We have two gigantic bamboo plants, and we can't get rid of them.
I've tried cutting them to the ground, and digging them up, but the roots are too strong.
Any non-chemical ideas?
Nope, nothing non-chemical I can think of for those save a back hoe and a big chunk of your lawn and even then they'd probably still come back to haunt you. Here's hoping somebody has had experience with removing bamboo.
I feel your pain! Running bamboo runs rampant down here in the south. I have not found any effective way to get rid of it besides using a backhoe to dig out the roots. I had the idea to put down large sheets of black plastic in the summer to cook the roots. I don't know if that would work or not though.
Our local radio gardening guy says to cut off the shoots as they come up and pour chemical straight into it. I am pretty sure you can't cook it away with plastic. The way he talks about bamboo , virtually impossible to make a physical barrier.
There is a whole block here that has it. It started out in one yard, then it spread to the next, and the next, and the next. Everybody's backyard on that block now has it. Several oak and pecan trees in those yards died during last years drought because the bamboo used the available water before the trees could.
Now is a really good time to cut back the canes and give them a nice drink of happy juice just like sallyg suggested. Regular strength RU should be fine. Cut them down to about 18". When they begin re-growing, and they most assuredly will, begin spraying the new foliage with RU. When I have a plant that I want to nuke with a foliar spray and I don't want to deal with drift killing off other plants in the same area, I take an old cardboard box and create my own spray booth. I slip the box over the top of the foliage and spray down into it. Just leave it in place until the chemical is dry and then you can lift it off. That bamboo will probably have to be cut back to 18" a few time. It's probably not going to go down easy. If these plants do not resprout again by spring of '08, dig them out.
I am convinced the only way to contain some of these bamboos is to drive sheet piling down into your ground around the area where you want to grow it or drain your swimming pool and plant it in that. Even then it would probably crack the concrete in future years. Biltmore Estate in North Carolina has a lot of bamboo. I saw that driving in and driving out and driving in and driving out and my jaw was basically hitting the floor.
I have some unwanted bamboo we've been cutting to the ground and poisening with roundup (sure it's not strong enough). But my worry is this - I have a single wide mobile home that we will be moving out next year and putting in a double wide - right over the bamboo. Will the light cutoff of a house on top kill the suckers or are we risking home damage???
There is a good chance that it will try to grow under it. I have seen it growing underneath older houses that are built off of the ground. If you install vinyl skirting it will reduce the chances. I would also try to put down a plastic sheet barrier around the outer edges of the home.
Strange thing about bamboo: it can be very hard to establish! Once it's established and content with conditions, there's no stopping it. Flooding will kill almost any species (there are only a few exceptions: despite looking a bit like some water-loving plants, almost all bamboos hate wet feet), but that may be difficult to maintain for long enough to cause a kill. I had a little grove of moso bamboo I started from a seedling, which was doing fine until a series of hurricanes went past a few years ago, with rains keeping the water table almost at the surface for several months. It all died. Meanwhile, bamboos on slightly higher ground survived and now are beginning to be a nuisance.
Repeated mowing to the ground might work. Remember that there's a big root system that relies on the culms for nutrition and in most species stores the sugars they create through photosynthesis (in moso, most of the food storage is in the culms rather than the roots -- not usual -- and this may make it easier to kill by mowing). If one repeatedly cuts down every shoot (eating them works fine if you catch them young and tender; some are edible raw, some have cyanogens and such that can be eliminated by cooking, sometimes in several changes of water) and chops every older culm off as low as possible. it might be possible to starve the roots out. It's a lot of work and I've never yet had to try it myself.
The problem with Roundup is that it's absorbed best through green leaves. Applying the concentrate to cut stems of anything, at least in my experience, often isn't effective. Bamboos have a lot of root mass, and there needs to be enough Roundup to screw up the metabolism of all of it. All. I've sprayed suckers of sweetgum and persimmon long distances from the parent trees, saturated the leaves of whole clusters of suckers, and killed only a portion of those long roots: the parent trees were untouched. With most bamboos it's even worse: there's a lot more root volume than you think. I'd first try to starve out the plant by making it send up shoot after shoot and promptly removing those.so that it has no way to synthesize more food, and then perhaps let it grow some culms (they don't grow any higher once you cut off the tops, by the way) with what you hope is the last of its reserves... then spray the herbicide. And hope some more. An established bamboo is as tough as an unestablished one is delicate. Naah, tougher.
