Bamboo invasion

Asked July 8, 2020, 2:59 PM EDT

We have an infestation of bamboo along two sides of our yard. Unfortunately, it is to the point of knocking down the stockade fence in front of it. We are contemplating buying my late mothers house and like the privacy the bamboo affords, but would like to know how to tame it. What herbicide would be feasible; as this property is very close to the Chesapeake Bay which we do not care to add harmful chemicals to? Please lend any information you feel will help us.

Calvert County Maryland

4 Responses

As you are experiencing, running bamboo is quite invasive and its vigorous growth is impressive and often damaging. The (relatively) simpler approach is to remove it entirely, as it is harder to monitor it in perpetuity sufficiently for total containment. That said, you can check with various mail-order bamboo specialty nurseries, as they often sell containment barriers. A barrier needs to not only be placed deep enough to block sub-surface spread but also rise above the soil level a bit to force wandering rhizomes up and over it so they are seen and can be cut down. This will involve trenching the ground along the entire area you want to be the permanent perimeter of the clump - difficult if other desirable plants are in the way. The goal of a barrier is not total containment per se, but to force the rhizomes into a smaller area so you can more easily monitor it for spreading. Herbicide use is not recommended for containment, especially to avoid environmental contamination. It will either work too well and kill off too much of the clump (unlikely, but not what you want) or it will require repeated applications just to stave-off recurring growth. If repeated applications are going to be needed anyway (and they will for bamboo), it should be used towards elimination - when it's eventually done it's job no more applications will be needed, versus perpetual treatments for containment.

Below is information regarding removal, if you opt to do this instead. It is more general advice and so does reference herbicides (there are formulations safer for aquatic habitats if the spray zone is literally next to open water) and tactics that may be challenging in your circumstances.

Running bamboos are tenacious spreaders, with rhizomes that are
aggressive and difficult to contain. Removal requires vigilance, persistence,
and patience, and multi-pronged approaches will be the most efficient.

Non-chemical control involves physically removing as much growth as
possible: both the above-ground culms (canes, stems) and the underground
rhizomes. Rhizome removal is the more effective but most labor-intensive
approach; it will be more disruptive to a landscape and cost significantly
more than other approaches. Rhizomes may also be inaccessible if tree
roots are in the area, as they should not be damaged to protect tree health.

Cutting culms results in minimal environmental impact. This removal of all
foliage is intended to starve the root system of stored energy, which can be
a long process with bamboo. Look for sprouts that appear outside of your
yard so they don’t circumvent efforts to starve the plant. Tender new culms,
which typically appear only between March and May, can simply be kicked
or knocked over. They grow rapidly, however, so monitor plants to avoid
missing this opportunity. Culms that re-appear in summer will need to be
cut down again.

Rhizome removal by hand is extremely difficult and requires sturdy tools
and lots of effort. Heavy power equipment is the most practical approach in
areas free of trees, and even then, it can be tough for the machines to
remove entrenched growth. Equipment will need room to maneuver or else
desirable plantings will be damaged. There will also be soil compaction and
possible regrading needed after removal. Missed fragments of rhizome re-
sprout, so be prepared for their reappearance.

Chemical control requires non-selective systemic herbicides that are
absorbed and transported down into the roots. (Glyphosate is one
example.) Be careful with applications, as non-selective herbicides damage
desirable plants if spray drifts or drips onto them. Due to bamboo’s waxy
leaves, the inclusion of a surfactant will help the spray adhere instead of
beading off. If you are in a wetland habitat or near open water, only use
herbicides labeled for aquatic areas, with no surfactants. In all cases, check
the herbicide label for verification of bamboo control and whether the
formulation already includes surfactant. For summer re-sprouts, spray the
foliage in fall (October) and allow the growth to remain undisturbed so the chemical has time to work. Remove dead growth in spring as you search for
more new shoots to knock over.

The approach to use when treating with herbicide involves performing any
physical rhizome removal first, cutting or knocking down new growth, and
then treating the resulting sprouts with herbicide in autumn. This will
minimize the amount of herbicide needed. The cutting, kicking, and
spraying repeats each year the bamboo returns. (see link to containment article at the bottom of this page as well, plus a brief video)


Thank you for the information. Here we go!

Thank you for the information. Here we go!