How to Save Lucky Bamboo That is Turning Yellow

Lucky bamboo turning yellow

The reason lucky bamboo turns yellow is usually because of too much direct sunlight. Lucky bamboo is adapted to growing under a canopy in its native environment in bright, indirect light rather then full sunlight. Too much sun scorches the lucky bamboo’s leaves and stalks yellow.

Most common reasons for lucky bamboo turning yellow:

  1. Too much direct sunlight scorches leaves and stalks yellow (Lucky bamboo prefers bright, indirect light).
  2. Too much water in the container (lucky bamboo require just the roots submerged but the stalks turn mushy and yellow in too much water).
  3. Drastic Temperature fluctuations cause leaves and stalks to turn yellow (Lucky bamboo is very sensitive to sudden temperature change from indoor heating or cold window sills).
  4. Not changing the water around the roots often enough (lucky bamboo can grow in just water but the water should be changed every 2 weeks to prevent yellowing).
  5. Fertilizer applied too often and in too high concentration turns leaves and stalks yellow. (Lucky bamboo is very sensitive to fertilizer and requires much less then most houseplants).
  6. Chlorine and fluorine in tap water can cause the lucky bamboo leaf tips to turn yellow and brown (lucky bamboo is sensitive to chemical and should be watered with bottled water).

Generally lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana) turns yellow because of sun burn or the environment they are in are somehow contrary to the conditions to which they are adapted. Keep reading, as to why your lucky bamboo leaves and stems are turning yellow and for how to save it…

(If your outdoor bamboo leaves are turning yellow, read this article instead for how to save it).

Bamboo Leaves Turning Yellow

The most common reason lucky bamboo leaves turn yellow is because of too much sunlight. Lucky bamboo grows naturally under a forest canopy, sheltered from intense direct sunlight and prefers to grow in bright, indirect light or partial sun. If the lucky bamboo leaves are in too much direct sunlight, the leaves turn yellow with a scorched appearance.

Lucky bamboo grows in tropical rainforests in Central Africa where it grows a canopy and is typically protected from direct sunlight. The leaves and stalks of lucky bamboo are therefore very sensitive to the sun to intense sunlight which results in the scorched yellow appearance.

Lucky bamboo requires bright, indirect light for optimal growth and to prevent the leaves turning yellow.

Whilst too much sun is most often the cause of the leaves turning yellow, there are several other factors that can cause or contribute to the leaves turning yellow such as:

  • Sudden temperature fluctuation (lucky bamboo prefers a temperature range of 60°F to 75°F (16°C to 24°C)
  • Too much fertilizer (which causes a build of salts that prevent the roots from drawing up moisture effectively).
  • Not enough nutrients (this is particularly the case when lucky bamboo is grown in standing water without any additional fertilizer).
  • Too much water (Lucky bamboo requires the roots to be submerged in water, which is typically the bottom 1 inch or so of the plant. If the stalks are submerged by several inches this causes the stalks and leaves to turn yellow and rot).
  • Not enough water. If the roots are not submerged the the bamboo cannot draw up sufficient water, resulting in yellow leaves).
  • Not changing the water often enough (the same stagnant water for weeks can promote the conditions for fungal infection and turn the leaves yellow).
  • Watering the lucky bamboo with tap water (lucky bamboo is particularly sensitive to chlorine and fluoride in the water which can contribute to yellow leaves).

It is also worth noting that lucky bamboo is not necessarily a particularly long lived plant and may only maintain a good conditions for 2 years or so before the leaves and stalks turn yellow or brown, however they often live longer when planted in potting soil as opposed to growing in water.