Again, I have never had to try this strategy myself, so I could be completely full of crap. From what I know of bamboos, it seems plausible, though it's a great deal of work. I do know that repeated mowing of perennial weeds, wild blackberries, persimmon and sweetgum suckers, and the like really can drain their reserves, and then spraying any new suckers with Roundup seems to be more effective than merely cutting them down and putting the concentrated stuff on the stumps. Your mileage may vary, and so on.
Here in Zone 5 I had to eradicate bamboo planted by a neighbor. She asked for help from all the neighbors involved as it was running in all directions. It even came up through a crack in the concrete pad foundation of a storage building. I think it was responsible for the crack! Basically we just dug and dug and dug. 2-4D was the only herbicide available at the time. The neighbor soaked the cracks in the concrete with it every time a shoot showed up. We eliminated it with relentless digging, tearing out some marginal shrubs and other plants in the process. It took two years but we did it. A copper barrier will contain it. But who can afford a three foot deep piece of copper long enough to encompass even a small area? It would have to be 2-1/2 ft below ground and 1/2 ft above. I did see a planting done in a six foot section of a partially submerged sewer tile. Not too many people have those lying around.
Hmm, 2,4-D isn't supposed to kill grasses, and bamboo is definitely a grass. It could be an exception, but I don't think so. I think that the constant digging did the work.
Any barrier sturdy enough and deep enough will stop running bamboos. I don't know why copper would be better than any other material; presumably it wouldn't corrode readily in most soils, but that's not unique to copper. The bamboo will find any weak point, seam, or what have you in the barrier. (I don't think that any bamboos will send roots deeper than three feet underground -- but I could be wrong.) The barrier has to be tough and continuous. I know that some bamboo nurseries sell special root-barrier material, some sort of strong and I think UV-stabilized plastic if memory serves.
We really did dig a lot. An awful lot! Without the 2-4D I have no explanation for stopping the bamboo from coming up in the shed as no digging took place in there. It could be that she used other household chemicals that I don't know about. She was intent on saving the concrete pad. The shed is still standing with no more damage or growth. Regretfully though the neighbor died about 5 years ago. She was a really great gal who had no idea what a problem this stuff would be when she initially planted it. It WAS beautiful, but as you know you can learn to hate it real quick.
Personally I like the sewer tile idea. It is deep enough and sturdy enough to withstand the pressure from the roots. If you leave a tall enough lip exposed you can have a handle on roots/runners trying to go over the top.
I am thinking of trying one of these two new introductions:
I just wonder if it could be grown in one of those plastic fish ponds that you see in garden centers. Drill some holes in the bottom, put it in the ground, and fill it with soil. I don't know if the bamboo roots could go deep enough to get through the drain holes or not. A layer of sharp edged rocks on the bottom might prevent that. I have one that I use as a goldfish pond and it is about 2.5ft deep.
Well, there is one way to find out! I don't remember having to dig any deeper than 12 to 14 inches. Please don't take that as a reccommendation. I don't have any idea what variety we were dealing with and this bamboo wasn't forced to find a way around an obstical, except for the concrete pad! Try putting a small copper fitting in the ground at each drain hole.
As some of you are well aware, bamboo is extremely invasive. Even if you see one at a nursery and they tell you that it's not; before buying I'd do a lot of research on that particular species. And then, if you're planting in the ground I would put a deep barrier around it to prevent unwanted roots from spreading.
I have some luck with heavy mulch - as deep as you can get it. Cut off any shoots at the ground and cover area with layers of cardboard, heavy paper, even old carpet or blankets - then top with a very heavy layer of mulch - you have to cover a large area around the plant or where the plant was. Check often to see if it has spread beyond the mulched area or broken through.
