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Keeping bamboo infestations under control

Throughout the county, many properties have large infestations of bamboo. The plant does have an attractive appearance and can screen out unwanted views. However, bamboo is invasive in nature and can take over an area rather rapidly smothering anything in its way.

Many properties have large infestations of bamboo

If you are being troubled by a bamboo infestation, several steps can be taken to bring it under control. 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. 

Avoid planting the bamboo in the first place. If you are seeking the benefits of having a plant screen, choose alternatives such as 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 fastest way to remove bamboo is to cut it down and dig out its root mass and rhizomes as much as possible. However, this practice is labor intensive and time consuming since the roots can penetrate the soil rather deeply. Another effective method is to cut the bamboo back to the ground and continually mow it as the new sprouts emerge. In a time, the bamboo roots will deplete their food reserves and die. The disadvantage of using this method is the bamboo may take a couple of years before the infestation is eliminated.

A more effective control technique is to utilize herbicides for controlling bamboo. Cut down the bamboo to ground level during the spring.  When the shoots begin to sprout, apply the herbicide Round-up. Multiple applications will be necessary for control. 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. 

Sometimes a bamboo infestation from someone else’s property is moving onto yours. To reduce the spread, dig a trench 18 to 24 inches deep in front of the clump of bamboo. Insert an 18 to 24-inch wide aluminum flashing, wood, corrugated fiberglass, rubber, or some other suitable material edgewise into the trench. Leave at least two inches of the material above ground to keep the rhizomes or roots from climbing over it. Periodically monitor the barrier for rhizomes that may escape and climb over the barrier. 

One of the most important components of controlling bamboo is to avoid planting it. Never help it get established in the first place and encourage your neighbors not to do so either. However, for existing infestations, controlling it may seem like an impossible task, but persistence will eventually eliminate it. 

Timothy Daly is an Agricultural and Natural Resource Agent with Gwinnett County Cooperative Extension. He can be reached at 678-377-4010 or