With more than 1,500 species and 10 genuses, bamboo (Bambusa spp.) covers a lot of potential territory, so to speak. However, regardless of variety, most species of bamboo grow happily in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 11, and some tropical types run the risk of becoming invasive. While it's a hardy plant, certain growing conditions can lead to yellowing or browning at the tips of the leaves, which may not solely be a consequence of the bamboo plant's life cycle.
1. Growing Cycle
As a perennial, bamboo grows readily each year, often increasing in height depending on the species you choose. Giant bamboo (Phyllostachys edulis) can reach heights of 75 feet tall, with other species growing well over 50 feet. Each spring, the breadth of the bamboo also increases as new foliage is produced. As this occurs, older leaves will start yellowing and turning brown at the tips. In many cases, bamboo plants will have a constant mix of old and new foliage.
2. The Right Irrigation
Over or under-irrigating your bamboo plants can lead to unhealthy plants and yellowing or browning in the leaves. Overwatering your bamboo causes the roots to drown in waterlogged soil, leaving the plants susceptible to root rot and fungal or bacterial infections. With too little water, the plant becomes stressed, leading to poor health in the foliage and growth. As a water-loving plant, bamboo needs soil that's consistently moist and never dries out more than 1 inch below the soil surface.
3. Water Quality Concerns
This sensitive plant requires significant amounts of moisture in its growing environment, so poor water quality can lead to yellowed or browned foliage. Bamboo is susceptible to damage from trace chemicals that may be present in the water used for irrigation. Fluoridated water or chlorinated water will lead to yellowed leaf tips. Avoid watering your bamboo with tap water, because it may contain enough trace amounts of chlorine to be damaging. Water your plants with rainwater or filtered water for optimal health.
4. Turn Down the Heat
While it's a warm weather plant, bamboo foliage can easily become burnt when exposed too long or too frequently to direct sunlight, particularly in very warm temperatures. Bamboo plants grow best in shade or areas with dappled or filtered sun. If you are growing your bamboo indoors, keep it well away from air vents with hot air blowing through; the heat and dry air can also cause the foliage to brown at the tips.
- University of Arizona: Growing Bamboo
- Fine Gardening: Genus Pleioblastus
- BBC.com: Ask the Gardener -- Bamboo
- Fine Gardenging: Genus Phyllostachys
- University of Georgia: Growing Bamboo in Georgia
- American Bamboo Society: Planting and Caring for Bamboo
- American Bamboo Society: Asian Bamboo Pests
- United States Department of Agriculture: Bambusa vulgaris
- University of Maryland: Bamboo
- Complete Bamboo: How to Grow Bamboo
- Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images