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Lucky Bamboo Root Rot (Signs, Causes, and Treatment)

Lucky bamboo is often seen as a botanical symbol of prosperity and luck. But you may not feel so lucky when root rot troubles your plant. Knowing the cause of root rot and early symptoms to look out for can go a very long way in saving your lucky bamboo.

Lucky bamboo root rot is caused by soil-borne fungi. They thrive in soil that is excessively moist and in wet conditions. Yellowing leaves, yellowing leaves, Black, Soft, and Slimy Roots are the signs of root rot. Overwatered soil conditions can also cause the roots to die back and decay if they are left untreated for an extended period of time.

If you suspect that your lucky bamboo has been affected by root rot, don’t worry. I’ll teach you how to identify root rot and ways to prevent, control, and treat it.

Lucky Bamboo Root Rot Signs
Lucky Bamboo Root Rot Signs

What Does Root Rot Look Like in Lucky Bamboo? 

Lucky bamboo is not real bamboo, yet it’s notably hardy and resilient. Unfortunately, root rot is a severe problem that can kill your plant if left unchecked for long. That’s why detecting early symptoms of root rot can make a huge difference.

Despite the fact that this plant is grown in water for the majority of the time, it is susceptible to infection by a fungus that causes root rot.

[1] Wilting and Yellowing

For example, if your lucky bamboo turning yellow and slowly withering for no apparent reason, you will need to inspect the roots for root rot disease. It is likely that the roots have been damaged and are no longer able to obtain nutrients and minerals from the soil.

Due to a lack of nutrients, the leaves turn yellow or discolor. Too much water damages the leaf tissue, resulting in turgor pressure loss. As a result, the leaves begin to wilt and eventually collapse.

Wilting and yellowing often affect lower leaves closer to the soil first. Much later, most of the leaves will turn brown and become necrotic. It’s a way of your plant responding to overwatered conditions.

Before you assign the entire blame to root rot, make sure to look for other causes of the problem, such as cold damage, underwatering, pests, diseases, and temperature stress. They are also frequently implicated in the wilting of lucky bamboo.

Lucky Bamboo Yellowing
Lucky Bamboo Yellowing

[2] Black, Soft, and Slimy Roots

The roots of your lucky bamboo rot as a result of prolonged exposure to contaminated water or soil. Once you notice the yellowing of the leaves, you should unpot your plant so that you can see and feel the roots underneath the surface. Your plant’s chances of survival are increased the sooner root rot is detected.

The roots that have been affected by the rot disease will appear grayish, rusty brown, or even black in color. They will have a soft, mushy, or slimy feel to them. When you touch the rotten roots, they may literally fall off.

Another symptom of lucky bamboo root rot is the presence of a rotten egg odor emanating from the roots. On the other hand, healthy roots will have an earthy smell to them. They may appear pale white, but they are often pliable and firm to the touch.

[3] Swollen, Browning, and Mushy Stem

The rotting will soon spread from the roots up the tree’s trunk. If the rot disease is severe at the root, the affected stems will feel soft and slimy. On the middle of the stems, you may also notice swelling and browning.

When a stem begins to rot, there is a good chance that the large percentage of the roots beneath it have been damaged by root rot as well. A decaying odor may also emanate from the stems that have been affected.

[4] Stunted Growth

Keep in mind that root rot and overwatering suffocate the plant’s oxygen supply, causing the roots to become unable to absorb essential nutrients.

This means that your lucky bamboo will appear malnourished and will be unable to produce any new shoots, stems, or foliage.

[5] Brown Leaf Tips

The root rot of your lucky bamboo takes the greatest toll on its leaves. For starters, the fungal disease may spread to the foliage, causing widespread browning and other symptoms.

When overwatering occurs in the early stages, the excess water usually collects at the tips and edges of the leaves. As a result, tissue damage occurs, which manifests itself as browned leaf margins. It is frequently associated with leaf yellowing and edema.

[6] Discolored Leaves

When root rot takes hold, the green lucky brown leaves will begin to lose their vitality and pigmentation. Your plant requires nutrients and energy in order to maintain the health of its chloroplasts. Furthermore, discoloration will result from the loss of tissue (aka loss of chlorophyll).

The leaves will appear pale or yellowish at first, then turn brown and fall off as a result of root rot damage that has been left untreated for an extended period of time.

Lucky Bamboo Discolored Leaves
Lucky Bamboo Discolored Leaves

[7] Shoots Dieback

If you notice that the shoots of your plant are starting to die back, you may have a root rot disease on your hands. The decayed roots are unable to absorb nutrients, which are essential for the development and growth of your lucky bamboo shoots.

Infections caused by fungi that cause root rot can also affect the shoots of plants. It is the fungi’s responsibility to cause tissue damage, which will result in the dieback of the shoots. A lack of light, pest infestation, salt burn, and overwatering are all factors that can contribute to the phenomenon.

Causes Lucky Bamboo Root Rot 

[1] Overwatering

Your lucky bamboo is almost certainly potted in a well-drained potting mix. It can grow in water, but too much moisture in the soil causes the roots to rot.

