Whether you want to remove old plants or prepare the cuttings for re-planting, this article provides guidelines on how to cut bamboo rhizomes and culms the right way by using simple hand tools.
When cutting bamboos, always do a clean cut through the rhizomes and culms without splitting them open. Cutting the bamboo wrongly can damage the parent plants and the off cuttings, resulting in losing the whole plant. Take precautions when cutting bamboos, the slits are razor sharp and can cause injury.
You may find this article useful too: 5 ways to stop bamboo from spreading
Tips for digging up bamboos to get cuttings
Learning how to cut bamboo rhizomes and culms is quite easy, but the hardest part is digging up the bamboo if you have an old plant in a pot or container, or in the garden. It is labour intensive and back-breaking work you have to do to get the cuttings you want to re-grow.
From experience, it took over 2.5 hours to dig up the running bamboo rhizomes in an area that is 4 m (L) x 0.2 (W) x 0.2 (D).
On average, it can take 2 – 4 hours or longer to dig up an area that is 1 m (L) x 1 m ( W) x 0.5 m (H) area using a pickaxe if you are working alone.
If you want to remove bamboos in an area that is more than 5 cm2, you should not do it yourself as it may take a lot more effort than you think. Definitely, ask for help or get it done professionally.
Tools: You will need a pickaxe, a pair of secateurs or garden looper, a garden rake, and a hoe.
Hand Tools you need to cut bamboo
As a rule of thumb, try to do a clean cut at an angle of 45 degrees as this will make it easy to push the cutting into the soil. It can also promote the growth of new bamboo buds or shoots.
You’ll need these hand tools.
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Wrecking bar: Provides leverage for removing tough rhizomes, roots or blocks.
DIY Hand Tools at B&Q online
Pickaxe: Dismantles rhizomes and clumps.
Handsaw/Loppers: Cuts culms to propagate.
Gardening Tool Offers
Sharp garden spade: Digs/cuts small rhizomes and roots, clears dirt.
Pedigree spade is ideal for narrow spaces.
Garden rake/hoe: Clears soil and dirt around the work area.
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Pair of secateurs/garden loppers: Cuts large rhizomes and culms.
How to cut rhizomes for re-growing
Bamboo rhizomes are, in fact, underground stems. The runner bamboos grow rhizomes that run horizontally along the ground, whereas the clump-forming bamboos form clusters of clumps at the base of the main plant.
Here is how to cut bamboo rhizomes of Running and Clumping bamboos:
- Select the rhizomes that have buds or shoots coming out at the nodes.
- Put the straight into shade or bucket of water.
- For Runner bamboos cut 4 – 6 nodes or 3 – 5 internode off the rhizome.
- If you are working with Clump-forming bamboos, separate the compact clumps with 2 – 4 bamboo canes/culms on the cuttings.
- Re-grow the rhizome cuttings immediately.
Tool: You will need a sharp pair of secateurs or garden loppers for snipping the branches and cutting the rhizomes. B&Q has a great collection of cutting and pruning tools – check them out.
When taking the bamboo cutting off the mother plant, do not disturb any new buds and small roots on the cuttings. Put the cuttings in shade or into a bucket of water so that the roots remain fresh for re-planting.
How to cut bamboo culms to re-grow
Care should be taken when cutting bamboo culms. The new splits and edges are razor sharp. A cut to the skin can be nasty.
You can grow both the Running bamboos and Clumping bamboos from the cuttings. Here is how to cut bamboo stems if you are re-growing them in pots and containers or in the garden.
- Select bamboo stems that are older than 4 years with a diameter of at least 2 cm.
- Always cut the culms (stems) at 45 degrees with a hacksaw. Allow for two culm nodes and one internode. See the diagram.
- Put the cuttings in water or shape to keep them fresh.
- Plant the cuttings in designated pots or in nutrient-rich soil, away from direct sun. Cover the nodes of the new cuttings with soil and mulch.
- Leave the top of the cuttings covered, free from any soil or mulch.
Tool: You will need a handsaw to cut the bamboo stems. A hacksaw, sharp long-handled or blade knife can also do the job.
Remove bamboo rhizomes and shoots without chemicals
The rhizomes (and clump base) of many bamboo plants in the UK do not grow deep into the soil. They grow horizontally along with the top layer of the dirt at an average depth of 5 – 20cm. If you are going to re-grow the cutting, avoid using chemicals that can potentially damage the parent plant and the cuttings. (Read about the 4 Natural Ways to Kill Bamboos Permanently)
When removing the invasive bamboos, always work smart, not hard. Take note of where the rhizomes are running before digging. Here is how to remove bamboo without using chemicals.
- Cut the bamboo stems at 180 degrees across (horizontally), close to the ground. (Remove the bamboo or use them in the garden)
- Dig a drain around or along with the bamboo to a depth of 5 – 20cm.
- Remove the soil and dirt, cut any rhizomes and clean the root hairs.
- Removing rhizomes: Identify which way the rhizomes are running or how the clumps are formed, and dig along the rhizomes to remove them. (Do not break the rhizomes as they will grow back if left in the soils).
- Removing bamboo base clumps: Use a pickaxe to remove the base of the bamboo – one base stem at a time.
- Use a pair of secateurs or garden loppers to cut the nodes into smaller pieces about 1 – 3cm.
- Remove any side buds and root hairs to avoid any chance of growing back.
- Leave the rhizome cuttings in direct sunlight and starve them off water and shade for 3 – 5 days or unit the rhizomes turn brown. This should be enough to kill them completely.
Tools you’ll need: A hacksaw, pickaxe, pair of secateurs or garden loopers
The bamboos have tough rhizomes (underground stems) and culms (stems). The cuttings are likely to lacerate exposed skins. Take extra care when cutting them.
Knowing how to cut bamboo the right way is a handy skill to learn when growing bamboo in the garden or in pots and containers because you are going to need it.
- Caution: The hardy splinters and edges of the bamboo stems are razor sharp.
- Cut to the exposed skin are highly likely.
- Care should be taken when cutting the bamboo stems and rhizomes.
Hope this article gives you an idea about how to cut bamboo rhizomes in your garden and stop the rhizomes from spreading into other spaces.
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