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Lucky Bamboo Isn’t Feeling So Lucky

Ask the Expert: Please help me save my lucky bamboo! I’ve had it over three years and its grown from two inches tall to over 14″ tall, but now the bottom leaves are turning yellow. First it was just one, but now its the bottom four on each stalk. I changed the water (it stunk!), switched to water I’ve let sit over 24 hours, moved it away from cool air and any possibility of direct sunlight, but it is getting worse! The pot is only 2″x2″, but I’m afraid to stress it out with a pot change. How can I save it!??? Thank you!


  1. I think your lucky bamboo can be saved. First we need to understand what caused the problems.

    Yellow leaves can be an indicator that it has gotten too much light or fertilizer. As long as the stalk is still green, then changing the water and moving it away from direct light is the best course of action. However, it will take a little time to recover so don’t panic.

    The stinky water is also an indicator of too much light and fertilizer and maybe a pathogen like algae, fungus or insects. Any time your are changing your water and it smells, wash the container before replacing the water. Also, wash the pebbles and the lucky bamboo stalks. Use can use a drop of dish detergent in water to clean everything.

    You can always cut the tops of the stalks and start new ones. You may want to review some of the other lucky bamboo questions on the site or read our Caring For Lucky Bamboo newsletter.

  2. jennifer hensley says:

    i would like to know how to trim my lucky bamboo .i got it in dirt and its growing tall and falling over. im afraid to do my self. so could you please help me.thank you

  3. Sandra Smith says:

    Can you advice me what is the best weather condition that is suited for the growth of Bamboos.I live in an country which has extreme weather conditions & during summer at normal room temperature my bamboo get pale & start yellowing.But once relocated in an airconditioned environment they are fine

    Plese advice

  4. Sandra,

    Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana) needs a bright environment away from direct sunlight. The minimum temperature required is 60degrees Fahrenheit or 16 degrees Celsius. The heat tolerance zone (heat tolerance is based on number of days in which temperature exceeds 86 degrees fahrenheit) for lucky bamboo are zones 12-10. This means the plant can not take over 210 days or less than 150 day above 86 degrees (30 degrees Celsius).

    You are probably exposing the lucky bamboo to direct light or over fertilizing it when it turn pale and yellow. If placed in front of a window, the temperature and light exposure might be greater than you think. The relocation probably was more of a light factor than a temperature factor. However, plants do acclimate themselves to the temperature of their environment so sudden temperature swings will effect them.

  5. Jennifer,

    You can trim your lucky bamboo by cutting the stalk. Do this by finding a node (the raised rings that grow around the stalk) at the height you want your plant to be. Cut the stalk off at an inch above the node. The stalk will regrow from that area. Then you can root the part you cut off and start a new plant.

  6. I have a plant that the stem has turned completely yellow and soft, but the leaves are still green
    for now. I cut all but an inch of the stem and kept it in the water, it doesn’t seem to help now the leaves closet to the stem are also turning yellow. Is there anything I can do to save it?

  7. Delores,

    Is there only an inch of stem before you get to the leaves? If so you may need to remove the leaves closest to the bottom of the stem. Did you place your lucky bamboo in fresh distilled water? If not change the water and replace with fresh. Is any part of the stem firm? You must cut off any part of the stem that is not firm.

  8. Elise Covas says:

    My Bamboo has been great up ’til now, when its leaves have yellowed and stalk is slowly turning yellow. I used to have it in a window, but moved it when i read direct sunlight is not healthy for it. It’s in a water vase and I refresh the water about every other week. Its winter her, has that affected my bamboo? Is there a way for me to ‘un-yellow’ my bamboo?

  9. Elise,

    Have you fertilized it lately? Too much fertilizer can cause lucky bamboo to turn yellow. If the leaves turned yellow before you moved it, then the over exposure to light was the cause. However if the plant turned yellow after you moved it from the light, then fertilizer may be the problem. I would change the water (use distilled water if possible) and cut the yellow part of the stalk off. I know this will take the leaves off with it, but new leaves will form at the cut. Make your cut an inch above on of the nodes. A few days after you Cut the top out of your lucky bamboo, mist the cut part to encourage new growth. Don’t fertilize your lucky bamboo for at least a few weeks.

  10. I left my lucky bamboo plant in my car and it was around 35-45 degree that night. The next day I placed it on my office desk and now the leaves are turing yellow and one of the stalks have turn yellow also. Some of the stalks have gotten alittle soft as while. Is there any hope for my Lucky Plant?

  11. Will,

    I’m afraid you have damage that can’t be repaired. However if there is any green left to the stalks, you can start new ones. On the stalk that are a little soft find a solid section and follow the instructions listed about or on the Caring for Lucky Bamboo page. On the yellow stalks cut off the yellow and follow same instruction as above. Good Luck.

  12. I have two lucky bamboo growing in my fish tank, its a 30 gallon tank and the bamboo are doing well. The problem is one of them is growing out of the top of the tank and I need to trim it and I dont know how. So how do I go about that?

  13. Jessica,

    You might want to take the tall lucky bamboo stalk out of the tank to trim it. Cut the lucky bamboo stalk off an inch about a node – one of the raised rings on the stalk. The part of the lucky bamboo that still has roots will have new growth from the cut area. Try to keep the cut area out of the water. Now take the top that doesn’t have roots and dip the cut into rooting hormone – let dry overnight and place in a container with fresh distilled water – new roots will appear in a couple of weeks. This should solve the height problem and give you a new lucky bamboo stalk to boot.