Overwatering can be exacerbated by wetting the leaves while watering. Another issue that can exacerbate root rot is a severe lack of light. Overwatering-related root rot can also be caused by bruising the roots while handling your plant.

The most common signs and symptoms of an overwater lucky bamboo include:

  • Soil is excessively damp and doesn’t dry out for weeks
  • Yellowed or paled leaves that may eventually become necrotic and brown
  • Presence of black or gray roots that feels squishy
  • Rotting odor coming out of the roots
  • Wilting and leaf drop
  • Browned leaf edges and tips
  • Brown spots that may look like blotches on the foliage
  • Stunted growth and shoot dieback

How to Fix an Overwatered Lucky Bamboo

Saving an overwatered lucky bamboo will rely heavily on the degree of root rot. For mild cases of root rot, you must give the soil time to dry out. Irrigate next when the soil feels dry an inch beneath the surface.

Unfortunately, rotten roots aren’t going to spring back to life. It’s, therefore, crucial to clip them away and treat the remaining healthy bunch using a potent fungicide. You have no other resort but to repot your treated lucky bamboo using a fresh potting mix.

[2] Fungal Infection

The most common culprit for rotting lucky bamboo roots is a fungal infection. The vast majority of the fungi are found in contaminated potting mix. They can also spread through irrigation water, old pots, and instruments already infected with root rot pathogens.

As mentioned earlier, root rot-causing fungus lie inactive in the potting soil for months, if not years. They become active and infect your plant under the right humid conditions. Typically, this is when your lucky bamboo is overwatered.

Fungus NameDescription
PhytophthoraPhytophthora thrives in wet conditions, especially cold and humid. The infection extends to the stems of your lucky bamboo. Drooping, curling, or losing greenery are common symptoms.
Fusarium solaniLucky bamboo suffers from Fusarium solani stem and root rot. The infection is more virulent between 70-86°F (20-30°C). Yellowed leaves, stem dieback, and damping-off are common symptoms. Dried-out leaves turn light brown.
Rhizoctonia solaniRhizoctonia solani causes a serious fungal infection that can kill your plant. Symptoms include root rot, aerial web blight, stem rot, and damping off. Stunted leaves, wilting, yellowing, and brown lesions on stems.
Thielaviopsis basicolaThielaviopsis basicola infection on lucky bamboo can be mistaken for nutrient deficiency. Yellowing, stunting, and brown trimmed lesions are not to be ignored. Cracked and swollen stems The fungus is hard to control, so repot your lucky bamboo.
PythiumPythium root rot is most common in sick or weakened lucky bamboo plants. It thrives in humid conditions and 70°F (20°C) temperatures. Yellowed leaves, wilting, drooping, and decaying roots are signs.

How to Fix

Stop watering immediately to prevent the further spread of the fungal infection.

All affected roots must be trimmed off and discarded.

Treat the remaining roots using copper or sulfur-based fungicides. (Check out the latest price on Amazon here). Use 1 to 4 tablespoons of the fungicide per gallon of water to prepare the dip.

You can also use baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, or cinnamon powder as organic treatments.

Make sure to repot your lucky bamboo using a new batch of pasteurized potting mix. You can’t go wrong with a specialized mixture like this batch on Amazon.

[3] Poor Drainage

Too much moisture around the roots restricts oxygen supply, causing root rot. Due to a lack of oxygen, the roots suffocate and die. This happens when your lucky bamboo has poor drainage.

It could be due to a lack of drainage holes or a lack of soil drainage capacity. Potting soil containing a lot of organic matter and clay retains a lot of moisture. Sitting on ‘wet feet’ usually creates ideal conditions for root rot-causing fungal infections to thrive.

How to Fix

  • Switch to a well-draining terracotta pot with enough drainage holes
  • Consider repotting using a potting mix with good drainage
  • Sit your potted lucky bamboo on a catch tray or saucer. Ensure to empty any perched water.

[4] Wrong Pot Size

Root rot can be an issue for your lucky bamboo if it’s potted in a container that’s either too large or too small. You might think it needs a lot of wiggle room in the soil, but that will encourage localized waterlogging and result in root decay.

The same goes for potting in a pot that doesn’t leave much ‘breathing room’ for the roots. This will facilitate salt build-up.

Plus, the potting mix will dry out very fast and may cause damage to the roots. In all these cases, the wrong size of the container will facilitate root damage and fungal infections.

You must unpot your lucky bamboo to assess the root damage caused by the fungal infection. Rinse most of the potting soil from the roots to expose them.

How to Fix

Switch to a container that leaves about an inch of soil around the roots of your lucky bamboo. If it has become root-bound, the next container should be one to two inches larger than the previous pot.

[5] Watering During Dormant Period

Lucky bamboo plants enter dormancy in the winter period between late October and early February. Naturally, it doesn’t use much water during this no-growth period. So, watering it during this period will cause roots to suffocate and die back.

How to Fix

  • Prune away all diseased, dead, or affected roots and leaves. 
  • It would be best if you reduced watering frequency drastically when it goes into dormancy.
  • It’s best to err on the drier side. So, wait until the soil feels dry an inch deep before irrigating your plant again.

