thin or leggy lucky bamboo stalks due to poor plant care can be fixed

Why Is My Lucky Bamboo Skinny?

If your lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana) is looking a little on the skinny side there are ways you can care for this plant to encourage it to become thicker and thrive. Ahead, I’ll explain why that is and how to bulk up a too-thin lucky bamboo!

Why is my lucky bamboo skinny? Lucky bamboo is most often skinny due to lack of fertilizer, poor watering habits, improper drainage, pests, and incorrect lighting. By following the modifications I’ve detailed below, your lucky bamboo stalk should begin to thicken with time. 

This guide to skinny lucky bamboo stalks will include actionable solutions for thickening the stalk, so keep reading! 

8 Ways to Make Lucky Bamboo Thicker

The lucky bamboo or Dracaena sanderiana, while not a true bamboo, is still a lovely addition to any indoor gardeners plant collection. 

Unfortunately, the plant is prone to all sorts of issues, and one of them is the stalks being too skinny. When this happens, it’s almost always due to a care mistake.

Try the following care tips. I think they’ll be quite helpful!  

Provide Adequate Soil Drainage

This first tip is assuming that your lucky bamboo grows in soil, of course. If yours doesn’t, then disregard this section of the article and move down to the next likely cause of skinny lucky bamboo. 

Although you can use standard plant potting soil for the lucky bamboo, that soil must meet several requirements. 

For one, it must be rich in organic materials. 

coconut fibers and pine bark are fantastic amendments  to add to lucky bamboo potting soil mixture

Secondly and even more importantly, the soil must be well-draining.

If the potting soil doesn’t allow water to exit the pot easily, then the lucky bamboo will be saturated with water. 

Is a little bit of extra water really that big of a deal for a plant that can grow in water?

Yes, as the lucky bamboo–like every other indoor plant–can develop root rot. 

Root rot causes the plant’s root system to gradually die. Then you’ll notice symptoms in the outer portion of your plant such as skinny stalks, leaf discoloration, and wilting. 

The lucky bamboo likes moderately acidic soil as well in the range of 6.0 to 6.5. This is closer to neutral than it is highly acidic. 

When Watering, Don’t Overdo It

The lucky bamboo is moderately drought-tolerant. 

Some indoor gardeners take that factoid and run with it. They assume that the lucky bamboo must not require much water or it wouldn’t be drought-tolerant.

That’s not quite how it works. 

When an indoor plant species is drought-tolerant, it simply means that plant can handle dry conditions for a short period. It’s not an indicator of how often or seldom you should water the plant.

The lucky bamboo requires consistently moist soil. 

Since this indoor plant is only about three feet tall by two feet wide, it doesn’t take as much water as you’d think to maintain these soil conditions.

You should water your lucky bamboo only when its top inch of soil dries out. 

I recommend putting your clean fingers in the soil and determining how moist it is before you blindly add water.

When pouring water into the lucky bamboo container, watch your water levels. Pour in enough water that the lucky bamboo’s roots are saturated, but the stalks aren’t wet. 

Bottom watering lucky bamboo is a great solution I often recommend, especially for beginner indoor gardeners.

It’s a great way to avoid getting the already struggling stems and stalks wet and possibly causing more stress to the plant.

Remember, root rot can be disastrous to the lucky bamboo, so you want to avoid it at all costs.

Depriving your plant of water is disastrous in its own way. Plants need water to photosynthesize, which gives them the energy to grow. 

Without enough water, growth will stop, and the lucky bamboo will look skinny and frail. 

If Growing in a Container, Use the Right Kind of Water

Switching gears now to discuss a lucky bamboo that’s being grown in water, I want to reiterate my point from before. 

You might not have to tend to soil when growing your lucky bamboo in water, but the plant’s care isn’t totally effortless, either.

The kind of water you use to hydrate your lucky bamboo is an important consideration, especially if your plant is skinnier than normal. 

Pour only filtered or distilled water into your lucky bamboo container. Unfiltered tap water contains salts and minerals. 

I’ve seen some indoor gardeners say these minerals can be good for the lucky bamboo. That’s not entirely incorrect. 

After all, when you fertilize a lucky bamboo, you’re feeding it minerals.

Those minerals are offered in controlled amounts though, the same of which cannot be said of using tap water from your sink for the lucky bamboo.

Unless you’ve gotten your tap water tested, then you have no idea what it contains and in what quantities.

