According to the University of Illinois, dracaenas are sensitive to fluoride in the water. Since lucky bamboo is often grown only in standing water, without soil, it is often more susceptible to fluoride levels than other plants. Too much fluoride in the water can cause yellow stems and brown, dry leaf tips. Salt buildup from hard water can also have an adverse affect on lucky bamboo and on houseplants in general. Use distilled water or rainwater for your lucky bamboo to avoid yellowing.
Purported to bring wealth and happiness to those who place it in their homes, lucky bamboo is an excellent and hardy houseplant. Although it resembles bamboo, lucky bamboo is actually a type of dracaena and is not related to the quickly growing grass. Improper growing conditions are the most likely cause of yellowing stalks.
All plants need light to manufacture the carbohydrates they need to live. Some plants, however, need light at different levels than others. Lucky bamboo requires bright, indirect light for good growth. If it is left in low light for too long, your lucky bamboo may begin to lighten and turn yellow. Direct sunlight can also cause yellowing, but it is usually only on the leaves and is accompanied by brown, burnt spots. Move your bamboo to a spot near a sunny window, but out of direct light, or use sheer curtains to diffuse bright sunlight.
When you buy lucky bamboo from the garden center it is typically rooted in water. This is fine--the plant is not susceptible to root rot and can survive quite well in soggy conditions. Water, however, is completely lacking in nutrients. Eventually, the plant will begin to yellow as a response to lack of basic nutrition. Gerald Klingman of the University of Arkansas recommends adding diluted, liquid houseplant fertilizer to the water every couple of months to keep your lucky bamboo green.
Potted Lucky Bamboo
Lucky bamboo grown in potting soil can also have problems. Poor drainage can lead to build up of salt and fluoride in the soil, causing yellowing. Flush these contaminants by letting water run freely from the drainage holes in the pot for a few minutes once a month. Too little water can also cause yellowing. Lucky bamboo should never be allowed to dry out; keep the soil moist at all times.
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