Help! – My Bamboo is Turning Yellow

Both bamboos and the houseplant known as lucky bamboo (which isn’t actually a bamboo at all) may develop yellow leaves and stems. If you’re dealing with this issue, it may simply be a normal growth process. However, yellowed leaves and stems could also indicate a problem with watering, stressful environmental conditions or other problems.


Normal Leaf Loss

Like all evergreen plants, bamboos normally lose some leaves throughout the year. Prior to dropping from the plant, the leaf will typically tun some shade of yellow or brown. Most bamboos tend to lose a few more leaves in the spring, but the process continues throughout the year. Unless large sections of the plant are turning yellow, what you’re seeing is probably normal leaf drop.

Lucky Bamboo

The so-called lucky bamboo houseplant isn’t really a bamboo but a member of the Dracaena family. However, here’s why its leaves and stalks may turn yellow and fall:

  • Excess chlorine in the water it grows in or is watered with.
  • Direct sunlight – this plant can’t tolerate full sun.
  • Contamination of the water it grows in or the plant roots and stalk.

Stressful Conditions

Bamboo can be grown out of doors in USDA Zones 5 and above. However, it may respond to stressful conditions in its environment by turning yellow and losing more leaves than normal. Dry cold winds, for example, may cause problems, especially if you’re growing it out of its usual range. Lack of growing space, nutrient deficiencies and problems with water may also be a factor.

Watering Issues

Too much and too little water can cause bamboo leaves to turn yellow. It may also affect the stems. Bamboo is not considered a drought-tolerant plant. On the other hand, it can’t handle soggy soil. You should make sure that the soil in either the garden or container drains well. Don’t water bamboo until the top two inches of soil are dry. Never let water stand around the roots.


Nutrient deficiency can cause bamboo leaves to turn yellow or brown and to drop. An iron deficiency is one of the most common problems when leaves turn yellow. The pH of the soil can affect bamboo’s ability to absorb nutrients, so it’s a good idea to start with a pH test. If the soil is alkaline, apply chelated iron. You might also try some high-nitrogen fertilizer.

Injury to the Stems

Damage to stems may cause yellowing in the stems or leaves. An injury could occur to a container plant that is knocked over. Pets may injure stems of outdoor bamboo. Extreme heat or cold and too-tight plant ties or fencing may also cause injury. Given time and care, your bamboo should recover from these problems.