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How to Get Rid of Bamboo (Or Stop Your Neighbor’s Plant from Invading Your Yard)

How to Get Rid of Bamboo (Or Stop Your Neighbor’s Plant from Invading Your Yard)

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Are you stuck trying to figure out how to get rid of bamboo that’s invading your yard? You’re not alone. It’s a long and drawn-out process that can involve many laborious hours in the garden and still take years to solve completely.

One of the several reasons people plant bamboo is its effectiveness as a privacy screen. Despite that, not everyone is aware that there are two types of the plant: clumping and running varieties.

Planting a running bamboo variety to erect a natural privacy screen may seem a good idea, but here’s what most people don’t know: bamboo has no concept of boundary lines. 

It’ll run under fencing, walls, and patios, stretching easily into neighboring yards.

Wherever bamboo has overstayed its welcome, you’re in for an arduous task. Stick around and use our guide on how to get rid of bamboo. It’ll be your go-to resource with multiple methods you can deploy to eliminate the bamboo infestation.

Since it’s an invasive plant with no respect for boundaries, we’ll also discuss bamboo control measures. If this invasive plant is on your neighbor’s land, you’ll need to employ these methods to prevent it from destroying your yard.

As much as you may want to, resist taking a shovel to your neighbor’s garden unless they say you can!

Running Bamboo vs. Clumping Bamboo: Overview

Indocalamus Bamboo

Clumping and running bamboo essentially differ in their root growth pattern. While running bamboo roots easily navigate their way through obstructions and take the road with the least resistance, clumping bamboo roots remain persistent in pushing through whatever’s in their way.

Running Bamboo

Running bamboo is the invasive type. Some of the common species include:

  • Indocalamus
  • Chimono-bambusa
  • Pleioblastus
  • sasa

Invasive bamboo species grow horizontally underground. The stems are called rhizomes, and in one growing season, they can stretch as far as 15 feet long.

Without a barrier to control the spread, they’ll consistently keep on growing.

About Rhizomes

Rhizomes are long and thick with a wood-like structure, strong enough to crack concrete. Naturally, these can’t be allowed to grow anywhere close to your home.

The tough stems will likely cause structural damage. If spread under driveways, rhizomes can make the surface buckle under the immense pressure of the shooting thick cane stalks.

For this reason, if you don’t address the problem, running bamboo can wreak havoc on and around your property.

Clumping Bamboo

Clumping bamboo, on the other hand, is not invasive, but that doesn’t mean it won’t become problematic when neglected for long enough.

Luckily, unlike the running species that quickly grow out of control, it takes years of neglect for a clumping bamboo to become an infesting issue.

These bamboo species are best planted in containers or with a barrier surrounding the roots to prevent the spread.

Even without the container’s barrier control, it’ll still be easier to get rid of a clumping bamboo plant than digging up rhizomes underground from running bamboo.

How to Tell if You Have Running Bamboo or Clumping Bamboo in Your Yard

Bamboo Roots

You can tell the difference between running bamboo and clumping bamboo by inspecting the base of the plant.

Clumping Bamboo

A clumping bamboo plant has roots with a circular rooting system. There will still be rhizomes, but they’ll be a lot shorter and will stay close to the mother plant.

But identifying the roots isn’t the hardest part!

The hardest part is actually identifying the type of clumping bamboo you have. You may not know this, but there are different types of this bamboo. You can distinguish them by the type of clumper:

Sympodial Tufted

Sympodial tufted bamboo types can spread, but they always do so at a short distance, staying relatively close to the mother plant.

Sympodial Scattered

They’re named sympodial scattered because there’s no pattern to where the culms will emerge. As open clumpers, they’ll grow within one meter in any direction of where the mother plant is in the garden. Additionally, they have prolonged petioles that sprout fake rhizomes.

Sympodial-scattered types of bamboo are almost like running bamboo. However, rather than spread for distances up to 15 feet, the rhizomes often spread at distances of 0.5 meters to 1 meter apart.

Mixpodial Types of Bamboo

Mixpodial types of bamboo are a combination of sympodial-tufted and sympodial scattered bamboo plants.

The rhizomes grow horizontally underground with new stems/culms emerging in a scattered state rather than on every node like running bamboo.

The only difference between a monopodial type and a mixpodial type is that on the runners, there’s one bud on every node.

Running Bamboo

Running bamboo grasses are all monopodial or leptomorph branchers, meaning the rhizomes always grow horizontally.

Monopodial bamboos sporadically grow thin rhizomes that extend long distances underground horizontally. They develop a bud on each node. Each one can become another rhizome or a new shoot.

How to Get Rid of Clumping Bamboo

A Shovel In Dirt

Clumping bamboo types are the simplest to remove because the rhizomes tend to stick close to the main plant. Even if it’s a scattered type, it won’t extend to a similar length of running bamboo.

