Return to the Bamboo Forum | Post a Follow-Up

OK, so root pruning is really hard and not that effective?

Posted by bonitaapplebum z5 MA (My Page) on
Wed, Feb 28, 07 at 18:23

I'm new to running bamboo, I recently read Taming The Dragon -- a really interesting book about hardy bamboo by Paul Whittaker, and I'm intrigued. I can't wait to try planting some running bamboos. (I already have some clumpers I adore.)

I've been trying to learn as much as possible about these plants before investing the time and money in them. In another thread of mine here a poster told me that root pruning would be a lot of work, and it would ruin my lawn. They warned me that my bamboo would run no matter what.

So -- what do you think? I'm an average build/strength woman in my mid 30's. Will containing a small grove of running bamboo take more than a Saturday afternoon or two each fall? Will I need special tools or techniques?

I was thinking I would just use a spade and slice straight down 8-10" in a circle around the grove. Is there much more to it than that? What am I not getting?

The site I have in mind would be root pruned and also mowed around... but it is definitely important to me that the bamboo not get out of hand, as it is not far from the property border.

If root pruning isn't going to work for me, I'd like to know NOW and not when I'm faced with a big mess!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: OK, so root pruning is really hard and not that effective?

root pruning i guess can be onerous to some people but is not a chore in my book and is highly effective. if you do not do it until the bamboo has gotten out of hand, then it takes a serious effort to get it back in bounds. once or twice in late fall from year one and again in early spring is adequate as long as you keep an eye out for wayward culms. prune and patrol just as you describe and you should be fine. i contain 200+ plantings on our zone 6 property with a shovel and my lawn mower.

i know other people will tell you what terrible problems they have had and not to plant bamboo but i'm willing to bet that in nearly every case the bamboo was allowed to establish where is was not wanted before containment efforts were implemented.

i saw the other persons post that you mentioned and i wondered if the pruning was started down the road a few years after planting, which as i mention above is problematic, and lots of work.

understanding the growth cycle is quite helpful, no need to prune but 2-3 times per year. An even easier way is to build a raised bed framed with timbers or stone, or just a mound of soil for the bed and you see most of the rhizomes peeking out the sides and you can snip them off, a few will get past but keep your eyes open. if a shoot comes up where you don't want bamboo then get rid of that section of rhizome.

RE: OK, so root pruning is really hard and not that effective?

You've got it. (The only thing you're missing is that you're not terrified by the urban legends!) I've got over 60 varieties in a climate that's much friendlier than yours to running bamboo (Zone 8) and I've yet to have a problem. I find that the rhizomes generally travel close to the surface and typically you can either spot the ridges they make or even see evidence of them surfacing occasionally. I usually wait until late summer and then take a pickaxe and amputate any unwanted rhizome with a whack or two. Then for good measure, I grab the freed chunk and "unzip" it from the ground. I probably spend an hour or two a year on this. As long as you are methodical each year you'll be fine. And it sure beats trenching down 2'-3' to install bamboo barrier.

RE: OK, so root pruning is really hard and not that effective?

I saw that response to your question and was not too terribly surprised. There is some work required to keep running bamboo in check, but from all I've seen it's more a matter of staying on top of a yearly maintenance schedule than anything inordinately difficult or frankly all that time consuming.

Last April, I purchased a two-gallon start of Ph nigra from - with whom I am most pleased - and by fall the rhyzomes were breaching the surface of the surrounding soil about four-feet in all directions. I was thrilled it had run so far. This fall I shall probably have to start pruning in order to keep this thing within its designated bounds and that's okay. I WANT bamboo growing in my back yard and am willing to do what it takes to keep it happy and well-groomed.

This is key, I think. If you want something, then the time it takes - within reason, of course - to maintain that thing is well worth it. Folks who balk at having to spend an afternoon or two each year root pruning their bamboo may well think nothing of spending a couple of hours every week, spring, summer, and fall, cutting, feeding, raking, and thatching, their perfectly manicured lawn. For me, grass is more necessary evil than desirable. To each their own.

If you're interested in reading more about what bamboo enthusiasts have to say about containment issues, consider stopping by

RE: OK, so root pruning is really hard and not that effective?

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Sat, Mar 3, 07 at 22:04

If the running bamboo is completely surrounded by lawn that gets mown regularly, then just mowing will keep it under control.

RE: OK, so root pruning is really hard and not that effective?

I have to disagree. Mowing whacks new shots, but not the underground rhizomes, and they can travel pretty far (like into the neighbors' yards) without discovery if you keep on mowing them.

 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!

Return to the Bamboo Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Please review our Rules of Play before posting.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.

Learn more about in-text links on this page here