Bamboo, a plant native to Southeast Asia and South America, grows surprisingly well in the southern United States. And under the right conditions, it can spread rapidly. Trying to contain one of the "running" types (as opposed to the tamer "clumping" types) is a problem for many gardeners. But persistent natural measures—as opposed to a chemical attack—can safely eradicate the plant. These methods can be used either to turn an unruly bamboo patch into an attractive part of your landscaping or to rid yourself of the invasive plant for good.
When to Remove Bamboo From Your Yard
Bamboo spreads by rhizomes in the soil. So to eradicate it completely, you must attack not only the aboveground greenery but also the below-the-surface shoots. This requires a diligent effort that must begin in the spring and continue throughout the plant's growing cycle. In mild climates where bamboo thrives, this could mean year-round removal efforts until the grove is eliminated.
What is a rhizome?
Also called creeping rootstalks, rhizomes are underground stems that grow horizontally beneath the surface of the soil. They send up shoots along their length that break through the soil.
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Equipment / Tools
- Gardening gloves
- Garden hose or sprinkler
- Spade shovel
- Tarps or plastic garbage bags
- Landscaping pins or rocks
Cutting and Watering Bamboo
Some experts recommend continuously cutting and watering a bamboo grove to eradicate it. This removal method involves cutting the plants to ground level to prevent them from completing photosynthesis. The process might need to be repeated for up to six months to achieve full eradication.
Cut Bamboo to Ground Level
Cut the bamboo to ground level with pruners or a handsaw. Immature plants that exist on the periphery of the grove can also be mowed down with a lawnmower.
Water the Area
Water the area thoroughly with a garden hose or sprinkler.
Repeat this cutting (or mowing) and watering process until you've exhausted the roots of their energy store. Eventually, they'll no longer send up new shoots.
Allow any remaining rhizomes (underground stems that send up new shoots) to rot in the soil.
Digging Up Bamboo
The process of digging up bamboo takes effort, and it can be a year or more until you achieve eradication. Thus, this method is recommended only for smaller patches or clumping varieties. Clumping bamboo does not contain rhizomes, so it's easier to remove from the soil.
Water the bamboo patch with a garden hose or sprinkler. Allow the moisture to soak into the soil for about half an hour.
Cut Down Bamboo
Cut down the bamboo with pruners or a saw, so only a small amount of greenery extends from the earth.
Loosen the Soil
Using a spade shovel, dig around the base of the bamboo plant to loosen the soil.
Pull the Plant Out
Pull the plant from the ground, rootball and all. For non-clumping varieties, follow the plant's rhizomes as best as you can to remove all of the underground shoots.
Break Up Rhizomes
Use an ax to break up the rhizomes. Remove all pieces of the rhizomes if possible.
Repeat the process until you've dug up and removed the whole patch.
Dig Up New Shoots
Dig up new shoots once they form, and remove the rhizomes below the surface. Repeat the process until nothing grows back.
Smothering Bamboo With Tarps
Another method for ridding your yard of bamboo is smothering the plant with tarps. This typically takes around two months. However, the bamboo might be able to spread beyond the covered perimeter, so you have to closely monitor the situation.
Using pruners or a handsaw, cut the bamboo to ground level.
Cover With Tarps or Garbage Bags
Cover the entire area with dark plastic tarps or garbage bags. Secure them with landscaping pins, or place rocks on top of the tarps.
Wait several weeks or months until the contents below the tarps have suffocated.
If the covered bamboo patch sends out rhizomes beyond the tarps, creating new sprouts, cut and cover the sprouts immediately. Alternatively, plant other proliferating perennials around the border to create a natural barrier that will crowd out new bamboo shoots.
Tips for Removing Bamboo From Your Yard
When digging up bamboo it might help to have a sifter, so you can sift through the soil to locate stray rhizomes. Any fraction of a rhizome left behind can result in a new shoot.
For the smothering method, consider enlisting the help of buried barriers. You can effectively fence in the bamboo by sinking plastic barriers into the ground around the grove. Barriers should run 30 inches deep and extend a few inches above the ground to prevent rhizomes from weaseling their way over the top. This method also works well if you have a patch of bamboo you want to keep yet control.
Polygonum cuspidatum, also known as Japanese bamboo or Japanese knotweed, is not a true bamboo, but it acts similar to one. You can use the same methods to eradicate this species.
What is the best killer for bamboo?
A broad-spectrum herbicide, such as glyphosate, can be an effective way to get rid of bamboo. However, it also will kill other plants it comes in contact with, as well as damage the ecosystem. Plus, it is toxic to humans and animals.
Does vinegar kill bamboo?
Spraying bamboo with vinegar will weaken and eventually kill it if you’re diligent. The acidity in vinegar works by drying up the plant. But you’ll have to keep reapplying it as it wears off and rain washes it away.
How do you stop bamboo from growing back?
Smothering bamboo with tarps and keeping the tarps in place for weeks to months can be an effective way to prevent it from coming back. Regardless of which removal method you choose, you also must be watchful for new sprouts to catch them as soon as possible to prevent spread.