It can be nerve-racking to see your lucky bamboo turning yellow. You might be wondering what you’re doing to cause your plant to suffer. But not to worry, we can get to the root of this problem together.
The truth is, yellow leaves and/or stems in lucky bamboo indicate plant stress. Reasons why your lucky bamboo might be turning yellow include exposure to direct light, chemicals in the water, root rot, and more.
Once you understand what your lucky bamboo is lacking (or has too much of) you can make the appropriate adjustments to save your beautiful plant from dying. While it can be stressful to deal with yellowing lucky bamboo, the good news is that it can be a great learning experience.
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7 reasons your lucky bamboo is yellowing
A healthy lucky bamboo plant should be bright green in color, with plump stems and shiny leaves. While it’s normal for leaves to die back from time to time, excessive yellowing of the leaves or stems could indicate deeper issues.
So, what’s causing your lucky bamboo leaves and/or stems to turn yellow? The most likely reasons are:
- Exposure to direct sunlight
- Chemicals in the water
- Over-watering or under-watering
- Root rot
- Low humidity
- Inadequate temperature
Note: unlike with lucky bamboo, true bamboo turning yellow is not necessarily a sign of stress. Some varieties of bamboo are naturally yellow, and others turn yellow with age and sunlight exposure. However, if you suspect your outdoor bamboo is turning yellow when it shouldn’t, it may be time to troubleshoot.
1. Exposure to direct sunlight can turn lucky bamboo yellow
Lucky bamboo plants burn easily when exposed to direct sunlight. This is because the native habitat of lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana) is actually under the lush foliage of a tropical rainforest.
Today, lucky bamboo is more commonly known as a houseplant for its attractive appearance and symbolic significance.
Even if your lucky bamboo is exposed to direct sunlight only briefly each day, it could damage the plant. Too much sunlight exposure can scorch the leaves, causing them to turn yellow and even die. Luckily, you can save the plant from further harm if you catch the issue in time.
How to remedy sunburn
It’s tempting to place your lucky bamboo where it receives the most light, but unlike many other plants this can actually be damaging. If you think your lucky bamboo might be suffering from sunburn, start by checking the position of your plant:
- Is it on a south-facing window sill?
- Does your plant get direct sunlight at one point throughout the day? If you can, check the lighting every hour for a whole day.
- The angle of the sun changes with the seasons. Is more light coming in now than usual?
- Did something else change to let in more sunlight? For example, did a tree fall or get trimmed?
If the leaves of your lucky bamboo have turned yellow due to direct sunlight, you should change the lighting conditions immediately. Simply move your plant to a more shaded spot, such as in a north-facing window, in the bathroom, or anywhere in the home where it only receives indirect light.
If, after a few days, your lucky bamboo has brightened up or “greened up,” it’s likely you’ve found the root of the issue. If not, something else may be causing your lucky bamboo to turn yellow…
2. Lucky bamboo can turn yellow due to chemicals in water
If your lucky bamboo stem turns yellow, it could be a sign that there’s something wrong with the water you use for your plant. Dracaena sanderiana is a sensitive plant, and it doesn’t like harsh chemicals in the water.
It’s possible that your lucky bamboo is reacting to fluoride and/or chlorine, chemicals that are often used to treat tap water. If you’ve been using tap water to water your plants, don’t worry, here’s what you can do:
How to remedy chemical burn
- To see if tap water is the cause of your lucky bamboo turning yellow, stop watering your bamboo with tap water for at least a week and look for signs of improvement.
- Instead of plain tap water, use filtered, spring, or rain water. You can use bottled water, but we don’t encourage this due to the plastic waste associated with it.
- You can continue using tap water by first getting rid of the chlorine and fluoride. Simply fill a glass, bottle, or bowl with water and let it sit for 12-24 hours to allow the chemicals to evaporate!
- Some people recommend the “reuse” of aquarium water, which contains helpful minerals and nutrients produced by fish waste. If you do this, however, make sure the water is not full of algae, which can suffocate your lucky bamboo.
