Lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana) makes a great gift and houseplant because it symbolizes luck and prosperity and because it is relatively easy to care for.
While this houseplant is easy to care for, the most common sign of trouble is your lucky bamboo turning yellow.
Your lucky bamboo houseplant may be turning yellow for a number of reasons:
- Too much or too little light. Lucky bamboo prefers bright indirect light.
- Overexposure to fluoride or chlorine in tap water. Use distilled water or rainwater instead.
- Too much or too little water. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. Ensure good drainage and let the top inch of soil dry before watering. If grown in water only, ensure water is covering the roots.
- Too much fertilizer. Lucky bamboo doesn’t need much fertilizer, anywhere from 2 times per year to none at all.
It’s also important to note that lucky bamboo is not an actual bamboo plant despite it’s name. It is a type of Dracaena, so it’s care is different from a true bamboo.
Because the yellow squishy parts of the lucky bamboo leaves and stalk are already dying, they cannot be revived. HOWEVER, you can save and propagate the parts that are still green!
Let’s take a deeper look into how to properly care for lucky bamboo AND how to save a dying indoor lucky bamboo plant.
This article may contain affiliate links to products I know and love. You can read my full disclosure at the bottom of the page.
Ultimate Lucky Bamboo Plant Care Guide [Tips & Tricks + Your Questions Answered]
I get asked all the time about how to care for lucky bamboo and how to fix different problems that can arise, such as yellowing.
So, I’ve tried to collect and answer all those questions here in this ultimate lucky bamboo plant care guide.
Let’s work together to keep your lucky bamboo plant alive AND thriving!
1. What kind of light does lucky bamboo need?
Lucky bamboo does best in bright spots with indirect sunlight. You could place your plant near but not directly in front of a bright window OR in front of a sunny window with a shear curtain that filters the light.
The lighting requirements are the same for lucky bamboo grown in soil or in water.
I have my lucky bamboo in the kitchen away from the window but in a spot that’s generally bright due to the nearby window and large sliding glass door that let in plenty of indirect light. It’s been in that location for 2 years and never had any problems.
Direct sunlight can burn the lucky bamboo leaves, so try to avoid that.
Lucky bamboo can also adapt to low-light or shady locations, but make this change gradually if the plant was previously accustomed to a bright-light location. A big change in the conditions can shock the plant and cause yellowing.
To do this, move the plant each week to a slightly more shaded location than the previous week until it is in the desired location.
Keep in mind that, while lucky bamboo is adaptable, it does need some amount of light to thrive, even if it’s artificial light.
Signs your lucky bamboo has a light deficiency
If the dark green leaves on your lucky bamboo start to turn light green or yellow, then your plant likely needs more light. The plant may also start to look stretched out or leggy, and growth may slow down.
If this is the case, don’t overcompensate by moving the plant to full sun and burning it. Instead, move it to a brighter location with indirect sunlight, and your problem should be fixed!
Keep in mind that you’ll have to wait for new growth to see the results. Any damaged leaves cannot be fixed but can be trimmed away. Use sterilized, sharp trimming shears to avoid causing an infection in the plant during pruning.
To sterilize your trimming shears, simply wipe the blades with a clean paper towel or cloth that has rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide on it.
2. How do I water my lucky bamboo?
Lucky bamboo can be grown in either water or soil.
However, the growing medium you choose WILL change how much and how often you need to water your lucky bamboo plant.
If you grow your lucky bamboo in water, then you should keep the water level just covering the roots.
If the roots are exposed, they will dry out. But if the water is too high and covers too much of the green stalk, then there’s a chance the stalk could rot.
If the stalk of your lucky bamboo starts to turn yellow and squishy or if you see black spots, then the plant is rotting and dying.
If that happens, I will discuss later in this post how to save the parts of your lucky bamboo that are still green.
Also, you’ll want to change the water out and clean the container around once a month. Overtime, bacteria and/or algae can grow in the container and damage the plant.
Protip: If you want to prevent or slow algae growth in your water container, use a pot or container that is not clear. Clear glass vases and pots let a lot of light in, which promotes algae growth.
If you grow your lucky bamboo in soil, then you should keep the soil moist but not super wet. Funny enough, lucky bamboo does NOT like to be sitting in super wet soggy soil (even though it can be grown in water).
Let the first inch or so of soil dry out before you water again. You can test this by sticking your finger into the soil to feel if it’s wet or dry.
Also, make sure your soil has decent drainage (and your pot has a drainage hole). I like to improve the drainage of my soil by adding equal amounts of this perlite to this potting soil mix (so a ratio of about 1 to 1).
Whether you grow your lucky bamboo in water or in soil, the type of water you should use is the same. The best type of water for lucky bamboo is distilled water or rainwater.
And the reason for using distilled water leads me to question #3…
3. Why are the tips of my lucky bamboo leaves turning brown?
Lucky bamboo is sensitive to chlorine, chloramines, and fluoride in tap water, and these chemicals can cause your lucky bamboo leaf tips to turn brown and crispy. Watering your plant with distilled water or rainwater can fix this problem.
Salts in tap water can also accumulate in the soil (or water container if you’re growing in water only) over time and cause brown leaf tips. Excess salts can be removed by leaching or flushing the soil periodically (or, if grown in water, by changing the water every few weeks and cleaning the container).
