Although bamboo looks pretty, it is also very invasive and spreads quickly. It’s hard to get rid of bamboo, no matter your chosen method. Luckily, eradicating it isn’t impossible. Whether you choose a chemical or non-chemical method, you will spend some time digging up rhizomes (underground rootstocks) and cutting off stems. Of course, the best tactic is not to let the bamboo become a problem in the first place.
Before spraying the new bamboo shoots, cut or mow them first and let them sprout again. This sounds strange, but you need fresh bamboo shoots. A bamboo killer will not work on strong, well-developed trunks. Bamboo is not very hard. Strong secateurs are often easier to use to cut than a saw. Prune the bamboo in winter so you can apply the weed killer to the new shoots in spring or early summer.
Use a sharp spade to cut the bamboo and sever the rhizomes of the bamboo. Break up as many rootstocks as possible. Rhizomes are rootstocks that spread underground. They grow horizontally and send out new shoots as soon as the plant sprouts. You’re probably familiar with ginger, galangal, or raw turmeric rhizomes. This is exactly what the underground rhizomes of the bamboo look like.
Weed killer only kills the plants it comes in direct contact with. This means you have to be careful to only apply it to the bamboo. Most weed killers are sprayed on the plants’ leaves, stems, and shoots and need time to set in before they are diluted by rain. Unless otherwise noted, you should not apply weed killer to the soil around the bamboo as it will not work there. If you are near a water source (river, lake, ocean, etc.), use a weed killer designed to kill plants near the water. You don’t want to poison the waterhole.
Another way to stop bamboo from spreading is to cut off the stems and apply a root killer to any newly emerging leaves.
One application will not stop the bamboo from spreading – it is persistent and will spread like a forest fire (unfortunately, not even a forest fire can stop this plant!). If the bamboo keeps sending out shoots, you must continue applying weed killer to the leaves, stems, and shoots to eradicate them. Read the package directions before applying weed killer. Some products have to be applied completely differently than we describe here. Be sure to follow the directions printed on the weed killer. You should combine the weed killer method with digging up rhizomes to keep new shoots from appearing all the time.
This is one of the most effective, chemical-free ways to eliminate your bamboo. Use a sharp spade, hoe, or saw to cut and eject the plant. Like all other methods, this one needs to be repeated as new stems and rhizomes appear. You should cut off the stems and eject the rhizomes at the same time, otherwise, the bamboo will just keep growing. Rhizomes are in the top layer of soil, so dig down to find them. Cut the rhizomes one by one, which is especially important if you want to keep part of the bamboo plant. As a result, no new shoots are sent out. Keep cutting and digging up the bamboo. You must continue with this step until the bamboo stops sprouting. This can take months or even years, but there is no quicker way as bamboo is very tenacious and resilient.
Like grass, bamboo can be mowed occasionally, but it does not like frequent mowing. This can help reduce the number of stems – especially if the plant is not too big (you won’t be able to mow down very large bamboo stems – unless you cut them down first). By mowing down the bamboo frequently, you can reduce rhizomes as they can no longer feed themselves (they get their energy from the sun through the leaves). You’ll need to mow the bamboo as soon as you see shoots, but this method may take some time.
Another way to get rid of bamboo is to starve it. Begin by cutting the logs below ground level, then lay a thick tarp or plastic sheet over the area. This removes the plant from rain, sun, and air, eventually killing it. Fix the tarpaulin or foil. You can use wood blocks or other heavy objects to hold the tarp. Make sure the foil cannot move as you want to cut the bamboo from the elements. If new shoots appear outside the tarpaulin, you must spray them immediately with weed killer (with triclopyr) or cut them off and place a block of wood on the spot. This method takes some time, so you must be patient. Leave the tarp for at least a month (but it can take up to a year to eradicate the bamboo).
You need to ensure this barrier goes at least 2 to 3 feet deep into the soil, which is deeper than most rhizomes. The advantages of an open-sided barrier are that the bamboo does not invest its energy exclusively in the roots, which can happen in beds that are too narrow – it also ensures good drainage. You can also use them to install a barrier along a fence or property line, preventing the bamboo from migrating to your neighbor. If you feel like DIY, you can also build a barrier out of concrete, metal, or plastic. All materials are suitable. Note that rhizomes can spread through wood, so it’s not a good barrier. A very effective and commonly used material is polyethylene – 40mm or thicker. This type of bamboo barrier does not cost too much, with the price depending on the thickness. If you are installing the barrier along a fence, place it right next to the fence, with the barrier ending about 2 inches above the ground.
The closed barrier must be at least 60 to 90 cm deep like the open-sided barrier. Unlike open-sided barriers, this variant completely encloses the bamboo – so no rhizomes should be able to escape. The main benefit of this method is obvious – the bamboo is completely enclosed, and you only need to check occasionally for rhizomes. Make sure at least 2 inches of the barrier is visible above the soil, allowing you to see rhizomes that could escape over the sides.
Proper planning allows a pond or river with a three-sided barrier to be decorative and effective in confining bamboo. The river is the fourth wall as bamboo rhizomes cannot spread through water.
If your barrier is deep enough and well constructed, your bamboo shouldn’t have an easy time. Nevertheless, watch your garden and make sure that bamboo does not spread beyond the intended area. If you find any escaped bamboo rhizomes, remove them entirely: cut them below the surface and follow one of the steps above to kill the bamboo.
If you grow the bamboo in a pot, you don’t have to worry about runners. It’s a good way to enjoy bamboo without getting into trouble. Bush or garden bamboo may be a better choice if you want to plant bamboo in your garden than runner-bamboo species. However, it can also get out of control, and the above methods can be used to eliminate it. When buying the rhizome barrier, ensure it is at least 2mm thick. The special high-pressure polyethylene (HDPE) is extremely tear-resistant and difficult to cut, even with scissors. Other materials such as pond liners do not offer reliable protection.