Digging It Out

Sympodial-tufted bamboo plants grow in circles, and you won’t find their rhizomes extending beyond two inches from the outermost stem of the plant. That’s where you’ll want to start digging.

You’ll need to extract the root ball of the clumping bamboo. Its depth will depend on how long it’s been growing.

An aged bamboo plant that’s been around for ten years could be a couple of feet deep in the soil. Younger plants will still be developing, so they won’t need as much digging.

If you’re getting rid of the entire clumping bamboo, cut it down to ground level first. It’ll likely be a two-person job to lift and move it.

Once you have the root ball of the bamboo out of the ground, you can refill the hole. As you do, keep an eye on the soil to ensure it’s free of rhizomes. If any part of the rhizomes stays in the soil, the bamboo will re-infest your garden.

Tools to Use

You’ll need a strong pair of garden shears to cut the culms down to ground level. A pruning saw would be better equipped to cut through thick bamboo culms.

A regular spade can also do the job. But, if you have scattered bamboo, there’ll be more digging to reach the rhizomes, so it’ll be more strenuous to cut through those to remove them.

Using a root-cutting spade will be less labor-intensive. These have blades around the edges that can slice through rhizomes as you dig, saving the hassle of switching between a spade and a cutting tool like a pruning saw every time you find another rhizome.

Whether you’re pulling up sympodial or mixpodial bamboo plants, eradicating the congregated rhizomes will be easier than getting rid of the widespread running bamboo.

Once you’ve refilled the hole, keep an eye on that patch of soil for the next few months to make sure there’s no regrowth. If there is, a trowel should be enough to dig up the soil and find the overlooked rhizomes.

How to Get Rid of Running Bamboo Without Herbicides

Garden Shears

The simplest but longest way to get rid of running bamboo is to deplete it of energy until it dies. You want the plant to put all its energy resources into growth. Then, when it’s at its weakest, cut it right down to ground level when it doesn’t have enough energy to fully regrow.

While it’ll still grow back, it won’t be as big or strong. The right time to hit running bamboos is in the spring. Here’s how to start:

Step 1: Cut the Bamboo

Most shears can easily cut through culms up to two inches in diameter. If you’re dealing with thicker culms, an electric chainsaw would be more efficient. Be sure to target the ground level of the running bamboo.

Step 2: Apply Fertilizer

After cutting, apply a nitrogen-rich fertilizer to the soil to encourage new growth. It may seem counter-productive, but it’s all part of the plan.

Nitrogen-rich fertilizers promote vigorous growth in all types of grasses, and bamboo is a grass. The faster you can get it to grow back, the quicker you can cut it back down. The more you repeat this process, the more stressed the plant will be.

The running bamboo will throw its energy into shooting buds and leaves above ground, starving the rhizomes below ground of the nutrients they need to grow horizontally underground.

Step 3: Repeat

Only let new culms grow to about three feet in height before cutting them back to ground level again.

Continue the cycle of cutting down to soil level, treating the soil with a fertilizer to let it grow a few feet, then cutting it back again.

Each new growth will be smaller, thinner, and more malnourished. Eventually, the rhizomes will have exhausted too much energy, killing the bamboo.

How to Get Rid of Bamboo in the Fastest Way Possible

Bamboo Shoots

If you need your bamboo gone in a rush, there’s no getting around digging. While digging and cutting are challenging, the most time-consuming task will be following the route of the runners. You’ll need to inspect the soil to ensure every part of the rhizome structures is removed to prevent future regrowth.

A faster way to go about this involves suffocating the bamboo. It would take around two months to eradicate.

Step 1: Cut the Shoots

Like the beginning of most bamboo removal processes, you’ll need to cut off the stalks up to ground level. You can do so with gardening tools like shears, handsaws, or pruners.

Step 2: Cover the Affected Area with a Tarp

Grab a large garbage bag or plastic tarps and cover the whole region with it. Pin them down using rocks or landscaping pins.

This will shut out any light from entering the surface, cutting out its main source of life.

Step 3: Give It Some Time

The suffocation process will take between a few weeks and a couple of months to work. If you notice sprouts growing beyond the tarp’s edges, cut them off and cover them.

Alternatively, you can plant perennials around the tarp to create a natural root barrier. Despite that, the running bamboo’s rhizomes could still snake their way around the barrier.

Subsequently, you may want to employ other methods to stunt the invasive plant’s growth.

When to Get Help When Getting Rid of Bamboo

Excavation is the only way to get underground, reach the rhizomes, and break them up. It’s a labor-intensive job. Depending on how far it’s stretched and in what direction, you may need to bring some pros.

