Contained bamboo sections that don't spread

How to Stop Bamboo From Spreading?

Most people think that bamboo spreads uncontrollably. That’s not always the case.

We have several ways to stop bamboo from spreading. You can eradicate the whole plant, root pruning, installing barriers, and a lot more. Let’s dig deeper into this.

Bamboo is one of the most invasive plants on earth. When people think of it they most likely have a problem with running bamboo, which spreads with its underground rhizome system. Clumping bamboo, on the other hand, is not spreading this aggressively. Read about the non-invasive bamboo species here!

But how can you stop bamboo from spreading? Let’s go through your options step by step.

What is root pruning?

Bamboo roots and rhizome systems are superficial that is why root pruning is preferred. Rhizomes or underground roots can be cut to stop bamboo from reaching out to other territories. They look like ginger or raw turmeric. They choose to spread in loose topsoil between 2-5 inches under the surface.

If the rhizomes cannot set in unwanted zones, they won’t be able to produce canes over there. Therefore, they will not spread any further.

However, eliminating the shoots and canes above the ground only deceives their mark but it does not solve the issue.

Root pruning is done with a sharp spade, digging it into the soil and extracting those stubborn rhizomes that you don’t want. You can usually feel the rhizome as the spade cuts it. Then, the rhizome can be removed to about two feet away from the main plant, or to anywhere you want.

It is important to leave some rhizome connected so that the bamboo can generate new shoots.

Simply lift the rhizomes that are located outside the selected spot. Be careful because small portions can still grow into bamboo stems. This can be a simple task and will work well if executed precisely twice a year.

Digging up the rhizomes in clay soil can be strenuous, though. There is a way to simplify pruning:

Here’s how to make pruning easier

  • Dig a trench of about 2-4ft deep around the spot where you want/have your bamboo plants. Fill this trench with sand. This allows to easily cut back the rhizomes.
  • Make sure that the bamboo plants are located higher than the surroundings because it makes the trench deeper.
  • Use loose sand to easily dig compared to clays.
  • The rhizomes will start to develop after the new shoots have attained their highest length which is usually midsummer. It will increase quickly until early autumn. This is the best time to prune because the developing tips are soft and can be easily cut.
  • Cutting a rhizome when it reached six inches will stop another six feet of more growth.
  • Prune 2-3 times during the growing season.
  • Timing may slightly vary between years depending on the weather.
Bamboo forest spreading widely

How to eliminating new shoots?

This system is a simple approach to manage bamboo which requires stopping fresh shoots. These shoots develop once a year in spring. They are easily removed when they reached around 6 to 12 inches high. The shoots have a pretty high water volume that supports its rapid germination in its initial 60 days of growth. You can easily control your bamboo growth throughout this delicate course of their life and the cane will never increase again.

Here’s how to do it

  • Distinguish those disturbing shoots.
  • A sudden kick can already extract the biggest shoot because they are weak.
  • Use a swing blade or an axe.
  • Fresh shoots can be eliminated quickly using a lawnmower, too, but you may not get the whole shoot.
  • Weed eaters and trimmers with a fastened razor can be utilized in some difficult patches.
  • Remember that most shoots are consumable which is an added reward for you.

What is an open-sided barrier?

An open-side barrier is a dependable option for better bamboo management. It needs yearly root pruning on the open side. The main advantage is to stop bamboo from being extremely root bound within a small confined area. It ensures sufficient drainage particularly in some areas that rains a lot in winter.

Many people use this idea to form a boundary along a fence line.  It looks like a half circle or a U-shape which will direct the rhizomes in one way.  This is a helpful technique for small spaces.

Here’s how to do it

  • Dig the U-shaped or half circle trench which should be around 24 inches deep.
  • Leave one side for pruning.
  • Put the barrier in the trench.
  • The edge of the barrier should be closing up with the surface or stick out a little bit because the rhizomes normally spread within the upper 4 inches of the topsoil.
  • Fill the trench with sand or soil.
  • The exterior edge should be checked 2-3 times a year preferably in summer until autumn.
  • Cut into the soil with a sharpened spade and lift any rhizomes that are trying to expand out of the berm.

Learn how to stop your bamboo from spreading here!

What is a fully enclosed barrier?

This is a narrow trench that is dug throughout the border of the indicated growing spot. All rhizomes found are cut and discarded. Tarps are spread throughout the trench line to catch the soil and hold the clutter. This is helpful for backfilling after the barrier is placed.

Here’s how to do it

  • Dig a 24-inch deep trench and put the barrier in the trench.
  • Use stainless steel clamps to attach the ends of the barrier. You have to drill holes into each end in order to fasten the nuts and bolts of the clamp.
  • The top of the barrier should remain noticeable to identify if rhizomes are attempting to escape. The rhizomes normally spread within the upper 4 inches of the topsoil.
  • Fill the trench with sand or soil. The soil should be completely compacted by flattening throughout the trench on several occasions while backfilling.
  • 3-5 inches of mulch will move the rhizomes above the surface and this makes pruning easier.
  • Carefully cut and eliminate any rhizomes at least once a year.