  14. Jessica, thanks for the help information you gave me in reference to my lucky bamboo. I thought my plants was going to die however, when I read your response. The good news is that give stalks did live and it appears as though they are going to make it. I did cut the died parts from the dying stalks and now it appears that they are going back. I guess will name my plant the Comeback Queen!

  15. Hello when I got my lucky bamboo two of the stalks were mostly yellow and one was half green half yellow. About a week later all of the stalks were yellow and mushy when I changed the water it was stinky! Is there any way to save my poor plant and turn it back into the green strong bamboo plant it is supposed be-thanks.

  16. Matthew,

    Any part of the plant that is yellow and mushy is gone and will not come back. If you have any green left, you can cut out the yellow and save the lucky bamboo. First begin by cleaning your container and all the pebbles or rocks with soapy water. Rinse the container thoroughly and fill with distilled water. Then cut out all of the yellow. If the only green part is at the top, you will have to re-root the lucky bamboo. If the green part is attached to the roots, you can simply place it back in the container. Read Caring For Lucky Bamboo it will give you care and propagating instructions.

  17. Thanks for all of the information about lucky bamboo but I don\’t think it will help it. When I washed out the container, rocks, and bamboo stalks I noticed that there was no green left on the stalks the only green left was on the leaves that are now mostly yellow after I cleaned it. I did not give it any fertilizer but the company that grew it might have. Is there any thing left that Ican do or should I just give up.

  18. My lucky bamboo has been fine for probably two and a half years. Recently, seemingly out of nowhere, many of the leaves began to yellow. Three of the stalks turned yellow too. I removed all of them and now it’s looking healthier, but maybe a little pale. I haven’t fertilized it. Is there anything I should do for it, or do you think it’s recovering on its own?

  19. Canyon,

    Now that the Lucky Bamboo is recovering, I would give it a very weak solution of fertilizer. Watch it carefully. If it starts to turn yellow again, I suggest taking cuttings and start new plants.

  20. If I cut my bamboo in half and stick the part i cut off back into the pot, will it re root and grow?

  21. It should. It helps if you make the cut in the proper place and use rooting hormone. However, I have seen lucky bamboo root without rooting hormone. It should take a week or two to form roots.

  22. Hi there! I have a Bamboo that my Mother in law gave me 5 years ago and it has always been very full and thriving. about one month ago the leaves started turning yellow and I noticed the roots really stunk. I repotted it and rinsed the roots and rocks really well before putting it in a new larger container. I have noticed that 1 out of the eight stalks is brown up to 4 inches above the rocks, 5 of the other stalks have decreased in density and strength and have a more shrivled appearance. the leaves are all doing well, no more yellowing and there continues to new growth, but my plant is now leaning and lacks it’s previous strength. Will they “plump” back up or should i just cut the healthy tops and start new plants. I hate to do that since this plant has sentimental value.

  23. At some point you may have gotten a fungus or too much fertilizer. I would remove any soft and mushy stalks. I would top the healthy stalks and start new ones in a separate container.

  24. My lucky bamboo was given to me in a glass plant bowl and it already had rocks in it. Now one of its’ stalks starting turning yellow on the top and has traveled down the stalk. The roots have grown all around the rocks and I’ve never changed the water and washed out the rocks. I have only added more in. So I’m guessing maybe its a fungus. I don’t know what to do. The other stalks are still dark green and i don’t this one to affect the others. Should I wash out the rocks and glass bowl? Or will that break its roots and effect it further? Please help! I have no experience with plants!

  25. Usually when a lucky bamboo stalk turns yellow it is a light or fertilizer issue. I suggest a couple of things. 1 – remove the yellow stalk and cut the yellow part off. Place this stalk in a new container filled with distilled water (or tap water that has been in an open container for 24 hours). Once the cut has callused over, start misting the stalk on a daily basis with luke warm water this will encourage the plant to create new leaves. As for the other lucky bamboo stalks, a good cleaning might be helpful. Remove the stalks from the container – Don’t worry about breaking off some of the roots. Wash the bowl and the rocks with hot soapy water. Rinse the rocks and the bowl thoroughly. Take a wet cloth rag and wipe down the lucky bamboo stalks. Place the stalks and the rocks back in the container and fill with distilled water. Don’t fertilize the stalks for several months. Place your lucky bamboo containers in an area with bright filtered light. Direct light will burn the plants. Good Luck>

  26. Diana Perez says:

    I wanted to know how many drop of green green do I use . I’ve change the water every 2months but I don’t know how many drop of green green to use. And how offen do I use it.

  27. I am not familiar with green green, but I would reccomend 1/10th of the normal strength every 6 months.

  28. My bamboo leaves are like flapping down there long I have stems about 5 inches and some about 7 in. wrapped together do I cut the leaves off or what

  29. Sergio,
    Yes you can cut the leaves off.

  30. Hi,
    So about 2 weeks ago I left my bamboo plant in my car for the whole day because I couldn’t take it home right away. It was a little wilted so I had it in my room in a well lit area with no direct sunlight. I bought them from Walmart and they came with a vase and these water ball things. they grow bigger when they are in water and gives water to the plant when it needs water. They didn’t change the plant a different color and the stalks are still green but most of the leaves have turned yellow so I cut those ones off. I changed the water and put stones in the vase instead of those water beads. Should I cut off all the leaves and will that save my bamboo? It’s really pretty and I don’t want to lose it. Can anyone help?

  31. Tiffany,
    If there are any yellow leaves, pull them off. Pulling is better because the metal of the scissors grown where the leaves are cut. Direct sunlight affects the plant tremendously, so that may be the reason. Also, even though most bamboos are sold in water containers, over time that causes the roots to rot. You may want to plant it in a soil container. If the stalk is still green, you have no reason to panick, but do remove any yellow leaves.

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