Lucky bamboo root rot puts a damper on the good luck charm that this houseplant is supposed to bring.
However, don’t panic once you suspect or notice that your lucky bamboo may have root rot. Instead, assess the different symptoms and check to confirm it.
If there is in fact root rot happening, then immediately take action to treat and try to save your beloved plant.
I’ll take you through the different steps below.
Lucky bamboo root rot is often caused by overwatering which can lead to suffocating roots or fungi development.
Either way, the most common signs include yellow leaves, dark, mushy and foul smelling roots. These roots will cease working as well putting your lovely plant’s health at risk.
To save your lucky bamboo from root rot, you need to take immediate action and repot it into dry, well-draining soil. But make sure to prune and disinfect the roots first.
Lucky Bamboo Root Rot Symptoms
One of the most important things in identifying lucky bamboo root rot is knowing the symptoms.
This will allow to diagnose the problem early.
With root rot, timing is essential. And the earlier you spot it, the better the chance you have of saving the plant.
Yellow leaves are a common sign of lucky bamboo root rot. However, it is important to note that it is not a definitive symptom.
That means that a lucky bamboo with root rot can develop yellow leaves, not all lucky bamboo that present yellow leaves mean they have root rot.
Yellow leaves can signify some other problems including lack of nutrition, cold temperature, pests, diseases or underwatering.
So, you need to verify root rot with other symptoms below.
That said, yellow leaves in a lucky bamboo with root rot happens because the roots are getting stressed and possibly suffocated by too much water in the soil.
This prevents proper transport of nutrients from the soil to the leaves resulting in yellowing.
Here, the lower leaves will turn yellow first. But if the problem persists, more and more leaves will turn yellow.
Brown leaves is another sign of lucky bamboo root rot. But it is a much later symptom which means that when browning appears, the problem is getting more serious.
In most cases, brown leaves start out with the edges and tips.
That’s because they are the farthest points for water to reach coming from the roots.
Often brown leaves occur when there is already some kind of damage occurring to the roots. As such, the plant is not getting enough water since the roots are absorbing less moisture from the soil.
The longer the lack of water persists, the more the browning will spread from the outer parts of the leaves inward.
And you’ll soon see entire leaves turn brown.
Additionally, more and more leaves will turn brown.
This is why you can see lucky bamboo root rot with both yellow and brown leaves.
Plants are made up of 90% water. So, when they get underwatered, you’ll see them start wilting.
But wilting and drooping can happen due to lucky bamboo root rot as well.
In this case, it is overwatering that causes the rotting roots.
The problem is, once roots rot they stop functioning because they’ve died. This reduces the root system’s ability to absorb moisture.
As a result, the lack of water also reduces the turgor pressure that keeps the plant upright.
So, you see a wilting, droopy plant.
If you’re lucky, root rot has not set in yet. Instead, the roots are being suffocated due to excess moisture. This deprives them of oxygen which makes them fail to function at 100%.
The suffocation of roots or damages to roots due to rotting will also cause stunted growth. Thus, when these problems happen, you’ll see growth come to a halt.
Not only will your lucky bamboo stop growing it will stop producing new leaves as well.
Again, this is due to overwatering and potential root rot.
As a result, the low water and nutrient absorption causes the stunted growth.
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Brown, Mushy, Swollen Stem
This is a very bad sign of lucky bamboo root rot. That’s because it tells you that the rotting is not spreading upwards from the roots.
So, needless to say that the roots attached to the stems that are presenting these symptoms already have root rot.
When rotting reaching the stem, you’ll see their firm texture and form become soft and mushy.
Foul, Rotten Smell Coming from the Soil
Root rot happens after healthy roots get damaged then die. As such, these rotten roots will stink.
They’ll have a foul, rotten stench to them that is very easy to notice.
In fact, if you take a whiff of the soil surface, you’ll likely be able to smell that bad odor.
The smell is due to the decaying plant parts.
And it the root rot has spread to the stem, you’ll easily smelly the foul odor at the base of the plant.
Soft, Black, Mushy Roots
The only way to definitive confirm lucky bamboo root rot is to see the roots for yourself.
This requires taking the plant out of its container and checking the roots.
Healthy roots are white in color. They are pliable and flexible but they are firm in texture.
In contrast, rotten roots ae brown or black in color. They are smelly, mushy and soft. When you touch or lightly tug them, they easily break as well.
So, if you see any rotten roots after unpotting your lucky bamboo, it is very important to take swift action since this will keep spreading.
How to Save a Lucky Bamboo from Root Rot
In this section, I’ll go into detail on how to save a lucky bamboo with root rot.
Each step is very important because they can worsen the issue if not addressed or can cause the problem to arise again after you have saved and revived the plant.