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What is the non-chemical approach?

Everything we said above is a non-chemical way. So, what else can you do that is non-chemical? Digging out bamboo clumps or rhizomes and using barriers are two methods to reduce their growing range. This can be challenging with big plants, or on moist soil. These tips above are also good for new bamboo plants, but what about existing big plants or broadly spreaded bamboo forests?


  • Use a sharp spade to dig up an intact clump or to eliminate parts from the side of the clump.
  • Cut as many rhizomes as you see by pulling them out using a fork.

Boiling water

  • Using boiling water is a natural approach and can have the same effect as herbicides or other chemicals.
  • When you notice fresh shoots, boil water, and empty it over the roots and shoots of the new bamboo.


  • Cut the shoots using a saw as close to the soil as possible.
  • The growth cycle will happen quickly in the spring. You will be able to clear an ample mass of bamboo in a few days.
  • You may also have to inspect the area for further growth at least once a month.
  • It is possible that you need to use this technique several times before your bamboo is totally gone.
  • The rhizomes will finally die because there won’t be any leaves which are important for photosynthesis.


  • Water the area first throughout the bamboo plant to moisten the soil for an easier digging process.
  • Get a spade and start digging throughout the base clump.
  • Remove as many roots as you can manually.
  • Repeat this method until you weaken the bamboo and disappears eventually.


  • Covering is another method of removing the bamboo’s food supply.
  • Cut down the stalks.
  • Cover the remaining stalks with a tarp.
  • It may take several months to eliminate the bamboo completely with this method.


  • Moisten the soil.
  • Dig around the clump.
  • Extract as many roots as possible.
  • Mix one-half cup of white vinegar, with two and a half cups of water.
  • Spray the mixture on the soil. Make sure that the soil is completely soaked.
  • Use newspapers and lay them on the spot soaked in vinegar. This will prevent new shoots from plant pieces you couldn’t get out.

Food depletion

  • One way to get rid of bamboo is to weaken and starve them.
  • Start by chopping down the stems under the ground.
  • Put a dark tarp or a thick piece of plastic on top of the area.
  • Be sure that the plastic or tarp won’t move.
  • If you notice further growth beyond the edge of the plastic or tarp, trim it immediately and place a cinder block or extra tarp on top of it.
  • This will make them undernourished without sun, rain, and air and will finally kill them.
  • Be patient because it may take a while. Leave the plastic and the tarp there for a month or so.
Spraying on small plants

What is a chemical approach?

Chemicals can be used to eliminate any unwanted growth or the whole bamboo. The larger the bamboo, the more challenging it will be to completely eliminate it. It may need numerous applications of weedkiller to work.

Here’s how to do it

  • Always use gloves when working with chemicals. A mask or glasses are recommended as well.
  • Trim the bamboo down to the ground and wait for fresh shoots to develop again.
  • Let it regrow before spraying those new bamboo leaves. It may sound odd, but you have to let the new bamboo grow first because herbicides won’t be sufficient if the canes are well-developed.
  • To make sure that you will only eliminate those unwanted growths, first, cut the buried rhizomes using a garden spade.
  • Trim them down in late winter and apply herbicide on the fresh growth in late spring or in early summer.
  • Slice as many clumps as possible.
  • Apply a strong dose of glyphosate to the leaves of the part you want to remove.
  • Comply with the manufacturer’s guide for secure spraying.
  • You can alternatively cut the canes to the ground and treat with a stump and root killer with glyphosate or triclopyr.
  • Try to replant the primary clump, or a division of it, inside the barrier to stop spreading in the future.

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Certain bamboo species can spread extremely fast. We collected a few methods for you to prevent this from happening or to stop the invasion. #bamboo #gardening #invasiveplants

Are containers effective to prevent bamboo from spreading?

A bamboo container is another excellent idea to stop bamboo from spreading. Numerous bamboo species do fit in huge containers that can be arranged on your porch or in your garden. You could even sink the containers in the ground, but be careful with the depth. Keep 1-4 inches of the container above the ground. Otherwise, it will still spread.

Get more information about bamboo planters here!

How to use sheet metal instead of barriers?

Sheet metal works fine to rein in the abundant growth of your bamboo.

Here’s how to do it

  • Dig a trench of about 2-3 feet deep.
  • Sink galvanized sheet metal on all sides.
  • The pieces should overlap by one foot in case a section moves by the growth of the roots.
  • Make sure that the barrier sticks out at least three inches above the ground.
  • You can conceal the protruding end with ornamentals or some stones.
  • Stuff the trench tightly with soil.

As you can see, there are multiple ways to stop invasive bamboo from spreading. Whatever method you are going to use, make sure you follow the instructions and be safe. We recommend wearing glasses and gloves while pruning and spraying chemicals.

Which method are you going to use or have you used in the past? Let us know!

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About Us

Woman (Natalie) and man (James) in front of bamboo

We are James and Natalie – newly-weds & nature lovers!

We want to give you the best information possible on bamboo. Get inspired to grow bamboo or to switch to natural bamboo products!