How to Save Bamboo with Yellow Leaves

  • Move the bamboo to an area of bright indirect light out of full sun. Bright, indirect light provides the optimal balance of enough light to ensure good growth yet not too much light that there is a risk of burning the sensitive leaves.
  • Remove any leaves that have been badly scorched yellow. Any leaves that have been scorched yellow do not recover a green appearance. However you can gently peel back these leaves or prune them close to the stalk with a pair of pruners. This helps to stimulate new of healthy green leaves.
  • Maintain a consistent temperature of between 60°F to 75°F (16°C to 24°C) and ideally no cooler then 50°F (10°C) in the Winter. This is the lucky bamboo’s preferred temperature range. Whilst it can survive with temperature outside of this range, it is usually the sudden fluctuation in temperature which causes the stress that turns the leaves yellow. Locate your lucky bamboo away from sources of indoor heat in Winter as this is the most common causes of sudden temperature fluctuation.
  • Only apply one drop of balanced houseplant fertilizer once every 2 weeks during Spring and Summer. Lucky bamboo does not have a high demand for nutrients, however the importance of additional fertilizer increases if the bamboo is in water rather then planted in soil. Typically they do not need added fertilizer if planted in soil. This low dose of fertilizer provides enough nutrients to support growth without causing a build up salts that prevent the uptake of water at the roots which in turns causes the leaves to turn yellow.
  • If the bamboo leaves are turning yellow slowly, then this if often a sign of low nutrients. Lucky bamboo can survive in water for a long time but a drop of general houseplant fertilizer can provides the right balance of nutrients to help support growth and healthy green leaves.
  • Place the lucky bamboo stalks in around 1 inch or so of water (as long as the roots are submerged), and avoid placing lucky bamboo in a vase filled with water. The roots can tolerate being submerged in water, but the stalk -which is usually above ground- does not tolerate being in deep water which turns the leaves and stalks yellow, often with a rotting appearance. If any stalks appear to be rotting then remove them from the water to prevent spreading fungal disease to otherwise healthy stalks.
  • Change the water if the leaves are turning yellow. It is best practice to change the lucky bamboos water once a week to prevent the prevalence of fungal pathogens, bacteria and algae in the water which can contribute or cause the leaves to turn yellow.
  • Always water lucky bamboo with either distilled water, bottled mineral water or tap water that has been sitting for 24 hours (to allow the chlorine and fluoride to evaporate. Lucky bamboo is particularly sensitive to chemicals in tap water which can result in yellow leaves. Chlorine and fluoride reliably evaporate if the tap water has been out overnight in a bowl, so that you can water lucky bamboo safely.

Can Yellow Bamboo Leaves Turn Green Again?

Yellow bamboo leaves do not turn green again if they have been scorched in the sun or they are yellowing due to overwatering. However the yellow leaves can be peeled off or trimmed back to promote the growth of new green leaves once you have addressed the cause for the leaves yellowing in the first place.

If the stalks have turned yellow and mushy they should be taken out of the pot to prevent spreading bacteria or fungal disease to otherwise healthy bamboo stalks.

Bamboo Leaf Tips Turning Yellow

The reason for bamboo leaf tips turning yellow is because of too much fertilizer. Lucky bamboo only requires less then half the concentration of fertilizer of most houseplants. If fertilizer is applied too often or in too high concentration, the bamboo leaf tips turn yellow.

Lucky bamboo is a hardy plant that has adapted to growing in relatively low fertility conditions in its native environment.

General houseplant fertilizer is recommended if you are growing lucky bamboo in water, however it should only be applied once a month in the growing season with only one or two drops of fertilizer in the water.

If you have applied fertilizer too often and the leaf tips are yellow, change the water immediately and scale back the use of fertilizer to once a month and only during the Spring and Summer months and your lucky bamboo should show signs of recovery in the next few weeks.

Temperature fluctuations, underwatering and using tap water can also contribute to the yellow of lucky bamboo leaf tips.

In the Winter months the temperature can fluctuate significantly due to indoor heating and cold nights, particularly if the lucky bamboo leaves are in contact with the cold glass on a window sill.

If the temperature fluctuates drastically out of the preferred range of 60°F to 75°F (16°C to 24°C) then the leaf tips can start to turn yellow.

Tap water typically turns the leaf tips of lucky bamboo brown due to its sensitivity to fluoride and chlorine (which is present in tap water in most countries). However the leaf tips may turn somewhat yellow before turning brown.

To save the lucky bamboo with yellow leaf tips, replace the water with bottled or distilled water and scale back the use of fertilizer, only applying one drop every month whilst the bamboo recovers.

Change the water as often as every month to ensure that fertilizer does not build up and cause any problems.

Keep the bamboo away from any sources of heat, and out of the way of air conditioning, forced air and ideally keep the bamboo away from any cold, draughty window sills, so that the temperature is more consistent.

Lucky Bamboo Stalks Yellow

The most common reason for bamboo stalks turning yellow is because they are in too much water. Lucky bamboo requires around 1 inch of water, ensuring that the roots are submerged. If several inches of the bamboo stalk is submerged the bamboo starts to rot and turn yellow.

This typically happens when the bamboo stalks are put in a vase with too much water. The bamboo roots need to be submerged but the stalk (that would typically be above ground in its native environment) does not tolerate standing in water.

