Controlling bamboo can be a monumental task

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 11, 2013

SALISBURY — Bamboo is difficult to control. There are clump-type bamboos and creeping-type bamboos. Once established, the creeping-type bamboos can spread up to 20 feet in one season. Clump-type bamboos are less invasive, but either type can take over landscapes, stream banks and woodlands. The new shoots can push through asphalt and concrete. If you have bamboo, then you probably know how difficult it can be to control.
Controlling bamboo requires persistence. For total eradication in the home landscape, the first step is to cut down the bamboo and remove as much of the rhizome and root mass as possible. Large infestations will require an army of workers or machinery for this task. It is impossible to remove all rhizome pieces in the ground. Any little piece left behind has the potential to grow into a new plant. Therefore, a follow-up treatment strategy will be needed. The follow-up treatment plan can be herbicides or mowing.
Bamboo cannot survive weekly mowing. Converting the bamboo infestation area to turf grass will keep the area from reverting back to bamboo if mowed weekly.
Herbicides with the active ingredient glyphosate can control bamboo. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in RoundUp and many other products. Apply as a wiper application (one part glyphosate with two parts water) to new shoots as they emerge. The shoots should be treated with herbicide before leaves develop.
Professionals can follow a more aggressive herbicide program. This program is described in the factsheet online at or by contacting Cooperative Extension.
To tame bamboo, encircle it with a barrier 18 inches deep. This barrier could be concrete, metal or wood. This is a “safe” way to keep bamboo in the landscape without letting it get out of control. It is possible for bamboo to grow over or possibly under the containment, so use glyphosate to control any “escapes” that occur.
Getting bamboo under control is not easy. It will take two to three years for full control if you remain vigilant. Giving up before total control is achieved will allow the bamboo to become re-established.

Seth Nagy is the County Extension director in Caldwell County.