How to Revive a Dying Lucky Bamboo Plant


Lucky bamboo dying

Have you bought a beautiful, quirky, spiral lucky bamboo plant, yet it’s dying when you get home or perhaps after a few months? Do not fear! I used to grow these plants myself when I worked for a company that supplied garden centers with houseplants.

Therefore, I have picked up lots of tips and tricks and spoken with specialist growers to learn all the secrets to fix any problems you have with your lucky bamboo.

In this article, I share with you all my knowledge in a step-by-step process…

From my experience, the reason for a dying lucky bamboo is often because of too much direct sunlight. Lucky bamboo needs to grow in bright, indirect light. If lucky bamboo is grown in full sunlight, the leaves and stalks turn yellow with a dying appearance.

What I discovered is that if the bamboo has been exposed to direct sun for a short period, the leaves and stalk can turn white as a sign of stress, hence the importance of bright, indirect light.

Lucky bamboo leaves can turn yellow with a wrinkled, drooping, dying appearance if the roots do not have enough access to water.

If your lucky bamboo leaf tips turn brown then I find tap water is usually responsible. Lucky bamboo is sensitive to the chemicals found in tap water and should ideally be watered using rainwater.

I revive a dying lucky bamboo by creating the preferred conditions of bright, indirect light, ensuring the roots have enough access to moisture, avoiding using tap water, and maintaining the preferred temperature range of 60°F to 75°F (16°C to 24°C) so the bamboo can recover.

It may be necessary to take cuttings of your lucky bamboo from any remaining healthy growth (if possible) for propagation to save the bamboo.

I should emphasize that it is worth noting if you grow lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana) in water, it only typically lives 2 or 3 years before turning brown and dying.

Keep reading for how I pinpoint the cause of your dying bamboo and for the steps I take to save it…

Why Are My Lucky Bamboo Leaves and Stalk Turning Yellow?

  • Symptoms. Leaves and stalks turn yellow sometimes with drooping leaves and a wrinkled appearance. Stalks can often turn yellow and mushy.
  • Causes. Too much of the stalk is submerged in water, underwatering, too much fertilizer, and temperature fluctuations.

The most common reason lucky bamboo turns yellow is too much direct sun, which can scorch the leaves and stalks yellow. Lucky bamboo is sensitive to too much light and needs to grow in bright, indirect light rather than full sun to avoid turning yellow.

However, I can report that the reason lucky bamboo stalks turn yellow and mushy is because the stalk is in too much water.

Lucky bamboo should typically only be grown in about 1-3 inches of water so that just the roots are submerged.

If your stalk is under a lot of water, then it is far more likely to turn mushy.

I have found that this often happens when the lucky bamboo is stalk is place in a deep container, such as vase or jar, which can help provide stability, but should not be filled more then three inches of water to avoid the stalk rotting and turning yellow.

However, if the bamboo roots cannot access enough water, then the stalk and leaves also turn yellow, which is why the optimal balance of the roots is submerged, but the stalk above the waterline is so important if you are growing lucky bamboo in water. (It’s all about finding that happy medium!)

Whilst it is best practice to apply a liquid houseplant fertilizer for lucky bamboo, (and this is something I recommend myslefy) it is also a frequent cause of the leaves and stalks turning yellow as lucky bamboo is very sensitive to high concentrations of fertilizer.

I have experimented with this a lot to try and get it right, and I discovered that lucky bamboo only requires a few drops of general houseplant fertilizer once per month during the Spring and Summer. I try to give it 3 drops on each application.

If you are applying fertilizer more often than this or in a higher concentration, then this is likely the reason for the leaves and stalks turning yellow.

I’m sure you have found out that lucky bamboo also does not respond well to drastically fluctuating temperatures (which result in yellowing leaves and stems). The preferred temperature range for lucky bamboo is 60°F to 75°F (16°C to 24°C).

The sudden temperature change indoors that causes lucky bamboo to turn yellow is more common in Winter, with indoor heating increasing temperatures and then cold window sills or areas of the house at night causing a drastic swing in temperature.

Personally, my lucky bamboo used to suffer when I lived in a small apartment, and the heating caused a big swing in temperature in heating, as did the air con in Summer, both of which contributed to my lucky bamboo turning yellow.

