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Pruning and thinning bamboo – Different pruning techniques
Last Updated on January 21, 2020 by John
Bamboo is a wonderful plant to add to your garden whether it is used as a hedge, screen, planted as specimen plants in a border or grown in pots. However, some species, not all, can quickly become invasive if you don’t properly prune it. Knowing how to prune bamboo is important because it prevents the rhizomes from growing out of control.
Pruning can also be done to improve overall airflow, encourage better growth and removing side shoots to enable the bright thick stems to stand out too. Below we go other when to prune as well as the different types of pruning.
When you prune your bamboo you will need a very sharp pair of secateurs, shears, perhaps a spade, pruning saw for pruning thicker culms. When you set about thinning bamboo in your bamboo, you need to cut the rhizomes attempting to escape with a shovel or a set of gardening shears. Bamboo will spread to literally anything it touches so you have to prevent them from setting up new root structures and growing new shoots.
It is best to carry out this process at the beginning of autumn and cut in a line where you want your bamboo to stay, this simply helps prevent the root system from spreading. Use a shovel and cut it around the perimeter of where you want it to be, removing anything that is trying to escape that perimeter. Older rhizomes will likely sprout on their own and will need to be removed at this time. Thankfully for most species, these rhizomes are not very far below the surface so you won’t have to dig a lot. In most cases you won’t have to dig farther than the depth of a spade and you can control this growth by digging once a year to remove these older rhizomes.
Trim pruning – trench method
You can also utilize another method of pruning referred to as trimming where you dig a trench around where you want your bamboo to grow and check it once or twice a year to see if any rhizomes have tried to make the crossing. If they have you can simply remove them.
One way of control the height is to cut the stems just above a culm note which is where the branches come out of the main stems. If you cut the main stems at the desired height they will not get any taller than where you make the cut so this is a good way to control the overall height.
You can help your annual pruning efforts by removing any damaged, dead, or otherwise unattractive canes from the base once a year so that the canes have the space they need to get taller and fatter. Most bamboo will only live about 15 years so pruning on an annual basis will truly help your plant to make the most of its time. You can also use your pruning as an opportunity to cut off the lower leaves once your plant has established itself so that it presents a striking impact of the canes with the leaves only on the top portion. With certain varieties, you can remove the smaller canes or remove any lower branches that obstruct the view you prefer.
Pruning a bamboo hedge or screen
With bamboo, you can effectively create a good hedge, screen, or windbreak but we recommend choosing varieties that can be grown in exposed sites unless the site is in a sheltered area. If your bamboo serves this purpose it can be cut or trim in the same way you would trim any other hedging plant. Do this once a year in the springtime or the summer and remove newer shoots to control the height and the diameter of the screen as you would do a couple of times a year.
Pruning ground cover
Given how prolifically bamboo propagates on its own it is a very popular plant to use for ground cover with dwarf varieties. If you are growing a dwarf variety you can cut it back to the ground in the early springtime it will help rejuvenate it. You can also play around with the degree to which you cut it back and take notes of how dense and short the new growth emerges so that you can decide where you prefer to cut.