Native to both South America and Southeast Asia, bamboo has become surprisingly adept at living in various places throughout the United States. This is due to the fact that it can rapidly spread under the right conditions.
What makes the situation even worse is when gardeners try to contain the “runner” variants of bamboo rather than the “clumping” types, which are tamer. Luckily, using natural measures persistently — rather than using chemicals to kill it — can help you eliminate the plant safely.
In this blog post, you’ll learn different methods of how to get rid of bamboo in your backyard, along with tips to keep it at bay.
What Is Bamboo?
Bamboo is a perennial plant with big, smooth leaves leading to a point and long, hollow stems. Because it has sturdy stems, it’s often used as a natural alternative to building materials such as mahogany and cedar. It can be used as a sustainable source of wood for construction.
This plant is also known as an excellent food source, producing little edible seeds called bamboo rice which has a sticky texture and an aromatic scent. While bamboo is known to benefit its natural environment, in the U.S., it has become an invasive plant that can be tricky to remove.
They may all look similar but there are actually 1,500 species of bamboo, all of which fall under just two categories: clumpers and runners. Because its rhizomes grow outside the initial plants, running bamboo can be harder to remove since it allows for more shoots to sprout.
Why You Need To Remove Bamboo
Controlling the growth of bamboo can become overwhelming, especially when new shoots develop and make their way through your backyard. Getting rid of bamboo before it gets a chance to create new growth will be able to save you time and effort.
Here are just a few reasons why you should consider removing bamboo from your yard.
It’s Difficult To Remove Once It Spreads
Once bamboo spreads, the process of removing the entire structure can be a nightmare and energy-consuming. There are cases when it may take years to permanently get rid of all the rhizomes from the ground, which makes early bamboo removal imperative when preventing overgrowth.
It’s an Invasive Species
While there are a few species of bamboo that grow naturally in the United States, there are many places that consider certain bamboo varieties to be invasive species. Because bamboo will often grow in unwanted areas, it can stop other plants from growing.
As a result, it can threaten the biodiversity of different living organisms and plants which inhabit a particular place and can also have an impact on the environment.
It Can Grow Rapidly
Unfortunately, bamboo can spread and grow fast — some kinds can grow at a rate of one meter each day. As such, bamboo can quickly overtake your backyard without warning and may even extend to your neighbor’s yard should it keep growing.
Removing Bamboo Is a Hassle
Bamboo can spread its rhizomes (continuously growing underground systems that sprout horizontally, growing out in adventitious roots and lateral shoots at intervals) within the soil. To get rid of it completely, you’ll have to focus all your effort not just on the greenery above ground, but also on the shoots below the surface.
Doing this will require a lot of effort to get started, especially since it’s best to begin during spring and continue your efforts as the plant grows. In milder climates where bamboo grows, this may mean that you’ll need to keep up with your removal efforts up until the grove is completely gone.
Methods To Get Rid of Bamboo in Your Backyard
If you’re tired of dealing with unruly bamboo around your backyard or you simply want to rid your home of the plant, below are a few methods for you to try.
Killing Bamboo With Vinegar
Using distilled white vinegar is one of the best ways to organically kill bamboo since it’s highly acidic, making it great for killing new growth. If the bamboo is growing in clumps, there’s no need to worry about it creating rhizomes underground.
These kinds of bamboo will have huge roots that will flow underground horizontally, producing shoots that will grow up from these roots and break through the ground.
Tools You Need
- Garden loppers
- A pair of work gloves
- A gallon of distilled white vinegar
- Use your garden loppers to cut into the bamboo and trim it as close as you can to the ground.
- Use the shovel to dig around the plant and expose its root system.
- Take the distilled white vinegar and pour it directly into the roots you’ve unearthed.
- Alternatively, you can also remove part or all of the root system and then soak the earth in vinegar, while allowing it to drain into the soil.
- Now is the time to pull up the bamboo stalk.
- Unfortunately, discarded stalks and roots can quickly reestablish themselves if left on the ground, so it’s better to burn them or place them into a garbage bag and into a trash bin.
- It might be necessary to repeat this process or to douse any new growth with vinegar.
- Once you’ve eliminated the root system and the stalks, consider mowing regularly to prevent any new sprouts from repopulating the area again.
Cutting and Mowing
This method is a bit less intensive when it comes to labor and the work is mostly done at the beginning. Once the hard part is over, you’ll simply need to mow down any new growth to keep the bamboo away.
Tools You Need
- Work gloves
- Garden loppers
- Take the garden loppers and cut the bamboo to trim it as close as you can to the ground.
- Mow over the bamboo-infested areas — be sure that your lawn mover’s blades are set to the lowest setting.
- Should you notice any new growth coming out of the ground, be sure to give it a run down with your lawn mower.
