How To Kill Bamboo

May 12, 2016 | By | Comments (11)
Bamboo

Photo: room-decoratingideas.com

Some people love bamboo, but far more people loathe it. That’s because they plant this fast-growing, fast-spreading monster as a screen so they can’t see their neighbors. Then in about two weeks, they can’t see themselves either. Bamboo comes up everywhere, until they cry in desperation to Grumpy, “How can we kill this damn bamboo?”

Well, it’s easier than you might think. But to understand why, you need to know a little more about it. Bamboos are giant, woody grasses. Some are clumping and cause no problems. But most are running, spreading rapidly underground by thick rhizomes — sometimes as thick as your forearm — torpedoing unseen through the soil. From the rhizomes grow canes, called culms. Giant bamboos are the fastest growing plants on Earth, even faster than kudzu. Some culms can grow four feet a day!

bamboo root

Bamboo rhizome. Photo: bamboocraft.net

Starting each spring, culms grow to their full height in about 60 days and grow no taller after that. Culms with small root systems may grow to 10 feet. Culms with large, established root systems may grow 70 feet tall. Individual culms live for about 10 years and are then replaced by new ones.

If bamboo has taken over your yard, the knee-jerk solution is to get a tank of Roundup and spray those suckers down! This will not work. You may kill the top growth, but that huge root system will sprout again next spring.

What you need to do to kill bamboo is to take advantage of the fact that new culms only sprout in spring. They look like the tips of asparagus spears. Wait until they’re about a foot tall and either cut them off at the ground or push them over with your foot. It’s easy. They will not grow again.

Then cut all mature canes to the ground. If your neighbor has bamboo, make sure he does it too. Every spring, watch for new culms sprouting in spring. Push every one over. If you and your neighbor keep doing this, eventually you’ll starve the root system and the bamboo will die.

Now you know. You’re welcome.

COMMENTS

  1. Pete

    ALL bamboo spreads. I just spent $500 cutting back TIMBER bamboo that has taken over the side of my house. Clumping bamboo will spread and it needs to be killed as soon as it pokes its head up out the ground or it will be 6 feet tall in two weeks. Florida is perfect fro bamboo. It should be BANNED at every garden center in the state. Mine has covered at least 30 feet of property and stands 40-50 feet tall.

    June 15, 2016 at 8:41 pm
  2. Mya

    Thank goodness. I hope your advice works. My neighbor had DWARF bamboo, and it spread under the fence to my FRONT YARD. Now the monster is all over the place–all through my front bed and behind my foundation plantings. I took the string trimmer to it, and cut down much of it, following up with scissors to cut off the shoots that were growing among my ornamentals in the bed, and along the house and steps walls. I hope this will starve it of light to conduct photosynthesis.

    June 5, 2016 at 11:17 pm
  3. Colin

    I understand that bamboo isn’t your fave plant, Grumpy, but I’ve wondered for a number of years if there might be suitable locations for it. In my inner city neighborhood, we have a number of tree wells cut into the sidewalk that for various reasons turned out to be not ideal for growing street trees. I’ve wondered if bamboo might work as a replacement. We’re in zone 5 so our choices of bamboo varieties are a bit limited. I think black bamboo would lend an exotic note to our historic neighborhood. But your discussion of the arm-sized runners has me concerned about them causing heaving of the sidewalks (we have enough of that already). Can you suggest a hardy clumping bamboo with an interesting color that will survive or (dare I hope?) thrive in a confined streetside location and be a good neighbor?

    May 26, 2016 at 12:08 pm
  4. Laura Gee

    OK, so if I decide to start a screen of bamboo to hide the neighbors, then I can keep it under control once I have an acceptable screen using this method? Or what other plant is easy, fast and cheap? (and attractive)

    May 18, 2016 at 5:21 pm
  5. Linda

    Thank you thank you thank you for your service. What valuable, sensible advice.

    May 18, 2016 at 7:22 am
  6. Cookie

    That’s exactly how I got rid of ours. It took about 3 years of faithfully cutting them. Every now and then I’ll see an errant little bamboo shoot and I just simply step on it or cut it.

    May 14, 2016 at 6:51 pm
  7. Mrs D

    First, it’s important to know that not all bamboo grows this way. There are spreading bamboo, like what your describing here, and there is clumping bamboo which does not spread. New shoots do come up but a mere few inches from the parent. New shoots can be managed by your tip of stepping on the new growth.

    May 14, 2016 at 4:57 pm
  8. Donna

    Thanks Brynn, I will try this and hopefully no more trees! The reason I am trying to get rid of them in my enclosed part of the 2 acres we have is because they are poisonous to children and while I don’t have grandkids yet, I hope to. I don’t want anything to happen.

    May 13, 2016 at 7:00 pm
  9. Kathleen

    Donna,
    I love poke sallet & wish I had a forest of it nearby.🙂
    Don’t people eat bamboo shoots, too?

    May 13, 2016 at 1:56 pm
  10. Brynn

    Donna
    We’ve removed a few established pokes by following these two steps:
    Let them grow during spring/summer, but keep the flower heads/seed heads cut off.
    In the fall, use RoundUp. It was explained to us (by… somebody. Apologies, whoever you are!) that the RU doesn’t really get down to the root that much until fall, when the plants are storing food for the winter in their roots.
    We have a few we’ve left alone, for the birds, etc, but we’ve used those two steps to get rid of others that had been there for years, and that took out almost all of them the first time. There were a few that stubbornly took an extra year to get rid of, but then that was that.
    I know it’s not an overnight solution, but I hope it helps you!

    May 13, 2016 at 6:26 am
  11. Donna

    Does this work for poke berry trees? I have a forest of them in my back yard.

    May 12, 2016 at 6:03 pm

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