Garden Talk

with Rebecca Jordi

Q: My neighbor’s bamboo is becoming a problem for my property. What can I do to keep it under control?

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Canebrake

Canebrake

A:   You will only be able to manage those reeds popping up on your property unless you have your neighbor’s permission. If you are having a problem then your neighbor might be frustrated too.  Working together would be ideal. It may be hard to believe but bamboo is really just a giant type of perennial grass. Most people use it as a hedge for privacy or keep it in large planters to enhance a patio.  There are numerous varieties of bamboo ranging in heights from 1 to 70 feet tall.  The United States has only one native species, called cane or canebrake bamboo.  This native bamboo generally behaves itself and does not become a nuisance in our wildlife areas or our neighbor’s yards.  However, there are dozens of imported bamboos which are highly invasive and exceedingly difficult to control. These invasive varieties have large underground rhizomes used to store food for the plant.  Non-native bamboo is extremely difficult to control as it requires killing all the rhizomes.  Bamboo plants typically build extensive rhizome networks underground.  This makes management of bamboo intensive and difficult because all it takes is one rhizome cluster and the bamboo will return. You can try mowing the canes a couple of times a week, similar to lawn grass, and this will reduce the amount of chlorophyll available to produce food.  Regarding any chemical applications we would recommend using glyphosate in the form of a 5% solution or 6 ounces per gallon.  The University of Florida recommends using glyphosate with a 41% concentration of the active ingredient.  While some studies have shown the active ingredient imazapyr is more effective on bamboo than glyphosate, this product can leach into the soil and damage surrounding plants such as trees, shrubs and other perennials. Therefore we would not recommend applying this product to the bamboo on your property. Unfortunately, it will most likely take between three and four applications of glyphosate to control this pest.  This is an important message for us when adding plants from other countries to our landscapes.  If you do not want to use chemicals you can put a barrier between the bamboo and your property.  Dig a trench approximately 36 inches deep. Use rolls of fiberglass or 60 mil polypropylene in the trench. Leave about 2 inches of the barrier above the soil to discourage rhizomes from growing over the top of the barriers. It sounds extreme but it does work. 

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