Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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

How to get rid of Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum)
July 28, 2008 - We have an enormous stand of japanese polygonum that we are trying to get rid of. What soil type is the most inhospitable to this aggressive and highly invasive species? Were thinking of planting so...
view the full question and answer

Getting rid of sandburs in horse pasture in Minnesota
March 17, 2009 - How do I get rid of sandburs in my horse pasture?
view the full question and answer

Non-native mimosa failing to bloom in Leitchfield KY
October 29, 2011 - I have a medium size mimosa tree here in KY that usually blooms beautifully; it did not bloom at all this year. It leafed out well, needs a few dead limbs pruned, but seems otherwise healthy. Please t...
view the full question and answer

Difference between invasive Chinese and Japanese wisterias and native wisteria
September 12, 2014 - Dear Mr or Ms Smarty Plants, Is there any way I can tell for sure if my wisteria is native? I bought it at a place when it was in bloom that sold a lot of native plants. I Would like to know for sure...
view the full question and answer

Information on non-native, invasive pampas grass
February 12, 2004 - Our neighborhood is doing a community landscaping project and pampas grass has been suggested. Is there a good article related to invasives that specifically mention pampas grass?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.