Bamboo Control
Bamboo control and removal is another concern that I often hear from folks that are looking at whether or not to plant bamboo. Bamboo isn’t like Kudzu and it will not “take over the world” like some people think.  With a little planning and care you can have beautiful bamboo groves that stay right where you want them.
There are basically three control options and I use, or have used, all three at one time or another:

  1. Use of a root barrier or other type of permanent containment such as a planter, raised bed, or even concrete. All of these methods operate under the same premise, and this is basically to completely encircle the plant with something to block root growth so that roots can only grow where they are wanted.  This isn’t as hard as it seems because bamboo roots (rhizomes) grow very shallow, usually no more than 3-5 inches below the surface. When they hit a solid object they tend not to be persistent and will turn and go another direction.  This method of control is generally much more work up front but very little work down the road. You can also use natural barriers such as streams to assist. Bamboo will not cross a stream, nor have I ever seen it cross under a road, parking, lot or similar paved area.
  1. Mowing or weed eating is another option if you are like me and aren’t super worried about containing every single rhizome.  The general premise here is to define where you want the edges of your grove to be. It is helpful if you have access all the way around the grove so you will be able to mow any unwanted shoots. In other words if your grove is right beside your neighbors fence and you can’t mow on the other side you might want something more permanent.  Once your grove has reached its limit, simply mow any new shoots that come up in the spring that are outside your boundaries.  The new shoots are soft and easily mowed or kicked over in the spring. Once the spring shooting season is over you generally won’t have to worry about it until the next year.


  1. Digging or trenching is another bamboo containment option.  By taking a shovel around the edge of your grove and cutting a small trench straight down 5-6 inches deep, you will sever the rhizomes that are escaping your pre-determined area.  Go around the grove a couple times per year and cut any new rhizomes that are trying to jump your ditch. I often use this method in addition to regular mowing to keep the grove controlled.  You may also choose to let plants come up where you don’t necessarily want them and dig the plant and pot it for sale, for friends, or to transplant it back into the grove in a bare spot.

Bamboo Removal:  In my opinion Bamboo is one of the most beautiful and useful plants in the world, so why someone would want to remove it I have no idea. A grove can, however, be successfully removed. One strategy of course would be to bulldoze the area. Since the roots are only a few inches deep you can easily remove all of them with a few passes by a bulldozer. 
If you need a more manual method of removal you can cut all the canes off at the ground in the late summer/fall. Since bamboo is basically all one interconnected plant the entire grove is linked through the rhizomes (these runner roots contain the energy for the plant to grow).
In the spring the rhizome system will put up a bunch of small emergency shoots in response to the shock of having all the top growth cut. Once this round of shoots has leafed out you can use round-up or other grass/weed killer to wipe out all the top growth again. (If you do not want to use poisons you can simply cut all the top growth again), and even though it might put up a few plants the next year if you keep all the top growth cut the root system will eventually run out of reserves and die.
So even though manual removal might take several years you can effectively wipe out a grove of bamboo simply by keeping it all cut.