We love bamboo, but sometimes we need to get rid of it, whether because it’s invasive, causing damage, or taking up valuable space in the yard. If that’s the case for you, you may be wondering what the best bamboo root killers are.
Bamboo is known to be quite tenacious, so killing it is not always easy. While you can use physical means such as digging and chopping to remove the bamboo entirely, you can also apply chemical root killers to ensure it doesn’t grow back.
The best herbicides for killing bamboo roots are products that include Glyphosate or Imazapyr, or a combination of both, as the primary ingredients. Selective grass herbicides are also effective at killing bamboo roots, but could require more applications. While other unconventional methods could kill bamboo roots as well, they tend to come with more risks to safety and the environment.
The biggest adversary for bamboo roots is perseverance. While chemical bamboo killers are effective, they will only kill bamboo roots completely if used correctly and consistently until the bamboo is gone. Unfortunately, there aren’t any quick fixes for killing bamboo roots, so you’ll need to take the methods we share with you here and apply them with patience and persistence.
Why is bamboo hard to kill?
Apart from being very hardy, one of the biggest challenges with running bamboo roots is their rhizomes. These are strong, almost culm-like roots that grow underground. Unfortunately, the underground networks they form can become highly invasive if allowed to spread. In some areas, it’s actually illegal to allow bamboo to spread beyond your property!
Not only that, but these rhizomes can extend far from the parent plant, making it more difficult to get rid of bamboo completely. Clumping bamboo varieties are equally as difficult to kill, however, they are much more contained and therefore don’t have the added challenges of locating all of the rhizomes and roots to kill them effectively.
To kill, or not to kill?
If you’re dealing with an unruly bamboo plant, it may be hard to determine whether you need to kill the whole plant entirely, or whether there are other options for control. For example, if you’d like to keep part of the bamboo alive, you have several options:
- Install a bamboo root barrier to contain its spread.
- Mow new shoots as they come up.
- Apply herbicides only to the canes you’d like to kill.
While these are all effective options, remember that bamboo is a pervasive plant. It will continue trying to spread its roots, and may eventually succeed in getting past you.
If you’re dealing with a bamboo plant that has spread so aggressively that it has gone under your foundation, damaged the driveway, entered a public space, or invaded your neighbor’s yard, your only option may be to try and kill it, roots and all. In this case, you can attack the roots with a combination of elbow grease and chemical herbicides.
The best chemical bamboo root killers
Non-selective herbicides can kill bamboo roots when applied properly. While applying herbicides doesn’t come without risks to health and the environment, there are ways to mitigate these risks and ensure their effectiveness.
When applying herbicides of any kind, always make sure to follow the instructions printed on the label. In general, avoid applying them when it’s windy or raining, or even if rain is in the forecast. As the best bamboo root killers are generally non-selective, take extra care to avoid spraying or painting herbicides on or near desired plants, including trees. And always wear personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves!
Killing bamboo roots with Glyphosate
Glyphosate is a non-selective broad-leaf herbicide that is one of the most effective methods of killing bamboo roots. However, spraying the bamboo roots with Glyphosate won’t kill them directly. Glyphosate spreads through the vascular tissue in the plant from the leaves or through open wounds. It blocks the amino acids that plants need to survive, and without the foliage and culms will die. Eventually, the roots themselves will also die.
To apply Glyphosate, start by cutting down bamboo culms to the soil. Next, apply the Glyphosate product to the open wounds as quickly as possible with a paint brush or sprayer. Reapply to new shoots until the bamboo plant has died back completely.
Here are some Glyphosate products that you can effectively use to kill bamboo roots:
Roundup is one of the most popular non-selective herbicides out there, and can be used to kill bamboo and its roots. Its main ingredient is Glyphosate, which can come in different concentrations. It tends to be most effective on bamboo at higher concentration levels.
GlyStar by AgriStar is another non-selective herbicide with Glyphosate as its main ingredient. At a concentration of 41% Glyphosate, GlyStar proves effective against even the toughest of bamboo roots.
Manufactured by Hi-Yield, Killzall is similar to GlyStar in that it is non-selective and comes at a concentration of 41% Glyphosate. One of the added benefits of this product is that it is formulated with a Surfactant that allows it to be rain-fast in two hours, so you could apply it even if rain is in the forecast.
Martin’s Eraser Max
This super concentrate uses Imazapyr (0. 78%) in addition to Glyphosate (43. 68%) which makes it an effective combination. Manufactured by Control Solutions, this product has a very good reputation of killing all kinds of weeds and grasses, including bamboo.