To leach your soil, take your lucky bamboo plant outside and water the plant until water is continuously flowing out of the drainage holes and keep letting the water flow for a minute or so.
Brown leaf tips could also be a sign of underwatering or very low humidity.
As long as you are watering your lucky bamboo as I described above, then underwatering is not the problem.
If you live in an arid area (like I do) and the humidity in your house is below 50%, I recommend this humidifier. I like this one because it has been quiet, durable, and it maintains the humidity level that I choose (which many other humidifiers don’t).
Another less ideal option is to place a pebble tray with water under your pot to create localized humidity. This method can be ok in a pinch, but I’ve found using this humidifier works best.
If you don’t want to buy distilled water or worry about fixing the humidity, then you can simply live with the brown leaf tips. These are not detrimental to the plant.
If only a few leaves on your lucky bamboo have brown tips, don’t worry about that. Sometimes that just happens to lucky bamboo (and Dracaena plants in general).
If you decide to make changes to the water or humidity, you’ll have to wait for new leaf growth to see the results. The brown leaf tips can’t be reversed, but they’re also not detrimental to the plant. Just let them grow out and eventually the new growth with take over. Then, you can prune away dead or ugly leaves to reveal your lucky bamboo’s true beauty.
4. How often should I fertilize my lucky bamboo?
Lucky bamboo does not need much fertilizer. You can fertilize it 2 times per year, or maybe even not at all.
I’ve had my lucky bamboo for 2 years and have never fertilized it and it is doing just fine.
However, I will say that during those 2 years I was using either tap water or filtered water, so my plant was likely getting the nutrients it needed from the water.
If you use distilled water (which I’m doing now because my lucky bamboo started getting lots of brown leaf tips), then you may need to fertilize a couple times a year since many nutrients are removed from distilled water.
If you decide to fertilize your lucky bamboo, I like to use this fertilizer specially formulated for lucky bamboo.
You do NOT need much fertilizer because lucky bamboo can be very sensitive to over fertilization. Be sure to follow the instructions and err on the side of not enough fertilizer to be safe.
If you do fertilize your lucky bamboo and it starts turning yellow from the bottom up or the leaf tips suddenly turn brown, that is a sign of too much fertilizer.
If your lucky bamboo has been over fertilized, change the water and do not fertilize for several months. Or if it’s grown in soil, just stop fertilizing until your plant recovers.
If the stalk has become yellow and squishy or even black, the plant is dying and those yellow squishy parts cannot be saved.
BUT this doesn’t mean the entire plant is lost and leads nicely into the next topic of this article…..
How Do I Save My Dying Lucky Bamboo Plant?
If your lucky bamboo plant has turned yellow and the stalk is squishy (like the picture above), then unfortunately it is not healthy and parts of the plant are dying.
First, determine why it’s dying. Hopefully you did that by reading the first part of this article about caring for lucky bamboo.
That way you know how to properly care for the plant going forward.
But how can you save your dying lucky bamboo right now??
The answer is propagation!
The green parts of the lucky bamboo stalk are still healthy, and the yellow parts can simply be cut off.
Let’s take a deeper look into how to propagate this plant….
How to Propagate Lucky Bamboo
- Cut off the yellow top parts of the stalk about 1/2 an inch above the nearest healthy node (red lines show where you would cut).
- Because the dead parts are at the top of the stalks in this picture, once they’re removed, the bottom green parts of the plant can be kept as they are. New shoots will eventually grow from the nodes of the remaining plant, and it will continue to grow normally with proper care (see picture below).
- The arrow pointing to the “New plant” shows an offshoot that can be cut (at the red line) and turned into a new lucky bamboo plant. Once you cut it off of the dying stalk, remove the yellow leaves at the bottom. Then, stick the stem in a glass of water. After about a month or so you should see some new roots begin to form. Once it has some roots, you can plant it in a new pot in either soil or water. It will then continue to grow into a new lucky bamboo plant.
Below, this image shows how new shoots will begin to grow from the nodes of the remaining healthy stalk after cutting away the dead yellow tops.
Note that once the main stalk is cut (whether you cut it or you bought it cut), the stalk will not grow any taller. So, make sure you are ok with the height of the plant.
What WILL grow taller are the new shoots that sprout from the main stalk.
Those new shoots are new lucky bamboo stalks and will grow tall until their tops are cut off.
If your lucky bamboo is dying from the bottom up, you would do the same procedure described above of cutting about 1/2 an inch above the next healthy node. HOWEVER, because you’d be cutting the roots off and saving the upper part of the stalk, you’ll have to stick the bottom of the healthy stalk in some water until new roots begin to form. Then, it can be re-planted and will be good as new.
Related Lucky Bamboo Questions
Is lucky bamboo toxic to pets?
Yes, lucky bamboo (a type of Dracaena) can be toxic to dogs and cats according to the ASPCA website.
Remember that lucky bamboo is NOT actually a member of the bamboo family; it is a Dracaena, which are toxic to pets.
So, let’s keep our furry friends away from our lucky bamboo so both can be happy and healthy.
Where can I buy a lucky bamboo plant?
First check your local nursery. Lucky bamboo is pretty popular and I’ve seen it sold at many local nurseries or garden centers.