My Tips for Saving Lucky Bamboo With Leaves and Stalks Turning Yellow

  • I move the lucky bamboo to an area of bright, indirect light, away from direct sunlight. If the leaves are scorched yellow, then they do not turn green again; however, what I do is gently peel the leaves off or prune them delicately with a pair of pruners, which promotes the growth of healthy green leaves.
  • Ensure the lucky bamboo is in an area with a stable temperature range of between 60°F to 75°F (16°C to 24°C). I keep my lucky bamboo away from sources of indoor heating and out of air currents caused by forced air or air conditioning. I would consider that window sills are often much colder than the rest of the house, especially at night during Winter.
  • Scale back the use of fertilizer. Lucky bamboo is especially sensitive to fertilizer and only requires 2 drops of general houseplant fertilizer once every month during the growing season, although I have seen it grow quite happily without fertilizer. Change the water if the bamboo is yellowing and you have used too much fertilizer (it is best practice to change the water at least once a month) and refrain from using fertilizer until the next growing season.
  • If you grow lucky bamboo in water, ensure the roots are submerged to prevent yellowing. If the roots cannot draw up, then the first sign of stress is yellowing and wilting leaves. Ensure that there is just enough water to cover the roots, which is typically 1-3 inches of water. I recommend changing the water every month to prevent the accumulation of bacteria or fungal pathogens that can turn the bamboo yellow and check the water level whenever there is a rise in temperature, whether in Summer or because of indoor heating in Winter. If growing in potting soil, keep the medium consistently moist and ensure the roots are not above the soil line.
  • Do not overfill the lucky bamboo vase or container with water to avoid yellow stems. Whilst the roots can thrive when they are submerged, the stalk of the lucky bamboo should be kept above the water or soil line to prevent it from turning yellow and mushy. Typically, this means only the bottom 1-3 inches of the bamboo should be in water.

If the lucky bamboo’s stalk has turned yellow and mushy, then I remove it from the vase and discard it as it is rotting, and the rot can promote fungal disease and bacteria, which can spread to otherwise healthy bamboo stalks.

Sometimes, the best course of action is to propagate the lucky bamboo from any remaining healthy areas of growth. Propagating lucky bamboo is easy and can effectively produce a healthy plant that can fully recover.

Watch this helpful YouTube video for how to propagate lucky bamboo:

(Read my article, how to save lucky bamboo that is turning yellow).

Why is My Lucky Bamboo Turning White?

  • Symptoms. Leaves and sometimes the stalk can appear bleached, white, or pale.
  • Causes. Too much sunlight, chlorine, and fluoride in the water.

In my experience, the reason for lucky bamboo turning white is because it has been bleached white due to too much direct sunlight. Lucky bamboo needs bright, indirect light and does not tolerate full sun, which causes the leaves and stalks to turn white and have a pale appearance.

If the bamboo is in particularly strong light, I have seen it scorch to a yellowing appearance, whereas some limited sun exposure tends to result in a white or pale appearance of the leaves and stalks.

To understand why our lucky bamboo plants turn yellow, I find it’s helpful if we understand how they grow in their natural habitat so that we can effectively recreate these conditions indoors…

Lucky bamboo originates from tropical forests in central Africa, where it grows under a canopy, out of direct sunlight.

Therefore, lucky bamboo leaves and stalks are very sensitive to the sun and can turn white if they are placed on a sunny windowsill when growing indoors, as this is contrary to their preferred natural conditions of bright, indirect light.

Lucky bamboo is also sensitive to chemicals present in tap water (chlorine and fluoride), which can contribute to the leaves turning white depending on the concentration of chlorine and fluoride, although, as I stated, the leaf tips typically turn brown in response to tap water.

Distilled water, bottled mineral water and rain water is recommended instead of tap water when watering lucky bamboo.

However, from research, I discovered that you can leave tap water out overnight in a bowl to allow the chlorine and fluoride to evaporate and then safely water your lucky bamboo.

From my conversations with professional growers, they told me that low humidity can stress the lucky bamboo and cause it to turn pale and white.

Lucky bamboo is native to a tropical humid climate, but it is typically hardy enough to tolerate the low humidity of houses.

