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Tips on Bamboo Leaves Turning Brown

By Joshua Duvauchelle

The wispy, finely textured leaves on bamboo add soothing, rustling noise and lush foliage to the garden. When the tips or edges of bamboo leaves turn brown, it doesn't just ruin their looks, it also points to an underlying health problem. The plant's appearance is often the first indicator something is wrong. Identify and resolve the underlying issue to restore your bamboo to its green glory.

Water More Often

If the leaves on your bamboo are wilting, curling and turning brown, the bamboo is likely not getting enough water. Bamboo needs twice weekly watering during the first six months after planting. Use enough water to moisten the soil to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. After six months have passed, reduce watering to approximately once every 10 days.

Watch the plant's appearance for indications you need to water more often. Common signs of drought stress include:

  • Wilting
  • Pale green or yellow coloring
  • Leaf loss leaving behind bare bamboo canes
  • Drooping or bending of the bamboo's central cane
  • Brown spots, brown edges and brown tips on the leaves

Adjust the Fertilizer Schedule

Bamboo is a type of grass and, like all grasses, needs regular fertilizer to keep it looking green and lush. Brown leaves or loss of color in the leaves may be the result of low soil nutrients.

Fertilize bamboo twice a year, once in the early spring and once in the summer. Use any standard lawn fertilizer. For example, if you're using a 21-5-6 lawn fertilizer, apply 2 pounds of it per 100 square feet. Water the soil immediately after fertilizing to dissolve the fertilizer and help carry its nutrients down into the soil.

Eradicate Pests

Bamboo is naturally resistant to most common plant pests. It may occasionally be attacked by mites, aphids and other soft-bodied pests. These can stress the plant, causing brown spots on the leaves, stunted or deformed leaf growth and scarring.

Spray the bamboo with a strong jet of water from a garden hose. Spray all parts of the plant, including the undersides of the leaves where pests tend to congregate. This is often enough to keep aphids, mealybugs and other pests at population levels too low to cause lasting damage.

If water doesn't work, treat the pests with a homemade insecticide spray by combining soap and water at a rate of 1 teaspoon of dish soap for every 1 pint of water. Pour the solution into a spray bottle or garden sprayer and mist the soapy solution onto affected bamboo parts. Repeat every 10 days until pest problems subside.


About the Author


Joshua Duvauchelle is a certified personal trainer and health journalist, relationships expert and gardening specialist. His articles and advice have appeared in dozens of magazines, including exercise workouts in Shape, relationship guides for Alive and lifestyle tips for Lifehacker. In his spare time, he enjoys yoga and urban patio gardening.