What is Lucky Bamboo?
Lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana) originally comes from Central Africa where it is used to a particular environment where it receives indirect light, warmth, and some humidity. Even though it is known as “bamboo” it is actually part of the Asparagaceae family and is more related to common asparagus than bamboo which is part of the Poaceae family.
This plant is often trained to grow in different shapes and it can be grown in either water or soil. It is usually pretty hardy especially when care is taken to replicate its ideal environment and this is easily done in a home or an office. Under certain circumstances, your lucky bamboo may start turning yellow. In this article we will explore potential causes of why is my bamboo turning yellow and solutions to those causes.
Causes of Yellowing and How to Fix Each Cause
When any plant turns an odd color it is usually because something is wrong and the plant feels the need to conserve nutrients and it does not have enough of the right energy inputs to maintain the parts that are now turning an odd color. Here are some potential causes of your lucky bamboo plant turning yellow as well as solutions you may employ to correct the issue.
This is the most common cause of a lucky bamboo plant turning yellow. Lucky bamboo does not need very much water. If you grow your plant in soil you can check if it needs water by feeling the soil. If the soil is damp then you do not need to water the lucky bamboo today. If the soil is dry, go ahead and water it.
If your plant has been watered too much you may be able to tell if you are able to observe the roots and see that they have root rot. If your unhealthy lucky bamboo has root rot you will be able to tell because the roots will be black and slimy and the leaves will be yellow and wilting. It will also probably smell very bad and rotten. If the root rot is advanced you may also notice that the stem of your unhealthy lucky bamboo is yellow and slimy. Once root rot has reached this stage you should remove the afflicted stems. The key is to identify the root rot before it reaches the stem.
How to Fix Root Rot:
To fix the root rot you should stop watering your plant for a while to let it dry out a bit. Then trim off any of the damaged roots. Next you should treat the remaining roots with a store-bought or homemade fungicide. Examples of homemade fungicides include baking soda or hydrogen peroxide. Last, repot your plant with fresh soil or water. If you are growing your lucky bamboo in a pot with soil, make sure that you are using a pot with a good drainage hole and in a soil mix with good drainage.
Underwatering can be an issue that can lead to yellowing leaves but it is a much less common cause than overwatering.
Minerals in water
Like some other plants, lucky bamboo can be sensitive to minerals in your tap water. In particular, this plant is sensitive to chlorine.
How to Fix
If you think this may be the cause of your lucky bamboo turning yellow, try watering your plant with filtered or distilled water. You can also let a glass of your tap water sit overnight and some minerals will evaporate. If you use distilled water you may need to apply fertilizer to the plant with more frequency.
Other water issues – fungi and bacteria
If you are growing your lucky bamboo directly in water rather than in soil there are some slightly different considerations you should take into account. The presence of excessive fungi and bacterial growth can negatively impact your plant because those organisms can consume the lucky bamboo’s resources and the plant’s leaves will turn yellow as a result.
How to Fix
You should be changing the water that the lucky bamboo is growing in every two to three weeks. You may need to change it more frequently depending if you see any kinds of fungal or bacterial growth in the water. If you are frequently changing the water but still noticing growth, you may need to pay extra attention when cleaning the container or pebbles that the lucky bamboo is in. Use a gentle soap and rinse thoroughly.
Too much fertilization
Over-fertilizing your lucky bamboo could be a cause of stress for your plant and could explain the yellowing of the leaves. Too much fertilizer can cause excessive minerals building up in your plant’s soil. It can also disrupt the microbiome and ph of your soil. You can tell that this may be the issue if your plant is also dropping leaves and if the plant is turning yellow and brown.
How to Fix
To fix this issue, simply change the soil in the lucky bamboo’s container to a fresh potting soil. If you don’t want to change the soil you can also try watering the soil a lot so that the minerals will leach out of the soil.
Too little fertilization
On the flip side, not providing your plant with enough fertilizer may be contributing to it turning yellow. To fix this, simply apply some fertilizer.
Lucky bamboo does not necessarily need to be fertilized very often.
How to Fix
To fertilize your lucky bamboo, look for a fertilizer that is specifically for a lucky bamboo plant. It should have a 2-2-2 ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. You may also use a general fertilizer if all three elements are balanced though you may need to dilute this fertilizer. Follow the package directions as far as amount and frequency. Adjust or stop use if it seems like your plant is reacting poorly to the fertilizer.
