Running bamboo takes off as fast as a toddler when a parent's back is turned. It sneakily shoots out underground rhizomes that grow as long horizontally as its stalks grow vertically, popping up without warning across a driveway or creeping in from a neighbor's yard. This giant grass, usually Phyllostachys species, grows heartily in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 10. Getting rid of it isn't complicated, but it takes effort and persistence -- just like potty training.
1 Water the bamboo overnight with a sprinkler or with a slowly running hose to totally soak the root mass. Wear work gloves and eye protection. Cut all the canes down to ground level with a sharp saw or strong loppers.
2 Start at the edge of the root mass and use an ax or hatchet to cut the rhizomes at ground level into smaller clumps. Dig out the pieces of rhizome with a mattock or pry bar. Rake the ground to reveal rhizomes lower down. Remove every piece.
3 Water the area where the bamboo grew to encourage new growth. Feed monthly with a fertilizer high in nitrogen, such as a lawn fertilizer with an NPK of 16-6-8 or 18-6-12. Sprinkle 1 cup over an 8-by-8-foot area.
4 Cut off new shoots with a lopper or saw, break them off with your foot or mow them down with a power lawnmower. Continue to watch for shoots and kill them until no new growth appears, which can take as long as two years.
Items you will need
- Safety glasses
- Saw or loppers
- Hatchet, ax
- Mattock, pry bar
- With all the sharp tools around, as well as sharp sticks protruding from the ground, it's best to schedule bamboo removal for a time when children are elsewhere.
- Sometimes herbicides containing glyphosate are recommended for killing bamboo, but most growers and university extension services don't approve of this method. For herbicides to work, the bamboo needs to be cut down anyway and allowed to regenerate, then sprayed repeatedly with glyphosate over a period of months.
- American Bamboo Society: Controlling Bamboo
- Bamboo Garden: Phyllostachys
- Washington State University King County Extension: Bamboo Eradication
- Clemson University Cooperative Extension: Bamboo Control
- Bamboo Sourcery: Bamboo Removal
- Bamboo Sourcery: Fertilizers for Bamboo
- University of Illinois Extension: Choosing Fertilizers for Home Lawns
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