Bamboo Stalks Went Pale and Developed Brown Spot - Help!
August 1, 2004 3:31 PM   Subscribe

Need help diagnosing bamboo ailment and preventing further damage. [more inside]

For Christmas two years ago I received six stalks of Lucky Bamboo. Everything was wonderful until I took a vacation and forgot to provide them enough water for the duration of my trip. When I returned, one stalk had developed a large brown spot. The others appeared undamaged. Since I assumed the spot was due to my negligence, I simply turned the stalk around and let it be. Recently, I noticed that a different stalk became extremely pale. Deciding that something needed to be done to save my remaining stalks, I excised the two ill ones and thoroughly washed the vase and glass beads that house the stalks.

While doing so, I noticed that clumps of a clear gel-like substance were tangled with the roots. Is this some kind of bamboo disease? My Google fu is weak in this matter. Did the two sick stalks suffer due to different causes? What can I do to ensure the survival of my remaining stalks?
posted by christie to Home & Garden (3 answers total)
It's actually a dracaena.

The answer is almost surely here.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:44 PM on August 1, 2004

Gel substance sounds like polymer, the sort of stuff they put in disposable diapers. It absorbs water, and is actually useful in plant growth mediums (somehow, the water held is available to the plants).
posted by Goofyy at 10:43 PM on August 1, 2004

Lucky bamboo that's two years old and only 1/3 damaged sounds like you're doing well with them. Washing the vase and beads was a good thing, too. Fresh water is much better than old and nasty. To keep your remaining stalks healthy, keep the water fresh, and occasionally feed it tiny tiny tiny amounts of plant fertilizer. Bright, indirect light is best.

If you really want the plants to do well, pull them out of the vase, and put them in a pot with soil. When they're healthy and growing they'll start to resemble this, minus the striping. Which doesn't really look like bamboo anymore, but lucky bamboo is pretty much just cuttings of a very durable tropical plant (Dracaena sanderiana) that manage to barely survive under horrific conditions.

The gel is likely polyacrylamide, a polymer that can absorb hundreds of times its weight in water, and then release it slowly, reducing the amount of watering your lucky bamboo needs (less water is lost to evaporation). One brand name is Terra-Sorb.
posted by jaut at 10:59 PM on August 1, 2004

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