Top 10 FAQ for Lucky Bamboo

My Garden Life
May 24, 2018
Table of Contents

1. Soil vs. Water

Lucky Bamboo grows in soil or in water alone. If grown in soil, keep the soil slightly moist and water when the top 1 inch of soil is dry to the touch. If grown in water, keep the roots covered with water at all times.

2. Fertilize

Dilute an all-purpose houseplant food to 1/10 the strength directed on the label. Apply every three months for Lucky Bamboo grown in water or every month for Lucky Bamboo grown in soil.

3. Yellowing Leaves/ Yellowing Stem

If the stem turns yellow from the base of the stalk up, then plant may have been over-fertilized. Change the water immediately and do not fertilize the plant for a couple months.

If the entire stem and leaves suddenly turned yellow, then your plant may have been sunburned. Make sure it’s not located in direct sunlight.

Minerals and fluoride in tap water can cause yellowing of the leaves. To avoid leaf yellowing, use distilled water or rainwater.

4. Repotting

Multiple stalks can be split into more than one container, if desired. When bamboo shoots are restricted by the current container or if the roots are restricted inside the pot, then you should transfer your plant to a larger pot.

5. Trimming/Pruning

Lucky Bamboo plants require minimal maintenance. Simply remove dead or yellowed leaves, as needed.

If the plant becomes top heavy with too many leaves over time, use sterile scissors to trim off side shoots one inch above the base. Cut the offshoots only, not the main stalk.

6. Light Requirement

Set Lucky Bamboo plants in a bright location, but not directly in sunlight. Too much direct light will burn the leaves. If the leaves turn yellow overnight, move the plant further from its light source.

7. Water Change

When the plant is grown in water alone, dump the water and refill with fresh water every two weeks. Use distilled water or rainwater, to prevent the fluoride in tap water from turning the leaf tips brown.

8. Start a New Lucky Bamboo

If the plant is getting too tall, cut an offshoot from the main stem one inch above the node. Set the newly cut stalk in two inches of water and wait for roots to grow. In a few weeks, the new plant is ready to continue growing in water alone or potted in soil.

9. Green Water

Sunlight eventually causes algae to grow in water. It’s a natural occurrence and a sign the water is due to be changed. Replace the water, plus scrub and rinse any rocks submerged in the water. To limit the water from turning green, move the plant to a less sunny spot.

10. Brown Stem

This is a sign of the roots rotting from over-fertilization or over-watering in plants potted in soil. It’s a drastic situation and the plant may not be savable, but it doesn’t hurt to try. Cut off the unhealthy, brown stem and attempt to start new roots by setting the remaining healthy stem in water.

If you’d like to add mood-boosting plants alongside your lucky bamboo, here’s a list of 10 Indoor Plants for a Healthier Office.
Lucky Bamboo in Water, Lucky Bamboo Growing in Stones, Lucky Bamboo Planted in Soil

15 Comments

  1. Margaret Trezza

    I’ve kept my 2 year old lucky bamboo in bottled water, changing every week. Your info is most helpful and I see that the water should be in distilled water. 1) Could that be why my bamboo is dark grey for about 1 inch up the stalk from the bottom? Today I purchased distilled water.
    2) Do you recommend that I clean off the darkness with Dawn soap? Plain water doesn’t remove the dark area. Thank you!!

    Reply
    • My Garden Life

      Hi Margaret,
      If the darkened area is firm and isn’t spreading, and the remainder of the stem is green, and the plant is producing healthy roots, then you could probably just let it be. It could just be a natural symptom of the stem aging. If the dark area is mushy, that could suggest stem rot. In that case you would want to cut the stem off above the darkened area leaving only healthy green tissue. Sanitize the container using a mix of one part bleach to nine parts water and rinse it thoroughly before refilling with water and putting the stem back in the container. We do not recommend washing the plant with dish soap.

      Reply
      • Patti

        I tried to save someone’s lucky bamboo that was dying. All but two stalks were totally dead and one of the survivors was over half way gone. I managed to propagate three new shoots off the old plants and they are growing well but not forming the traditional ‘bamboo’ stalk. They have leaves all up and down the stalk. Will they drop the lower leaves or keep growing the way they ate? Will the surviving original stalk ever grow leaves again?

        Reply
        • My Garden Life

          Hi Patti,
          If the surviving original stalk is healthy, it should eventually sprout a new stem. Good job on successfully propagating three new plants! Their appearance is going to look more like a leafy foliage plant getting started. Someday the stems should thicken as the plant grows, giving it more of the traditional lucky bamboo appearance. We found a video that you might find helpful, demonstrating how to prepare young stalks for transformation into more complex lucky bamboo creations. The stage of the plants he’s working with in the demonstration also helps show what you can expect as your plants develop. Click here to view.

          Reply
          • Patti

            Thank you, I’ll let you know how they come out!