However, if you are in a particularly arid climate with very low humidity or you heat your house using the fireplace (which dries the air significantly), then this can contribute to the lucky bamboo turning white.

How I Save Lucky Bamboo Turning White

  • I move my bamboo to an area of bright, indirect light. The optimal balance of light for lucky bamboo is a bright room with lots of light, as long as the leaves and stalk are not in any direct sunlight.
  • If the leaves are completely bleached white, these individual leaves do not recover. Once the lucky bamboo is moved back to a location out of direct sunlight, it starts to sprout new, green leaves to replace the white sun-damaged leaves. However, you can also gently peel these leaves back or cut them with a pair of pruners, which can help stimulate the growth of new leaves.
  • If the stalks have turned white due to direct sunlight, then just move the plant to indirect light. A lucky bamboo with white leaves is more easily revived compared with white stalks. However, the best course of action with white stalks is to just leave the bamboo in bright, indirect, and the plant may start to put on new growth (which should be a healthy green), or you may have to propagate it from healthy growth.
  • I would replace the water and only use distilled, bottled, or rainwater if you have been watering with tap water. Typically, I replace the water every month or so and ensure the roots are submerged if you are growing the bamboo in just water. Keep the soil evenly moist if the lucky bamboo is growing in potting soil.
  • If watering lucky bamboo with tap water, leave it out in a bowl overnight to avoid white leaves. It is worth emphasizing that lucky bamboo is very sensitive to chemicals in tap water; however, the chemicals responsible for turning the leaves white (or brown at the tips) evaporate in 24 hours, which makes it safe to water your lucky bamboo.
  • If you suspect low humidity is stressing your lucky bamboo and you live in an arid climate, then mist the leaves once every 2 days. Misting the leaves creates a humid microclimate that emulates the conditions of the bamboo’s native environment to help alleviate any drought stress for the bamboo.

Pro tip: If you live in a low-humidity climate, then I recommend growing lucky bamboo in your bathroom so it can enjoy naturally higher humidity levels.

Whilst any individual white leaves may not necessarily recover, my lucky bamboo revived when I created more favorable conditions, with bright, indirect light, and avoided watering with tap water. New healthy green growth appeared in 3 weeks (this was in the summer; expect it to take longer in the fall or winter).

Why is My Lucky Bamboo Turning Brown?

  • Symptoms. Lucky bamboo leaf tips turn brown, or the stalk is turning brown.
  • Causes. Chlorine and fluoride in tap water turn lucky bamboo leaf tips brown as can too much fertilizer, lucky bamboo often turns brown with a dying appearance if it is the stalk is submerged in too much water or if the bamboo is planted in soil then overwatering could be the cause of the leaves and stem turning brown.

The reason for lucky bamboo leaf tips turning brown is usually because of the chemicals chlorine and fluoride in tap water or due to too much fertilizer. Lucky bamboo is very sensitive to chemicals in tap water and should be watered with rainwater to avoid the leaf tips turning brown.

From my observations, the leaves of the lucky bamboo tends to turn white if there has been a more mild stress related to fertilizer or fluoride and the leaves turn brown if the stress is more severe.

Lucky bamboo only requires 2 or 3 drops of general houseplant fertilizer once every 2 months during the growing season. If fertilizer is applied too often or in too high a concentration, then the leaf tips turn brown.

However, if your stalks are turning brown, then I can tell you from experience that this is usually because they are in too much water.

I should emphasize that if growing lucky bamboo in just water, then only the roots should be submerged and not the stalk, which does not tolerate being underwater. If the stalk is underwater, then it can turn brown and have a dying appearance.

If the lucky bamboo is planted in soil then overwatering if often the cause for the leaves and stalk turning brown.

Despite the fact that lucky bamboo can grow roots and live exclusively in water, lucky bamboo that has always been grown in the soil does not tolerate consistently saturated potting medium.

The roots of a lucky bamboo plant grown in water are different from the root system of a lucky bamboo plant grown in soil, which is why plants often turn brown with a dying appearance if they are switched from growing in water to growing in soil or vice versa.

