Bill Starr: Bamboo can be controlled

Published 1:00 pm Monday, August 31, 2015

I get a lot of calls on how to get rid of bamboo or cane, as some folks refer to it. This can be a challenging plant to get rid of because it can be aggressive in growth and is very hardy once established. I have even heard bamboo referred to as fishing poles.
Bamboo, like many of our nonnative plant species, can get out of control. Luckily we have many great specialists and industry partners that have done extensive work learning how to control many of these unwanted pests.
There are two types of bamboo that grow in Georgia and several different species. That is really not important. What is important is that bamboo is a grass and it grows fast and aggressively. Too bad we can’t breed the appetite of a panda into the body of our cattle.  We might have the problem solved.
The reason I am writing this article is because after several inquiries into how to control bamboo, I felt that I may not be giving my clients all of the answers and tools they needed to combat this “super grass.”
Like many non-native (invasive) species there is no “silver bullet” or one-shot control method. Just like kudzu, bamboo control takes multiple applications over multiple years. The control you get is directly related to the effort you put forth and the money and time you are willing to spend.
For starters there are some forestry herbicides that do a good job at controlling bamboo but at the same time they will also control pines and hardwoods that share root space. If you are trying to control patches of bamboo in either hardwood trees or pines there is really only one way to go about doing this without damaging desired vegetation.
September and October are the perfect months to initiated bamboo control. To begin with you need to cut or crush down all of the existing bamboo shoots. I have seen a cutter mounted on a skid steer used for this purpose. They aren’t cheap, but there are people that you can hire to do this work. Once the patch is mowed or crushed. new sprouts will shoot up from rhizomes. Rhizomes are underground shoots that many grasses have and allow them to aggressively compete with other vegetation.
From this point forward you must continuously spray these new sprouts with a 3 percent to 5 percent solution of glyphosate plus a surfactant. How many times you have to repeat this application depends on the size and age of the bamboo patch.
I got this recommendation from one of our forestry specialists, David Morehead, and it is one that any homeowner can do without having a pesticide license. If we were going to recommend control to a forester, it would be the following:
Cut or crush down the bamboo in winter then burn after the stems dry out. Broadcast Velpar (hexazinone) at a site prep rate over the patch treating a buffer 6 feet wide around the perimeter to get rhizomes growing out of the patch. Follow this with the 3 percent to 5 percent glyphosate solution to get anything that resprouts.
As you can see it is not an easy task to control bamboo, but with some time, effort and a few dollars, you can get this troublesome weed under control. One final option might be to contact lumber liquidators and see if their bamboo flooring manufactures need some U.S.-grown bamboo, or if we could import a few panda bears.

Bill Starr is Sumter County Extension coordinator and agriculture and natural resources agent, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. Contact him at 229-924-4476.