Written by davethetreecenters • October 28 How To Kill Bamboo

Bamboo plants are popular for screening and as beautiful specimens in gardens, especially if you are creating an ‘oriental’ theme. However they also have a reputation for turning into problem plants, growing too large and taking over areas of the garden you didn’t plan to be filled with them. So sometimes it is necessary to remove unwanted bamboo plants.

Avoid Planting the Wrong Kind of Bamboo

The best way to remove bamboo is to not create the problem in the first place. Bamboos are of two kinds, clump-forming and spreading. Both have their uses in gardens, but if you don’t have a lot of room or you want just a decorative clump, choose a clump-forming bamboo. The Multiplex Bamboo is clump-forming and the smaller Sunset Glow Bamboo is also a great choice for smaller gardens. If you make this wise choice to begin with, the problem of removing them will just never come along.

Sometimes a spreading bamboo can be the right choice – they fill in well when planted in a row and make a dense screen in just a few seasons. But how to keep them where they are wanted and not let them go where they are not? The answer is to put in a barrier when planting and restrict them to the space you want them to grow in. The barrier needs to be 2 feet into the ground, and also a few inches above the ground so the shoots cannot grow over the top of it. It also needs to be tough enough to stop the shoots pushing through, so regular landscape fabric or thinner plastic will not work. Instead, use thick high-density polyethylene fabric – available specifically for bamboo planting. A narrow trench filled with concrete is also an effective way to prevent bamboo spreading. A barrier can be installed when planting, or you can dig a trench and install it after you see that there is a problem that needs solving.

If you didn’t make the right choice when planting, or if you have moved into a new property and inherited large, overgrown bamboo plants, don’t despair, it is possible to kill bamboo and remove it completely.

Removing Bamboo without Chemicals

The first way to remove bamboo is to dig it out. If the clump is fairly small, cut all the stems down to about one foot above the ground. Take a sharp spade and start digging around the plant, cutting it into smaller pieces as you go. Usually it is easier to remove it in pieces than to try to dig out the whole clump in one big piece. Shake off loose soil and pick out as much of the roots and stems as you can. Work from the outside of the clump into the centre, removing pieces as you go, until you have it all out.

It is best to leave the area unplanted for a while to see if any new shoots begin to appear – this may take a few weeks. Then you can dig out those new plants. When no more shoots appear it is safe to plant new shrubs and trees in the area.

If this is bamboo spreading from another property, you can also place a barrier along the property line to keep it out permanently.

Removing Bamboo with Chemicals

If you have a large area to deal with, chemical control is a better option. If this is bamboo coming from a neighbours property, remember that chemicals sprayed on plants within your property will spread and also kill the plants on your neighbors land, so to avoid any conflict, discuss this with your neighbor first.

The best chemical to kill bamboo is glyphosate. This is variously sold as Roundup or Rodeo, or under other trade-names. Do not buy pre-mixed solutions, because these may not be strong enough to kill bamboo. Mix the solution at the maximum recommended strength and spray directly onto the foliage. With tall plants it is best to cut them down to three or four feet from the ground before spraying, to make it easier to spray, but there must be plenty of leaves left to absorb the spray – it will not work well if just sprayed onto the stems. Use a coarse spray to avoid it drifting onto other plants nearby and keep the spray away from any other plants, as this product will kill almost all plants. However glyphosate is safe for humans, if used according to the directions.

It takes a couple of weeks before you see the plants beginning to die. At that time you can cut the stems down to the ground. This spray is most effective if used in summer and fall, as it will be taken down into the roots best at those times. If you see any new shoots emerging, spray them once they are a foot or two tall. With a little perseverance you will soon have all the bamboo dead.

After a few months the roots will have rotted and they will be easy to dig out, or you can even rototill the area, remove large pieces and re-plant, as this chemical does not affect the soil.

So if you are faced with a jungle in your backyard, do not despair, bamboo is not so difficult to remove if you follow the right steps.