My Tips for Saving Brown, Dying Lucky Bamboo

  • I always water my lucky bamboo with rain water, distilled water, bottled water, or tap water that has been left out for 24 hours. If the leaf tips are brown from sensitivity to chemicals in the tap water, then it can recover well if you switch the water. Sometimes, you may have to wait for the bamboo to grow new green leaves and trim back the brown leaves before the lucky bamboo can restore its healthy green appearance.
  • Scale back the use of fertilizer. As I stated, lucky bamboo does not require much fertilizer. From my testing, I found that typically 1 or 2 drops of general houseplant fertilizer once a month in the Spring and Summer is sufficient. If you have used too much fertilizer, then don’t worry, as the solution is very easy. Just change the water (if growing in water) or give the potting medium a generous soak to flush out excess salts from fertilizer that can contribute to the leaf tips turning brown.
  • Keep lucky bamboo in 2-3 inches of water (so that the roots are submerged), or allow the potting medium to dry slightly between bouts of watering. This is the optimal balance of watering to prevent the lucky bamboo from turning brown.
  • If the leaves and stalk are turning brown and mushy, then the plant is unlikely to recover, as this indicates fungal disease and rot. The only solution is to attempt to propagate the lucky bamboo from any healthy remaining green growth. Propagating lucky bamboo is surprisingly easy, and you can grow bamboo plants in more favorable conditions to prevent any browning foliage or stalks.

Saving houseplants really is all about understanding their preferred growing conditions and sticking to it consistently.

Why is My Lucky Bamboo Not Growing?

The reason for a lucky bamboo not growing is because it is too much shade. Lucky bamboo prefers to grow in bright, indirect light which ensures the plant has enough energy for growth. Ensure the temperature range is between 60°F to 75°F (16°C to 24°C) for optimal growth.

I have had this problem myself, and I moved my lucky bamboo to my bathroom, which not only had more humidity and higher temperatures but it was much brighter.

My bathroom has frosted glass, which helps diffuse the strong direct sunlight and creates the optimal conditions for lucky bamboo to grow.

Try to avoid sudden fluctuations in temperature, even if they are in the preferred temperature range as this can cause the bamboo stress can can also slow growth.

Do not locate your lucky bamboo too close to sources of indoor heating and away from draughty areas of the house. Typically, this means putting your lucky bamboo on the other side of the room of any indoor heating or out of the direct path of the air con.

If you are growing lucky bamboo in water, replace the water every month or so and use a low dose of general, all-purpose fertilizer once a month during the Spring and Summer to stimulate growth.

Avoid using too much or applying fertilizer too often, as lucky bamboo is very sensitive to fertilizer, which can turn the leaf tips brown or yellow.

Consider that lucky bamboo typically does not grow that much during Winter due to lower levels of light.

Key Takeaways:

  • The reason for dying lucky bamboo is usually because of too much direct sunlight. Lucky bamboo is adapted to growing in bright, indirect light rather than full sun. Too much sunlight causes the lucky bamboo’s leaves to turn yellow and white with a drooping, dying appearance and causes the stalk to turn yellow and wrinkled.
  • The reason for lucky bamboo turning white is because of chemicals in tap water, low humidity, and too much sun, which can bleach the leaves and stalks white. Lucky bamboo needs bright, indirect light and should be watered with rainwater to prevent the leaves from turning pale and white.
  • The reason for lucky bamboo leaf tips turning brown is because of a high concentration of chlorine and fluoride in tap water. Lucky bamboo is particularly sensitive to chemicals in tap water and therefore should always be watered with rainwater, distilled water, or bottled water to prevent the leaf tips from turning brown.
  • The reason for lucky bamboo turning brown is often because of overwatering. When growing lucky bamboo in water, only the roots should be submerged as the stalk does not tolerate being in too much water, which causes the lucky bamboo’s leaves and stalk to turn brown with a dying appearance.
  • The reason for lucky bamboo not growing is usually because it does not have enough light. Lucky bamboo needs bright, indirect light to have enough energy to grow.
  • To revive a dying lucky bamboo, move the plant to an area of bright, indirect light, only water using rainwater, maintain a temperature range of 60°F to 75°F (16°C to 24°C), and prune any dying leaves to help stimulate the growth of health green leaves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts