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I've got some unwanted bamboo which keeps poking up in odd places. When I go to dig it up in my lawn, I find it's got huge runners which are blooming difficult to get rid of. What can I do please apart from digging up the whole lawn or even the garden? Thank you.

by Sarah on 01 Oct 2012
Elaine Jarvis

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Hello Sarah,

Be prepared for ‘til death us do us part’ I’m afraid

As a garden consultant: here in France, for over ten years this plant is the single biggest problem clients ask me to solve.

Often an impulse buy or a gift, it is in fact often a poison chalice. Phyllostachys are ‘runners’ so called because it extends rhizomes underground, sending up new shoots that grow into those exquisitely graceful canes mentioned above. A lot of varieties are hardy evergreens and to grow they require little or no attention, so it is understandable how so many gardeners have been seduced by the idea of installing them in a garden or on a terrace.

Polite society talk of bamboo as ‘overly aggressive’, it should be known that this is a euphemism! A more correct definition would be ‘invasive’ or the more military ‘offensive’. A nightmare scenario can ensue unless planted with extreme vigilance and it sounds to me that you are victim to this.

That said I personally love them; Phyllostachys or giant bamboo can form a grove full of swathes of graceful canes, or culms as they are correctly called, from 3 metres to 300 metres which sway and gently rustle with the least breeze. With a wide spectrum of colours ranging from vibrant green; golden orange; a vertical green stripe on a pale yellow background ; soft green revealing a yellow groove; mottled green and black like a snakeskin and a jet as black as ebony, this plant has become very desirable.

My first suggestion would be use common sense when planting; if you have a favourite plant you care for more than anything else avoid planting close by as ‘our friend’ will destroy them for sure. Bamboo can be a valuable landscape plant providing architectural structure in a garden or on a patio but it is essential to abide by the rules; bury a barrier, metal or plastic, preferably not less than two meters down or alternatively keep it in a container which is sunk into the ground; this enables you to lift it occasionally to cut off the shoots, however the runners if left to there own devices will simple go right over the top and wander on.

Above all don’t ignore them!

If you spend a little time each autumn ‘harvesting’ the shoots then you should not have a problem. Some say that the shoots of P.dulcis or sweet shoot bamboo taste, in fact, like asparagus. Cut beneath the soil, peel back the leaves and steam or eat crunchy and raw. I have never tried it, but if, like me, you like the idea of an ‘edible’ garden, have a go.

These ‘darlings’ if they are ignored are nomadic and will travel far and wide; they will pop next door to your neighbours even if not invited and if you haven’t yet had to deal with boundary issues or tree overhang disputes than here is another possible ‘bone of contention’. Container grown on a terrace the headache worsens as aggressive varieties exit container and penetrate the buildings infrastructure, with all the obvious ensuing results. Many are ‘married’ to there presence in a landscape, but better to be really in love with them as ‘divorce’ can be long and expensive; digging out is part of the solution and certain products are available but beware they are very aggressive and should only be manipulated by a professional.

If you need professional help for this do not hesitate to get in touch with me.

Best regards,


by Elaine Jarvis on 23 Dec 2012

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