- Some people keep recommending distilled water but this is not necessary.
3. Over-fertilizing can turn the stems and leaves of lucky bamboo yellow
Most times, the yellowing of Dracaena sanderiana stems are a result of over-fertilizing. If you’ve got yellow stems and leaves, your first guess should be “excessive use of fertilizer.”
Unlike other types of houseplants, lucky bamboo can survive for years without fertilizer. If you do fertilize your lucky bamboo, you should only consider organic products or using the ones made specifically for lucky bamboo. Fertilizing lucky bamboo should only happen once or twice a year!
Remedy for excessive use of fertilizer
- For lucky bamboo planted in water: If you suspect your lucky bamboo is suffering from over-fertilization, quickly change the water and clean the container or vase. This immediate change should help, though it’s still possible your bamboo has already absorbed too much fertilizer. This might be the case if both the leaves and stems have turned yellow. And then, this procedure alone might not save your plant.
- For lucky bamboo planted in soil: If you’ve been watering your lucky bamboo on the same schedule as your other houseplants, including with fertilizer, it’s likely your plant is over-fertilized. To remedy the situation, start by repotting your lucky bamboo. Fresh soil, without fertilizer, can help reset your plant and protect it from further damage.
4. Watering issues: over- or under-watering lucky bamboo
You can successfully grow lucky bamboo in either soil or in water with or without rocks or substrate. If you choose the latter, you might think that you can’t do anything wrong with watering. That’s not entirely true, however.
Let’s take a look at how watering issues could affect your plant’s health in either case:
Lucky bamboo in soil
Dracaena sanderiana loves moist soil, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be overwatered. Soggy soil could be suffocating the roots and causing your lucky bamboo to turn yellow.
On the other hand, underwatering can also cause this house plant to turn yellow. So how do you know which is the issue?
- Always check your plant before watering: if it feels dry, your plant needs water; if the soil is still wet, you can hold off.
- Be careful not to overwater your plant. Only water when your plant needs it. Also, ensure that the container drains very well. Healthy lucky bamboo shouldn’t require that much water.
Lucky bamboo in water
If you’re growing your lucky bamboo in water with rocks or gravel at the bottom, you can use a transparent container to help you observe the water level. Too much water in the container could cause your plant to turn yellow. Alternatively, it’s possible the water is filthy and needs to be changed.
- The roots of your plant should just be covered in water. Keep your water level constant, topping up as necessary. Too little can cause the plant to dry out and suffer, while too much water can introduce rot to the stem.
- If the water appears dirty, dark, or black, change it immediately.
- Keep the water fresh, changing it every two weeks. A fresh water supply keeps your plant healthy and happy by providing it with plenty of oxygen, nutrients, and other trace elements.
- Leaving your lucky bamboo to grow in old, dirty water could create favorable conditions for the growth of algae, bacteria, mold, and fungi, which can introduce root and stem rot.
- When changing the water, thoroughly wash the container and rinse the stone or pebbles in a hydrogen peroxide solution.
5. Yellowing as a sign of root rot
Your lucky bamboo can turn yellow due to root rot. Overwatering is the number one cause of root rot, as the roots become suffocated and start to die back. For lucky bamboo grown directly in water, the most common cause of root rot is allowing the plant to grow in filthy or stale water.
Dirty water creates unfavorable conditions that’ll eventually lead to rotting roots. For example, a lack of oxygen can suffocate the roots, which can be caused by algae growing in the water. Root rot is more prevalent with lucky bamboo grown in water, but it can also happen with lucky bamboo grown in soil.
But how do you know if the roots are rotting? Healthy lucky bamboo roots are orange. Rotting roots are brown, sometimes already black. If the yellowing of the Lucky Bamboo stem starts at the bottom, it’s a good indicator of root rot.
Remedy for root rot
- If you’ve got your plant in water with rocks at the bottom and you suspect they are infected with root rot, you need to start by replacing the water and cleaning the plant’s environment.
