How to Remove Invasive Bamboo from Your Yard

Bamboo is a popular ornamental plant in many areas with warm climates, but if yours has gotten out of control, then it can be a massive headache. Removing invasive bamboo isn’t always an easy process, but with a little bit of planning, it is quite doable. Here are a few tips for removing invasive bamboo in your yard.

What is Bamboo?

Native to tropical forests, bamboo is a type of grass that has a thick, woody stem, with stalks that can vary from a few millimeters around to nearly four inches in diameter. It can also be a very hardy plant, in some cases surviving freezing temperatures. Even though the stalks are hollow, the tensile strength of mature bamboo can be as strong as steel.

Bamboo is world-famous for being the fastest known growing plant. Most species can grow several feet in a month, with some kinds growing as much as three feet per day! Additionally, bamboo can spread outward as well as upward — runner bamboo can spread nearly 15 horizontal feet per season.

This plant spreads by sending out new shoots, rather than by spreading seeds. The root system grows outwards from the base, occasionally sprouting new stalks. This makes it very difficult to eradicate unless the entire root system can be completely removed, and since a single growth can extend for acres, this might be a difficult task.

How to Prevent Invasive Bamboo Growth

If you’ve lost control of the invasive bamboo in your yard, have a neighbor whose bamboo patch is spreading, or even live next to a forested area, then you know how tough it can be to deal with. Bamboo is an invasive species in many areas, and even when it’s native to a location, it’s still hard to keep it out of your yard. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to prevent this weed from growing in your yard.

Prevention, of course, is the best treatment. If you notice bamboo encroaching in your yard or want to control a plant of your own, start by putting up a barrier. It should be made of concrete or metal for maximum effectiveness; wood often works for a few years but will eventually decompose in the soil. The barrier should extend at least two feet below the ground and six inches above it. Be vigilant and cut back any shoots that try to sneak over it.

If it’s too late and you already have a invasive bamboo infestation, then not all is lost. There are steps that you can take to eliminate it — although these steps may not be the obvious ones.

3 Tips to Eliminating Visible Bamboo Growth

So what does work? If your invasive bamboo has grown particularly tall, then your first step should be to cut it back to a manageable height. This can be done with a machete (for large shoots) or pruning shears (for smaller ones). If you have extremely small or tender bamboo, then you might be able to use your lawn mower to trim it. Cut as close to the ground as possible to make the next few steps easier.

There are three basic steps you should take to eliminate invasive bamboo from your yard. You should:

  1. Cut Shoots

    Make sure that when you’re eliminating bamboo, don’t leave the bamboo shoots, root systems, or other waste near your yard where the bamboo can spread again. If your city has a green waste program, check to see if they accept bamboo. If not, the plants can be composted (without the roots), burned, or even used for arts and crafts. Just don’t let them back into your yard.

  2. Dig Deep

    The next step is to eliminate as much of the root system as possible. Dig up the bamboo clumps, eliminating as many of the shoots and tendrils as you can find. You may have to go as deep as two or three feet to make sure that you’ve gotten it all.

  3. Apply Herbicide

    After a few days, the bamboo will probably start to crop up again, although it will most likely be thinner than before. When you first encounter these small shoots, kill them right away. Use maximum strength herbicide to poison the plant. You can either spray it directly on the leaves, or (for the best effect) cut the plant back and dab the herbicide directly onto the freshly cut stem. After about a week or so, the plant will begin to appear brown; this means that it is dead or dying. Once this happens, dig it up again.

    This process can be helped along by placing a plastic barrier over the plant and anchoring it with rocks or landscape pins. Not only will this block sunlight from getting to the plant, it will help prevent rainwater from diluting the herbicide and intensify the effects.

Organic Alternative to Herbicides

If you dislike using chemicals like herbicide in your yard, one organic solution is to pour boiling water over the plant. The extreme heat will kill the bamboo without harming your soil. However, this many not be as effective for larger infestations.

Treatments to Avoid

What doesn’t work when you’re trying to remove invasive bamboo? Simply cutting it back is rarely effective, because this doesn’t deal with the root system. The plant will just send up new shoots in a matter of days or weeks. Using some substances such as rock salt or bleach might help, but they can also damage your soil and make it difficult to grow anything after the bamboo is removed. Trying to burn the bamboo can actually make the problem worse, since it not only leaves the root system intact but enriches the soil with extra nutrients. And purchasing a panda to eat the bamboo isn’t really a feasible option.

What you should do if nothing else is working

If none of these solutions are working, then there is one more drastic option that you can take. You may need to not only eliminate the bamboo plant, but also the topsoil in your yard. This step combined with concrete barriers can eliminate bamboo once and for all. However, since it’s an expensive and difficult process, you might be better off trying the other options mentioned here first.

Conclusion: Don’t Give Up!

A hardy bamboo plant can live for decades, so eliminating bamboo is not a one-time process. Two or three years of dedicated treatment may be necessary to make your yard completely bamboo free. Don’t give up hope, though, and keep fighting that plant — eventually you’ll be able to eliminate it and enjoy a bamboo free yard.