Unhealthy Lucky Bamboo: Common Diseases and Root/Leaf Problems

Lucky bamboo, also known as Dracaena sanderiana, the ribbon dracaena, curly bamboo, Chinese water bamboo, or the Goddess of Mercy’s plant is a very popular houseplant.

It’s resilient to most problems that would undoubtedly kill other houseplants, making it difficult to kill, but it’s not impossible.

If it looks like your lucky bamboo is suffering, here’s how to diagnose what’s wrong with it, and rescue the plant before it’s too late. 

How To Diagnose Houseplant Problems

Houseplants can’t exactly yell at us when we’re providing the wrong care. For the most part, their appearance changes dramatically, such as withering stems, drooping, and yellowing leaves, and this tells us that something isn’t right. 

The good news is that the very signs of a problem also hint at the solution, more often than not, as they can be very specific. 

For example, a stretched-out stalk, with huge gaps between the leaves, means that a plant is doing its best to search out more light, as it’s not getting enough in its current position.

But sometimes it’s a bit more difficult. For instance, yellow leaves may point to too little light or underwatering or overwatering. It depends on the species and the growing conditions.

To figure it out, try changing a single aspect of the growing conditions. If the plant starts to recover after a few days or a week, you’ve got it right. If not, return it to its original position and try something else until you see an improvement.

It’s always worth taking a few minutes each week or so to look over your houseplants and see how they are doing. The best cure is to catch things early while they are easy to treat. 

When you first move a new plant into its home, it’s normal to expect a yellow leaf here and there while it acclimatizes to its new environment, but if it continues to wilt or the leaves are changing color over many days or a few weeks, something is wrong.

Now let’s take a look at what your lucky bamboo plant is trying to tell you.

Lucky Bamboo Leaves Are Turning Yellow

Generally, this is the first sign your lucky bamboo is unhappy. If you’ve just changed the water and the leaves are turning yellow, this can mean that the water is the problem.

Tap water contains a lot of chemicals that make it safe for us to drink, but it can be harmful to your plants. Switch to cooled kettle water – sat out in an open container for a few days, or use filtered water.

Another cause of yellow leaves can be that the plant is receiving too much light. Lucky bamboo plants don’t like direct sun, as it burns the leaves. Move the plant out of its current position.

The Stalk Is Elongated And Thin

A very thin, long stalk on a lucky bamboo means that the plant isn’t getting enough light. It needs somewhere bright and indirect to thrive. 

Or, if your bamboo plant sits in plenty of light, it’s a sign of too many nutrients. If you’ve been feeding the plant, you’re overdoing it. If not, this could even be the manufacturer’s or the grower’s fault. 

Change the bamboo’s water every week or so, and hold off feeding it for at least a couple of months.

The Stalk Is Turning Yellow And Soft

Sadly, a yellow or soft stalk means that this particular part of the plant is dead. There’s no saving it. 

There are many reasons why this could have happened, and if you’ve got more than one stalk on your bamboo, remove the dead one immediately to stop the problem from spreading. 

It could be that the plant has completely dried out, or it had bacteria or fungus problems that went undiagnosed. 

Remember that it’s not possible to make every plant thrive no matter how hard you try, and then move on and buy a new plant!

Here are some tips to help you keep your bamboo plant as healthy as possible. 

Consider Changing The Water

Make sure you change the water at least every week or so. Grow your lucky bamboo in a clear container, so that you can keep an eye on the water.

Changing it regularly helps keep algae from forming – which shouldn’t form to begin with if there’s no organic matter (besides the roots) in the water. 

Add A Little Houseplant Feed To The Water

Every three months or so, it’s worth adding a drop or two of general and weak houseplant fertilizer to the water. 

This will give your lucky bamboo plant a boost of nutrients, without overwhelming the plant and causing more problems.

Watch Out For Pests

While not usually a problem, pests such as mealybugs and mites can affect your lucky bamboo, so keep an eye on the leaves and the stalk. 

These pests can be removed by dipping a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and applying it to the affected areas. Use it sparingly, as a little goes a long way.

Final Thoughts

Lucky bamboo is a plant that’s easy to care for, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible to kill. Take note of what the plant is telling you, and try changing one thing at a time to see if it improves.

As the plant is resilient, if you take action early there’s no reason why your plant shouldn’t recover.

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