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LeBeau Bamboo Nursery      Medford, Oregon 541-499-4992

Troubleshooting Common Bamboo Problems

Posted on May 1st, 2014 by LeBeau Bamboo Nursery in Bamboo Care and Maintenance

"My Bamboo Has Yellow Leaves"

When many of the plant's leaves are yellow, it gives the plant an unhealthy appearance. Although some species have yellow leaves by nature, this can either be a part of the plant's natural cycle or come from stress on the plant.

If many of the leaves are yellow, but there are also a fair number of healthy, green leaves mixed in, the plant is probably just shedding old leaves. After the yellow leaves fall off, they will be replaced by green, healthy ones. The leaves often seem to drop like this in early spring or in the fall, usually between August and December. Note that most bamboo species are evergreen and that a significant number of yellowing or dropping leaves probably indicates prolonged stress, such as too little or too much water or shade, or an unbalance of fertilizer. This often seems to occur shortly after a larger plant is moved and planted in a new location, so don't worry if you've recently purchased the plant.

If the plant seems yellow as a whole then it probably needs more fertilizer or mulch. Note that some species, such as Phyllostachys aurea, tend to yellow during the winter as nutrients are sucked from the leaves to support the growth of new shoots in spring. The green color will return after the shoots develop, however this can be minimized by ensuring the plants go into the winter with another round of fertilizer.

"My Bamboo Has Lots of Dead Stuff"

When lots of dead branches and culms begin accumulating in your grove, it takes on an especially unhealthy appearance. This seems to mostly be a problem with plants in containers but also occurs on larger groves over time.

If Parts of the Plant Are Still Healthy
If parts of the plant are still healthy the dieback is probably natural. Keep in mind that each individual cane will usually live for only seven years on a mature grove. Younger plants tend to have an even shorter cane life as the new canes, which are bigger and stronger, out compete the older canes. Simply cut away any unhealthy sections of the grove. In general, 1/5 to 1/7 of the grove can be cut away each year from an established running bamboo. If the plant hasn't been thinned in several years you can cut 1/3 to 1/2 of the canes out, but avoid cutting many the next year unless they are unhealthy. Select the culms with the most dead material to cut away, and cut them all the way to the ground.

Be sure not to trim the plant right before it shoots, as this can inhibit new growth. Generally, July and August are the best months for most bamboo species.

If Hardly any of the Plant is Healthy
If hardly any of the plant is healthy, it is probably getting too much sun and/or not enough water. Put the plant in medium shade and re-pot it into a larger container if it is at all root-bound. Keep watering the plant regularly and fertilize the plant. Be careful not to fertilize the plant too much as plants that are already stressed are more prone to root burn. Because of the nature of bamboo, recovery usually won't be very visible until the following spring when new shoots are produced. During this time new leaves should appear on the older canes that are healthy enough. After the new shoots have produced leaves, cut away any of the older canes which have not produced many new leaves.

"My Bamboo Hasn't Grown In Years"

Sometimes bamboo plants seem to get stuck at a certain size and don't seem to get any larger, even though it will appear to be healthy. If the plant has been this way since it was planted, the first solution is to move the plant. It might need more space or it might need more or less water or sunlight. Fertilizers and mulching will often help kick-start a plant in this situation.

If your plant grew for several years and then stopped, it might have reached its maximum height. Many species of bamboo have a pre-determined height which they will never surpass. Although runners will continue to spread outward after reaching their maximum height, clumpers will keep sending up shoots in the same area causing the plant to get denser and denser. If you believe your plant hasn't reached its maximum height, it's likely that the canes are too crowded. Removing some of the older, smaller canes will give those remaining more sunlight and allocation of resources. Regular thinning will usually cause plants to grow more rapidly.

Bamboo plants can also have problems with viability, where the plant doesn't have the ability to produce new shoots. This occurs when there are no longer any live buds on the rhizomes and is effectively a death sentence for the plant. Although the plant will often look very healthy, it will eventually die because it is not able to generate fresh, healthy growth. If this is the case, the top of the plant will usually appear unusually thick with dark green foliage.

We, and other nurseries, do our best to ensure that plants we sell are healthy and viable; however non-viable plants will occasionally make it into the mix of viable plants. If you believe your plant is one of these, contact the nursery. Depending on the circumstances, the plant will often be replaced.

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