Lucky bamboo, Dracaena sanderiana, is an ornamental house plant that is recognized as a tool in Feng Shui to help promote prosperity and good luck. It’s a popular housewarming gift that thrives indoors, and it isn’t bamboo! Bamboo, which originated in Asia, grows outdoors in tropical climates. Lucky bamboo is an indoor plant.
While it thrives indoors, lucky bamboo does tend to turn yellow. There are many reasons why you might end up with yellow lucky bamboo and there are also tried and tested ways to stop it from getting yellow parts. We have a bunch of tips including ideas of what to do if your lucky bamboo plant starts to turn yellow.
Reasons why lucky bamboo turns yellow
Lucky bamboo is easy to care for … as long as it gets the right amount of warmth, light, moisture, and food. Too much water, chemicals in the water, too much direct sunlight, sudden temperature shifts, and too much fertilizer are all common reasons for your bamboo plant turning yellow.
You can grow Dracaena sanderiana in containers, in moist soil, or in water, as long as it doesn’t contain chlorine and is fresh or distilled. It will also grow in filtered water. According to the North Dakota State University (NDSU) fundis, bottled water tends to create a build-up of minerals and/or salts that can be harmful to the plant.
At some stage, you may find your lucky bamboo turning yellow simply because it’s getting old! It’s a bit like us getting wrinkles and gray hair.
Usually, you’ll see the yellowing leaves at the bottom of the plant. The new, young, green leaves will be at the top of the lucky bamboo stalks.
As your Dracaena sanderiana sheds its old yellowing leaves, it needs energy for the new growth. Trimming the old leaves will help the plant to generate new, healthy growth.
Sudden Temperature Changes
Lucky bamboo prefers and does best when the temperature is between 65 and 95℉. This is quite a wide range of temperatures, and it’s not that fussy.
What lucky bamboo doesn’t like, though, is sudden temperature changes. If it gets hot or cold quickly, it can go into shock.
For this reason, it’s also important to keep your plants away from air vents and open windows.
If your lucky bamboo plant doesn’t get enough light, you will see the bamboo leaves turning yellow. But too little light will also make them turn yellow and they will start to drop.
Lucky bamboo prefers indirect light. Move it around now and then if you need to.
Water and Moisture
It isn’t rocket science, but incorrect watering can kill lucky bamboo. And that means you need to be careful not to overwater your plants or fail to give them enough water!
If you are growing your plants in soil, water it when the top half of the soil is dry. Add water until it flows out of the drainage holes in the pot and discards any excess water from the pot.
You don’t want your plants to sit in soggy soil otherwise you might end up with root rot and dead plants.
If you are growing your lucky bamboo in water, keep the water clean. It’s not going to be happy in stagnant water, so change the water at least once a week.
Water quality is another important factor. Some tap water can cause lucky bamboo leaves to turn yellow and even brown.
This is because there are usually chemicals in the water supplied to our homes, including chlorine and fluoride. Ideally, use rainwater or distilled water. If you opt for filtered water make sure it doesn’t contain fluoride.
Too much fertilizer can burn the roots of lucky bamboo, which will result in a yellow stem and the bamboo leaves turning yellow.
Because lucky bamboo thrives on nitrogen, it gets all the nutrients it needs from water. It also needs iron and magnesium.
There is a caveat, though. Distilled water lacks the nutrients it needs. So, if you are growing your plant in distilled water, add a few drops of liquid fertilizer to the water.
The most suitable fertilizer for lucky bamboo plants contains nitrogen (N), potassium (K), and phosphorus (P) with a few trace elements. These are usually in a 2-2-2 ratio ensuring that there are balanced amounts of N, K, and P.
What to do when your lucky bamboo turns yellow?
If you realize your lucky bamboo plant is turning yellow you need to take action straight away. That’s the best way you can help your plant recover quickly.
But first, look to see where the yellowing starts. If a yellow stem starts at the bottom of the plant there’s a good chance that the water, or any rocks you have placed in the container, are contaminated.
If the yellowing starts in the upper part of the stem this might be a lack of essential nutrients or aging. Either way, trim off the yellow parts as described below.
Change the Water
If you are growing lucky bamboo in water be sure to change the water often. Algae form quite quickly in warm weather, so if you notice the water is getting even slightly cloudy, pour it out and refill the container.
Clean the Container
If you have been less than meticulous about changing the water in your container, before you refill it with water, clean it thoroughly with a little soap. Rinse thoroughly before refilling.
Move the Plant
Lucky bamboo prefers indirect light. If it gets direct sunlight, this can encourage algae to grow and it often results in bamboo leaves turning yellow.
Avoid moving it to a spot near open doors or windows. It doesn’t like drafty spaces.
Repot the Plant
If you are growing your plant in soil, yellow parts of the plant may be the result of the plant becoming root-bound. Try repotting your lucky bamboo in a larger pot.
If you react quickly, your lucky bamboo leaves may turn green again.
How to prevent your lucky bamboo from turning yellow
We’ve talked about the reasons for a lucky bamboo plant turning yellow. If you are cognizant of the elements lucky bamboo prefers, you will prevent it from turning yellow.
Giving potted lucky bamboo too much water is a primary reason it turns yellow. So, don’t give it too much water.
You can spray the leaves of your plant with a little water to keep them fresh and clean.
Use Water That Won’t Harm the Plant
Tap water might seem clean and pure, but it contains chemicals that are harmful to lucky bamboo plants. You can prevent it from turning yellow by using the right water.
Rainwater is the best water to use. Otherwise, use distilled water. Filtered water is also good as long as it doesn’t contain chemicals.
Get the Light Right
Lucky bamboo thrives in indirect light, but if it doesn’t get enough light, this will also make it turn yellow.
Healthy lucky bamboo plants don’t need fertilizer unless you are growing them in distilled water that lacks essential nutrients. In this case, all you need are a couple of drops of liquid fertilizer in the water.
Generally, it’s good practice to feed your lucky bamboo with half the amount of fertilizer recommended on the packaging.
Trim Off Any Yellow Parts
If your plant has yellowing leaves, trim these off so that it can direct its energy to the rest of the plant. If you have a yellow stem, remove it and discard it.
Some horticulturists recommend sealing the cut end of the stem with a little candle or car wax.
Other tips for a healthy lucky bamboo
The lucky bamboo plant looks a lot like bamboo, but its growth pattern is totally different. As the plant ages, the lucky bamboo leaves develop into plant stalks.
If you cut the stalk, it won’t grow any taller. But as the stalk develops, you can manipulate the stalks using wire to make them twist and bend.
You can also take a stalk that has developed from leaves, clip it at its base, and put it in distilled water so that it sprouts and forms more bamboo. The new parent stalk will sprout new leaves and the plant will start a new cycle.
Once your lucky bamboo plants are established, keep them in a low-light environment indoors, away from direct sunlight. Remember, it doesn’t need soil or fertilizer to grow.
Lucky bamboo is probably the only plant that is called bamboo but isn’t bamboo! Rather it is Dracaena sanderiana, a species of flowering plant in the family Asparagaceae.
The reason we call it bamboo is because the stem looks a lot like bamboo, with intermittent nodes on its stem. You will also find that it is sometimes called Chinese water bamboo, Friendship bamboo, and the ribbon plant.
It doesn’t take much to keep lucky bamboo plants healthy and green. But there are a few important considerations that you need to be aware of.
We have covered all of these in these garden tips, to help you do what it takes to keep your lucky bamboo from yellowing.