How to Remove Bamboo From Your Yard

Eliminating This Invasive Plant Without Using Herbicides

Bamboo branch image
David Beaulieu

Bamboo, a native plant to Southeast Asia and South America, grows surprisingly well in the southern United States, too. And with the right growing environment, it can proliferate to the extent that many home gardeners want it gone. Trying to contain one of the "running" types (as opposed to the tamer "clumping" types) is one of the toughest problems known to landscapers. But as with any "weed," persistent, natural measures, as opposed to a chemical attack on the plant, can permanently eradicate it in a way that is safe to both family members and pets. These methods can either be used to turn an unruly 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 way of rhizomes under the soil. So in order to eradicate it completely, you must attack not only the aboveground greenery but also the below-the-surface shoots. This requires diligent effort that must begin in the spring and continue throughout the plant's growing cycle. In mild climates where bamboo exists, this could mean year-round removal efforts until the grove is thoroughly desiccated.

What You'll Need

Equipment/Tools

  • Gardening gloves
  • Garden pruner
  • Handsaw
  • Lawnmower
  • Garden hose or sprinkler
  • Spade shovel
  • Pitchfork
  • Ax

Materials

  • Tarps or plastic garbage bags
  • Landscaping pins or rocks

Instructions

Cutting and Watering Bamboo

The American Bamboo Society recommends continuously cutting a bamboo grove to eradicate it. This removal method involves cutting all culms to ground level to prevent the plant from completing its photosynthesis process.

Project Metrics

  • Working Time: 1 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the grove
  • Total Time: Up to 6 months
  1. Cut and remove all culms with a pruner or handsaw. Immature culms that exist on the periphery of the grove can also be mowed down with a lawnmower.
  2. Water the area thoroughly with a garden hose or sprinkler.
  3. Cut down the new crop that grows its place, taking care to also chop it flush to the ground. (New shoots may be tender enough to be mowed from this point on.)
  4. Repeat the process until you've exhausted the roots of their energy store and they no longer send up new shoots.
  5. Allow any remaining rhizomes (now depleted of energy to reproduce) to rot underground

Digging Up Bamboo

The process of digging up bamboo takes due diligence, similar to the methods used in cutting it down. However, digging is recommended only for smaller patches or clumping bamboo varieties. Clumping bamboo does not contain rhizomes and small patches will require less effort to eradicate.

Project Metrics

  • Working Time: 1 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the grove
  • Total Time: Up to 1 year or more
  1. Water the bamboo patch with a garden hose or sprinkler. Allow the moisture to soak into the soil for about half an hour.
  2. Cut the culms with a pruner or saw so that just a handful of greenery extends from the earth.
  3. Using a spade shovel, dig gingerly around the base a bamboo plant and loosen the soil.
  4. Pull the plant from the ground, root ball and all. For non-clumping varieties, following the plant's rhizome system as best as you can and remove all of the underground shoots.
  5. Enlist the help of an ax to break up rhizomes located beneath old-growth groves. Make sure to remove all the rhizomes and their pieces, if possible.
  6. Move onto another area and repeat the process until you've dug up and removed the whole patch.
  7. Once new shoots form, dig them up once again and remove the existing rhizomes below the surface. Repeat the process until nothing grows back.

Smothering Bamboo With Tarps

Another method used for ridding your yard of bamboo is smothering the plant with tarps. However, bamboo plants may be able to outflank the tarps by spreading beyond the covered perimeter. Therefore, employing tarps can result in bamboo outcrops somewhere else in the yard.

Project Metrics

  • Working Time: Around 1 hour, depending on the size of the grove
  • Total Time: About 2 months
  • Material Cost: Under 25 dollars
  1. Using pruners or a handsaw, cut the bamboo culms level to the surface of the ground.
  2. Cover the entire area with dark plastic tarps or cut up garbage bags. Pin them to secure or place rocks on top of the tarps' surface.
  3. Wait several weeks or months until the contents below the tarps have suffocated.
  4. If the covered bamboo patch sends rhizomes out 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 shoots.

Tips for Removing Bamboo From Your Yard

When digging, it may help to have a sifter so that you can sift through the soil to locate stray rhizomes. Any fraction of a rhizome left behind will result in a new shoot, thus mocking your efforts to get rid of the grove.

For smothering tactics, you may consider enlisting the help of buried barriers. You can effectively "fence" the bamboo in 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 works great if you have a patch of bamboo you want to keep, yet control.

Polygonum cuspidatum (sometimes called "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, as well.

While most varieties of bamboo rarely succumb to weed killers, glyphosate-based herbicides like Roundup have been used with some success. If you decide to use this chemical, first, cut the culms to the ground, exposing the hollow tube within. Next, pour the Roundup into the culms and wait. If and when vegetation re-sprouts (which it probably will), apply the herbicide directly onto the new growth. Like all methods, using herbicides takes persistence.