How to Save Lucky Bamboo from Root Rot 

1. Stop Watering

Every time you water a lucky bamboo with root rot, you’re worsening the situation. Thus, it’s crucial to stop watering immediately. If it’s a self-watering pot, disconnect it.

2. Remove the Infected Leaves and Parts

If rot disease has plagued the roots of your lucky bamboo, most parts above the soil will suffer too. You’ll most likely find browned, soft, and wilting leaves. The stems may also rot and die back. It pays to examine every bit of your plant for symptoms of infection and damage.

Look particularly for completely yellow foliage. The same applies to leaves with yellow or brown spots. Cut them off with a sharp pair of scissors or pruning shears – ensure to clean the instrument with rubbing alcohol after each cut.

You must remove and discard any infected stems, shoots, and other parts. By doing so, you’ll stop the rot infection from progressing to healthy parts. Dispose of them in a covered trash can.

3. Unpot Your Lucky Bamboo

The next most important step is to dig up your plant for closer examination. Inspect your lucky bamboo roots that are gray, black, or brown slimy roots. When healthy, they’re supposed to be firm and look orange or white.

4. Trim Away Infected Roots

You have to get rid of all rotten, dead, or infected roots to save your plant. Prune them off closest to root system. But be gentle, so you don’t injure the root system.

I advise that you sterilize your pruning tool after every few snips. You don’t want to transfer fungus from diseased roots to healthy ones.

5. Repotting your Lucky Bamboo

It’s best to treat the remaining root system with an appropriate fungicide dip after you’ve trimmed away the affected roots. This will keep the roots from becoming infected again.

Repot your lucky bamboo in a clean, new pot and use a fresh batch of clean potting mix. It should be a well-draining, pasteurized chunky soil mixture. I prefer to add chunks of charcoal, perlite, orchid bark, or vermiculite to the mix.

You can also add some cinnamon, chamomile, or activated charcoal. They will serve double duty – helping enrich and aerate, as well as sanitize the potting mixture.

6. How to Water your Lucky Bamboo after Repotting

Before you repot your lucky bamboo, I strongly advise you to make sure the potting mix is moist. Keep the soil evenly moist but not wet after repotting. New growth will take about 1-2 weeks to appear.

Use your fingers to check moisture every 2 to 5 days. The following irrigation should happen when an inch of the soil has dried out.

7. Caring for Lucky Bamboo after Repotting

  • Your newly-repotted lucky bamboo is weakened and therefore vulnerable to disease and pests. It’s therefore advisable to isolate it from other houseplants.
  • Light will play a critical role in its recovery. It loves dappled sunlight, but you should avoid exposure to direct sunlight. If you spot leaf discoloration or yellowing, it needs more bright yet diffused light.
  • Make sure the roots are below the lip or soil level
  • Keep your plant at suitable temperatures of 65-95 °F (18–35°C)
  • Avoid overwatering your plant.

(Source: North Carolina State University)

8. Propagating Lucky Bamboo

You should consider propagating your lucky bamboo if it has been severely damaged by root rot. It will not survive if the procedures outlined above are used.

  • Trim away the rotting end of the stems
  • Treat the cut tips in rooting hormone and let them dry overnight
  • Propagate in filtered or distilled water
  • Transfer to a potting mix when the roots appear

Organic and Chemical Treatment

Treating Root Rot with Chemical Fungicide

I’ve already touched on this. The best solution for treating your plant is copper-based fungicides. (Check out the latest price on Amazon here) It’s ready to use and is indoor safe. Use two tablespoons per gallon of water.

Homemade Fungicide for Root Rot

To reiterate, you can add activated charcoal, cinnamon, and chamomile to the new potting mixture. They are good for the long-term sanitization of the soil.

How to Prevent and Control Lucky Bamboo Root Rot

  • Avoid Overwatering – Only water when the soil 1 inch below the surface feels dry. 
  • Sanitization is essential – Remove and dispose of any dead or fallen leaves and other plant matter.
  • Using appropriate soil mix – The best potting mix for lucky bamboo is a well-drained pre-mix meant for cactus. It should have pebbles and chunks of orchid bark. Vermiculite and perlite can also help with drainage.
  • Watering schedule – It should take around 7-10 days for the soil to dry out a bit. When it goes to dormant phases, you must cut watering.
  • Ensuring care requirements – Put your lucky bamboo in brightly lit areas with filtered light. Warm, humid conditions with temperatures of 65-95 °F (18–35°C) will do your plant good. Avoid exposure to direct sunlight, cold drafts, and heat stress.

Bamboo is really resilient. If you’re keeping them in plain water, the lack of oxygen is causing the rot. You have to change the water out really often and add nutrients for it to thrive. That pup looks a bit too young to survive on its own…

I mean I’m not saying it WON’T work… Just that I personally would leaf (lol) it on there for a while longer. I would just go to the dollar store and get a new temporary pretty home for the mama bamboo…

Cut off the rot, it will grow new roots, and grab a small bottle of liquid hydroponics fertilizer to add to your water and it will be a whole new plant in about a month.