Various bamboo culms side by side, some are green and some are brown and yellow

Why is my bamboo turning brown?

Bamboo plants are hardy but they also need some special care to stay healthy.

Browning leaves can be a result of their normal life cycle or it is something more serious depending on bamboo species.

Let’s start with the best option and then go into troubleshooting the browning problem for your bamboo plants.

Note: This blog post is about bamboo, not lucky bamboo. If you have issues with your lucky bamboo, click here!

What is the life cycle of bamboo?

Bamboos are perennial evergreen plants. They increase year after year. Evergreen plants drop their leaves, but they never lose them abruptly. Some can grow over 50 feet high. Phyllostachys Edulis can increase up to 75 feet. They grow up and grow out. Gaining more leaves every spring.

Fresh leaves emerge while the old leaves fall. Bamboo plants normally have a blend of fresh, browning and dead leaves on each plant. They often become yellowish-brown from the tips as they die. If substantial parts are turning brown or yellow, then you probably have a problem.

Mostly green bamboo forest with a few brown stems
Mostly green but some turned brown because of the life cycle

So, why is bamboo turning brown?

Bamboo is also a hardy plant but there are still some specific growing conditions that may drive to yellowing or browning of the leaves. Browning leaves are normally a warning that they are getting too much water. Stop or decrease watering instantly. Overwatering is the most frequent mistake when raising bamboo.

Browning leaves may indicate chlorine from your water source or muddy soil. Spots on the leaves can be a manifestation of pests.

Overwatering and underwatering

Bamboo leaves curl when they become dry. That’s the time you need to water them. It is better to underwater than to overwater. The leaves will open back up a few hours after watering.

Overwatering and underwatering can also degenerate the leaves. Too much water cause root rot, fungal or bacterial infections. Root rot is a fungal disease that grows in wet soil. Damaged roots cannot release nutrients that are supposed to be carried to its leaves. That is how they begin to fade from the tips downward.

Underwatering has the same symptoms. The leaves will dry out from shortage of water and nutrients. Your bamboo becomes stressed which will lead to poor health. Bamboo needs consistently moist soil. Do not let it dry out more than one inch beneath the soil surface.

A freshly planted bamboo plant will prosper from watering once or twice a week until it reaches three to six months. After six months, in-ground bamboos usually require no supplemental watering. For potted bamboos, somewhat dry is always preferable than wet and soggy soil.

Types of water

Bamboo plants enjoy water so much but not just any kind of water. Poor water quality can lead to yellow or brown leaves. Fluoridated water, in particular, can start browning leaves because this type of water contains chlorine.

Tap water also often includes chlorine. It is better to sprinkle them with rainwater or use lukewarm filtered water. If rainwater is not available, get some tap water and let it sit for 24 hours to get rid of fluoride.


Bamboo is a warm-weather plant. However, the leaves can become burnt when exposed for too long to direct sunlight, especially if you live in a very warm place. Most bamboo plants thrive best in shade or places with partial sun. Keep them away from windy areas or vents. The warm and dry air can also cause the leaves to brown from its tips.

Oblong shaped leaves in green, yellow, red, and brown
When leaves change their color extremely


Bamboo is normally immune to most plant pests but there are times that they are occasionally attacked. These pests can stress your bamboo, causing brown leaves, stunted or malformed leaf, and scarring.

Mites are hard to detect with your naked eye. These pests are particularly common throughout the dry weather when the leaves are undusted. Look for tiny spots and fine webbing on the leaves.

Mealybugs are obvious with their whitish cottony covering. Ants and greyish mold may also happen in an invasion of mealybugs.

Read more about Bamboo Pests here!


Too much fertilizer is also responsible for browning leaves. Even natural fertilizers like fish emulsion may include salts that can hurt your bamboo leaves. Adjust your fertilizer schedule.

Apply regular lawn fertilizer twice a year. Use it once in early spring and another one in summer. Water the soil shortly and help bring its nutrients to the roots.

Freezing weather

Most bamboo species can endure winter as far north as Zone 5. Still, the frosty weather can burn the leaves of most bamboo. These leaves may even fall from the plant. They will be replaced by fresh leaves soon though.

What are environmental conditions that can lead to browning?

Stressful developing locations for your bamboo could indicate that the place is too windy, hot, dry, or polluted. Nutrient deficiencies, lack of growing area, and dry cold winds can also be a factor. Iron deficiency is the most typical problem when leaves turn brown.