I've been beating down the old bamboo this summer and I'm winning!. When the leaves were out on the shoots I did three series of spraying with Ortho brand vine and woody stem killer at its recommended solution so it would pass all the way to the roots. I took this advice from another DG thread and agree. If it is too concentrated it won't get down to the roots. It took three times to make the leaves die. Then I waited a month, mostly because it was too hot to pull roots in the afternoon. Since August I have been chopping and pulling out the most amzingly huge dead root system from about a 15' diameter area. It is very densely intertwined. Since I don't have any heavy machinery to do it with, I'm doing it by hand. I'm almost up to clump that started it all. And yes, the area is dry soil.
You can kill bamboo by cutting down ALL of the existing canes and then kicking over any shoots that try to come up. I cut the canes and then I apply roundup to the cut area, I also apply roundup to the shoots after I kick them over. It's way more effective than trying to spray the leaves because their surface is too waxy.
I agree, definitely do some research before you get anything. Unfortunately the hardy bamboos are mostly the running kind, the clumping kind tend to be more tender and there probably aren't many of them that would work in zone 6.
Here's a nice site that lists runner vs clumper and hardiness for a number of different bamboos. http://www.bamboosourcery.com/bamboo.cfm Look for things that have a "C" in the type column and say they're hardy at least to -10F. I took a quick look and didn't see any, but there were a few that were hardy to -5 (which would be zone 6b) or 0 (which would be 7a) so if you've got a protected area you can put it you might be able to consider one of those.
The roundup I just bought has instructions for killing bamboo, cut off the cane and pour 1-2 T of concentrated non-diluted Roundup into the hollow. I am going a step further, I am using a steel rod to ram down though all the membranes till it hits the bottom where the roots are and I pour the roundup in there. Working like a dream :-) It's such a shame, my bamboo is so beautiful, I hope soon to be saying WAS so beautiful!
I've been fighting bamboo from my neighbors yard for ~18 years! I have learned a few tricks, (after a lot of back-breaking digging, of course) one website suggests that you dig a 36" trench around the bamboo, and install a heavy pool-liner quality material, keeping at least 6" of it above ground. (to me, this is a heck of a lot af work AND expense, to stop something that is not MINE)
I have had SOME success using concentrated Glyphosate (roundup, or equivalent) cutting the bamboo about 3" above ground (or pulling up the bamboo to expose the larger feeder tube) and filling the reed as full as you can get it within a few minutes of cutting. (The plant tries to protect itself by drawing the moisture from the damaged plant area back into the rhizome, and, of course, taking the Glyphosate back with it...)
Glyphosate will work, however it will likely require repeated applications. Essentially you starve and exhaust the roots by not allowing the top to photosynthesize. The more the reserves in the roots the longer the process takes. But eventually, if the plant cant manufacture food it will die. You have to remember that if the stems are green that mean chloroplasts and chloroplasts make food, not as much as leaves do, but they do make food. So keep killing the stems and you will win the battle. It may mean daily applications to any new shoots popping up. Be vigilant. Science is on your side. Some folks have also had success with poison ivy brush killer that you paint on. Same approach. Don't allow the plant to photosynthesize.
Actually plant tissue dies at anything much above 130 degrees. Heat is a catalyst. It will kill anything good in the soil too. Also since bamboo roots can run laterally for great distances it would take a lot of advance excavation to determine where the roots were located. Schlepping containers of near boiling water around the garden is risky and not likely to solve the problem. You could try solarization if there arent any desirable plants nearby. Cover the entire area with heavy black plastic for the whole growing season. Watch for any escaping runners out the edges or runners poking through the plastic. Weight the plastic down along the edges and let it cook. You might want to put a heavy duty weed mat under the black plastic to reinforce the plastic. Bamboo shoots are strong.
From March until mid-July I faithfully cut back the bamboo each morning - but it is still growing!
It's now mid-August and I am digging it up by hand! Hardest part is when I encounter tree roots. Some of the rhyzomes run parallel to the roots. This morning I had to lift a tree root with a shovel, sit on the handle to keep the root elevated while I pulled the rhyzome out!
I have to win this battle or the bamboo will take over my vegetable garden.
Well, heres how I keep the neighbors damboo in check!
Buy a container of concentrated round-up, ( or Ace hardware has a "generic" version..still its glysophate)
Cut the bamboo at ~ 3" above ground level, IMMEDIATELY pour into the open stalk, as much glysophate that the reed will hold. ( I used a "squirt bottle" found at the 99 cent store with a very small nozzle) The bamboo will realize it has been damaged, and draw any liquid back down into the rhizome only to have the glysophate "do its job" on the root!
Prior to using this method, I faught digging this crap for 18 years! Now, at least I have it under control. (even if my neighbor doesn't!)
Yes, I was reluctant to have to resort to the Glyphosate as well, but at 69 years old, I run out of steam a lot quicker than I used to, and you folks that have been digging this stuff up can attest that its hard work! (not to mention the darned roots can run a LONG distance) I have dug up roots 15 feet long!
I had a guy from ace hardware tell me to "drown it with water" but that only encourages it! Beleive me, the ONLY way to get any form of control over it is by using the concentrated Glyphosate as mentioned earlier...
As a beginning gardener about 6 years ago, I bought some red runner bamboo, not having a clue to it's invasive nature! Yesterday, I cut down the whole small grove. It had grown under our driveway and heaved it up, in some cases growing through the cracks!!! This is a tough plant and I am glad to be rid of it. I am going to cover the whole area with an old pool cover, very heavy plastic, and hope that it's dead by next spring.
Advice: think very carefully before planting bamboo!!!!!!!
kudrick - I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but cutting down bamboo is equal to mowing your lawn - it isn't dead. There are places online that sell very heavy plastic, I think it has to be 60ml thick to smother running bamboo. Here's a link to the American Bamboo Society, you will have to search their site for info on control.
It is a good thing that I live in the country on 5 acres - because I LOVE bamboo - and it does grow well here. Each spring it is almost like an Easter egg hunt to see where the new culms are going to emerge. In time, someone is bound to hate me for all this - but by then, I will be tending to the bamboo in Heaven. I did see a patch in someone's yard that went into the reproductive dying phase. It will be interesting to see what happens next. They stripped all the canes of the leaves, cut many of them down, but left quite a stand there that will be interesting to watch. I remember the horror that struck my heart when I read about world wide death of bamboo when a particular species reproduces - some in 100 year cycles. You have to save seeds and sow them. Now - if I am nuts or full of bad information - have at it!!!! I will strike back with my huge long black bamboo canes!!!!!
You can drown bamboo. Also blackberry but not thistle. All you need is water to stand at least 3" deep for about 2 months. That is what happened in my back yard this winter. A bit of the bamboo escaped, so I have some left. It's not that invasive here. It's taken 18 years to get maybe 250 sq ft. Less now. Makes good plant stakes. Pic taken before killing cold and flood.
salix_man - our bamboo is growing on a slope, so drowing it is not feasible. It also grows extremely fast - it has taken five years to cover a 50' x 50' area. I am hoping to reclaim this area so I can expand our vegetable garden.
Yes, it does make good plant stakes. We saved all the ones from the bamboo we cut to the ground this past spring.
Good luck to your Husband, Honeybee. I dug some up and planted it at my parent's land about 25 years ago now that stuff is everywhere. At least in two spots. I went out there a couple of years ago and cut a bunch down and burnt it, but it would definitely take more of an effort to get rid of it.
Yes, I've looked at that link. I hear you about the plastic, although there is very thick plastic that is sold for this purpose. Stainless steel would certainly be prohibitive -- plus in my experience, a lot of "stainless" steel corrodes...
Bamboo lover here, and I feel badly for those of you having to deal with anothers irresponsible planting. Looking at pictures and hearing the stories,, it seems often the bamboo is planted at the property line, with no way to access the back side, thus the nightmare begins for the poor neighbor.
Then the bamboo is sometimes not properly controlled from the start, on any side. What a mess.
I have several varieties, and several groves. The one most complained about in forums like this are the timber bamboos. Yes, they run. But they are predictable and with regular maintenance are not a problem.
Let me tell you about my Phyllostachys vivax. http://www.bamboogarden.com/Timber%20Bamboos.htm
I started with a rhizome with a couple nodes, freshly dug one fall. Planted immediately in a raised bed, where I wanted it to grow both to the north and to the south, with the purpose being to cool my older, uninsulated home from the hot afternoon western sun. It took awhile, but the house is now many degrees cooler in the summer. I have been tending this grove for just over thirty years now, and have not had problems controlling it.
The raised bed has wooden edges and is about 9 1/2 inches high. Bamboo roots may go deeper, but the rhizomes stay in the top 12 inches. So keeping a clear path around the outside and watching for potential escape is the main strategy. Bamboo follows water, so have directed the growth with my summer watering, when it is actively wanting to move. This is how I managed the shape of the grove to go north and south. I make a point of keeping the edges where I want to prevent escape, DRY. Made the mistake of leaving a couple large flower pots near and edge one year..you guessed it.. bamboo sneaking out.
I check all edges with my pulaski or shovel each fall, and sometimes I double check in the spring. If I find a sneaker attempting a break away. it's simple to whack the rhizome out. Bamboo needs a rhizome to send up shoots. Whacking that off, leaves some root waste behind but that dies without the plant to support it.
I do have several things outside of my garden I would rather not look at, and neighboring houses I would rather not have staring at me. My solution has been other groves, but never at the property line. They are well inside the garden. none closer any property line than about 15 feet. By selecting the bamboo variety, I can choose where I want the sight block, and sitting in my favorite places, judge where inside the garden, a grove will do that job.
If you are working with a narrower part of the yard, I strongly recommend you leave at least 2 1/2 or 3 feet behind the bamboo, so you can easily walk, and chop if needed. Though that seems terribly narrow. It needs to be roomy and comfortable. A pleasure to walk back behind and enjoy the beauty and the sound of the plant. If you find an escapee, the space you have left back there will encourage you to stay on top of things, and not let it become a problem. A barrier behind this bamboo situation seems wise, to help you redirect runners and hopefully either have them pop up, or run back towards home.
Locking a bamboo running or clumping, in a total surround barrier of any kind, will eventually result in the plant breaking free. Though it may suffer from the lack of space and nutrients before hand. A set up for pests to invade. Think of any plant imprisoned in a too small pot over time.
There are so many beautiful bamboo species, it's truly a shame irresponsible planters have created problems for so many of you. Plan ahead and be willing to take care of what you have planted. If your too busy and have many other responsibilities, pick another plant. These big bamboos are my pets and have been for many years. I water, mulch, feed, and thin regularly. In return these plants give me heat relief, provide visual blocks exactly where needed and are calming to my soul.
Edited because I found a photo from a couple years ago, right before a needed thinning. Easy to see which culms are older and needed to go. I also clean up any leaves below about how high I can easily reach each year. It looks better trimmed up IMHO, so this is not a great picture, but it gives you an idea.
Thanks, citybusgardener, for the cautionary words about barriers. I just want to put a barrier at the fence line between my property and my neighbors so the bamboo doesn't come creeping in. What do you recommend for that?
I didn't take the time to read all the responses, so forgive me if my comment serves as a redundant one. You need a systemic herbacide. It is that simple. You need a poison the boo sucks up and then kills the entire rhizome. It's the roots, not the shoots, you have to kill. Although, if you map the rhizome, you can stop it with a rhizome barrier, then trench dig the bugger out. I say systemic herbacide. Thanks, Jon
Thanks, jon. I have read that even the systemics won't kill the roots of bamboo. I have (so far) been successful following the advice on a bamboo site (don't recall which one right now) to keep cutting back the shoots -- eventually the roots will die. We dug up all the roots we could, and for the past 2 months have been cutting back every shoot. Now there are very few new shoots. I expect to see some fresh activity in the spring, but I am pretty confident we have turned a corner.
An update of sorts. Connecticut has put the running bamboos on the invasives list and handing out tickets. Worse than Kudzu. Wish Texas would do that- neighbors gift is taking over a creek bottom area with huge old trees dying as it takes over...
You know, I bought a bunch of the small, "manageable" new varieties of Heavenly Bamboo, and then, kept reading, from different sorts, that "with maturity, can sucker" and that was enough for me!
Yep, ripped 'em right out.
And glad that I did!