Picture a grass that grows to 8 feet tall with a woody stem that has the persistence of crabgrass. Now imagine your neighbor plants it as a decorative and it spreads like crazy until you’re beating it back with a weed whacker every other day. You have just been invaded by golden bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea). Chances are that your neighbor miracles how to eliminate it also.
Bamboos are members of the family Poaceae — they’re perennial grasses, albeit massive ones. Two commonly available types of “running” bamboo, Phyllostachys and Arundinaria species, spread by rhizomes, like the Kentucky bluegrass in your yard; but rather than delicate tufts of turf, they form dense thickets of tall, tree-like plants. Bambusa species have been “clumping” bamboos — like tall fescue. Bambusa species develop in small clumps that must be periodically replanted to maintain the stand. Clumping bamboos are tropical, hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11, however Arundia species are North American natives and are hardy to USDA zone 5.
Bamboo roots are shallow rhizomes, growing over the top 18 inches of soil. Although clumping bamboo rhizomes are short and compact, running bamboo spreads aggressively on long rhizomes, strangling different origins at the surface. Digging plants can render sections of rhizomes in the ground. This creates more potential plants since every thick root department’s nutrient content supports the development of a new plant because it can start generating its own food. Frost may top-kill clumping bamboo in USDA zones 6 through 8, but it can re-grow out of its origins if the ground doesn’t freeze. Any attempt to kill the plant needs to take its capacity to regenerate into consideration.
Bamboos can even outgrow their vertical distance, growing to 70 feet in the wild. This leading growth offers an opportunity to control the plants by cutting, starting in the spring and repeated mowing throughout the growing season, each of which deprive the plant of carbohydrates produced by photosynthesis in leaves. Two to three decades of mowing may eventually deplete the rhizomes, making their removal without regeneration possible. Clumping bamboo may be successfully eliminated by digging up the clump after repeated mowing.
Removing top growth may be, at best, a war of attrition, gradually weakening plants. To finish plants away, introduce a non-selective herbicide containing glyphosate to the procedure. Bamboo, once cut and mowed, must be permitted to re-sprout and spread fresh leaves. Once the plants are actively growing, glyphosate should be applied to the leaves — glyphosate doesn’t persist in soil, so coverage of the plant should contain lower in addition to upper surfaces, and the herbicide must have enough time to work before precipitation dilutes it. Cut and paint person stumps or repeat spraying of overall leaf using glyphosate, if needed, the subsequent spring. Always follow label directions for best results and use products labeled for use near water when killing bamboo near streams or ponds.