After writing about bamboo recently, I am amazed at the number of requests I received for information regarding how to control it. It appears ‘containment’ is a big deal to many of you across the country.
The most common question I get relates to when a neighbor’s bamboo has gotten out of control and is now invading their property. They want to rid themselves of the offending plant. But here is something to keep in mind if you want to keep your neighbor. Unless it has been previously separated in some way, a grove of bamboo is actually one plant.
I mention this because if you begin a stringent eradication process you may end up starving and eventually killing all the bamboo. That includes what you might want to keep as well as your neighbor’s. However, if you’re at your wits end and ready to do battle, here are some suggestions you can implement to begin the process of bamboo eradication.
Four steps to getting rid of bamboo:
1. Isolate the part you want to kill from the part you want to keep. Do this by severing the rhizomes (spreading roots) with a spade, mattock, ditch digging machine or by whatever means you are able.
2. Cut the grove all the way to the ground.
3. Water and fertilize the area to encourage new growth (yes, really). Since I know you are wondering why I would say such a thing, the process of cutting and promoting new growth repeatedly stresses, weakens and eventually depletes the plant of the energy to persist.
4. Cut it down again (or apply an herbicide) Repeat this process until the rhizome is eventually starved out and no longer puts up shoots. Keep in mind this is a process, not a quick fix.
This is much easier than attempting to till or dig up and remove every rhizome in the ground. But if you’re up for it, that is an option too. Then send me your contact information. I’d like to shake your hand!
Prepare and contain, before you plant:
If you’d like to grow bamboo, a little advance planning will make sure it is much easier to contain. Speaking of which, growing bamboo in a container is a great way of keeping it in bounds. There are a number of suitable varieties, such as Dwarf Greenstripe (Pleioblastus viridistriatus). With a mature height of two to four feet and perennial even in Minnesota, this is a great choice around the country.
Another strategy includes choosing varieties of non-invasive clumping bamboo. Unlike their aggressive cousin, the clumping varieties are rather content to stay put. Although they will spread, they do so much more slowly. There are many nurseries and online sources that offer clumping varieties.
If you decide on a running bamboo, a barrier will be necessary to keep under control. Barriers can be made of concrete, metal or plastic. A high density polypropylene, 40 mils thick or more, is readily available for just this purpose. It must be placed at least 2-3 feet deep in the soil and angled out away from the grove.
Bamboo rhizomes will jump an improperly installed barrier. However, properly installed, it will at least deflect the rhizomes so they are visible above ground and can be removed before they have the chance to spread outward. It is important that the barrier extend several inches above the soil line for this purpose.
A ditch or stream is also a useful containment option. However it is necessary to monitor the grove once a year, trimming off any renegade rhizomes. In some cases simply mowing the new shoots regularly or even kicking them over will suffice. This is much easier with the smaller caned bamboos.
If you are in doubt as to whether you really want to experiment with running bamboo in your landscape, keep it in a pot for a while. Just make sure to monitor that drainage hole! Those rhizomes are great escape artists.
6/29/15 Update: Comments are currently turned off for this post. Thanks!