Control invasive bamboo – options and solutions

Even though your bamboo has been properly settled in the garden for years already, you must stay alert. The need to control invasive bamboo is a constant endeavor!

Bamboo growth must be constrained if you don’t want your garden to turn into an impenetrable jungle.

How can one avoid having bamboo turn invasive? Are there non-running varieties?

Here are our answers to still have the best of what bamboo can offer, without any of the displeasure.

  • Here, you’ll find all our advice on how to grow bamboo
  • For smaller bamboo species, you can adapt the pot-in-pot technique to keep it from spreading.

Restraining the growth of invasive bamboo

The best strategy to avoid invasive bamboo is, hands down, to set up a rhizome barrier right upon planting.

This plastic, cement, wood or metal barrier will have to rest at least 24 to 28 inches (60 to 70 cm) deep in the ground, and stand out at least 4 inches (10 cm) above ground level.

Bamboo barrier made from thick black plastic rolled up into a tube.Take note that if you use wood or metal, there’s a high chance that the barrier starts disintegrating after a few years and that the solution doesn’t anymore fulfill its function.

The method we recommend is to purchase a specific rhizome barrier sold by the roll that is a sheet at least 1/10th to 1/3rd inch (0.3 to 0.8 cm) thick.

  • All that’s needed after that is to dig a hole 24 inches (60 cm) deep.
  • Circle the barrier around it, backfill with soil and plant your bamboo.
  • Ensure that the rolled sheets overlap a lot at the junction, and even duct tape the two portions together for added security.
  • Bamboo roots will run in circles along the barrier, or pop out the surface, but in any case they’ll remain within the barrier.

The rhizome generally doesn’t crawl any deeper than 16 inches (40 cm) deep, but as a precaution, the depth of 24 inches (60 cm) is recommended to ensure you won’t have any bad surprises.

  • Incidentally, you can also use a similar technique to control invasive mint. Divide all dimensions in half and you can control that fragrant spice’s spread!

How to control invasive bamboo

Let’s say you weren’t walked through that, and you innocently planted your bamboo without any protection nor rhizome barrier at all – and now you want to get things back under control.

  • First of all, cut back the clump to the size you desire.
  • Dig a trench all around it and cut off any roots running off to the side.
  • Set up the rhizome barrier as described above.
  • Since the main clump is now under control, all you have to do is deal with whatever roots and bamboo is left outside the rhizome barrier.

The roots can run underground for several yards (meters) before popping up out of the ground as culms.

This is what explains why bamboo planted along your property line start growing in the neighbor’s garden

  • There’s no need to dig up your entire garden to pull them out.
  • liminate culms repeatedly as they appear.
  • To eliminate a culm, simply snap it off with your hand.
  • Don’t give it any slack: the goal here is to drain its resources.
  • In the end, the bamboo root, cut off from the main clump, has drained its vigor. It “gives up” on invading any further land.
  • This may take a year of checking your garden every week or two.

Lastly, for very invasive bamboo that has been growing for years, the only effective solution is to pull out the clump.

  • With a backhoe or an excavator, dig into the clump. Clear an area that can reach up to 32 feet (10 meters) around the clump.
  • If any roots and culms are left, they’ll just keep growing and coming back.

Selecting non invasive bamboo varieties, also called non-running or clumping

There are many bamboo varieties that are clumping, especially in the Fargesia family. These are indifferently called non-running or clumping varieties.

These bamboo have the advantage of growing very densely. Their roots only very inch around the clump and never spread out very far.

Among the clumping bamboo varieties, here are a few names:

  • Fargesia murielae ‘Bimbo’
  • Fargesia angustissima
  • Fargesia scabrida

Here, you’ll find all our advice on how to grow bamboo.


Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Bamboo growing too large by Adam Axon under © CC BY 2.0
Rhizome barrier by ixab.001 under © CC BY-NC-SA 2.0