En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
1 rating

Monday - December 07, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants
Title: Eliminating bamboo in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Everyone should be warned about bamboo and how invasive it is. My neighbor planted it in his back yard and it's now taking over my back yard and all the surrounding yards. He installed a barrier but the bamboo has gone under the 18-inch barrier and is spreading like wildfire. It is all over my compost bin. How can we get rid of it permanently without using chemicals?

ANSWER:

We absolutely agree that every gardener should know that Phyllostachys aurea or Bamboo is one of the most invasive, difficult to destroy plants around. It grows fast, spreads by underground rhizomes and just keeps on coming. Landowners who regard it as a cheap quick privacy shield should think again. Once you have planted it, getting rid of it is going to be a struggle. And pity the poor neighbors who did not choose to have it and can't prevent it encroaching on their property. The most effective method really involves enlisting everyone in the neighborhood in the project of elimination. One stand left will still be busily sending out messengers to open land anywhere around. If you cannot get everyone to sign onto the job, then you will just have to fight a constant delaying action.

Here is a good article from eHow.com on How to Get Rid of Bamboo. The main principle is to starve out the plant. No plant, no matter how big or tenacious, can survive forever without leaves above the ground producing food for the roots and maintenance of the plant. Again, the problem with that is the existence of those underground tubers or rhizomes that have a surplus inventory of nutrients for the mother plant, just in case of emergency. With persistence, however, even they can be exhausted and starved out. You asked for a non-chemical plan, and that is about it. Just keep mowing, pulling and disposing of every sprout of it you can reach. Rhizomes can sometimes be dug up, as the article mentions, but even a small piece of it left in the ground will generate more stalks of bamboo!

If you finally cave and decide to go on the chemical route, do not spray, because that will probably never get to the rhizomes, but will certainly kill some of your own plants that you are trying to preserve. Note Step 4 in the referenced article, saying to immediately pour the herbicide down into the cut stalk. Hopefully, this will spread down into the roots and even to the rhizomes. 

And did we mention how much the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center dislikes the use of non-native plants, such as bamboo? It is the Poster Plant for non-natives that will cause far more trouble than they are worth. Choosing natives and researching their usability and adaptation in the local environment is far less trouble and grief than disposing of the unwanted.

 

More Invasive Plants Questions

Privacy plantings to replace invasive bamboo
June 22, 2007 - We are looking for good screening plants for our new house (the houses are very close). We like the way bamboo looks it is tall and narrow for the most part, but we do not want bamboo since it is inv...
view the full question and answer

Possibility of consuming Rapistrum rugosum
April 21, 2007 - Reference: "Bastard Cabbage" (Rapistrum rugosum) Garden section of Austin American-Statesman (April 7, 2007) speaks of this weed. As a child, my parents used to pick, cook and eat this weed at the ...
view the full question and answer

Identification of yellow flowers in Wisconsin
June 19, 2012 - We have plants near Madison, Wisconsin that some call lanceleaf coreoposis however I believe they are some type of invasive species. They have yellow flowers, seem to spread by seed. and don't grown ...
view the full question and answer

Eradiacation of johnsongrass along roadways
August 19, 2008 - What does latest research show on eradication of Johnsongrass along roadways?
view the full question and answer

Is non-native cotoneaster poisonous to goats from Eureka CA
August 19, 2011 - I have heard that cotoneaster is poisonous to goats and other animals. We are trying to get rid of it in our yard, but I was hoping we could use goats to eat it back. What are our options in removin...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center