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9 Ways to Eradicate Bamboo

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Bamboo can be a beautiful addition to your landscape but if it goes out of control it can be a huge pain.

Running bamboo is difficult to control or eliminate from your yard and it can take an effort of several years and a combination of methods. 

Don`t wait until bamboo takes over your property but start thinking of controlling it as soon as possible. Once established, some bamboo species can take over landscapes, stream banks and woodlands.

The best time to plan for controlling bamboo is before planting it – then you can choose the right species and take preliminary actions like installing bamboo barriers. 

However, if you are reading this, you probably already have a bamboo problem and need to take action to eradicate it from your home landscape.
It is going to be a challenge but stay positive – it is doable! 

What makes bamboo hard to eradicate is the fact that it grows big networks of rhizomes underground and if any rhizomes are left alive, new bamboo can grow from them. 

Patience and persistence are going to be important for any method trying to kill bamboo – it will try to survive for a long time before you win this fight. 

It can take a combination of both physical methods like digging and mowing as well as using a chemical solution. 

Physical Removal

1 – Digging

The first step when trying to get rid of bamboo should be to remove as much of the roots and rhizomes of the plant as possible. For small areas, you could do it by hand but larger problem areas may call for using power equipment.

As careful as you are, you will probably not get all of it out on the first go. After you have taken out the majority of the root system, some parts will stay in the ground and new shoots will come up from the rhizomes. 

Break them off or cut them as soon as you notice them. You can also dig again where the shoot appears. Keep doing this until the shoots stop appearing. It will take time to exhaust the energy stored in the rhizomes underground but it will happen eventually. Without leaves, bamboo cannot photosynthesize and produce new energy, and at some point, the rhizomes will rot away. Be aware though, it can take several seasons until no new shoots come up. 

2 – Mowing

Regular mowing is another method that can help control bamboo over time. Because bamboo is a grass, it tolerates occasional mowing but to get rid of it you need to mow often and keep the territory trimmed short similar like a lawn. It will likely take at least two seasons of intensive mowing before control is achieved.

Chemical Treatment 

Using chemical weed killers can be helpful in your battle with bamboo but the bad news is – bamboo doesn’t respond well to any herbicide available commercially. Often the plants will still reshoot after applying the chemicals but they can work well after several applications.
Different solutions fit different circumstances so let’s look at 7 options you could try. 

3 – Glyphosate

A non-selective herbicide with the active ingredient glyphosate is effective to kill bamboo and is one of the best options for homeowners. 

Because it is a non-selective herbicide, glyphosate kills all plants with which it comes into contact. So be cautious during application to avoid the death of other plants you want to keep. 

Glyphosate has very little residual soil activity and will only kill plants that receive direct contact with foliage. 

How to use it on bamboo? First, cut the bamboo and allow it to regrow just enough for it to grow new leaves. At that point, apply it to the leaves and try to avoid dripping on soil or other plants. Bamboo is persistent and you will likely need to repeat this at least 4 times before it gives up. Follow the manufacturer’s directions as they will slightly differ from product to product. 

Here are some of the products with glyphosate you can get on Amazon: 

Do not apply these products directly to water or to areas where surface water is present. 

For bamboo growing near to creeks, lake basins, wetlands, or other water sources where spray drift will contact the water, choose a glyphosate product meant to use near water: 

4 – Imazapyr

Imazapyr is more effective on bamboo than glyphosate. Unfortunately, it has a lot of activity both on foliage and soil and because of it can be very harmful to nearby trees, shrubs, and grasses if their roots extend into the vicinity of the application. If the bamboo is growing near any plant species you wish to keep, imazapyr should not be used. 

However, if bamboo is not mixed with desired plants you can apply it the same way you would a glyphosate herbicide – cut the bamboo and apply the solution to foliage that regrows. Check the concentration the manufacturers recommend and follow instructions. 

5 – Dalapon

Dalapon is a  herbicide that is absorbed through leaves and transported to roots. You should irrigate the soil before using it on bamboo to prevent the spread of this herbicide to nearby plants you plan to keep. 

After using dalapon it is advised to wait about 10 days before watering the area again. 

To apply it, spray dalapon onto developing bamboo leaves until they are saturated and allow them to dry for about half a day. As typical for bamboo – you will need to repeat this process until the root system dies.

6 – Diclobenil

You can use diclobenil in winter to kill the rhizomes before they grow new shoots in the spring and summer. Glyphosate, imazapyr, and dalapon will kill the plant above ground and help control the growth which eventually will lead to depletion of energy in rhizomes. But to kill the rhizomes that spread out underground directly, diclobenil is a good option. Casoron is a product that contains diclobenil.

You can apply diclobenil directly to the soil in the form of granules. 

7 – Selective Grass Herbicides

Selective grass herbicides include ingredients like fluazifop-p and clethodim. Admittedly, they are not the most effective for killing bamboo, but they are a good enough option if the bamboo has grown in a garden area where you don’t want to harm surrounding plants. 

Bamboo is a grass, so you can use a selective grass killer and it will work but it is not as effective as other herbicides mentioned before. So it will take more patience and more applications if you choose this method. 

Products you can buy:

8 – Soil Sterilant

If the bamboo is growing in an area where no vegetation is wanted (driveways, parking areas, along fences) you can choose to use a soil sterilant. To apply it, cut bamboo to the ground and tread the soil with the chemical solution. 

But be careful and keep in mind that no plants will grow in the area for at least a year. So choose this only if you are sure you want the area to clear of any plants. 

Products to buy:

9 – Chemically burn bamboo with fertilizer

Fertilizer is not only used to help plants grow. Sometimes you can strategically use it in harmful ways and kill unwanted plants. 

Ammonium sulfate fertilizer can be used to kill bamboo by giving it a chemical burn. 

First, you cut the culms to the ground, then spread fertilizer generously over the bamboo clump. And in the end, you cover it with transparent plastic. And let it stay like that for a few weeks, then dig out the clump. 

Why cover with plastic?

It`s the combination of high-nitrogen fertilizer, heat from the sun and lack of oxygen that will kill the bamboo for good.

Featured image: Grass Trimmer by sacks08, Flickr, CC BY 2.0