When driving throughout the county, I observe plantings of bamboo in the yards of many residences as well as on commercial properties. The plant has an attractive appearance and screens out unwanted views. Bamboo is actually a type of grass that has woody stems. However, it can be quite invasive, and if left unchecked, it will almost certainly get out of control and over take your yard.
What should you do if it has become established on your property or a neighbor’s property and is spreading to yours? Several tactics are available for controlling bamboo infestations. Eliminating it from an area may take a considerable amount of time, possibly two or more growing seasons depending on the severity of the infestation.
The best way to control bamboo is to prevent an infestation in the first place. Avoid planting it altogether. If you want the benefits of screening, choose non-invasive plants for this purpose. Examples include wax myrtles, Nelly R. Stevens holly, Burford hollies, arborvitaes, and numerous others. These plants will fill in the area and provide the privacy screen you are seeking without the invasive characteristics.
The quickest way to eliminate bamboo is to cut it down and dig out its root mass and rhizomes. However, this method is difficult, labor intensive and time consuming since its roots can grow quite deep into the soil. Cutting the bamboo down to the ground and continually mowing the new sprouts will cause the bamboo roots to deplete their food reserves. However, this may take a couple of years to accomplish. Another way to control the spread of bamboo is to erect a barrier. Dig a trench 18 to 24 inches deep around the clump of bamboo and insert 24-inch-wide aluminum flashing, wood, corrugated fiberglass, rubber, or some other suitable material edgewise into it. Leave at least two inches of the material above ground to keep the rhizomes or roots from climbing over it.
This method is especially useful if the property that adjoins yours has bamboo and the owners are not making the effort to control it. Periodically monitor the barrier for rhizomes that may escape and climb over the barrier.
Herbicides can be applied to eliminate bamboo. Cut down the bamboo back to ground level in the spring. When the shoots begin to sprout, and their leaves have expanded, apply the herbicide Round-up. Multiple applications will be necessary in order to eliminate the infestation.
Avoid getting the chemical on desirable plants since Roundup is a nonselective herbicide meaning that it potentially will kill any plant material it touches. Remember, when using pesticides follow all label directions and safety precautions.
One of the most important components of controlling bamboo is to avoid planting it. Prevent it from becoming established and encourage your neighbors not to plant it. However, for existing infestations, controlling it may seem like an impossible task, but persistence will eventually get rid of it.
Timothy Daly is an Agricultural and Natural Resource agent with Gwinnett County Cooperative Extension. He can be reached at 678-377-4010 or firstname.lastname@example.org.