When it comes to this method, consistency is extremely important, because even if you only encounter a week of rain, there’s a good chance that growth can come back. As such, it’s best to cut down new roots using your garden loppers.
You’ll want to do this immediately, and you will need to keep up with any new growth by mowing it down.
Kill Rhizomes Directly
Using this method will allow you to attack the rhizomes directly by cutting them off from the bamboo. Because these little roots are needed to nourish the plant, the bamboo will die without its support system.
Tools You Need
- Work gloves
- Garden hose attached to a water spigot
- Garbage bag
- Put on your work gloves and turn on the water spigot to drench the area around the bamboo while moving around the plant.
- Once you’ve sufficiently wet the ground (don’t get it muddy), you can start making your way around the plant and dig all the way through it.
- Wait for the shovel to hit the roots and unearth them as much as possible.
- With your gloved hands, grab the roots and pull them out of the ground.
- Once the roots stop resisting, use your shovel to get more of the root system out of the ground.
- Continue this process until you remove as many of the roots as possible.
- To stop the rhizomes from going back into the ground and taking root again, place them in a garbage bag.
- You should now be able to pull up the bamboo — if you have any other purpose for the bamboo, you can cut the stalk away from the roots. You can then place the roots into a garbage bag and place them inside a trash bin.
- You may still see new bamboo shoots appear from the ground every now and then since it’s difficult to get all of the rhizomes out all at once. When this happens, be sure to repeat steps 4 to 8 until they completely disappear.
- While this method may need to be repeated a few times, it will help you get one step closer to completely eliminating bamboo from your yard.
This method involves using chemicals, and many gardeners will usually only use this method as a last resort. Because of the harmful effects that herbicides may have on vegetation, the environment, and even people, it’s best to use this method last.
Tools You Need
- Work gloves
- Protective clothing
- Goggles and mask
- 2″ paint brush or garden sprayer
- This method involves using a paintbrush or a sprayer to apply herbicide to the bamboo.
- If you go with the sprayer, be sure to use the herbicide according to the instructions from the manufacturer. Spray the whole bamboo plant using herbicide and be careful not to get other plants.
- Some gardeners prefer the paintbrush application since there’s less of a risk of accidentally spraying other plants. Start by dipping the brush into the herbicide then paint the whole bamboo using the chemical.
- The bamboo will then turn yellow and wither, eventually dying. You can then cut down all the dead stalks.
- This method will also require you to make a repeat application should new growth emerge.
This is probably the easiest way to kill bamboo. Simply follow the steps outlined in the vinegar method. All you need to do is substitute the vinegar and use boiling water instead.
It’s also best to dig around the plant and work on exposing the roots, so you can directly pour the boiling water into the roots to kill the bamboo.
Tips for Removing Bamboo From Your Yard
Whenever you pull up bamboo, it may be helpful to have a sifter at hand so you can quickly locate any stray rhizomes. This is important since just a small rhizome can result in brand-new shoots.
Japanese bamboo, (also known as Japanese knotweed or polygonum cuspidatum), is a plant similar to bamboo. While it’s not classified as one, you can also eliminate this plant from your home using the methods above.
Good Times To Kill Bamboo
Before you take any step towards getting rid of your bamboo, it’s best to first consider the season when you intend to kill the plant. For obvious reasons, the physical method (mowing) is the most suitable way to eliminate the plant for most seasons.
However, the rainy season isn’t suitable for any of the other methods above. If you’re planning to use herbicides while it’s raining, you’ll risk the chance of ruining the whole process since the rain may hinder the chemicals from penetrating the plants.
Rain can also wash away the herbicide and stop the process, which may lead to wasted time and resources. At the same time, rain can expedite the growth of shoots, so you may need to go through the whole process again.
How To Dispose of Dead Bamboo
As mentioned, the best way to get rid of dead bamboo is to burn it, but this will depend on regional laws. You may also throw it out in the trash — if you leave bamboo on the ground after you’ve cut it, it could result in regrowth.
How To Control the Spread of Bamboo
An effective way to control the growth of bamboo is to install a barrier that works on the surface. These can be useful for long-term containment, but make sure that it’s made out of high-density polyethylene (HDPE).
When it comes to bamboo rhizomes, you’ll need to contain them within the planting area, completely encircling them. Moreover, the barrier will need to come out around 2” off the ground — this will allow you to monitor the edge of the plastic to catch any rhizomes that may come out of the barrier.
If you can’t take the wild growth of your bamboo plant, it may be time to get rid of it. However, this is no easy feat, and this invasive plant can be hard to kill. Luckily, there are plenty of different methods that you can put to work.
Once you find a solution that works for you, stay consistent with the steps provided to make sure that each and every part of the plant is completely exterminated.