If your water is hard, which means it contains a high degree of minerals, then the mineral influx can be too much for the lucky bamboo. 

You’re much better off using pure water and fertilizing the plant to ensure the lucky bamboo receives its minerals that way. 

Keep the Water in the Container Clean

The water that goes into your lucky bamboo container is not good forever. With time, that water will become cloudy, murky, and even green.

Green? Yes. This is algal growth that, without mitigation, will continue to spread across the container.

About every week, you want to carefully drain the water in the lucky bamboo container and then refill it. At most, you can go 10 days between doing this.

To hold onto the pebbles or stones that might support the lucky bamboo’s stalks, when draining the plant’s water, put a strainer in your sink. 

Be sure to rinse off the stones using filtered water, especially if they’ve begun to turn green from algae. 

Don’t Overfertilize

If there’s one care mistake that even more experienced indoor gardeners can make when it comes to the lucky bamboo, it’s when fertilizing this plant. 

The lucky bamboo is not a heavy feeder in the least. 

If you use the same amount of fertilizer that you would for your other indoor plants, then you’re going to overdo it.

You can get by fertilizing the lucky bamboo no more than monthly with only a drop or two of liquid plant fertilizer. Yes, I’m serious. That’s enough for this plant when growing in soil.

For the lucky bamboos in a container of water, you should dilute the liquid fertilizer and apply the stuff every month or every two months. 

Be precise in how much liquid fertilizer you apply. The stuff can be messy sometimes, which can lead to unintended spills.  

If you happen to add too much fertilizer, then you’ll have to remove the lucky bamboo from that dicey situation immediately. 

Cleanse its rocks or stones, rinse away any fertilizer residue from the roots, and repot the plant in fresher soil.

It’s for the above risk that some indoor gardeners will use a specialty lucky bamboo fertilizer instead of liquid fertilizer. It’s harder to apply too much of this stuff but not impossible, of course. 

Provide the Right Lighting 

Are the stems of your lucky bamboo long and spindly but very thin? Your plant is telling you it doesn’t have enough sunlight.

A leggy plant grows towards whatever paltry light source it has available. Once you begin providing more light and prune the leggy parts, you shouldn’t see this kind of growth again.

Okay, so what kind of lighting does the lucky bamboo need? This indoor plant prefers bright, filtered sunlight. 

This is not the same as bright, indirect light. You cannot install a curtain in your window and then put the lucky bamboo near that window.

Rather, bright, filtered sunlight occurs when the lucky bamboo has overhead protection such as from a canopy of trees or other indoor plants. 

Without that canopy, the lucky bamboo is exposed to direct sunlight. This can be very detrimental to the plant’s health, as the leaves will burn. 

Address Pests as Soon as You Spot Them 

Even if you care for the lucky bamboo according to the above pointers, if your indoor plant has pests, then it can still be skinnier than usual.

Mites and mealybugs are the most common insects that like to live on the lucky bamboo. 

By the way, mites share the same lineage with spiders and ticks, so you don’t really want them around your indoor garden. If the insect jumps from the plant to a human host like you, they can bite. You’d be left with itchy lumps.

More so, mites can spread diseases in your indoor garden. So too can mealybugs, which feed on plant juices. 

How do you combat a pest infestation? You can stop mealybugs with rubbing alcohol and water. Pour the mixture on a cotton swab or a cotton ball and apply it directly to the bugs.

Kill off mites with neem oil. In some cases, rinsing the lucky bamboo under a garden hose or a tap can shake most of the mites off. 

The key–no matter which insect has invaded the lucky bamboo–is to act swiftly.  The longer you wait, the worse the consequences of an insect infestation. 

Move Your Lucky Bamboo From Its Original Pot/Container

The lucky bamboo requires a new pot about once every year or whenever you sense it’s outgrown its current conditions.

This will mean upsizing its pot or container. 

As I always recommend, measure the current diameter of the pot or container, and then increase its size between two and four inches.

That way, you won’t buy a pot that’s only marginally bigger, but you don’t purchase an overly huge pot either.

A pot that’s too big can make it hard for your plant to grow. Water and fertilizer can’t reach the roots as easily because the soil has so much surface area. 

Transporting the lucky bamboo can cause transplant shock. This is a short-lived but sometimes serious condition. 

Continue to care for your plant when it’s going through transplant shock. Within several days or weeks, it should bounce back. 

Keep in mind though that some particularly bad cases of transplant shock can last for months or even years! 

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