Too much water promotes the conditions for rot and fungal disease, all of which result in the stalk and often the leaves turning yellow and mushy.

However underwatering can also result in lucky bamboo stalks turning yellow. It is imperative that the roots are just submerged underwater (if you are growing lucky bamboo in just water) and important to water lucky bamboo every week if it is planted in soil.

If the roots are above the water line this is often the reason the stalks turn yellow.

Lucky bamboo stalks are also sensitive to too much sun, just as the leaves are, which can result in a yellowing appearance.

Other factors that can contribute to the stalks turning yellow are:

  • Temperatures that fluctuate suddenly.
  • Too much fertilizer.
  • Not changing the bamboo’s water often enough.
  • Chemicals in tap water (bamboo is sensitive to chlorine and fluoride).

How to Save Lucky Bamboo with Yellow Stalks

  • Always grow lucky bamboo in around 1 inch of water and avoid filling the vase. As long as the roots are just about submerged, the bamboo as enough water, but do not add any more water beyond this point to avoid promoting the conditions for rot (which turns the stalks yellow and mushy).
  • If any individual yellow stalks that feel mushy remove them from the water as these individual stalks are rotting and are not likely to recover. Removing the stalks prevents the spread of fungus and bacteria. If all of your lucky bamboo stalks are mushy and yellow then the only course of action to save the bamboo is to propagate the stalk from any healthy remaining growth, from which to grow a healthy new shoot. Propagating lucky bamboo is relatively easy. Watch this helpful YouTube video for how to propagate lucky bamboo:
  • Ensure the bamboo is in bright indirect light rather then full sun. The leaves and the stalk are sensitive to direct sunlight, so it is important to find a bright area that does not have full sun. If the leaves and stalk are slightly scorched yellow, the bamboo should survive once it is moved to more preferable light conditions. Whilst the scorched leaves can be cut back or gently peeled off to stimulate new growth, the stalk generally does not restore a green appearance. In which case the best option is to propagate the stalk from any healthy cuttings to grow a new green bamboo stalk.
  • Scale back the use of fertilizer. Lucky bamboo is very sensitive to fertilizer so only use a drop or two or all purpose houseplant liquid fertilizer once a month in the growing season to ensure the right balance of nutrients. If you have been applying fertilizer too often or in too high concentration then change the water or potting soil and do not use any fertilizer at all, until the following Spring. Lucky bamboo can recover if you scale back the use of fertilizer quickly after the stalks start to turn yellow, however if they do not show any sign of recovery then the best course of action is to propagate the lucky bamboo from any healthy growth if at all possible.
  • Keep the temperature at a stable 60°F to 75°F (16°C to 24°C). Keep lucky bamboo away from draughts and ideally not on a window sill as the glass can get very cold in Winter even if indoor temperatures are relatively warm. Avoid placing lucky bamboo too near to sources of indoor heating or air currents from forced air or air conditioning.
  • Water with bottled water, distilled water or tap water that is left out for 24 hours prior to watering. These steps ensure the water does not have a high concentration of fluoride or chlorine which can contribute to yellowing stalks. Change the water every 2 weeks.

(Read my article, how to revive a dying luck bamboo).

Key Takeaways:

  • The reason for yellow leaves and stalks on lucky bamboo plant is usually because of too much direct sunlight. Lucky bamboo are adapted to growing in bright, indirect light rather then full sunlight. If the lucky bamboo is in too much sun, the leaves and stalks can scorch and turn yellow.
  • The reason lucky bamboo stalks turn yellow is often because they are in too much water. Lucky bamboo should only be grown in 1-3 inches of water, so that only the roots are submerged. If a lucky bamboo stalk is under a significant amount of water is turns yellow and mushy due to rot.
  • The leaves and stalks of lucky bamboo typically do not turn green again after turning yellow. Yellow leaves can be peeled off to encourage regrowth of new green leaves, whereas yellow stalks should be removed from the pot if they are yellow and mushy.
  • Lucky bamboo leaf tips turn yellow usually because of fertilizer being applied too often or in too high concentration. Lucky bamboo has a low demand for nutrients and it is very sensitive to too fertilizer which results in yellow leaf tips. Fluctuating temperatures and underwatering can also contribute to leaf tips turning yellow.
  • To save lucky bamboo with yellow leaves locate the bamboo in bright, indirect light, with a temperature range of 60°F to 75°F, change the water and gently peel off the yellow leaves to promote the growth of healthy green leaves and the bamboo should recover.

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