Bamboo is a giant member of the grass family that looks great, and if you need poles in your garden, they will be a great resource. However, many bamboo plant varieties are invasive, and once they have been established, it cannot be easy to eradicate bamboo. In addition, certain bamboo species can be a nuisance to your garden or property and take over your entire landscape.
Bamboo species come from various habitats worldwide. Some are tropical bamboos that grow around moist hot areas, while others grow on cold mountain slopes. Generally, bamboo grows in any USDA zone above Zone 5 and may also be grown in Zone 4 with protection.
So, are you stuck and are trying to find what kills bamboo? You are not alone. We have listed all the ways you can use to kill bamboo permanently and recommended when each method should be used. Read on.
What are the Ways to Kill Bamboo Permanently?
There are several ways you can use to kill bamboo plants, and as much as they may take some effort and time, they are worth the try. Sometimes you may need to combine several procedures to kill bamboo eventually.
The method you use to remove bamboo from your garden will depend on the season you are trying to remove the bamboo plants. However, before you get rid of unwanted bamboo, you need to decide if you want to get rid of all the bamboo plants or if you would like to keep some of them.
If you intend to kill all the plants in your garden, you should use the isolation method. It involves separating the bamboo plants you wish to preserve while removing the rest. You should add bamboo barriers or other controlling mechanisms to ensure it's easy to maintain for this method.
1. Physical Removal
No matter the method you use to kill these invasive bamboo plants, the physical methods should always come first.
a). Digging Up Roots
This method requires you to dig into the soil to pull out the clumps of bamboo rhizomes of the bamboo plant, and this is assuming you have issues with running bamboo because it tends to spread invasively. Digging can be effective if you want to remove the whole plant, where for the large plants, you may need to get a backhoe.
To remove bamboo permanently and effectively using this method, use the following steps:
- Water, the bamboo plant's area, grows to make the soil moist, making the digging process easier.
- Find a bamboo culm, dig around it using a shovel and remove them. You may need to dig deep as one foot to find the bamboo rhizomes or clumps.
- If you miss a rhizome or a clump, the bamboo plant will eventually grow, so you need to repeat this process until nothing is left.
Another physical way of killing bamboo is regular mowing which needs a lot of time and energy, but you are guaranteed to get results if you follow the procedure well. To achieve the best results, mow down the bamboo shoots and younger plants, then dig the roots.
Consistency and occasional mowing is the key to success with this method. However, don't mow large stems or tall bamboo such as Timber Bamboo. To get rid of bamboo using this method, follow the steps below:
- First, cut the shoots as near the ground as possible.
- Then, mow the affected area using the lowest deck setting of your lawnmower.
- Water the area nicely after mowing the landscape
- After a few days, mow over the landscape if you notice growth.
- Keep up with frequent mowing until the growth reduces.
c). Tarp Method
Another way of killing bamboo in your yard is smothering the plant with tarps which will take about two months. However, the bamboo might spread beyond the covered perimeter, so you can closely monitor the situation.
- Cut the bamboo using a handsaw or pruners to cut the bamboo to soil level
- Cover the affected area with dark plastic garbage bags or tarps and secure them using landscaping pins or place them on top of tarps.
- Wait for a few weeks or months until all the contents below the tarps suffocate.
- If the covered bamboo patch sends the rhizomes beyond tarps, it creates new sprouts, so immediately cut and cover the new sprouts.
- Alternatively, you can plant other perennials around the border to create a natural bamboo barrier that crowds out new shoots.
d). Heat or Thermal Method
Heat is a strong tool that can be used for killing stubborn plants such as bamboo, and it's mostly done after felling, digging and exposure of roots and rhizomes. There are two ways one can apply heat to a bamboo plant:
i). Burn the Bamboo Clumps
One way of killing bamboo is by burning them to death, and although this is not an eco-friendly solution, it helps control bamboo. However, if you have a lot of bamboos, ensure you consult the State Government Forestry / Natural Resource Management Departments in your location before you burn the clumps.
This method works best during the summer's hottest times and if it's the dry season, ensure you monitor the procedure closely. Keep in mind that burning bamboo has its cons, and so if you intend on planting new crops on the same land, this is not the best choice as it reduces soil fertility.
To burn the bamboo clumps, follow the steps below:
- First, isolate other plants and crops if you are doing this in a garden.
- Next, cut the bamboo culms down to a few inches above the ground level.
- Next, spread some ammonium nitrate fertilizer over the area the bamboo grows.
- Cover the affected area with a transparent plastic film, and you can use rocks to hold down the edges.
- The combination of fertilizer, lack of oxygen and the sun's heat will eventually kill plants.
- Dig the dead bamboo stalks after a few weeks and ensure you remove all the rhizomes to prevent more plants from sprouting.
ii). Applying Hot Water
This is an effective method of killing bamboo, and it's more of a natural and environmentally friendly option than using a herbicide treatment. Follow the steps below:
- Dig around the plant to expose the bamboo roots
- Pour boiling water directly on the root system and kill the plant
- Repeat this procedure if you notice any new growth, and you can dig up the rest of the plant bamboo, including the dead roots, to ensure you eliminate bamboo.
e). Applying Diesel or Gasoline
Although this method is harmful to the environment, there are testimonials of it being one of what kills bamboo plants permanently.
Diesel works by weakening the bamboo roots when applied to the exposed roots. So you need a gallon of diesel, sprinkle it on the exposed rhizomes, and leave it for several days.
Alternatively, gasoline is recommended for killing bamboo permanently, thanks to its corrosive nature. So use it in the same way you use diesel.
2. Organic Method
If you have not successfully eradicated the unwanted plants, you should use an organic method.
Vinegar is a highly acidic product that hinders the fresh growth of bamboo. To use it properly, follow the steps below:
- Moisten the soil before you start digging around the bamboo clump or culm, and then expose the root system as much as possible.
- Pour undiluted vinegar on the roots and ensure they get soaked, or use a sprayer to apply the vinegar.
- Once the vinegar seeps where the roots were, you can now pull up the stalk.
- This method attacks all the roots that you couldn't remove, and anytime you observe new shoots, repeat the process until you permanently get rid of bamboo.
3. Chemical Method
This method uses harsh chemicals and products such as herbicides, and there are several types one can use to get rid of these invasive plants. Although it's a harsh method, it doesn't 100% guarantee killing bamboo all at once, so it should be the last option you consider because of the harshness of the chemicals.
The best way to apply this method is on the rhizomes, and most times, you apply it after the plant has been cut down and you have tried to remove the roots as much as you can. Then go ahead and spray herbicides on the remaining roots and when you notice new shoots after the initial treatment, repeat the method.
Repeat the process until you permanently get rid of the unwanted bamboo. Remember to follow these steps:
- Use a garden sprayer or a spreader with the active ingredient glyphosate or imazapyr to apply your herbicides to the exposed roots and stumps.
- Carefully read the manufacturer's instructions and follow them to avoid any issues.
- If the bamboo leaves are in the backyard where you have other crops, ensure you protect other crops from the herbicides, or they will also dry up.
- The bamboo will turn yellow, wither, then die, and you can then cut down the dead stalkers.
- Repeat this method whenever you see new growth until the plants eventually die.
What is the Difference Between Running Bamboo and Clumping Bamboo?
a). Running Bamboo
Running bamboo is the invasive type of bamboo, and the popular species include Indocalamus, Pleioblastus, Chimono-Bambusa, and Sasa. The invasive species grow horizontally underground, and their stems are called rhizomes which can stretch up to 15 feet in one growing season. When there is no bamboo barrier to control the spread, they will consistently grow.
Rhizomes are long and thick and have a wood-like structure that is strong enough to crack concrete and hence can't be allowed to grow anywhere close to homes because they can cause structural damage. So instead, it grows under driveways, where it causes the surface to buckle under the extreme pressure from rhizomes and the thick cane stalks which shoot up from the rhizomes.
b). Clumping Bamboo
Clumping bamboo is not invasive, but it can get problematic when neglected long enough, unlike the invasive species of bamboo that grow quickly out of control. It may take a few years of you neglecting a clumping bamboo plant before it becomes problematic.
In addition, clumping bamboo is best planted in containers or somewhere with a barrier surrounding the roots to prevent the spread. Even if this hasn't been done, removing a clumping bamboo plant will be easier than removing rhizomes underground from a running bamboo.
Tips for Removing Bamboo Plants
- Use the appropriate tool meaning it should match the thickness of the bamboo cane.
- Apply herbicides carefully and follow recommendations to achieve safe and effective use.
- For small shoots of bamboo or when you want to remove only a portion of the bamboo stand, mechanical removal methods should work, but if you want to kill a large stand, then herbicide application is necessary.
- For the smothering method, enlist the help of buried barriers where you can fence in the bamboo by sinking plastic barriers into the ground.
- Apply non-selective herbicides such as glyphosate or imazapyr carefully as a runoff or drift of these chemicals can hurt or kill any plants they have direct contact with.
Frequently Asked Questions on What Kills Bamboo
1. Does Bleach Work for Killing Bamboo?
Not enough research has been done to prove that you can remove bamboo using bleach, although some gardeners could use bleach as a general weedkiller. Ensure you try it out and see how it turns out but remember to cut the bamboo culms to the ground before applying the bleach over the roots. This is the same way you would with vinegar or a common herbicide.
2. How Can I Kill my Neighbors Bamboo?
The most effective way of killing bamboo is using a herbicide containing glyphosate. Apply it using a paintbrush directly to the stalks and leaves of the bamboo each time you cut it down. Then water the bamboo to speed up the application.
However, since it's almost impossible to prevent the bamboo from spreading, the American Bamboo Society recommends one to install a concrete or a fabric barrier that will work as an underground fence.
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