How to Trim Bamboo

When you grow bamboo, it doesn’t need pruning in the same way a fruit tree does, but you may want to trim it back to improve its appearance. You will definitely need to trim back roots – especially of running bamboo – to help keep it under control. Its high silica content means culms can splinter easily.


Running Bamboo

Running bamboo got that name because it can spread very fast, especially once the clump becomes mature. The horizontal stolons can sprout multiple culms along their entire length, so regular root trimming is mandatory. Clumping bamboo may also need occasional trimming, but nothing like the regular attention running bamboo requires.

Choose Your Tools

The number-one rule for bamboo trimming tools is a sharp edge. The high silica content in bamboo necessitates frequent sharpening. You may need:

  • Pruning shears
  • Long-handled loppers
  • A knife
  • A straight-edged shovel
  • A hacksaw
  • A chainsaw
  • Files, whetstones or similar tools for sharpening an edge.

Trimming Rhizomes

Root pruning is the number-one chore in keeping running bamboo contained. Keeping a trench dug out around the clump makes it easy to see when the rhizomes are spreading outward. In late summer or fall – after the growing season – drive a flat-bladed shovel straight down through any rhizomes you want to remove. Clean up any fragments, or they’ll sprout.

Trimming Culms

It’s important to remember that bamboo is a grass, not a tree. Once you cut off a culm, it will not regrow. Culms are usually trimmed to help thin out a bamboo grove and make it look more open, or because they’ve been damaged in some way. Always cut as close to the ground as possible. Make a horizontal cut to prevent leaving an unattractive stub.

Trimming to Obtain Poles

Smaller diameter bamboo is useful for poles. You can use bamboo poles to make trellises, screens, lattices and similar garden objects. For garden use, simply cutting the culm off close to the ground is sufficient. If your project demands a more attractive appearance, clamp the pole in a vise, cut with a fine-bladed hacksaw and smooth rough edges with fine sandpaper.

Trimming for Appearance

You might want to trim side branches and leaves of bamboo to open up a clump or create different shapes such as topiary. Always make the cuts just above a node so you don’t have an unsightly stub. A trimmed branch or culm will often grow additional leaves. Don’t trim leaf edges – they’ll turn brown and dry. Cut off an entire leaf instead.