What Kills Bamboo?

Given the right conditions, some kinds of bamboo can grow very fast. However, that growth comes at a price and if you want to get rid of or remove the bamboo, it will take considerable time and effort. It’s often more difficult for an organic gardener who doesn’t want to use herbicides to kill bamboo.


Where Does Bamboo Grow?

Bamboo species come from a variety of habitats all over the world. There are tropical bamboos that grow in moist, hot areas and others that grow on cold mountain slopes. Canada and Europe don’t have any native bamboos, although bamboo is grown in both areas. Generally speaking, bamboo will grow in any USDA zone above Zone 5, and may grow in Zone 4 with protection.

Is Bamboo Considered Invasive?

Bamboo’s potential for being invasive depends primarily on the species and/or variety. Although there are more than 1,000 species of bamboo, the Phyllostachys group is by far the most likely to become invasive. Bamboos in this group have an extremely fast growth rate. For example, mature Phyllostachys edulis ‘Moso,’ a giant timber bamboo, can grow several feet in a single day.

What Bamboo is Most Invasive?

Bamboo performs differently depending on the USDA Zone and growing conditions. However, these are among the most likely to become invasive in multiple areas:

  • Phyllostachys rubromarginata; Red Margin Bamboo
  • Phyllostachys aurea; Fishpole Bamboo, Golden Bamboo, Monk’s Belly Bamboo, Fairyland Bamboo
  • Phyllostachys vivax; Chinese Timber Bamboo
  • Phyllostachys aureosulcata; Yellow Groove
  • Semiarundinaria fastuosa Viridis; Viridis, Green Temple Bamboo
  • Chimonobambusa quadrangularis Suow; Golden Square Stem

Why Does Bamboo Grow so Fast?

To understand bamboo’s growth rate, you must remember that is a grass. A bamboo shoot (culm) contains all the cells it will ever have. To grow, it doesn’t need to build new cell walls, it need only fill the existing cells with water, which elongates the cells. What fuels the growth is the size of the root mass, so mature bamboo clumps can grow at unbelievable rates.

Running vs. Clumping Bamboo – What’s Different?

Bamboo comes in one of two kinds, clumping or running. Clumping bamboo grows from individual rhizomes, and each rhizome becomes a single culm. Running bamboo, like many grasses, sends out horizontal rhizomes. Multiple culms can arise along the length of the rhizome. In addition, each rhizome has multiple buds to help it spread horizontally. Each bud becomes a new rhizome.

How Do I Rootprune Bamboo?

Bamboo runners grow primarily in the top five to six inches of soil. The root mass in the center of the clump does grow deeper but doesn’t send out rhizomes. Start by digging a permanent six-inch deep trench around the bamboo. Twice a year, use a sharp shovel to make vertical cuts all along the edge of the trench. This will cut off the bamboo rhizomes; remove all pieces and burn.

Can I Starve Bamboo Roots?

It’s hard to starve bamboo roots without starving the entire plant. However, if you want to remove the bamboo entirely, cut it to the ground. Repeat the process of cutting it to the ground every time it starts to sprout again. You should also withhold water and fertilizer. This may eventually exhaust the food reserves in the roots and kill the plants.

How Do I Burn Bamboo?

Ammonium nitrate fertilizer is sometimes used to “burn” bamboo. Cut the culms to the ground. Spread fertilizer generously over the bamboo clump. Cover with transparent plastic. The combination of high-nitrogen fertilizer, heat from the sun and lack of oxygen should kill the bamboo. After a few weeks, dig up the clump – make sure you get all the rhizomes, as otherwise it’s possible one or more may sprout.

Can I Set Fire to Bamboo?

Bamboo will burn, but setting a fire in a suburban garden is probably not a good idea. Some gardeners do use hand held propane torches for small sprout removal to keep a clump under control. For a large acreage of bamboo, it would be wise to consult the local division of forestry or the fire department. They may even be willing to use your bamboo as a “practice burn.”

Can I Kill Bamboo with Herbicides?

Glyphospate and Imazapyr (Roundup and Aresenal) are the two herbicides most likely to be effective against bamboo. Unfortunately, neither is organic and Arsenal is likely to damage adjoining plants. Acetic acid (Burnout) may be a better choice as a bamboo killer. Use a 20 percent concentration, preferably on a hot day. To use these solutions cut the bamboo culms one at a time and immediately paint the cut with the herbicide.

Will Digging up Bamboo Kill It?

The answer is a qualified yes. Yes, if you dig up the entire plant – for large plants, this may mean a backhoe. Yes, if you get every tiny little fragment of rhizome. This means literally sifting the soil to make sure you haven’t missed any pieces. Yes, if you continue to check back in the area for anything you might have missed and immediately remove it from the soil.

Can I Smother Bamboo Roots?

Smothering the roots may be successful in getting rid of a clumping bamboo. To smother, cut the bamboo off at ground level and cover with a heavy tarp. Weight the edges down with large rocks or boards to shut out all the light. Running bamboos may just send rhizomes out past the edges of the tarp, so smothering is less likely to be successful.

Can I Kill Bamboo by Girdling It?

Girdling is cutting a layer of bark all around a tree. Since trees get their nourishment through this layer (the cambium), girdling interrupts the flow of nutrients and kills the tree. Girdling doesn’t work with bamboo, because it isn’t a tree and doesn’t have bark or get its nourishment this way. Finally, bamboo spreads from the roots, which would be below a girdling cut.

Does Cutting Bamboo Down Kill It?

Just cutting bamboo down is similar to mowing your lawn. The root mass is still intact and will promptly send water and nutrients into the underground rhizomes to create a spurt of new growth. If you cut it down and consistently cut back new shoots the minute they appear, you might eventually be able to exhaust food reserves in the roots, which may then kill the clump.

Can I Kill Bamboo with Bleach?

There is little research on killing bamboo with bleach (sodium hypochlorite), but common household bleach is used as a general weed killer by some gardeners. It is most likely to be effective if you use it full strength. Cut the bamboo culm to the ground and spray or paint the bleach over the open end immediately, just as you would with an herbicide.

Can I Dig Out Bamboo with a Backhoe?

If you are dealing with a large stand of bamboo, you must nearly always use something like a backhoe to dig it out – it’s simply too big a job to do it by hand. Make sure you have a qualified operator or know how to do it yourself. In suburban areas, you might need a permit. Always confirm the placement of electric, water and gas lines prior to digging.

Can I Kill Bamboo with Organic Methods?

Combination methods are most likely to be effective in killing bamboo. The organic methods mentioned above can be used in combination for best effect. For example, cut the bamboo to the ground, spray with bleach or acetic acid, and smother with a tarp. Once the clump is damaged or dying, dig it out by hand or machine – ideally, you should sift the soil.

Will Any Animals Eat Bamboo?

Controlling fast-growing plants by allowing animals to graze or eat them is a common practice around the world. The animals that will eat bamboo include pandas, bamboo lemurs and bamboo rats, which eat only bamboo. Chimpanzees, gorillas and elephants will eat the young bamboo shoots (as do humans). Animals like cows, horses, sheep and goats will not graze on bamboo leaves or shoots.

Can I Kill Bamboo by Overwatering?

If you have bamboo in a pot or container, overwatering is actually one of the most common ways to kill it. Bamboo planted in the garden is a different story. Just running water continuously over a clump won’t have an effect. In order to kill a bamboo planted outdoors, you would have to be able to submerge the roots and keep them underwater for a couple of weeks at least.

Text: Garden.eco