Killing bamboo roots with Imazapyr
Imazapyr is another highly effective, non-selective chemical weed killer that will kill your bamboo roots. Imazapyr works the same way as Glyphosate by preventing the synthesis of amino acids, causing the foliage and culms of bamboo to die. There is some evidence that suggests Imazapyr is even more effective than Glyphosate. However Imazapyr is also more likely to spread into the soil and affect nearby plants, including desirable ornamentals and even hardwood trees.
As with Glyphosate, it’s best to apply Imazapyr directly to foliage or cut culm stems via paintbrush or spray. You’ll likely need to do multiple applications over the course of as much as two years in order to completely kill a stand of bamboo.
You can find several products that have Imazapyr as a main ingredient. Individual brands may vary, so it’s important to follow the directions on the label before using it in your garden.
Arsenal comes in a very high concentration, of 53.1% isopropylamine salt of imazapyr. Therefore, it’s important to mix it appropriately according to the instructions printed on the label. For effective bamboo control, you want to end up with about a 1% concentration, so just a few ounces per gallon of water would be plenty!
Habitat is another non-selective Imazapyr herbicide that has proven effective at killing bamboo roots. At a concentration of 27.77% isopropylamine salt of imazapyr, it’s less concentrated than Arsenal but still requires significant dilution before it can be safely applied.
Other herbicides that can kill bamboo roots
Remember that bamboo is a grass, and therefore it can be controlled (to some extent) with herbicides that are selective to grass. However, because bamboo roots are very strong, these herbicides are not as effective as the non-selective herbicides Glyphosate and Imazapyr.
That said, using selective grass herbicides may be your best course of action if you’re worried about affecting nearby plants or trees. Plus, it’s certainly doable to kill bamboo roots effectively with such herbicides, however it may require additional perseverance.
As with all other herbicides, make sure to follow instructions printed on the label for proper use and safety.
Fluazifop, also fluazifop-P or fluazifop-P butyl depending on its form, is the main ingredient in certain selective herbicides targeting grasses. It works by inhibiting lipid synthesis, thereby damaging the cell membranes in grasses. Since it is a systemic herbicide, it will travel all the way down to the roots. As a result, it’s an effective means to kill bamboo roots, though repeat applications will be necessary.
Common products with Fluazifop include Grass-B-Gon.
Clethodim effectively controls both annual and perennial grasses. Like Fluazifop, Clethodim can be used to kill bamboo roots by application to the leaves or cut stems, as the chemical will eventually travel all the way down to the roots.
Envoy is a popular Clethodim herbicide that has proven effective against bamboo.
FAQ about bamboo root killers
Will Triclopyr kill bamboo roots?
Triclopyr is another non-selective herbicide, much like Glyphosate and Imazapyr. However, unlike the other two, Triclopyr mainly affects broadleaf plants (dicots), not grasses. Therefore, it may not be effective at killing bamboo roots.
Will bleach kill bamboo?
Very little evidence suggests that bleach will kill bamboo roots, even with direct applications to exposed roots. While this hack has been floating around for a while, many who have tried this in practice have found it to be ineffective. Moreover, bleach will kill the microbes in the soil and could contaminate groundwater.
Can I use Jeyes Fluid to kill bamboo roots?
Though controversial, Jeyes Fluid has anecdotally been suggested to kill bamboo roots. However, the safety and environmental concerns make it a controversial choice. Jeyes Fluid is a cleaning product that kills bacteria and viruses. It is highly corrosive and can do significant damage to bamboo roots. However, if Jeyes Fluid enters the soil it will also kill microbial life and do significant damage to other plants as well as wildlife.
Can I use diesel or gasoline to kill bamboo roots?
Both diesel and gasoline can kill bamboo roots when applied directly to them if they are exposed. It is highly corrosive and will do significant damage to both the foliage and the roots. However, we don’t recommend this method to kill bamboo roots as it’s not environmentally friendly and highly flammable. In addition, some areas have banned using diesel in soil, so check your local regulations before attempting.
Should bamboo roots be removed after killing them?
Once you have killed bamboo roots, the best course of action is to remove the dead roots from the soil completely. Once most of the roots have died, this will be easier to do since they tend to be drier and less bound to the soil. Doing so ensures that new shoots won’t come up, as it’s possible not all parts of the roots are dead.