A lucky bamboo turning yellow is not normal. And this can happen to its leaves or stems. So, if you see the plant develop yellow leaves or yellow stems, it is important to pay special attention to the plant since this is its cry for help to tell you that something is not right.
Why is Your Lucky Bamboo Turns Yellow?
Overwatering is the most common reason for yellowing lucky bamboo plant. But there are other causes as well including insufficient light, nutrient deficiencies, low humidity, water quality and cold temperature.
Therefore, it is important identify and diagnose which of these is the actual cause before you start treatment. Once you figure out the cause, fixing it is usually straightforward.
Causes of Lucky Bamboo Turning Yellow
Yellow leaves and stalks on lucky bamboo plants is a sign that something is wrong. It means that there is a problem with the plant, and it needs your help.
However, there are many different reasons why your lucky bamboo is turning yellow. As such, it is important to understand what is happening in each scenario.
Older leaves will turn yellow. As such, you’ll see your lucky bamboo turn yellow if some leaves are old and ready to be shed by the plant in order to make room for new ones.
Usually, you’ll see new growth appearing as well.
And the older, yellow leaves will be at the bottom.
The good news is that this is part of the plant’s natural cycle where it produces new leaves and will shed old leaves to make way for new growth.
On your part, you don’t really have to do anything. But you can also opt to help it out by removing the old, yellow leaves.
That’s because while these are attached to the plant, the plant will continue to support them. As such, it uses valuable energy and resources that it could be channeling to other healthy leaves or for new growth.
So, by removing these yellow leaves you allow the plant to focus on new growth and develop the healthy leaves even further.
Overwatering is the Most Common Cause of Lucky Bamboo Turning Yellow
Overwatering is the biggest thing you want to watch out for with lucky bamboo. That’s because not only can it turn the plant’s leaves yellow, and it can also cause root rot.
Overwatering is when you water the plant too much or too frequently.
Although, it can also happen with poor soil or pot drainage. Both of these will result in waterlogging which leads to overwatering since the roots end up sitting in water for extended periods of time.
The problem with this is that it can cause the roots to suffocate if there is too much water and lack of access or oxygen.
Similarly, a damp environment makes increases the risk of fungal infection, some of which can eat away at the roots. Thus, resulting in root rot as well.
Therefore, it is very important to understand when to water and how to water the plant. This will let you avoid lucky bamboo turning yellow at the leaves or stalks.
When to Water the Lucky Bamboo
How often you water your lucky bamboo will depend on the time of year. Summers are hotter so you will need to water it regularly. During winter, cut back on watering significantly.
Therefore, avoid using a fixed schedule.
Instead, I prefer to adjust my watering schedule by what the plant is telling me.
And the best way to do this is to check the soil for moisture. If you feel the soil of your plants about twice a week, you’ll see get a good feel of when each of them will need watering.
For the lucky bamboo, you want to wait until at least the top 2 inches of soil is completely dry before adding water. This will prevent overwatering.
To test this, just insert your index finger into the soil down to the second knuckle. This is about 2 inches. If the soil there feels dry, you can water. But if you feel any moisture, even a little bit, wait 2 days and test the soil again.
Never water before the top 2 inches of soil has dried. This will allow you to avoid overwatering.
If you want to be more conservative, you can wait until the top 25% or 50% of soil has dried. This will keep the soil around the roots moist. But in will prevent any risk of overwatering.
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How to Water the Lucky Bamboo
Once it is time to water the plant, soak the root ball until it is drenched or saturated. You’ll know as the bottom of the pot will begin dripping.
When this happens, stop adding water and allow the soil to completely drain.
This process will give the roots all the water it needs to stay hydrated. Then, draining the excess moisture will prevent the roots from sitting in water for long periods of time.
Thus, while draining the soil takes anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes depending on how big your plant is, it is essential as it prevents overwatering and waterlogging. So, never skip this step.
Too Much Direct Sunlight Can Make Lucky Bamboo Turn Yellow
Another reason your lucky bamboo is turning yellow is because of excess light exposure.
To understand how much light it needs, it is important to go back to its native habitat.
The lucky bamboo grows in the wild in tropical rainforests. Because it is not a huge plant, it lives under the canopy of the large trees and other plants.
Thus, the leaves and branches cover the plant from most of the sun’s strong rays.
As a result, it receives filtered or dappled light. Therefore, it is not accustomed to the harsh rays of the sun.
For this reason, bright, indirect or filtered light is best when growing the plat indoors. Outdoors, it will grow best in partial shade. Avoid full sun if you keep it outdoors.
Indoors, you want to avoid the sun’s direct rays during the hottest times of the day.
This means that direct sunlight when the sun is intense is a no-no. This will turn the lucky bamboo yellow. And in extreme exposure, its leaves can get scorched and suffer burn marks.
So avoid leaving it in the west or south facing window where it is directly in the path of the sun’s rays during 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. This is when the sun is strongest.
You can distance the plant from the window since it will still get enough bright light. Or you can use shades or curtains to filter the light from the sun to protect the plant.