    • Lloyd

      My indoor bamboo leaves turning reddish brown, more reddish. My bamboo is potted.
      Is it too much fertilizer? Or too little/ much water

      Reply
      • My Garden Life

        Hi Lloyd,
        You don’t say whether the leaves are dying or just discolored so consider a few possibilities. It’s never a good idea to use fertilizer on a potentially sick plant so don’t feed your plant for a few months. If fertilizer is the problem, then you should start to see improvement once it’s out of the equation and regular watering starts to dilute and flush the soil of any excess fertilizer. Tap water that is high in chlorine or other chemicals can cause discoloration of lucky bamboo leaves. You could switch to watering with distilled water or filtered tap water. Too much sunlight can discolor leaves and eventually burn them to a crispy brown. Lucky bamboo prefers bright, indirect light so make sure it is to the side of a window where it won’t get hot, direct sun.

        Reply
  2. kia

    on the stock of my lucky bamboo has tan dried stuff looks like husks on outside of corn . does that need to come off ? can i take it off ?
    thank you for any help you can give me

    Reply
    • My Garden Life

      Hi Kia,
      As new growth emerges it’s not unusual for older growth to fade. I wonder if what you are describing is where older leaves have died off as new growth emerges? Given the way leaves sort of wrap around the main stem, if old, dead leaves are snipped close to the stem, there is that little bit remaining that will linger and dry up. Leaving the “husks” doesn’t bother the plant but if it is bothering you aesthetically, you could gently remove it. If it’s quite dry, probably just using a light touch with your fingernail to scrape it away would do the trick.

      Reply
  3. Megan

    I have some lucky bamboo stalks in a fish tank and the fish ate the leaves. Will it survive without leaves? The idea was to help stabilize the tank parameters, but if the stalks are going to die without leaves, it defeats the purpose of having them in there.

    Reply
    • My Garden Life

      Hi Megan,
      Well, that’s an interesting question. I suspect your plant will continue to try to produce new leaves (photosynthesis can still occur in the green areas of the stem) but if your fish have decided lucky bamboo is a tasty treat, it’s quite possible they’ll snack on the new growth just as fast as they devoured the large leaves.

      A leafless lucky bamboo stem probably doesn’t offer the aesthetics or contribute to the health of the tank in the way you’d hoped. It’s your call whether to replace it with a plant they find less appetizing or leave it a while and see what happens. What a bunch of rascals your fish are! I’m sorry they don’t appreciate your efforts to provide them with lovely décor and a healthy environment – not a plant buffet.

      Reply
      • Maddie

        Hi! I found your article while trying to figure out how to approach saving my lucky bamboo. I’ve had it in a vase with water for over 4 years now, and this plant means a lot to me. I was on vacation for two weeks and my roommate was supposed to be watering it, but he did not and I came back to it with a lot of yellowing/ lightened leaves. It was also left in front of a window so it could be slightly sunburned as well as water starved. Is there any saving the yellowing leaves? There’s still some green in a lot of them, they’re not crunchy at all and still seem to have some life. If I trim them all off my plant will be basically naked. Will the shoots ever grow the leaves back again? Or would I need to cut the shoots down as well? The shoots and stalks themselves are still a dark green, and about half of the leaves are still a lighter green. It has been replenished with water and removed from the window now, I’m just panicked and have been crying since I returned home because I’m scared it’s a lost cause! Thanks!

        Reply
        • My Garden Life

          Hi Maddie,
          It’s unlikely that the yellow leaves will recover, but where there’s green, there is chlorophyll, so leave any leaves with some green for now and see what happens. Even partially productive leaves have the potential to help your plant recover. It’s very good that the stem is still green. As long as the stems are still firm and green you definitely don’t want to cut them. Give your plant some time and see what happens. New growth may reemerge from the existing stems or new stems may sprout elsewhere on the stem. There’s no rush to remove any part of the plant. If/when the yellow leaves start turning brown and dry, you’ll know that they are definitely dead and can be removed at the base of the leaf. Fingers crossed you returned home just in time to rescue your plant!

          Reply
  4. Becky

    I’m so glad I stumbled across this article! I have a lucky bamboo plant (2 stalks) that has been in a vase with water and glass rocks for a few years. It has gotten pretty tall and seems happy enough but I think it needs a new vessel. Since it has been in just water all these years, should I stick with that and just get a bigger vase? Or would it get used to soil easily? Also, the rocks in the vase seem to be doing a good job of stabilizing the stalks. If I plant in soil, would I have to plant deeper to make sure they stand upright? I’m afraid of disturbing the roots too much as they’ve gotten pretty wound up between the rocks

    Reply
    • My Garden Life

      Hi Becky,
      Your plant would do best if you just stick with growing it in water at this point. Roots growing in water develop differently than roots growing in soil. Trying to transition to soil could lead to a decline or even death of your plant. If you do decide to try to pot it in soil, “yes”, you will need to plant it deep enough that the stems are secured and not falling over. To help you make your decision, have a look at this article we found that does a good job of explaining the difference between soil roots vs water roots.

      Reply

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