You know what a panda has for lunch? They have bamboo. Pretty, pretty panda.
January 19, 2012 11:41 AM   Subscribe

Help my unlucky bamboo: weird yellow leaf on an otherwise healthy plant

Though I have no experience taking care of plants, I have always wanted a bonsai tree. Before committing to something so involved, I have procured a lucky bamboo (supposedly hard to kill) and am trying to keep it alive as a test run. Please help me save this bamboo and keep my bonsai dreams alive.

The bamboo sits in a vase full of rocks and water on my desk (pic of the setup), which is about 15 feet from a window (to the right of the photo, no wall in the way). Every Friday I move it to the window sill to bask in the sun over the weekend. I have noticed there is one leaf (pic of the offending leaf) that is much lighter than the other leaves and is kind of yellow, so I have been trying to put that side towards the window the most. The leaves around that one are a little lighter but are still green, not yellow.

I have looked for information on bamboo websites, but they are kind of hard to follow and a lot of them say that if your bamboo looks unhealthy it probably has root rot or something and can't be saved. I think other than this one leaf, my plant looks pretty good. It has grown several inches taller since I got it in July.

I am tempted to cut that leaf off so it doesn't, I don't know, spread to the rest of it. Thoughts? Should I just leave it alone? Put it in the sun more?

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TL;DR - is one yellow leaf ok or a sign of impending bamboo doom?
posted by halseyaa to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
One issue is that your lucky bamboo isn't bamboo at all, so bamboo websites will be of no help.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:15 PM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think there's a distinct possibility that you are giving it too much light. From my understanding, this plant thrives more with less light than more light- so your weekends of sunshine might be doing more harm than good.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 12:16 PM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't worry about it - lucky bamboo are not actually bamboo at all, but I had one and my cat took quite a taste to it. They're toxic to pets and pet saliva usually kills plants, but not only did my cat not get sick (despite his efforts) the plant didn't die. As long as it doesn't spread to the stalk, should be fine.

They are pretty hardy, but the water might be too salty, might be too much sun, and I've even read that these need to be potted from time to time.
posted by sm1tten at 12:18 PM on January 19, 2012

It's okay. Your plant will be fine. Those leaves look sunburned, so putting them closer to the window won't actually help.
posted by retypepassword at 12:18 PM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

"Yellow or brown leaf edges may be caused by too much direct light, crowded roots, or fluoridated or chlorinated water, the latter of which can be prevented by leaving tap water exposed to the air for a day before plant use. Salty or softened water can also cause this."
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:18 PM on January 19, 2012

I've had a lucky bamboo for, holy crap, like seven or eight years now. Every now and then it'll get a random yellow or brown leaf, which will eventually die. I just pull them off when they dry up.

Indirect light seems to be fine for it, so you probably don't need to move it to the sun. Mine isn't picky about water, but it wouldn't hurt to use filtered water if you're concerned.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:27 PM on January 19, 2012

If you think you can handle this level of commitment, I keep mine in my betta bowls -- big, big goldfish bowls. The plant gets fertilized, the water stays clean longer, and the betta has something to swim around and nibble at. No maintenance plant-wise; the water gets partial changes a few times a week and a full change once a month. (And before the haters get onto me: I've kept bettas in aerated tanks but for some reason mine seem to do best in bowls with still water.) The plants grow so much faster than they ever used to in just tap water.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:35 PM on January 19, 2012

Thank you for all of the suggestions! I had no idea it wasn't even real bamboo so that is a start. I think the too-much-sun explanation may make the most sense because the other leaves near the one leaf are also lighter, which is the side I've been facing towards the sun.

I have heard indirect light is best but with it being 15 feet away from a window I felt like that didn't even qualify as indirect... unless it gets some benefit from overhead fluorescent office lights.

I've been using uv filtered water but I may try leaving the water out in the air for a day or so as suggested above.

I love the betta fish idea but its probably more than I can commit to right now.
posted by halseyaa at 12:40 PM on January 19, 2012

Have you been fertilizing it? Plants need nutrients that aren't in tap or filtered water, and you can stunt growth or develop discoloration if you don't ever fertilize. The flip side is, of course, that if you over fertilize you can chemically burn the roots. So read the fertilizer directions and use accordingly.
posted by vegartanipla at 4:16 PM on January 19, 2012

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