Why Is My Lucky Bamboo Plant Turning Yellow?

Updated April 5, 2022
Lucky bamboo stems and leaves

Lucky bamboo plants can develop yellow leaves or stalks for a number of reasons. Learning what to do if your lucky bamboo turns yellow can help you save your plant. The key to saving a plant when the yellow appears is to assess the cause and take action to bring your lucky bamboo back to health. There are four possible causes for a lucky bamboo turning yellow outside of disease: water, light, fertilizer, or temperature.

Why Is My Lucky Bamboo Plant Turning Yellow?

Yellowing lucky bamboo is a sign that something is wrong. So, before you give up on your yellowing bamboo plant, do a quick assessment of the environment your bamboo is in and how you are caring for it. It's likely one of the following things is the culprit.

Yellow lucky bamboo

You're Using Tap Water

One of the first culprits to investigate for yellowing leaves or stalk is the water. Typically, lucky bamboo plants grow in a vase of water with a substrate, like rocks, but some also grow in soil containers. Either way, however, the source of water is an important consideration for the care of your plant.

You never want to use tap water for your lucky bamboo plant. This will set up failure before you start, as tap water contains chemicals, such as chlorine and fluoride, that can be harmful to plants. Consistent exposure to the chemicals in the water can lead to your lucky bamboo plant dying.

  • Break out a bottle of distilled water or spring water for your bamboo.
  • If you have a garden and use a rain collecting system, you can also use that water for your lucky bamboo plant. Just make sure the water isn't traveling over an asphalt roof since chemicals could be in the run-off.
  • You might even be able to use aquarium water since it contains the beneficial fertilizer produced by fish waste.

You're Adding Water That Is the Wrong Temperature

When you change or add water to your lucky bamboo, make sure it's the right temperature. Water that is too cold can cause yellowing of your lucky bamboo.

  • Instead of using cold water, make sure it is at room temperature.
  • Allow water to sit at room temp for a few hours to ensure it isn't too cold.

You're Not Changing the Water Frequently Enough

A healthy lucky bamboo plant can be as simple as fresh water. For lucky bamboo plants growing in water, exchange old water with fresh water regularly. The fresh water is vital to healthy plant life since it provides nourishment with nitrogen and oxygen. In addition, fresh water contains trace elements that the plant needs.

  • Change the water every two weeks for best results.
  • Avoid stagnant water (a feng shui no-no).
  • Old water sets up various conditions for bacteria, fungus, and especially mold.
  • Change the water immediately if it turns dark, murky, cloudy, green, black, or smells foul.
  • Change the water and wash/rinse the rocks and vessel if you notice green algae forming on the glass or rocks.

Keep the water level around two inches deep. You want to ensure that you have enough water to cover the roots. Consistency is key to maintaining a healthy plant, so be sure you have a consistent water level.

You're Not Keeping the Soil Moist

If your plant is in soil, add rocks on top of the soil to prevent soil displacement when you water. Maintain soil at a moderate moistness.

  • The rule of thumb for testing if your in-soil plant needs watering is to stick your forefinger into the soil up to the first joint (1"). If the soil feels dry, then it's time to water.
  • Be careful not to over water and make sure the plant container has good drainage. Since the plant is in a soil bed, you'll need to mist the leaves every two or three days to maintain a healthy plant.

Direct Sunlight Is Causing Lucky Bamboo Leaves to Yellow

If your lucky bamboo leaves are turning yellow, as though burned, the cause is most likely direct sunlight. The lucky bamboo cannot live in direct sunlight, but it does thrive in bright indirect light. If your plant is receiving direct sunlight, move it. By the same token, too little indirect light can cause your plant to weaken, and its color will turn yellow or pale.

Lucky bamboo in sunlight

Too Much Fertilizer Is Causing Yellow Bamboo Stalks

Yellowing of the lucky bamboo stalk is almost always the result of over-fertilizing. If your plant has both leaf and stalk yellowing, the first thing to consider is over-fertilizing. Most lucky bamboo plants don't require fertilizer. They can thrive for years without ever being fertilized. If you must fertilize your plant, then make sure to use one specifically for lucky bamboo. Such a feeding should be a rare and infrequent dosing.

