Front yard bamboo transformation

California is in year 4 of the drought. and the state is subject to mandatory water conservation. This summer I switched to a once-a-week watering regime. I knew the succulents and perennials would be able to handle it, but I wasn’t sure about the bamboos. While the running bamboos in the stock tanks in the backyard did suffer, the clumpers in the ground didn’t miss a beat. In fact, they produced more new culms this year than in previous years! As a result, the clumps have gotten quite congested—to the point where they need a good thinning out.

I tackled the most urgent case today: the Asian lemon bamboo (Bambusa eutuldoides ‘Viridivittata’—say that three times fast!) next to the front porch. As you can see, it’s gotten huge and has been casting too much shade on everything around it. This is not the look and feel I want.


Can you see the large sago palm (Cycas revoluta) at the base of the bamboo? Look closely, it’s there.


There it is, getting way too much shade. I’m actually surprised it produced such a massive flush of leaves this year.


From the street, all you could see was a dense mass of green (look behind the palo verde and lamp post).


Now take a look at the “after:”


Quite a transformation, isn’t it?

The sago palm is the star of this corner now.

151120_Bambusa-eutuldoides-Viridividatta_007  151120_Bambusa-eutuldoides-Viridividatta_010

I’ve thinned out the clump of bamboo enough so it looks light and airy.


Amazing how much more you can see from the front porch!


From the street, you now see individual culms, glowing in the warm winter light, instead of a dense mass of green.


I feel I can breathe now when I see this.


Thank heavens (or rather DeWalt) for my reciprocating saw. I used up a whole saw blade, but I cut down at least two dozen culms. My wife helped cut up everything into 6-foot sections for yard waste pickup. We ended up with two piles in the street.


I can’t get over how different this part of the front yard looks.


This is why I fell in love with bamboo in the first place.



About half of the culms that are left are new and haven’t fully leaved out yet. I will have to do some additional trimming in the spring to maintain the airy look. But considering it’s been at least a year since I did any work on this clump of bamboo, I would still consider bamboo no more labor-intensive than most shrubs or trees.


  1. That's definitely a thinning! At first I thought it was a bit too extreme for me, but now I see what you mean about "airy". (I won't be thinning my own bamboos to this extent though...)

    1. That's my approach to hair cuts as well, LOL. Take off a little more than I ideally want so I won't have to come back so soon :-)

  2. Wow! From "what Sago?" to "look at that Sago!"... nice work.

  3. That must have been a heck of a job. It looks wonderful now, and the Cycad deserves the spotlight. Do you save any stalks for use as supports or decoration?

    1. Actually, it was less than two hours of work. The electric saw made quick work of those culms. And since we have curbside yard waste pickup in Davis, all we had to do was make two piles in the street.

      I'm still amazed by how large that sago palm has gotten all of a sudden. This year's flush added a dozen huge leaves.

  4. Okay, I'm a little less afraid of bamboo now....just a little. Good work!

    1. Clumping bamboos are like puppies. Nothing to be afraid of. They're not going to take over your yard. And cutting down what you don't want is easy.

  5. It looks great but, wow, what a lot of work that must have been!

  6. Looks terrific. I LOL'ed at Loree's comment, but she's right -- "Yowza, that Sago!"

    When I was a little kid we had some bamboo, and I seem to remember getting lots of tiny black splinters from toting culms (bare-handed, bare-armed) to the trash bins. Faulty memory, maybe...?

    1. Your memory is not faulty in the least. The culm sheaths on bamboo do have small needle-like hairs that get stuck in your skin similar to oputia glochids. I always wear gloves.

  7. I planted five large clumps of bamboo Alfonzo Karr last year and they need to be kept within bounds. Did you use your electric saw to cut the stalks AND into the ground to reduce the clump size? Thanks

    1. Lynette, I cut off the culms as close to the ground as possible. I did NOT cut into the woody mass underground to reduce the clump size.


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