How Do You Save a Dying Indoor Bamboo Plant?


You thought that by choosing an indoor bamboo plant that it’d be hardier, but now it’s dying on you and you want to save it. Can you?

How do you save a dying indoor bamboo plant? To save a dying indoor bamboo plant, you should do the following:

  • Avoid using chlorinated tap water
  • Watch your indoor temperatures
  • Clean the bowl and change out the water often
  • Track soil levels and make sure you’re not overwatering or underwatering
  • Fertilize only once or twice a year
  • Prune dying or dead leaves and stems
  • Don’t give the plant too much or too little light
  • Look for insects and get rid of them

In this article, we will go into detail on each of the above tips and strategies. You’ll learn how you could be accidentally killing your indoor bamboo plant and how to save it ASAP. Let’s get right into it, then!

A Quick Caveat on Indoor Bamboo Plants

The only indoor bamboo plant out there goes by the name lucky bamboo. However, this isn’t truly bamboo since real bamboo belongs to the Poaceae family of grasses and can’t grow indoors. Lucky bamboo, also referred to as the Dracaena sanderiana, is a member of the Asparagaceae family.

It’s a dracaena, then. It looks a lot like bamboo, even feels like bamboo, but it isn’t really bamboo. Still, lucky bamboo makes a wonderful houseplant for homes, apartments, or offices. It’s versatile, as you can grow it purely in water or traditionally in soil. If you’re a feng shui follower, then you need a lucky bamboo, as it’s supposed to create a sense of balanced energy.

How to Save a Dying Indoor Bamboo Plant

With that out of the way, what do you do if your lucky bamboo has begun to develop yellow stems or even yellow leaves? Can you help it or will you be forced to throw it away and start all over?

A lot of the time, you can save a dying indoor bamboo plant. Here’s how.

Check Your Water Source and Avoid Chlorinated Water

What kind of water source do you use for your dracaena? It’s probably tap water if you’re like a lot of gardeners. The problem with tap water is it can contain chlorine, and exposing your lucky bamboo to chlorine can leave it discolored and even dying.

You have two options for ensuring you don’t pour chlorine into your lucky bamboo’s pot or bowl anymore. The first is to prepare your tap water. Take the quantity of water you’d feed your plant and leave it in a cup or basin. Evaporation will occur, dissipating the chlorine. It takes all night for this to happen, so prep the water before bed and then pour in the morning.

Much more easily, you can also switch to filtered water. This will benefit your family as well as your houseplants, so it’s certainly worth considering.

Maintain a Consistent Temperature

Another basic mistake you could make without realizing it is not providing the right indoor temperature for your lucky bamboo. Stay within a range of 65- and 85-degrees Fahrenheit. There’s rarely a need for a humidifier then since many homes and offices set their temperatures somewhere in that range.

There’s a second temperature-related gaffe to watch out for. If you keep your indoor bamboo beneath a vent at home, you’ll want to move the plant right away. The draftiness from the air conditioner or heater alters the temperature too much. This could cause leaf or stem yellowing and other maladies for your dracaena.

Keep the Bamboo’s Bowl Clean

If you don’t grow your lucky bamboo in a bowl, then you can skip this step. Otherwise, you want to pay attention. Not many plants grow in water, so it’s easy to mess up if you’re inexperienced with houseplants like these.

First, you have to give your lucky bamboo the right amount of water. To figure out how much the plant needs, look at the bamboo’s roots and then measure. Most gardeners keep water levels no more than two inches over the roots, others only one inch. You want to replace that water about every week and definitely no longer than every 10 days.

The bowl itself needs your attention as well. If you notice green gunk in or around your bowl, then your lucky bamboo has a case of algae. These bacteria can spread to the roots. Oh, and the roots can get moldy, too, so that’s problematic.

Get into a regular bowl cleaning schedule. Maybe you can get away with doing this every month or two, but if you see algae, you’ve waited too long.

Avoid Overwatering and Underwatering

Okay, so what if you go the old-fashioned route and plant your lucky bamboo in soil like you do your other houseplants? You don’t have to worry about the bowl getting funky, but you are at risk of underwatering or overwatering your indoor plant.

