How to Control the Spread of Bamboo

Bamboo is beautiful, you can add many varieties of bamboo to your garden without fear of it taking over if you follow some simple steps to keep it contained.


  1. Image titled Control the Spread of Bamboo Step 1
    If you aren't trying to control an existing plant, the best place to start is in choosing a species that is compatible with your gardening style. Bamboo is a large grass. And like its smaller cousins, there are some varieties that spread easily and others that form neat clumps. If you already have a spreading variety of bamboo, or if you prefer the style and appearance of the spreading kind, go on to step 2!
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    Some will argue that the best way to control bamboo is to eat the shoots... Most bamboo shoots are edible raw, and all of them are edible cooked. This is actually very effective, but requires diligent harvesting every year. The rhizomes left in place after shoot harvest will put up more shoots the following year.
  3. Image titled Control the Spread of Bamboo Step 3
    If the option is available, make use of natural barriers. While bamboo will grow next to a stream, it will not cross one. Bamboo will not grow into an area that is either bone dry or completely water saturated for more than three months out of the year.
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    Again, if the option is available bamboo can be easily controlled by planting where a lawn surrounds it on all sides by 6 meters (20 ft.) or more. Mow the lawn as usual during the shooting season, and the soft shoots will be killed before they get started.
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    If natural barriers or a large lawn are not options for you, you must consider active methods of control. One of the easiest of these is to make conditions very good where the bamboo is, and very bad where you don't want it to be. For example, give your bamboo water, organic material like compost, and a few inches of mulch where you want it to be. Withhold water and nutrients in the areas where you don't want it. This is only reliable in combination with the following step.
  6. Image titled Control the Spread of Bamboo Step 6
    To improve on step 5 above, dig a 12-inch deep trench around the bamboo. Bamboo spreads by sending rhizomes out from the plant near the surface. These rhizomes will shoot out into your trench where you can easily spot them. Check for these rhizomes once or twice a year, and cut off any that you find. Although another rhizome may replace it the following year, a rhizome that is cut off will not continue growing in that direction.
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    The above methods are highly successful, but not perfect. Occasionally a rhizome will sneak out under your trench for example, requiring you to dig it up to prevent spread. If you really want a long term low maintenance solution, you may want to install a bamboo rhizome barrier. Though this is the most difficult option, it is the most effective way to control aggressive bamboo. See the related WikiHow article, "How to Install a Bamboo Rhizome Barrier".


  • Proper installation of a rhizome barrier is critical to its success. Take your time, read the wikiHow on this as well as the manufacturer instructions, and be sure to do it right.
  • If you see a shoot outside of your bamboo area, it is like a flag pointing out the location of the rhizome. Break out a garden fork and some clippers, remove the rhizome, and your bamboo will be contained once more.


  • A 12 inch (30.5 cm) deep trench can be a tripping hazard. Only use the trench method if it can be done safely.
  • If climate conditions are right, some varieties of bamboo can be very aggressive. Even with the best of methods, there is a chance that a rhizome will get out. If you really can't risk that, then stick with the clumping varieties.

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Categories: Garden Pests and Weeds