How To Kill Bamboo


Some people love bamboo, but far more people loathe it. That's because they plant this fast-growing, fast-spreading monster as a screen so they can't see their neighbors. Then in about two weeks, they can't see themselves either. Bamboo comes up everywhere, until they cry in desperation to Grumpy, "How can we kill this damn bamboo?"

Well, it's easier than you might think. But to understand why, you need to know a little more about it. Bamboos are giant, woody grasses. Some are clumping and cause no problems. But most are running, spreading rapidly underground by thick rhizomes -- sometimes as thick as your forearm -- torpedoing unseen through the soil. From the rhizomes grow canes, called culms. Giant bamboos are the fastest growing plants on Earth, even faster than kudzu. Some culms can grow four feet a day!

emBamboo rhizome. Photo:

Starting each spring, culms grow to their full height in about 60 days and grow no taller after that. Culms with small root systems may grow to 10 feet. Culms with large, established root systems may grow 70 feet tall. Individual culms live for about 10 years and are then replaced by new ones.

If bamboo has taken over your yard, the knee-jerk solution is to get a tank of Roundup and spray those suckers down! This will not work. You may kill the top growth, but that huge root system will sprout again next spring.

What you need to do to kill bamboo is to take advantage of the fact that new culms only sprout in spring. They look like the tips of asparagus spears. Wait until they're about a foot tall and either cut them off at the ground or push them over with your foot. It's easy. They will not grow again.

Then cut all mature canes to the ground. If your neighbor has bamboo, make sure he does it too. Every spring, watch for new culms sprouting in spring. Push every one over. If you and your neighbor keep doing this, eventually you'll starve the root system and the bamboo will die.

Now you know. You're welcome.

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