Bamboo With Brown Tips: Reasons Why Bamboo Plant Tips Are Brown

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By Mary H. Dyer, Master Naturalist and Master Gardener

My bamboo is turning brown; is that normal? The answer is – maybe, or maybe not! If you’re noticing your bamboo plant tips are brown, it’s time to do some troubleshooting to determine the cause. Read on to determine possible reasons for a browning bamboo plant.

Causes for a Browning Bamboo Plant

Insect pests are often to blame for a bamboo with brown tips, and the most likely culprits are sap-sucking insects such as mites, mealybugs, scale or aphids.

  • Mites – These miniscule pests, which are difficult to see with the naked eye, are especially common during dry weather when bamboo leaves are dusty. If you suspect mites, look for tiny specks and fine webbing on the leaves.
  • Aphids – One of the most common sap-sucking pests, tiny aphids can do a lot of damage when left unchecked. Although aphids are usually green, they may also be tan, brown, red, yellow, grey or even black. Aphids excrete generous quantities of honeydew, which attracts hordes of ants. The sticky substance can also invite sooty mold.
  • Scale Scale are tiny, sap-sucking insects recognized by their waxy, brown or tan shell-like covering. Like aphids, many types of scale create honeydew that, in turn, draws ants and sooty mold to the bamboo plant.
  • Mealybugs – These common bamboo pests are easy to spot by their whitish, cottony protective covering. Again, ants and sooty mold may result with an infestation of mealybugs.

Most sap-sucking insects are relatively easy to control by spraying the plants with insecticidal soap or neem oil. If the infestation is light, a strong blast of water with a spray nozzle may be enough to knock them off the leaves. Chemical insecticides generally aren’t necessary and tend to do much more harm than good as the toxins kill bees, ladybugs, and other beneficial insects.

Cultural or environmental conditions can also lead to browning on bamboo plants.

  • Heat – Too much heat or direct sunlight may be the reason for a browning bamboo plant, as most bamboo varieties prefer shade or partial sunlight.
  • Water – Both under- and over-watering can cause a bamboo with brown tips. A new bamboo plant benefits from watering once or twice a week until the plant reaches the three- to six-month mark. After that time, in-ground plants usually require no supplemental irrigation. When it comes to potted bamboo, slightly on the dry side is always preferable to wet, soggy soil. A mature bamboo plant will let you know when it’s thirsty; don’t water the plant until the leaves begin to curl.
  • Fertilizer – Be careful about using too much fertilizer, which may be responsible if bamboo plant tips are brown. Even natural fertilizer, such as fish emulsion, may contain salts that can burn bamboo leaves.
  • Winter Damage – Most bamboo varieties tolerate winters in climates as far north as USDA planting zone 5. However, chilly weather can burn the leaves of many types of bamboo. Some of the leaves may even drop from the plant, but they’ll soon be replaced by new leaves.

Care of a Browning Bamboo

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Once you‘ve resolved the reason for a browning bamboo plant, the plant should rebound nicely. However, it’s a good idea to trim the browned leaves or tips with a clean, sharp pair of scissors. Cut the leaves at an angle to create a more natural appearance.

If the leaves are completely brown, just pull them gently from the plant.

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