Living with Bamboo

Bamboo is both an excellent screening plant as well as a strong building material. It can also be used for fodder as Cows also love it (after all it is a giant species of grass) and to make simple weapons such as a blow gun (see Breath of Death) useful for minor pest control. As such, adding bamboo to your home is an excellent idea… however it can come with a cost. Many bamboo species are highly vigorous and can rapidly overrun your garden.


Once bamboo is established, it near impossible to eradicate. I had an extensive bamboo patch at my old home and it took me over a year to remove it. So a little planning before your add bamboo to your garden is a wise move.

Bamboo Rhizome Barriers

The best way to control bamboo is with a rhizome barrier. This prevents the runners from the bamboo from escaping the area you want it in. The larger the barrier area, the larger your bamboo will be able to grow. Anything from one square meter of ground upwards is suitable.

Step 1: Purchase a rhizome barrier. Bamboo can be very strong and rhizomes have a sharp tip when growing. Concrete will crack over time and allow the bamboo to escape. Metal will eventually rust through, and poses a hazard where it must stick up above ground. For best results use a true HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) barrier of at least 40 mil thickness and 900mm high.

Step 2: Dig a trench 850mm deep all the way around the area to be contained. This will allow the top 50mm of the barrier to project above the soil.

For best results keep the topsoil and subsoil separate when digging the trench. Then when filling the trench back in, use the subsoil for the bottom half, and the topsoil for the top half. This will help make rhizomes less likely to go down, because the low nutrition content of the subsoil is relatively uninviting.

Step 3: Compact the bottom of the trench as well as possible. Keep the topsoil that you dug out from falling back in. You want this to be hard uninviting clay in case a rhizome ever makes it down that far.

Step 4: Place the barrier into the trench. Get it where you want it to be, and do your best to angle it away from the enclosed area. You want any rhizome that hits the barrier in the future to be directed up by the barrier. You do not want the rhizome to go down as this can lead to a rhizome escaping under the barrier.

Step 5: Close the ends of the barrier. Overlap the ends by at least a meter and seal the overlap at both ends with double sided tape. Bamboo can escape through very small openings, so make sure the seal is really good.

Step 6: Begin filling in around the barrier. Keep the barrier angled outward. Pack the bottom half of the fill as tightly as possible. Let the top half remain loose.

If you use this method your bamboo should not be able to escape underground, however it will eventually send rhizomes over the above-ground part of the barrier. However these are easily spotted and clipped with a quick inspection once or twice per year.

Add 50mm of mulch all over within the barrier. Not only is this really good for bamboo but it will also encourage the plant to keep its rhizomes near the surface so they are easy to get at if you have to.

Be aware that bamboo can become more aggressive if it is put in poor soil conditions. Instead of weakening the plant so it can’t go far, it causes the plant to put all of its energy into sending out long or deep rhizomes looking for better conditions. Fertilise, mulch and water your bamboo to make it less aggressive about getting out.

Removing Bamboo

If you already have a bamboo problem then be prepared for a battle. Bamboo is hard to get rid of once it is established and escaped.

Method 1

Cut each culm within 150 mm (6″) from the ground and within 15 seconds paint herbicide onto the cut surface, one brush stroke will do.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Timing is everything. The sap flowing through the plant withdraws downwards when the culm is cut.
  • Your job is to paint the herbicide onto the cut surface quickly so as to ride the sap down into the rhizome (underground stem).
  • Roundup or similar Glyphosate works best. We recommend to use the strongest dosage allowed on the product label.Method 2

    You’ll need a campaign of Roundup. Many applications and then a fortified version. First off all, buy the concentrate that you mix with water. Also buy ammonium sulphate fertiliser.

    Get warm water and start stirring and slowly adding fertiliser. When the solution will no longer accept any more fertiliser then that is it is a saturated solution. At this point add the Roundup concentrate as per instructions. Spray the bamboo with this mixture. Do this again every 2 weeks. In the mean time keep watering the bamboo to encourage it to grow (and move the poison through it’s system). You must kill every millimetre above and below ground. It will take a full year.