You’ll need to enlist help from professional landscaping companies if the rhizomes have grown under paved areas and a driveway, causing the structure to buckle. Additionally, it could be growing too close to your property, risking further structural damage.

Bamboo Removal Using Herbicides

For more overwhelming invasions of bamboo, trying to starve the rhizomes of energy is often ineffective. You’ll likely need to resort to using herbicides.

Now, it’s still a long process, requiring the culms to be cut to ground level and then given time to grow, the same way as getting rid of running bamboo without any chemicals.

By introducing a herbicide, it can speed up the process. Remember, there’s no quick fix other than excavation to remove large loads of bamboo.

The most effective herbicides you can use on bamboo are those containing the active ingredient glyphosate. The best method involves applying it using a paintbrush directly on the leaves and stalks of the bamboo each time it’s cut down. Then, water it to speed up the application.

You’ll want to avoid spray herbicides because they tend to contaminate every plant around the bamboo and the soil.

How to Control Bamboo Spread from Neighboring Land

Root Barrier

You might find yourself in a situation where the spreading bamboo reaches your property from neighboring land. In this case, you need a root barrier installed.

On flat ground, these can be installed around the bamboo or along a fence line or garden wall to contain the spread.

Ideal bamboo barriers are made of durable plastic. Concrete and metal are viable options, but concrete cracks and metal rusts. So, strong plastic is your best option.

The ideal depth to install a barrier on a flat surface is two feet. Meanwhile, a three-feet barrier is preferential on sloping ground.

One thing to note about root barriers is that they don’t stop rhizome growth. Instead, they can only redirect it.

As the rhizomes on running bamboo grow horizontally, the root barrier should slope toward the top. That way, the rhizomes shoot up towards the surface.

Redirecting the growth towards the surface makes it easier to stay on top of cutting the rhizomes back at ground level. It’ll also prevent them from spreading beyond the barrier.

Final Thoughts

Getting rid of bamboo is no simple task. Even with faster methods, you need to remain consistent to completely eradicate the growth infestation.

If you don’t keep cutting back the rhizomes, they can creep over the barrier and continue spreading, so root barriers alone will not prevent bamboo spread. They only make it easier to control the spread.

Whether you use a pesticide, a commercial weed killer, a lawnmower, or smothering techniques, they’ll all take some time before leaving your yard 100% bamboo-free.

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Lisa Peddicord

Thursday 9th of September 2021

Hi there, Someone has told me that an Arborist can remove bamboo rhizome roots and not damage tree roots in the process by doing a pressurized air system? I have never heard of this and would love to know if such a process exists?

Rita Azzopardi

Sunday 29th of August 2021

My bamboo came from my back neighbours yard. It eventually knocked down part of my back fence and has spread to my yard. Who is responsible. I think I’ll need an excavator

Aletha Aranda

Wednesday 21st of July 2021

We are desperate for help? Our NEIGHBOR has planted Bamboo between our two homes on the lake and we are desperate on what to do about keeping it out of our yard. We are 78 yrs old we have ask him nicely to cut it off our property and he responds "just cut it down" .We would probably kill ourselves trying to cut those stalks down,UGH! It should be his responsibility,we feel. And he is rude! PLEASE HELP.

Sloatsburg NY

Saturday 23rd of July 2022

@Aletha Aranda, I offered my arrogant neighbor money for the plant rather than planting the "clumping" bamboo. SHE refused! I asked for her NOT to plant it on the property line, but she did ANYWAY. It is now 15 ft tall and it "escaped" from the area in which it was planted. Rocks were placed over the rhizomes by y neighbors and they trespassed onto my property, cutting the overgrown plant. Additional bamboo started to grow. When I pointed it out, he dug the plant from my property, but I am certain that it will return. Their house up for sale, but this does not fix the issue that the plant is less than 15 ft from my foundation. Suggestions?


Saturday 16th of April 2022

@Aletha Aranda, I am in the same boat and these idiots just shrug it off. Their hard has a huge patch and i have found sprouts in my crawlspace!


Sunday 4th of July 2021

Thank you so much Lisa for your very informative website and invaluable advice.

We have decided to get rid of our running bamboo as find it very hard work to maintain and remove the rhizomes!

Unfortunately, we have noticed that some of the rhizomes have gone over to our neighbour’s garden! We couldn’t remove the rhizomes because of the shared wooden fence :(

Can you please kindly adv me what is the bests way to remove these rhizomes to stop spreading in our neighbour’s garden?

If we keep removing/cutting any growth from our side, will the rhizomes stop spreading & die? If we apply the glyphosate herbicide paint onto the rhizomes exposed from our side regularly, will the rhizomes eventually stop spreading on our neighbour side?

Sorry for the trouble. We are very stress and desperate here to find a practical solution. Your expert help will be truly much appreciated. Thank you so much!

Best wishes, Liz