Improper Temperature and Humidity Is Causing Lucky Bamboo Plants to Die

If your lucky bamboo leaves are turning yellow and you've ruled out all the above possible causes, then it could simply be that it's too cold. The plant thrives best in ambient temperatures between 65°F and 90°F.

How to Revive and Save a Bamboo Plant Turning Yellow

If you've tried all the recommendations to bring your lucky bamboo back to life, but you're still facing yellow leaves and stalk, it may be time for drastic last-ditch efforts. You can salvage your plant. Never throw it away without first trying one of the two propagation methods for salvaging what is typically an expensive plant.

Change the Water to Revive a Yellowing Lucky Bamboo

For in-water plants, the solution for lucky bamboo stalks turning yellow is to immediately change the water. This can work in some cases when the plant hasn't soaked up too many chemicals to kill it. However, in other cases, it might be too late to save the plant. This is especially true if it's the stalk turning yellow instead of just the leaves.

Repot in Dirt to Save a Dying Lucky Bamboo

Propagating bamboo

The best approach for an over fertilized in-soil plant is to repot with fresh soil that doesn't have any added fertilizer. The damage may have already been done, and the plant absorbed too much fertilizer. You'll know within a few days if your plant will survive.

Place Bamboo Out of Direct Sunlight

One of the popular locations for lucky bamboo is on a kitchen counter near a window or on a table by a window. Make sure that the plant doesn't receive direct sunlight. The hot direct sunlight will burn the plant since its natural habitat is under the lush foliage of a rain forest.

Mist the Leaves to Increase Humidity

A low humidity environment is problematic. Since the lucky bamboo prefers a humid climate, you may need to remedy a dry one by misting the leaves every two to three days. This will give the plant and leaves the high moisture it craves. This should stop the plant from turning yellow if low humidity is the cause.

Trim Bamboo if Leaves Are Turning Yellow

If your plant has a few yellow leaves, then you can snip them with a clean pair of scissors. This is especially necessary if your plant is suffering from too much water or direct light. Better to remove them so new leaves can grow.

Harvest and Root Leaves of Dying or Unhealthy Lucky Bamboo

However, if your lucky bamboo stalk is dying, then you have only one recourse, and that's to cut the green sprouts and root them.

  1. Snip leaves below the growth node that protrudes from the stalk to keep intact. This is where new roots will form.
  2. Dip the cut end of the sprout in a planting hormone to encourage root growth.
  3. Fill a vase with water to hold the sprout(s) and allow them to grow roots.
  4. Once there are plenty of roots, you can transplant the new lucky bamboo either into a water or soil-filled vase.

Save a Bamboo Plant With a Dead Stalk

If the roots are still good but the upper part of the stalk is yellow, you can possibly salvage it.

Bamboo In Pot

The first thing to check when a plant begins to turn yellow is the root system. You can quickly assess its health by examining the roots. Healthy roots are reddish or orange. Diseased roots are brown, black, or gray and need to be removed by cutting off where they protrude from the stalk.

Cut off the yellow part along the line where green is still showing. Once the stalk is cut, it typically stops growing in height/length but will develop new sprouts that will grow vertically.

  • Seal the cut part of the stalk with candle wax to prevent rotting and disease.
  • Place the stalk either in water or in soil and care for it.

If the stalk continues to turn yellow and no new sprouts develop, the plant can't be salvaged. It's time to discard and buy a new plant. You can continue your original number of stalks to keep your chosen feng shui arrangement.

When your bamboo stalk looks like the one below, it's likely dying and you will need to replace it.

Remedies for Yellowing Lucky Bamboo

There are many things you can do to save yellow bamboo plant and make it beautiful again. Once the cause has been identified, you can take specific steps to bring lucky bamboo back to life. Don't throw away your lucky bamboo until you've assessed it cannot be salvaged. Having an unhealthy lucky bamboo plant in your home is considered bad feng shui, and it can have the opposite effect on your good fortune.

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