How to prune bamboo for a thriving privacy screen (with a tropical edge)

Not sure how to prune bamboo? Let our gardening experts be your guide...

Bamboo plant growing in pots and raised bed in outdoor garden space
(Image credit: Future PLC)

If you're keen to learn how to prune bamboo, you're not alone. One of the fastest-growing privacy trees around, it's shot its way to the top of many a garden screening idea list – with many heaping praise on it for its fluttering evergreen foliage and striking upright canes.

Basically, this tropical plant is positively made for a modern garden, whatever size it may be. And it's ideal for even the very greenest of gardeners, as it's very simple to plant and care for, too.

That being said, it's important to read up on how to cut bamboo back before you plant it – especially as it grows incredibly quickly. So quickly, in fact, it can become an ‘invasive’ plant that can cause chaos in your outdoor space if you don't keep on top of it...

How to prune bamboo

'Bamboo plants bring a wonderfully tropical feel to the garden, but they are incredibly rapid growers. In fact, bamboo plants can grow between one to two feet and three to five feet each year, depending on whether you have a clumping or runner variety,' says Steve Swanborough, gardening expert at Henchman.

'Runners can also quickly become invasive and grow beyond their boundaries, sometimes even being known to creep under fences and grow in neighbouring gardens!'

Bamboo in planter next to chair and firepit

(Image credit: Future PLC / Dominic Blackmore)

'It’s therefore really important that you learn how to prune bamboo (and you do so regularly) to keep the plant in check,' he adds.

'Not only does this help maintain the look of the plant, but it also prevents it from become too large, promotes fresh regrowth and maintains good health.'

What you will need

When it comes to pruning bamboo, you won't need a huge number of tools – although it's a good idea you make sure you have everything to hand before you get started.

To that end, then, grab the following:

'When it comes to pruning bamboo, it’s essential to choose the right ladder for the job, as larger varieties can easily grow to 15 foot tall,' advises Steve.

'Henchman's Fully Adjustable Tripod Ladder has individually adjustable legs that make it easy to use on an incline, steps, or unsteady surfaces and it also has hedge-proof locking pins to protect against potential hazards,' he continues.

Whether you go with the Tripod Ladder or not, though, you'll definitely want to make sure yours has a 'generous platform so that there’s plenty of space to tackle unruly bamboo comfortably, and wide, clawed feet to distribute weight evenly, minimising sinking and slippage'.

Step-by-step guide

Now that you have everything you need to hand, it's time to learn how to prune bamboo – although Steve advise that you wait until the right time of year to set to work.

'The best time to prune bamboo is after the spring shooting season when the new shoots are larger and more visible,' he says.

That caveat in place, then, here's what to do next...

1. Tackle the lower foliage

If you want to make your bamboo the centrepiece of your zen garden, the plant boffins at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) say you should prune it in a way that best shows off its striking canes.

'Remove some of the lower foliage, cutting as close to the main cane as possible,' they advise.

2. Thin out the clumps

When learning how to prune bamboo, it's a good idea to start as you would any big pruning job; by tackling any dead or diseased parts.

'Start by removing any dead, damaged or diseased canes and cut them using sharp secateurs,' says Steve at Henchman, who notes that he finds this particular pair of Professional Bypass Secateurs to be perfect for this task.

'Then, thin out the clumps by cutting older canes to the ground, allowing sunlight to reach the base and promoting air circulation.'

3. Remove the flowering stalks

We know we said that pruning bamboo is a job best tackled in the springtime, but, if you should you be looking for an extra gardening task to tick off in July, check your plant for any flowering stalks.

'Look out for tall, flowering stalks on established bamboos and remove them promptly,' advise RHS experts.

'Flowering can weaken the plants, as well as being unsightly.'

4. Trim it down

Finally, a big part of learning how to prune bamboo is making sure your plant stays the right size for your garden.

'If your bamboo is getting too tall for your preference, you can be quite vigorous in taking the tops off the canes to contain their height,' promises Steve.


When should bamboo be cut back?

The first thing to remember when learning how to prune bamboo is this; it's a job best undertaken in the springtime, especially when you're focusing your attention on congested clumps and dead, diseased or damaged canes.

When it comes to the summer months, though, it's important to be vigilant. Keep an eye out for any flowering stalks on your bamboo in July, and be sure to remove them promptly.

Will bamboo grow back if cut down?

As mentioned already, bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants around, so you needn't be afraid of cutting it back hard when it comes to pruning yours. In fact, many experts describe this tropical plant as having superpowers when it comes to regenerating; it will likely grow back lusher and stronger than ever after a good prune.

How do you dispose of bamboo cuttings?

After pruning, it is important you take care to dispose of the bamboo properly.

'Use a heavy-duty ground sheet to collect trimmings and a large capacity wheelbarrow to make clean-up easy,' says Steve Swanborough from Henchman, who adds that bamboo canes can also become the centre of your garden upcycling ideas if you're feeling particularly green.

'You can use them as garden stakes depending on their size and condition.'

Bamboo stalks or leaves can be composted, but you will likely need to shred canes before chucking them into the home composter (especially as they can take up to 180 days to break down fully at an industrial composting facility).

And just like that, you know how to prune bamboo like a pro. Time to grab a pair of secateurs and get to work, we think...

Kayleigh Dray
Acting Content Editor

Kayleigh Dray became Ideal Home’s Acting Content Editor in the spring of 2023, and is very excited to get to work. She joins the team after a decade-long career working as a journalist and editor across a number of leading lifestyle brands, both in-house and as a freelancer.