The very first thing to do when you’ve identified root rot is to stop watering. Adding more water to an already overwatered lucky bamboo worsens the situation.
And one the most dangerous things about lucky bamboo root rot is that it will keep spreading and destroying more roots if you don’t resolve the issue.
Unpot the Plant
The next step is to take the plant out of its container.
This will let you take a good look and assess how much damage there is.
Unfortunately, with lucky bamboo root rot, once too many roots have rotted, the plant will be beyond saving.
As such, time is of the essence.
And the earlier you detect the possibility of root rot, the better the chance of saving the plant.
Once you’ve gotten the plant out of the pot, it is also a good idea to remove any soil on the roots. This will allow you to get a very clear look at the root system, including the healthy and rotten roots.
Prune the Rotten Roots
A very important part of saving a lucky bamboo with root rot is to prune all the damaged and rotten roots.
Healthy roots are white in color and have a firm texture when you touch them. They are also very flexible and pliable.
On the other hand, rotten roots are brown or black in color. They are soft, easy break and very fragile. Plus, the stink since they’ve died then rotted.
To trim the rotten roots, sterilize a pair or scissors or pruning shears.
You can use rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide on the blades.
Then cut off all the rotten roots. But be careful not to remove or damage any of the healthy roots. You want to preserve all the healthy roots as much as possible.
The plant will need as many healthy roots as it can have to try and recover from root rot.
Finally, keep track of how much of the root system you cut off.
A general idea will work including half the root system, a quarter, a third and so on.
Remove Damaged Leaves and Stems
Once you’re done pruning the rotten roots, sterilize the cutting tool again.
This prevents any possible fungal pathogens from getting passed from the dead, rotten roots to the blades of the scissors or shears.
The next step is then to remove the affected leaves and stems.
This include any stems that have rot, yellow or brown leaves.
If you pruned more than a third of the root system earlier, you will want to prune a corresponding amount of leaves on top as well.
A smaller root system will have a harder time supporting a larger plant while it tried to save itself and recover from root rot at the same time.
So, by evening out the size of the plant on top of the soil with the size of the root system, you avoid overwhelming the roots with the workload.
This gives it a better chance to survive and then thrive later.
Repot the Lucky Bamboo
The last step to saving a lucky bamboo from root rot is repotting it into dry soil.
Here, you’ll likely be using a smaller pot compared to the previous one since you’ve pruned part of the root system.
make sure the pot you’re using has drainage holes to prevent overwatering from happening again.
Similarly, use a soil mix that is well-draining and has good aeration.
This will allow the soil to drain excess moisture to prevent waterlogging and overwatering from happening.
You can use a soil mix consisting of potting soil, perlite, orchid bark and charcoal.
Don’t Water the Plant for a While
One important thing to not do after repotting a lucky bamboo with root rot is water it immediately.
Instead, wait a few days to a little over a week before you add water.
This will give the plant some time to recover.
Additionally, make sure to adjust your watering schedule.
In most cases, overwatering and waterlogging are the reasons for lucky bamboo root rot. So, it is very important to find a consistent watering schedule that will let you avoid this from happening again.
Lucky bamboo like moist soil. But they hate wet, mucky soil.
Therefore, you don’t need to water the plant daily or every other day.
Instead, always check the soil with your fingers before adding any water. I like to feel the soil once every 4 or 7 days.
Just stick your finger into the soil down 2 inches from the surface.
The soil at that level needs to feel dry before you add any water. Never add water to your lucky bamboo is the soil is moist or still wet.
This increases the risk of overwatering which can lead to root rot.
Place it in an Ideal Environment
The last part of lucky bamboo root rot care after repotting is to find a good spot for the plant.
Ideally, keep the plant in a well-lit location with no direct sunlight.
Medium to bright indirect light is best for health and growth.
But if you don’t get a lot of sunlight into your home, you can use grow lights as well.
Position the plant in a spot with moderate to warm temperature. It will do well in average room humidity.
Propagate Your Lucky Bamboo (Worst Case Scenario)
Unfortunately, saving a lucky bamboo from root rot does not always yield success.
While this is a sad outcome, it usually happens when the entire root system has rotted already or almost all of the roots are rotten.
At this point, the plant is likely beyond saving.
The good news is you can still do something about it.
While you may not save the mother plant, you can grow new lucky bamboo from it.
This is where propagation comes in.
The key here is to find healthy cuttings. This can be challenging is most of the cuttings are damaged or have been affected in one way or another.
Because of the dire situation, I like to play safe and take more than one healthy cutting and propagate them.
This way, in case one cutting does not root or successfully propagate, you still have others that do.