Ah, Bamboo…

In the evenings, I like to do what I call the Bamboo Dance, which involves walking around the yard and stomping down bamboo shoots that sprang up during the day. My yard is bordered on one side by a tall hedge of running bamboo, which means that my entire yard is an underground network of bamboo roots (rhizomes, actually) just waiting for me to turn my back.

Running bamboo is an amazing plant – it’s graceful, tough, and spreads like lightning. In the right setting it makes a spectacular screen or dense grove – in smaller gardens, however, it rapidly begins a plan of world domination. It grows through anything, and the roots are tough as steel pipes.

It grows so fast that if you stand still for a minute, it’ll grow between your toes. I’m serious – I went out of town for a three-day weekend, and when I returned there were shoots seven feet tall! My own research has yielded only two suggestions:

  • Inject the roots with massive quantities of herbicide (which only predicts mediocre results).
  • Dig a deep trench around the patch and completely encapsulate the area in concrete (really!)

Since I try to avoid chemicals (and I don’t need a parking lot), for now I’m sticking to the Bamboo Dance – because I can’t possibly appear any crazier to my neighbors than I do already. I welcome other, less embarrassing ideas, and meanwhile I’ll keep you posted!


  1. Julie, I had the same beautiful bamboo jungle for years. I actually had a neighbor sell his home and move to get away from the every growing garden. The bamboo garden began with a previous neighbor planting just one plant. My new neighbor and I tried everything. The worst thing to do is try to dig it up. It only sends the tubers wild to survive. I had a garden expert tell me to dig a ditch and put a metal wall down to contain the growth. I couldn’t do that – It was everywhere! We finally got rid of the bamboo by spraying the leaves of the larger mother plants with concentrated Roundup. It is expensive to spray on the concentrate, but it was the only way we found to end the spreading jungle. The concentrate went to the roots. It took a couple of years to gain control, but we are finally rid of the bamboo. The spraying did not affect the grass or other plants (spray when it is not windy). I will never have bamboo again (even the clumping kind). Good luck!

  2. So I bought my first home 5 years ago, and during the first summer, got a serious education in Bamboo. While I was beginning to re-landscape my backyard, my side yard became overgrown with 6-7 foot tall bamboo shoots. After a summer of manually trying to weed the bamboo out, I went to a nursery where they gave me this advice for the following spring:

    1) Clear the area of all visible bamboo, weeds, and growth of any kind. Get down to bare ground.

    2) Get a large quantity of road salt that they use to melt snow and ice in the winter. Liberally cover the exposed ground with salt. I had it almost completely covering my side yard.

    3) Save entire sections of newspaper and lay them out flat (not spread or opened). Put the whole sports section down at once, then cover the edges with other sections. I hosed down the sections as they hit the ground so the wind wouldn’t blow the papers. By the end, you should have your entire area covered with thick, thick layers of overlapping newspaper.

    4) Now, lay down industrial strength Weed Guard fabric (not the cheap black stuff) over the newspaper. I used some old brick and stones from the yard to make sure it didn’t blow in the wind. Hosing the weed guard down also helps it to stay in place. Give plenty of overlap from one strip to the other.

    5) Cover liberally with bark mulch.

    This was quite a process, but it has been very, very successful. After 3 years, I only get a few small bamboo shoots growing up every year. The newspaper has largely disintegrated, but the weed guard has stayed in place. In fact, when I rake back the bark mulch, I find that the bamboo tends to come up only in the seams between 2 stretches of weed guard. But it’s hardly difficult to police.

    Good luck, and I hope you win the war with your bamboo!


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