Bamboo is a member of the grass family and is quite invasive. Any space bamboo can flourish; it will take over if left alone. If you need to control the spread of bamboo or to eliminate it, be prepared for a long, hard fight. Bamboo is very persistent and will do everything to resist your efforts to kill it.
There are two ways you can go about killing bamboo. The first is to use chemicals while the second approach is to use your garden tools.
Let’s start with the chemical approach.
Killing Bamboo with Chemicals
- Cut bamboo to soil level and allow new shoots to grow: As weird as it may sound, you must enable the bamboo to regrow after you cut it down or mow it to the ground. This way you can then use your herbicide to spray or paint it. If you try to apply herbicide to the mature bamboo, you are wasting your time. You could time your bamboo cutting for late winter so that by the time new growth arrives in late spring or early summer you can apply the herbicide.
- Remove rhizomes that grow underground as new shoots regrow: As soon as you see new shoot emerge, also cut away the rhizomes (stems) that grow underground. Use a sharp shovel or garden implement to do the job. Also, remove as many clumps of roots as you can. You will have to dig deep for the roots as they are known to grow from around two feet underground. Follow the root network, which travels horizontally across the area. Dig out as much as possible even as you apply herbicide to the bamboo shoots.
- Put glyphosate herbicide on the bamboo stalks, leaves, and shoots: Glyphosate herbicide is a powerful agent that kills any plant with which it comes into contact. So, you should be careful that you apply this herbicide only to the bamboo shoot, leaves, and stalks. Allow enough time for the herbicide to penetrate the plant. Unless you are told to do so, avoid applying this herbicide to the soil surrounding the bamboo. This application does not work. Also, be careful with the herbicide if the bamboo you want to kill is close to any water supply source like a lake or river. Avoid contaminating the water.
- Use a stump and root killer: An alternative is to chop down the bamboo and apply a stump and root killing solution containing glyphosate or triclopyr to the regrowing foliage.
- Repeat: Unfortunately, one application of herbicide to bamboo is not enough to get rid of it. You will need to continue this treatment until there is no sign of bamboo growth anywhere. This treatment will take diligence on your part as you must look out for new shoots and apply your herbicide every time a new shoot emerges. At the same time, you must continue to dig out the rhizomes (underground stems) with your sharp garden spade or digging implement. Bamboo is a pesky plant that will find ways around you if you are not alert. When using herbicide, carefully follow the instructions.
Killing bamboo without chemicals
- Dig the plant out: The primary non-chemical way to remove the bamboo is to dig it out. Use a sharp spade, saw, or ax to cut the plant and dig it out. You will need to pay attention to ensure that nothing grows back. The moment you spot new shoots, you must dig it out. Look for the clumps of bamboo stalks, as well as the rhizomes and dig them out. Keep cutting and digging as many times and for as long as it takes until the bamboo no longer sends up shoots. This activity may take months or years, but to remove bamboo altogether, you must get rid of all rhizomes.
- Regularly mow the area: Keep mowing the area to prevent the bamboo from growing back and getting out of control again. You will need to mow frequently to keep bamboo regrowth under control. When you mow the area regularly, the rhizomes cannot flourish as it no longer receives sunlight.
- Starve the bamboo: Another way to get around the bamboo’s persistence is to starve it of all nutrients. Start by cutting the stalks below soil level and put a dark, thick tarp over the area. Keep this tarp down so that the area does not receive sunlight, rain and other nourishment. Look out for any new growth that may have sneaked out from the edges of the tarp and immediately cut and dig them out. Keep the tarp over the area for as long as it takes to destroy the bamboo plant. Be prepared to wait for months.
Keeping bamboo contained
If you intend to keep some of your bamboo, such as for a property line of sorts, you can keep it contained. To do so, create an open-sided barrier or a fully enclosed one.
- Open-sided barrier: Excavate a curved or half-circle trench around the bamboo. Ensure that the barrier is around 28 inches deep so that the rhizomes cannot escape beyond the enclosed area. Twenty-eight inches is deep enough as rhizomes rarely travel deeper than that. You can create the barrier from concrete or use metal for the job. Avoid using wood, as it will eventually decompose and allow the bamboo rhizomes to escape. An effective bamboo barrier is made of high-density polypropylene that is 40 mil or heavier. If you set this barrier along your fence, put it directly along it leaving around 2 inches (or 5.1cm) above the ground. You will still need to prune the roots to keep the bamboo under control.
- Fully enclosed barrier: You may choose instead to construct a fully enclosed wall to contain the bamboo. In that case, you will still need at least two to three feet depth for this. Dig that out and install the barrier. Leave at least 2 inches (5.1 cm) above the ground. That way, you can detect when rhizomes try to escape over the barrier – (in which case you must cut them away).
- Check for rhizomes: While you continue to kill or contain the bamboo on your property, check for rhizomes that might escape. This action is important, as the bamboo plant will try everything to remain alive. It will send rhizomes out further until it finds an opportunity to send up new shoots. Keep a sharp lookout, as you must attack the rhizome and new shoot as they emerge.
As you can see, killing bamboo is not a walk in the park. The bamboo is a very resistant plant that can multiply like grass once there is an attempt to eradicate it. You must remain vigilant against every effort of the plant to spread. Killing bamboo to keep your property from becoming infested is a necessary step so that you can continue to enjoy your space. Although bamboo may be a useful plant for various craft-making and creative uses, it remains an unwanted pest in areas that can do without it. So, once you have done all that is required and see no more bamboo, then you can say you have conquered this very hardy invader.