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How to Remove Bamboo

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The aggressive and invasive nature of bamboo can make it undesirable to many gardeners. Once established, bamboos create a strong and complex network of plants making the emergence of new culms unpredictable. Removing a well established grove can be a daunting task. Simply cutting the shoots and culms at ground level will not suffice for effective bamboo removal. Rhizomes will continue to travel underground in search of new territory to colonize. The entire rhizome system must be removed or destroyed to completely stop the emergence of new shoots. In this article we have outlined several methods of bamboo removal for both running and clumping bamboo types. If you are only looking to control the spread of bamboo plant, check out our article on controlling bamboo.

Removal of Clumping Bamboo

Clumping bamboos stay confined to the area in which they were first planted, and are not considered invasive. This makes removal fairly simple in theory. There are 2 basic steps to follow.

1. Remove Exposed Culms (Canes) - Start my cutting the culms at close to ground level. This can be done with standard garden shears, or a chainsaw for larger plants. The purpose of this step is to give yourself an open space to work with. Once removed, the canes can be discarded, saved, or burned.

2. Dig Out Root System - Depending on the size of the plant, this is often more difficult than it sounds. The roots and rhizomes of most clumping bamboos are short and thick, making them difficult to dig out. Start by digging around the outer edges of the plant while going as deep as possible. It is helpful to use an axe or sharp garden spade to break up the main root system. Once the system has been sufficiently broken apart, simply dig out the remaining material. Finish off the process by examining the hole to make sure all rhizomes have been removed.

Removal of Running Bamboo

Running bamboos are invasive and can be highly difficult to remove. They have the ability to spread over wide areas and are connected by a system of underground stems, or rhizomes. In order to fully remove running bamboo, the entire rhizome system must be destroyed or contained. For well established groves it is recommended to make removal a seasonal practice, rather than trying to completely remove the plant in one swift blow. The rhizome system is typically too resilient and complex to remove in a single season. Patience is perhaps the most useful tool for the removal of running bamboo. The following removal method is a long term strategy that can be employed over the course of several years. This strategy works by exhausting the energy stored in the plants rhizomes.

1. Isolate Desired Areas (Optional) - This step is NOT required if your goal is to completely eradicate the bamboo. Unlike most plants or trees, each culm in the grove is belongs to the same organism. If there is a portion of the grove you would like to keep it must be isolated by severing its rhizome connection to the rest of the grove. The rhizomes are generally close to the surface and can be severed with a sharp garden spade. Start by marking out the desired perimeter. Once marked, you can sever the rhizomes by plunging the spade through the soil along the entire perimeter. This will effectively isolate your desired plant from the remainder of the grove. Keep in mind that this will need to be done every year to prevent the bamboo from spreading outside your desired area.

2. Remove Exposed Clums (Canes) - Cut the culms at ground level. You want to remove every culm in the undesirable grove; be as thorough as possible. The point of complete removal is to prevent the bamboo from gaining energy from photosynthesis. Because the the grove is one single organism, it has the ability to spread its nutrients and energy gained from photosynthesis over wide distances. Complete removal will cause the bamboo to rely on energy stored in the rhizomes.

3. Destroy Future Growth - This is where the patience comes into play. You will need to monitor the area periodically to see if any new shoots have emerged, most frequently in the springtime. Immediately destroy the new shoots by simply stomping or cutting them down. The bamboo will be using the energy stored up in the rhizomes to send these new shoots through the ground. Consistently thwarting the plants efforts will cause it to exhaust too much energy and die. The length of time needed to kill the plant will depend on the species, climate, and its level of establishment