To tell how thirsty your lucky bamboo is, do the good, ol’ soil test. Press your finger gently on the surface of the soil. How does it feel? If it’s dry, then it’s time to water the dracaena until the soil moistens. If it’s already moist, then don’t give houseplant more water until the soil gets a bit drier.

Now, you may wonder, since lucky bamboo can sit in several inches of water, will a bit of overwatering hurt it? Yes, it can. As you recall, mold and algae can grow on the plant, and these can cause root rot.

Leaf yellowing will let you know the rotting process has begun. The roots may become slimy and the stems brown if you don’t address root rot fast enough. It becomes much harder, maybe even impossible, to save your dying indoor bamboo plant at that point.

Fertilize One to Two Times Per Year

Those gardeners who prefer a bowl or dish of water for their lucky bamboo might be surprised to learn they’re still supposed to fertilize their houseplant. The same goes for planting the dracaena in soil.

Liquid fertilizer works best, and you don’t need a huge quantity, either. You don’t want to fertilize especially often, maybe twice yearly. Do it once in the spring and then a second time in the summer if your plant needs it.

Prune Dying or Dead Leaves and Stems

Unfortunately, if your lucky bamboo’s leaves or stems have turned yellow or brown, they’re dying or already dead. There’s nothing you can do for these parts of the plant, so why leave them?

You’ll want pointy pruning scissors for getting rid of the dead parts, and do make sure you sterilize these before and after cutting. Slowly trim only the yellow or brown areas and nothing else. Your lucky bamboo will look and feel healthier.

Provide Indirect Light

Lucky bamboo doesn’t have super strict lighting requirements, another reason why it’s such a favorite for indoor gardeners. Like many plants, though, there’s a happy medium you have to adhere to.

For instance, if your houseplant gets too little light, then it may look weak and sad. The color of the stems and leaves may also change. Also, overdoing it on the light can scorch the tender leaves of the dracaena. Give your plant a means of indirect light and its health should turn around quickly enough.

Rid the Plant of Insects

You’ve likely heard it on this blog before. In fact, we just talked about it in our last article. That is, most houseplants don’t attract bugs. However, the indoor bamboo is sort of an anomaly. Not only is it not bamboo, but it can bring bugs inside as well. Yuck!

Particularly, you want to keep your eyes out for mealybugs. These small insects are white in color with dozens of tiny little legs across their bodies. They prefer warmer environments and moisture. They’ll thus gravitate towards subtropical trees, houseplants, and greenhouse plants.

When a mealybug gets its little legs on your lucky bamboo, it can suck out the plant juices. This depletes your dracaena of energy and could lead to its demise if not dealt with. Whether you use tweezers or your fingers (please wear gloves!) when you see little mealybugs scurrying around your lucky bamboo, get rid of them.  

Related Questions

What do you do when lucky bamboo turns yellow?

While we mentioned pruning yellow leaves and stems above, you still want to figure out why your lucky bamboo has yellowed. Depending on the part that has become discolored, you can figure out what’s wrong with your houseplant.

For example, if the yellowing has occurred from the bottom of the plant upward, that’s a sign you’re fertilizing too often. Stick to fertilizing only once or twice a year going forward. To save your plant in the short-term, replace its water, clean the container out, and put it back in with no fertilizer residue.

Is it bad luck if your bamboo plant dies?

It’s believed that yes, it’s possible to bring bad luck upon yourself by killing a lucky bamboo. That’s especially true if someone gifts it to you. During your first year of ownership, if you kill the plant, don’t tell the person who gave it to you. You could otherwise suffer 29 long years of bad luck! Hey, they don’t call it lucky bamboo for nothing.

Fred Zimmer

I'm a lover of plants, animals, photography, & people, not necessarily in that order. Currently, I'm focused on photographing indoor plants & chachkies. I write & rewrite articles about creating an environment where indoor plants can thrive. I'm good at listening to music but bad at shopping to muzak.

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