Hold a piece of bamboo, 18–24″ in length, and push it down along the inside of the container. Pull up, and repeat several times around the inside wall of the container. With the sides of the root ball loosened, carefully tip the container on its side and stick the bamboo through the drainage holes, loosening the plant from the bottom. A couple shakes, if the container is not too heavy, and the plant should come loose. Aways be sure to avoid yanking out a plant. Gently grasp it at the base, and let it fall into your hand. If the soil is too dense or the roots are packed tightly, you may need to repeat the prodding process.
I usually use a hori hori knife to remove plants from plastic containers, and even the ground. After a good set of pruning shears, it’s the best tool you can own. But I don’t like to use the metal blade with nice containers. Bamboo won’t chip or badly scratch a metal or ceramic pot, and because the piece of bamboo can be any length, it’ll be more effective with a big container, reaching deeper than a typical 7″ Hori Hori blade.1
The piece of bamboo I use is from freshly pruned bamboo. If you buy a bamboo rod, it’s often thinner than this—used for light staking—or it’s dried, painted, and prone to cracking. It may not work well. So while there are lots of reasons to never plant bamboo in your yard, it can be beneficial. Keep it under control, and harvest a piece or two every year to use as tools.
According to Nisaku, the maker of the Hori Hori that I use, “The roots of this tool is a shovel made [from] bamboo….” But of course. ↩︎