Lucky bamboo makes a fun window ornament or centerpiece for a coffee table. If it starts to turn yellow, however, the effect could be dimmed somewhat. Here’s why your bamboo might be looking sick!
The most common/likely reason for lucky bamboo to turn yellow is that it is being watered with salty or highly fluoridated water, or receiving an excess of sunlight. Bamboo must be watered carefully. Both too much and too little water could cause it to suffer a nutrient deficiency.
If you are concerned about your bamboo’s wellbeing, look no further! Here you will find some helpful tips to get it to perk up once again.
As mentioned before, bamboo is a finicky little plant when it comes to watering and water quality. Any unfiltered chemicals/minerals in your water supply (such as fluoride, salt, or chlorine) will most likely damage your bamboo. If you suspect the water quality is the source of your bamboo’s yellowness, consider getting your water source/quality checked. Stagnant water will also be a problem for your lucky bamboo.
The water condition should be regularly checked and monitored. Unclean water (and too much of it) will become a perfect growing area for bacteria, mold, and fungus. Plus, if your bamboo is sitting in the sun surrounded by a pool of water, it would not be surprising if you were to find a large growth of algae in your bamboo pot one day. Not only is this unhealthy for your plant, but it can also create odors you probably don’t want around.
While bamboo does need sunlight to thrive, it probably does not need direct sunlight. Bamboo’s natural habitat is in lush rainforests that really only provide it with indirect sunlight. Too much light will scorch the leaves of your lucky bamboo plant which will leave the plant shriveled, yellow, and droopy. And yes, prolonged exposure to sunlight will sunburn your bamboo, so be careful with it!
Conversely, you do want to make sure it gets enough sunlight because if it does not, you’ll be facing another problem. Yellow leaves and stems are indicative of too much sun. As I said, bamboo is fidgety and fussy. You are going to have to exercise lots of patience.
Additionally, we have established that bamboo is picky about its water quality and temperature range. Lucky bamboo is usually happy with temperatures of 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit (or 18-24 degrees Celsius). Temperatures that are too high will break down your bamboo plant quickly. Yellowing and shriveling is a sign of this happening. You don’t want to have too cold temperatures either because it will freeze and destroy the plant’s cells.
Just as inadequate temperatures can upset lucky bamboo, so too can low levels of humidity. Low humidity will basically result in your bamboo plant drying out and becoming dehydrated much more quickly than it would otherwise. If you don’t make up for the lack of moisture, your lucky bamboo will start to turn yellow and will possibly even start to lose its leaves.
Your lucky bamboo might also be suffering from a nutrient deficiency. This means the bamboo is lacking either macronutrients or micronutrients (some of which include magnesium, potassium, and nitrogen). A proper balance of the two is necessary for bamboo to stay healthy.
A related nutrient issue could lie with your fertilizer. If you are overfertilizing your bamboo, you are likely pouring in an excess of salts and minerals which could damage the plant rather than strengthen it.
It will force the roots to work harder and grow faster than they should. This will result in a poorly developed root system that will not adequately support the plant as it grows. Just remember that sometimes less is more.
This is one of the rarer issues, but your lucky bamboo may be experiencing an insect infestation. We all know what bugs do to plants, right? You will be able to identify pests as the culprits if the bamboo is yellow, or has spotty and curling leaves.
Mealybugs and mites are two common perpetrators (keep in mind that any bugs attacking your bamboo will likely be tiny and hard if not impossible to see). These two bugs in particular leave secretions that encourage fungal growth (hence the black and/or brown spots).
Mealybugs and mites will suck the juices and the moisture out of your bamboo, so if you start to see indicators of pests, you ought to solve the problem as quickly as you can. If your bamboo is yellowing but lacks brown or blacks spots, the problem may be that the stem is injured somewhere. A break or bend in the stem will cause the bamboo to start losing its health. A broken or injured stem might be the result of leaf plucking, excessive pruning, or accidental breakages.
Any of these things are possible, but you should also take into consideration that you may not be doing anything wrong. Plants, just like people and animals, age and mature over time (a process referred to as plant senescence). As plants age, their chlorophyll levels gradually decrease and that can give it a yellowed look.
You may not like it, but it just might be time to bid farewell to your little green buddy. If your plant is afflicted with one of the things mentioned above, you will likely find yellow in random, unconnected spots. If your bamboo is simply getting old and tired, it will start to yellow from the top to the bottom (which is a much more straightforward process).
Solving the Problem
Hopefully, you now have some idea of what might be causing your bamboo to turn yellow. It is now time to talk about solutions! Here are some common quick fixes that should help you to cure your bamboo of all its ailments.