Nutrient deficiencies can cause yellow leaves, wilting and drooping. It can also be the reason your plant is not growing fast enough or not growing at all.
This means that if you haven’t been giving it any fertilizer for a few years now, your lucky bamboo may be turning yellow because it lacks nutrients.
This can be the case for plants that are grown in water.
Therefore, whether your grow your lucky bamboo in water or soil, it is important to give it both macronutrients and micronutrients. This is easily done with a high quality fertilizer.
A balanced formulation will work very well as it contains nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. However, make sure it has micronutrients as well.
If you’re growing your lucky bamboo in water add some liquid fertilizer to the water.
Excess Fertilizer Can Cause Yellowing of Lucky Bamboo
Above, I mentioned that fertilizer it important not only to keep the plant healthy and away from yellowing, it also helps with optimal growth.
However, too much fertilizer is worse than not feeding the plant at all.
That’s because the excess fertilizer will encourage faster plant development when the roots have not grown enough to support the plant. As such, this results in stress and weakens the plant.
And you’ll see it yellowing wilt or even lose some leaves.
Additionally, excess fertilizer can cause fertilizer burn which will damage the roots.
Therefore, only feed the plant during its growing season. Use a weak fertilizer or dilute the application since the lucky bamboo does not need a lot of it.
If you suspect that over fertilizing is the cause of your lucky bamboo turning yellow, flush the soil.
You can do so by running water through the root ball for several minutes. This will allow the water to carry the excess salts and minerals that have built up in the soil out with it when the water drains.
You can do this every few months to ensure you never over fertilize the plant.
Extreme temperature can cause the plant stress.
When it gets too hot, the plant can experience heat stress. When it gets too cold, it can get stressed and even sustain cold injury.
Additionally, the lucky bamboo does not like sudden temperature fluctuations which also causes it stress.
When it experiences a lot of stress, you’ll see it turn yellow, wilt, and even drop leaves.
As such, try to keep the plant in its ideal temperature range of 65 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. This is easy to do indoors in homes and offices because humans enjoy 65 to 75 degree Fahrenheit temperature.
However, avoid going far above the range as well as below 55 degrees Fahrenheit since the plant is not cold hardy.
The lucky bamboo needs humidity of 50% and higher. This can make it challenging to grow in some homes considering the average humidity in most homes runs between 20% and 50%.
Also, it can drop during winter when the air gets very dry.
As such, if you have dry air where you live or humidity stays in the 30s or below, it may be the reason why your lucky bamboo is turning yellow.
In addition to this, the leaves can eventually dry out and you’ll see brown, crispy and brittle tips and edge.
To remedy this, it is a good idea to have a hygrometer on hand. This will allow you to keep track of the humidity indoors. If it gets too low for the lucky bamboo’s needs, you can employ any of the following to increase humidity around the plant.
My favorite is using a pebble tray or a DIY humidity tray.
You can create a simple pebble tray by getting a tray and filing it with water. Then place some pebbles in the water so the top of the pebbles is above the liquid.
Place the plant above the pebbles.
As the water evaporates, the vapor will increase moisture in the air around the plant. In doing so, it increases relative humidity.
You can likewise create a humidity tray instead of pebble tray.
Here, use a tray like the one you use in baking or grilling. Fill it with water. Then place a grill on top to cover the tray. The grill will act like a platform above the tray and water.
You can then place the plant on top of the grill.
Since the grill allows air to easily pass through, the water will evaporate and increase humidity around the plant.
Other options are:
- Mist the plant
- Get a humidifier
- Move the plant to the bathroom
Pests are known for their ability to damage a plant.
While they are very tiny in size, they will grow in population very rapidly. This makes them very dangerous.
The reason is that the pests that the lucky bamboo attracts are sap suckers like mites and mealybugs. As such, they feed on the plant by robbing its sap.
Unfortunately, the sap contains moisture and nutrients that are meant for different parts of the plant including the leaves.
As such, the larger the infestation, the more water and nutrients your plant loses.
This not only causes lack of water but also nutrient deficiencies. As a result, leaving the bugs to keep growing weakens the plant.
Eventually leaves develop yellow or brown patches. And these get bigger until entire leaves turn yellow. They will also cause holes on leaves. And in time the holes get bigger.
If left untreated, you’ll see leaves begin falling off as well.
Finally, the pests can overwhelm and overrun the plant causing it to die.
As such, immediate treatment is necessary once you spot any of these pests.
You can use neem oil or insecticidal soap to treat them.
In most cases, tap water does not harm lucky bamboo. However, it is important to note that the plant is finicky about water quality.
As such, if your municipality happens to add a lot of minerals and chemicals into the tap or you have hard water, it can cause browning or yellowing of lucky bamboo plants.
If you suspect this, the best option is to collect and use rainwater for the plant. If it does not rain a lot in your area, you can filter the tap water to remove excess minerals like chlorine and fluoride.
This will make the water safe for your lucky bamboo.
Another option if you don’t want to spend money on filtering the water is to use tap water. But before you do, allow it to sit at room temperature at least overnight.
This will allow the chemicals to evaporate before you water your lucky bamboo with it.