Browning and yellowing of leaves are normal during the year. It is most obvious during the springtime. The leaves will be replaced over one year. You will notice a lot of yellow and brown leaves as the new ones form in the spring.

To get the old leaves to drop, bamboo cuts off its nutrition. The leaves may turn yellow and then brown before falling during this process. Different leaves turn yellow at different times. Your bamboo may often present a blend of yellow, brown, and green leaves. But if all leaves are turning brown at once, then this indicates a serious problem.

Golden and Moso bamboos usually have more yellowing leaves than other species. If you have Umbrella bamboos don’t worry if they shed more leaves in autumn. Remember that different species may drop more leaves in different seasons.

Temperate bamboos are evergreen. If planted well, it should never be entirely barren. The tips are usually brown mostly because of wind damage.

Some species like Golden bamboo do not grow well in a windy place. While Bissettii doesn’t bother to grow in a windy spot. The most destructive wind of all is the freezing North-Easterly wind, especially in late spring. It can make your bamboo seem really miserable.

Stem damage may also cause a color change on stems or leaves. It could be your pets or some stray animals. Intense heat or cold, too-tight plant ties, and fencing can also cause damage. Your bamboo will overcome these problems when given proper care.

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How to take care of a browning bamboo?


Make sure that the soil is damp but not soaked in water. Dig the soil. It should be damp from six to eight inches below. The pH level can also affect your bamboo’s capacity to absorb nutrients. Start a pH test. Apply chelated iron if your soil is alkaline or try high-nitrogen fertilizer.

Learn more about pH testers for soil & how to conduct the pH level here!

Bamboos grow best if their own leaves are left to decompose around them. Don’t sweep them all at once. This gives helpful nutrients including silica which helps the culms and stems to grow.

Sunlight and water

If you suspect that tap water with fluorine and chlorine are the source of wilting, use rainwater instead of tap water.

Change your bamboo’s light conditions. Make sure it gets the light it needs. Bamboo leaves tend to burn when placed in direct sunlight but if it is not getting enough light, it will look pale with saggy leaves.

If your plants are in a container, move it to a different spot. If this is not possible, try to come up with other solutions like an awning to block of the most intense sunlight.


Sap-sucking pests are easy to manage by sprinkling with insecticidal soap or neem oil. If the invasion is moderate, a strong blast of water is enough to knock them off. Chemical insecticides are not required. These chemicals tend to do more harm than good because they can kill other beneficial insects.

There could be a lot of reasons for every sign. Just remember that early detection will prevent further damage. Enjoy the ups and downs of your bamboo experience. You will learn a lot along the way.

Have you seen any of these bamboo degenerating signs? What are the steps have you taken so far? Is it effective? Tell us more!


  • I have a very mature bamboo of about 17 years and last year and this year has turned brown and just seems to be growing new brown shoots . Has it come to the end of its life cycle and would it affect my plants around it . Thank you

    • I cannot help much unless I know the species. Can you tell me what bamboo you have? If it’s a pest, your surrounded plants may be affected. Otherwise, they’ll be fine. Have you checked for pests and looked at the roots?

  • Just bought some golden bamboos. We left them outside and didn’t know there was going to be a heatwave. The leaves turned dry and looked burnt. Can they still recover?

    • Hi Grace, they should recover with frequent watering unless it was a long heatwave. Especially young bamboo plants (when just purchased) need plenty of water.

  • We live in Miami.. we have had bamboo for over ten years in a three foot a area behind our fence. They are over 25 feet tall. For years they have Been yellow and Healthy’s but in the last year they’d have almost all turned brown and appear to be dying although they’d still have leaves on some of them. Can they be saved? The root systems seem to have taken over the area and no new shoots sprout anymore.

    • Hi John, you might have answered your own question already. If the roots have taken over the whole area, the bamboo cannot grow anymore. I assume you are talking about running bamboo and this type grows where it has space. It may still recover with a bit of help. So, I’d do some root trimming, pruning, and so on and then hope for the best.

  • I have three year old, Old Hamii that is doing great. However, while some of the stalks are growing strait up at around 25’, most of them start to bend over at around 15 feet if they were straight, they would be as tall as the others. Anyone have any ideas as to why they start to droop over?


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Woman (Natalie) and man (James) in front of bamboo

We are James and Natalie – newly-weds & nature lovers!

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