First, as we discussed above, you should get your water quality checked, just to see if it really is causing a problem. Try to avoid giving your bamboo tap or city water. If that is your only choice, you can set some water aside and let it sit for 2 or 3 days to let the chlorine evaporate.
You can also install a water filtration system to try to improve your tap quality. You can also purchase purified water from the store and give that to your bamboo. This might be a bit of a long shot, but you can also collect rainwater and give that to the bamboo as well.
Sunlight: Too Much or Too Little?
This one is a fairly easy fix. If your bamboo is suffering either a sunlight deficiency or a sunlight excess, the best thing you can do is move it to a different spot. Try not to put it somewhere it’s going to get a lot of direct sunlight, such as a window with sun exposure.
Warm yet shady corners are great options, or you could even put it on top of a table with a sunny window nearby. If the plant has yellowed and/or sunburnt leaves, trim those off. Keeping shriveled leaves will just waste energy. Trimming them off will divert that useful energy to healthier parts of the bamboo (parts that can actually use that energy).
Temperature is a tad trickier to maintain, but it’s a must if you want your bamboo to stay healthy. As mentioned before, lucky bamboo is often happy in temperatures of 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit (or 18-35 degrees Celcius). Placement is often crucial, especially if your bamboo is in a place that is susceptible to a sudden change in temperature (ex. windows, doorways, drafty corners, etc.).
It might be worth it to invest in a monitor device if you cannot keep your bamboo in a consistently warm area. Some devices and applications can tell you both the temperature and humidity level of a room.
Consider looking into one of these if you are concerned about the wellbeing of your bamboo. If you are struggling with the humidity levels in your home, there are a couple of things you can do.
For starters, you can purchase a humidifier. This is quite possibly one of the easiest solutions you’ll find. Humidifiers can quickly increase the humidity level in your room and keep your bamboo healthy. If you’re more of a DIY kind of person, you can also create a gravel or pebble tray. This involves simply putting pebbles or gravel on a tray and pouring water over it, then putting the plant atop the tray. The water will evaporate from the bottom up and that should keep your bamboo fully moisturized.
Another option, if you have multiple plants, is to cluster them together. This will create a sort of microenvironment with plenty of humidity to go around. If none of those things work for you, you can also give your bamboo frequent misting. You must be consistent, but you must also be careful. You don’t want to attract fungal growth on your bamboo.
If your bamboo is suffering from a nutrient deficiency, there are a couple of varying solutions. If your lucky bamboo is growing in water, you will need to add some liquid fertilizer. Water is simply not enough to give your bamboo all the nutrients it needs.
If you are growing lucky bamboo in a pot, all you really need to do is be vigilant in your care of it. Make sure you are watering the soil efficiently and even consider taking a soil pH test. If the soil is too far out of the needed range (6.0-6.5), there will be certain nutrients that are unavailable to the plant.
If fertilizer is the problem, there are a few steps you can follow. A white crust on the surface of the soil or around the corners/edges of the planter is a likely indicator that the fertilizer is over-mineralizing your bamboo. If this is the case, you should re-pot the bamboo. Get rid of the old soil and maybe even wash out the planter to get rid of excess minerals and/or bacteria.
Put your bamboo back in a planter with fresh, new soil. You can keep the soil fresh by washing it off/down with distilled water. This will reduce the overall effect of too much fertilizer. If you suspect you are giving the bamboo too much or just using too strong a fertilizer, you can switch brands. Consider using a balanced fertilizer and only using half the recommended amount. You should only need to fertilize your lucky bamboo about once a month.
As mentioned before, insect infestations are pretty unlikely for the most part. However, they are still possible, so here’s what you can do. If the infestation is light, you can gently wipe the bamboo down with a light rubbing alcohol and water mixture, or a water and light soap mixture. You can also use an insecticidal soap (instructions will be different depending on the product label and brand).
For most soaps, dilute the product with water and gently apply to the stems and leaves using either a light cloth or cotton. If your bamboo is growing in water, you should probably clean the water and the pebbles as well.
Move the infested bamboo away from other plants to keep the pests from spreading. Once you have done these things, trim the affected parts of the bamboo down. This will prevent the infestation from spreading to the rest of the bamboo.
Sadly, grafting is not an option for lucky bamboo. But don’t worry, there are still ways to fix this particular problem. The first thing you’ll want to do is cut off the broken or bent parts of the bamboo. This will make room for healthy new sprouts.
Trimming the stalk just above the node will encourage the growth of new offshoots. You will want to protect the broken stem, and you can do this by sealing it with melted soy wax. This will keep the “wound” from becoming “infected.” Make sure you choose a wax that is unscented, uncolored, and non-petroleum-based. Put the bamboo back in its original place, and with plenty of sun and water, it should start growing just fine again.