids.
Clumping bamboo growth habits are slower and more compact. The rhizomes grow from the same original point, turning upwards to form culms. Because of this, clumping bamboo is both non-invasive and easier to remove, as the bamboo is in one convenient location.
How to get rid of bamboo
Now, onto removal methods. There are numerous bamboo treatments available. You only need to pick one method, but regardless of your choice, you must be consistent. Controlling bamboo can take several years, and there’s no magic wand you can wave to instantly make your yard (or your neighbor’s) bamboo-free.
If you’re a homeowner, go for a non-selective herbicide with glyphosate. Glyphosate kills any plants it directly hits, so be careful around your prized flower gardens. Apply the herbicide to the foliage or cut stumps–– the herbicide will travel through both parts of the plant to kill the roots.
Using herbicides can take two or three years before the bamboo dies off. Additionally, if you live near a water source, use a herbicide labeled for use near water, as you don’t want to contaminate the water source.
Digging out the roots is a labor-intensive but effective way to eliminate the entire plant. For taller bamboo stalks, chop down the culm before digging.
First, wet the ground with some water to help loosen the soil. Next, use a shovel to dig around the bamboo. Once you hit the rhizomes, start pulling the plant out. If you miss a single rhizome, the plant will grow back, so you need to remove all the rhizomes and the whole root system.
Pro Tip: This method works in tandem with the one below.
Fun fact, bamboo is a type of grass. Just like how grass can tolerate occasional mowing, so can bamboo. But bamboo doesn’t tolerate frequent mowing. After two to three years of regular mowing, the bamboo will eventually run out of resources and die out.
Before you mow, cut the bamboo as close to the ground as possible. Then with your lawnmower on the lowest setting, mow over any new growth that pops up.
Pouring boiling water over the roots is one of the more straightforward methods of bamboo control. All you need to do is dig around the bamboo to expose the roots, then pour boiling water onto them to kill them. If the bamboo is too tall, cut the bamboo as close as you can to the ground before applying the water.
Remember, consistency is key. You may need to pour boiling water over the roots multiple times before you’ve completely controlled this aggressive plant.
How to Contain Bamboo
Though not a thorough bamboo removal method, bamboo containment is a great way to stop bamboo from spreading into other yard areas or your neighbor’s garden. You only need to pick one of the following techniques:
These barriers keep rhizomes from growing in a certain direction. Dig a trench around the bamboo plant (two inches deeper than the root), install the barrier, and refill the trench.
Rhizome barriers come in concrete, metal, or plastic, but high-density polyethylene is highly effective due to its durability and long life span. Remember to glue or clamp the barriers where they meet, otherwise, the rhizomes might grow through the cracks.
Plant the bamboo in a pot
Planting bamboo in a container garden is one of the easiest ways to keep bamboo in check. Since the pot holds the roots, the bamboo can’t grow outside of it.
When choosing a pot, the bigger the better, but ten gallons minimum is the recommended size.
Sever the rhizomes
Take a shovel and dig a barrier around the bamboo’s rhizomes, signifying where they should stop growing. Keep digging until you cover the outer edge of the plant to cut all the rhizomes.
You must sever the rhizomes a few times a year to keep your plant in check, as it’s only a temporary solution.
FAQ about controlling bamboo
Harsh chemicals like diesel and gasoline can kill bamboo, but this method is not recommended. Handling these chemicals is dangerous, and they’re harmful to the environment.
New culms grow between March and May, making spring the best time to kill bamboo.
It depends on where you live and how much bamboo you need to remove, but on average, homeowners pay between $425 and $1850 for bamboo removal.
Contacting a landscaping professional is always the most effective way to remove overgrown bamboo. It will save you time and money in the long run, especially if you haven’t removed bamboo before. And if you need someone to mow the new bamboo shoots sprouting from the ground, connect with a local lawn care pro near you.
Main photo credit: Unsplash