Control of Running Bamboo
Running bamboos spread by sending out underground rhizomes (these are rootlike, underground stems). The majority of bamboos in this country are runners. Clumpers are mostly tropical or sub-tropical.
To control running bamboos the underground rhizomes must be killed or diverted. The same bamboo that may be well behaved in a cold climate can be very invasive in a warm climate with plenty of water. A large grove of bamboo may be a single plant, interconnected by these underground rhizomes.
One of the simplest control methods is to kick over or cut off unwanted shoots each spring. This might be more difficult than it seems as there can be great numbers of new shoots each spring, perhaps hundreds. Planting the bamboo in an open area where you can mow around it regularly can be effective. The image on the left is a small grove of Arrow bamboo that is planted in the middle of a yard and mowed around to control.
In order to kill a grove of bamboo you must cut down all the canes and remove any new shoots. You may need to do this for 2 to 3 years. Eventually the bamboo will use up all it’s reserves and die. Leaving some canes means they will continure supply nutrients to the area where you have removed bamboo, so it’s basically all or nothing!
If you manage to kill the bamboo grove, you must watch for the next few years and cut down any new growth you might see. A very small cane and piece of rhizome can start another huge grove of bamboo.
Another popular method for controlling bamboo is to install a rhizome barrier. Usually this is a thick plastic (30 to 60 mil), 24 to 36 inches in depth, buried around the grove to contain it. In a cold climate with dense, clay soil 24 inches deep may be fine. In a warm climate with sandy soil you should definitely go 36 inches deep. It’s best if the barrier canl be slanted outward at the top to guide rhizomes upward instead of allowing them go down and under the barrier.
I use a combination of methods. Some groves are in large open areas and I simply keep the surrounding area mowed for 20 to 30 feet out from the grove. We have a pond and streams and I’ve used these as effective barriers as bamboo generally won’t cross water or a wet area. (Contrary to popular opinion, most bamboos won’t grow in wet or “swampy” areas”.) I have a long, concrete driveway over extremely compacted soil and this has also proven to be an effective barrier. Even a dirt road that is well traveled will often form a barrier. I’ve seen a small island in a local lake that had been planted with bamboo. It seemed like the perfect solution to controlling bamboo.
This giant grove of Gray Henon is contlrolled by mowing on one side and a paved road on the other.