Q. How do I get rid of running (spreading) bamboo?
You will need a saw, a pair of pruning shears, maybe a spade, and patience. Herbicides don’t work well on bamboo, probably because so much of the plant is underground. Since cutting the bamboo down will do the trick, and you have to cut the bamboo down anyway to remove it from your yard, herbicides are a waste of time and money in this case.
If new shoots of bamboo are coming up all over your yard, it is a running bamboo. To get rid of this plant, there are four steps:
- Cut it off.
- Cut it down.
- Cut it down again.
1. Cut it off.
All of the culms (stalks) of bamboo in a clump or grove are interconnected underground by rhizomes (underground stems), unless you have cut them by digging a ditch or cutting a line with a spade. A bamboo grove is usually one single plant, not a group of plants. Many people have the impression that every bamboo culm is a separate “tree.”
If the bamboo in your yard has come across from your neighbor’s yard, separate your grove from his by cutting the connecting rhizomes, which are usually quite shallow. If you don’t, and his part is healthy and vigorous, the rhizomes in your part will still be supported by the photosynthesis in the leaves of his part, and your efforts will be in vain. On the other hand, if you do manage to kill your part with a herbicide you may also kill his part. Lawsuits or at least hard feelings can result.
Therefore, be sure to isolate the portion you want to keep from the portion you want to kill. Cutting rhizomes with a spade or a saw will do the trick if you do it every year. If the growth is old, you may need to use a mattock or a digging bar the first time. Digging a ditch and putting in a barrier is a more permanent solution. (See "What kind of barrier is needed for running bamboo?)
2. Cut it down.
Cut the grove to the ground. All of it. If there is any part you want to keep, see (1).
3. Cut it down again. And again. And again.
New shoots will come up from the rhizomes. Break them off or cut them off with pruning shears. Keep doing this until no more shoots come up. This will exhaust the energy stored in the rhizomes. Without green leaves to photosynthesize and produce new energy, they will no longer be able to send up new shoots. The rhizomes will be left behind, but will rot away.
For tips on a variety of gardening topics, see our Plant Information Guides.
- Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service