Bamboos are usually desirable garden plants but, if left to grow unchecked, they can become invasive and spread beyond their bounds. Follow this simple guide to get rid of bamboo, or at least bring it under control.
Botanical name: Various
Main causes: Invasive types that spread by creeping rhizomes
What is bamboo?
Bamboos are usually valuable ornamental plants. However, if not kept under control some bamboos can become invasive garden weeds – particularly the types that spread by
While bamboos are usually a good, ornamental plant, here are some of the problems encountered:
- Bamboo shoots may pop up anywhere in the garden: neighbouring land or even through solid barriers, such as in patios and conservatory floors. Most weed-suppressant groundcover fabrics will not stop bamboo spreading
- The problem tends to be with the invasive types of bamboo. These bamboos spread via long rhizomes, which help the plant to colonise new areas
- The clump forming bamboos can also grow out of control, but do not tend to spread as much as the running bamboos
The RHS believes that avoiding pests, diseases and weeds by good practice in cultivation methods, cultivar selection, garden hygiene and encouraging or introducing natural enemies, should be the first line of control. If chemical controls are used, they should be used only in a minimal and highly targeted manner.
If you have a bamboo that has got out of hand, you may want to bring it back under control, or just want to eradicate it completely. Complete eradication will take time and patience.
- Non-chemical methods involve digging out clumps of bamboo and restricting the size. This can be difficult with very large plants, or on heavy soil. Use a sharp spade to dig up the entire clump or to remove sections from the edge of the clump that have grown beyond the limits. Sever the rhizomes as you go, lifting and removing them with a fork or trowel.
- If you wish to keep the plant, consider planting it inside a physical barrier (see the bamboo profile for more information on physical barriers)
- You can use a weedkiller to remove unwanted growth, or the whole plant. The larger the plant, the more difficult it will be to completely kill it, and it may take several applications of weedkiller to succeed
Eradicating unwanted growth
- To ensure you only kill unwanted growth, first sever the underground rhizomes from the parent plant with a garden spade
- Apply a tough formulation of glyphosate (e.g. Roundup Ultra or Doff Weedout Extra Tough Weedkiller) to the foliage of the section you want to kill. Alternatively, cut canes to the ground and treat with a stump and root killer containing glyphosate (e.g. Roundup Stump Killer, Doff Tree Stump & Tough Weedkiller or Westland Resolva Pro Tree Stump killer). Treat foliage of any regrowth
- Consider replanting the original clump, or a division of it, inside a physical barrier to prevent future spread. See the bamboo profile for more information on physical barriers
Eradicating the whole plant
- With very tall bamboos, which can be difficult to spray, cut down canes to soil level in late winter and then apply a glyphosate-based weedkiller (e.g. Roundup Ultra or Doff Weedout Extra Tough Weedkiller) to the young growth in late spring and early summer. Several treatments may be needed
- Alternatively, cut canes to the ground and treat with a stump and root killer containing glyphosate (e.g. Roundup Stump Killer, Doff Tree Stump & Tough Weedkiller or Westland Resolva Pro Tree Stump killer). Treat foliage of any regrowth
When using glyphosate take care to avoid leaves and other green parts of all garden plants as it is not selective in action. Used with care, glyphosate is safe to use around the base of non-suckering woody plants, as long as the bark is woody, brown and mature. Glyphosate is not active through the soil and there is therefore no risk garden plants will absorb it through their roots.
Inclusion of a weedkiller product does not indicate a recommendation or endorsement by the RHS. It is a list of products currently available to the home gardener.
Weedkillers for gardeners (Adobe Acrobat pdf document outlining weedkillers available to gardeners; see section 4)
The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.