Take into consideration if you are growing your lucky bamboo in soil or water. If you are growing your bamboo in water but not changing the water frequently enough, your bamboo may not be getting enough nutrients as it depletes the elements in the water. If your lucky bamboo is growing in distilled water, you should be using a fertilizer because necessary elements may not be present in distilled water. Filtered water may contain the desired elements while filtering out harmful elements such as chlorine but you should check your particular filter to make sure.
You will be able to tell if your lucky bamboo is turning yellow because of too much sun because the leaves will also appear to be scorched.
How to Fix
Lucky bamboo does much better in indirect light so try moving it to a more suitable location if you think this is the cause of the yellowing.
Too hot or cold
Lucky bamboo comes from a warm environment and it likes temperatures between 65 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 35 degrees Celsius) but the plant will suffer in temperatures not in this range. If the plant is either too hot or too cold, the plant will turn yellow and leaves may fall off.
How to Fix
To fix this issue you must move the plant to an area with a more agreeable temperature. For example, if your plant is near a radiator, try moving the plant away from the radiator. Windows are another area that can be too cold for plants. If you’re concerned about your plant receiving sufficient warmth and light, consider using an artificial light.
Generally, lucky bamboo plants are very hardy in all levels of humidity. Too much or too little humidity is still worth considering regarding yellow leaves even if it is not the most likely cause.
How to Fix
To remedy too much humidity, try moving your lucky bamboo to a less humid area. To add more humidity to your lucky bamboo, consider placing it near a humidifier or a humidity tray. You may also carefully spray your plant to encourage humidity but always be careful about not spraying water with minerals or spraying to a degree that fungus grows.
Too Big Container Size
Like most plants, the size of the container is very important when it comes to root health. If your container is too large, the roots may be overwhelmed with water. This can lead to nutrients leaching away from the plant, rot, and other issues associated with over-watering.
How to Fix
Try repotting this plant in a smaller container where it can feel cozy but not choked.
Too Small Container Size
If your container is too small, your plant may become root-bound. This means that the roots of the plant are taking up all the space in the container and the plant will not be able to get enough water or nutrients.
How to Fix
If it looks like your plant is root-bound, gently untangle the roots and plant it in a large container that can accommodate all the roots and leaves a bit of room for growth. Some may also like to cut slits in the roots or gently rip the root ball a bit.
Some other possible but less likely stressors on your lucky bamboo plant include insect activity, physical damage to the plant, or an inconsistent environment.
If the cause of lucky bamboo leaves turning yellow is insect activity you will likely see other indications. These indications include being able to see the insects, black and brown spots on leaves, and leaves curling and falling off. Removing insects requires a few steps.
How to Fix
First, wipe the plant with an alcohol solution or a rosemary essential oil solution. You may also briefly soak the plant to kill the bugs. Next you should trim any parts of the plant that were affected. After this you should isolate the lucky bamboo away from the rest of your plants. In cases of severe infestation you may need to throw the plant out.
Physical Damage to Lucky Bamboo and How to Fix
If part of your plant has become physically damaged, remove any broken parts and trim the plant above a node if possible. You may also want to protect damaged areas from infection by covering injuries with wax.
Inconsistent Environment and How to Fix
If your plant is placed somewhere in your home or at work where it encounters rapidly changing environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, or light, you may want to move it to a more consistent environment if the lucky bamboo leaves are turning yellow. If a plant is encountering too many changes in one day, it may be hard for it to regulate itself and may experience health issues that lead to yellowing leaves.
How to Save & Revive Bamboo Leaves Turning Yellow and Make the Bamboo Green Again
If your lucky bamboo is not entirely yellow you may be able to revive it, but if the entire plant is yellow it may not turn green even if you find the cause and accordingly adjust the treatment of the plant. In cases like these you may still be able to propagate more green lucky bamboo from your yellow plant.
In a case where only some leaves are yellow, remove these leaves and implement any changes needed after determining the above cause of the yellowing.
If you determine that you need to remove a lot of your plant because it is yellow, do not despair. You may be able to propagate and regrow your plant.
Start by trimming the unhealthy parts off of your plant but when approaching the healthy part of your plant, be sure to trim about an inch above a node. Next, dip the cut stem in rooting hormone, let it dry overnight, and then put your stem in water and in a few weeks you’ll see roots beginning to form. Make sure that you are regularly changing the water that your stem is sitting in and make sure that you are only using distilled or filtered water. It is also a good idea to try to propagate a few stems at a time just to have back-up.
If you want you can also try propagating without a root hormone or propagating in soil. If you want to propagate in soil, simply trim as described above and then insert the stem into soil, taking care that at least one root node is below the top of the soil. Keep the plant consistently watered and in a comfortably warm location.