- Wash the container or vase with soap and warm water. Next, clean or replace the rocks. To clean the rocks, soak them in a hydrogen peroxide solution and rinse them until the water comes out clean.
- Take a closer look at the roots; trim back any dead, dying, or rotting roots to stop the infection in its tracks and protect the remaining roots.
- For lucky bamboo grown in soil, it’s hard to “see” root rot without pulling the plant up. However, if the soil is rather wet or moist, it’s highly likely the roots are suffering. Repot the plant and hold off on watering until the top of the soil has dried out.
Note: planting your lucky bamboo in soil instead of water can minimize the possibilities of root rot, as long as there is proper drainage in the pot.
6. Low humidity can cause yellow leaves on lucky bamboo plants
Lucky bamboo is native to tropical rainforests, so it’s only natural that it likes a bit of humidity. If the leaves on your bamboo-like plant are turning yellow, low humidity could be a culprit.
Remedy for low humidity
If your home environment tends to be dry, there are a few steps you can take to increase the humidity for your lucky bamboo:
- Spray the leaves with water daily.
- Install a humidifier.
- Place your lucky bamboo in the bathroom, where it will appreciate the added humidity!
7. Inadequate temperature results in yellowing lucky bamboo
If the leaves on your lucky bamboo are turning yellow and you’ve ruled out all the other possible causes mentioned above, inadequate temperature could be the culprit.
Lucky bamboo is a tropical plant that detests cold temperatures! It mainly does well in temperatures between 65 and 90°F (18-32°C).
How to fix temperature issues
- Avoid watering with cold water, only use water at room temperature.
- If temperatures in your home are below 65°F, avoid letting your lucky bamboo sit in water.
- Avoid placing your lucky bamboo near naturally colder areas. For example, don’t place it under the AC or in a particularly cold room. During the winter, move it away from colder windows.
How do I save a dying lucky bamboo plant?
If you’ve tried taking all of the above steps and you still find your plant getting progressively worse, don’t be in a hurry to toss your lucky bamboo out. You can still try a few more options to save your lucky bamboo.
The yellowing issue could either be on your stems or leaves. If you’ve got yellow stems, they are dying and might not root anymore. But lucky bamboo plants with yellow leaves and green stems can still root.
What to do?
- Generally speaking, it’s advisable to wait until your yellow leaves are dry before cutting them off as this could prevent your plant from getting injured due to the cutting. However, desperate times require desperate measures. You can encourage a struggling plant to produce new leaves by cutting off the ailing ones even before they die completely.
- If the roots of your yellowing lucky bamboo are still in good shape, you have a good chance at saving the plant. First, you should critically examine the roots. Usually, your lucky bamboo roots should be red or orange in color. Dying roots appear black, brown, or gray in color. Trim any unhealthy roots or yellowing parts of the plant, and place it in clean water. Refresh the water every week as the plant heals.
- If a part of the stem of your lucky bamboo is turning yellow, you can try and save it by cutting off the yellowing part and replanting the healthy section in soil. You should use sterile tools when doing this. Keep in mind, while the stem won’t grow taller, new leaves could sprout at the nodes.
From yellow to green: taking good care of your lucky bamboo
Frankly, there are many things you can try out in order to get your yellowing lucky bamboo to turn green again. You don’t have to get rid of your plant, just keep using trial and error to figure out what it needs!
Once you know what’s causing your plant to turn yellow, you’ve solved half the problem. And now, all you need to do is to take effective steps to revive your beautiful indoor plant.
If you’ve solved the yellowing issue, it’s important to take good care of your lucky bamboo and prevent it from happening again. To help you, we’ve put together 12 Lucky Bamboo Care Tips to keep your plant thriving.
If nothing helped and your lucky bamboo went from yellow to dead, it’s possible that it had been too damaged or infected with rot to be saved. In this case, your best bet is to buy a new plant to start fresh. If you observe your plant closely and catch signs of stress early on, you’ll be sure to keep your plant thriving!