Bamboos are fast-growing, tough, and hardy plants that are essentially easy to cultivate.
All varieties, whether in the clumping or running group, are mostly grown outdoors to create privacy screens and windbreaks in yards.
Folks generally expect their bamboos to last up to 10 years or even more. It’s usually a shock to the system when they begin to show signs of dying long before the expected time.
The most obvious indicator or symptom is the leaves and stems turning yellow or showing obvious discoloration from the green color.
When this happens, critical questions like; Why is my outdoor bamboo dying? are the typical and logical catalyst for a frantic quest for answers.
This article would examine the factors responsible and all the possible solutions.
Better yet, we would also discuss how this can be easily prevented and show why, in most instances, the issue isn’t as grave as it appears to be initially.
Why Is My Outdoor Bamboo Dying?
In the context of the word ‘dying’, most of what you’ll read here is not bad news. Most serious bamboo issues show up as yellowing leaves and stems. And there isn’t a single factor you could point to as being solely responsible.
This makes it virtually impossible to recommend just one remedy or solution to take care of the issue. Multiple solutions are more like it.
The good news is that if you treat the problem as an emergency and start looking for and implementing the fixes, saving the plant is guaranteed most of the time.
And still better news, the causative factors are mostly linked to sloppy outdoor bamboo care routines.
Putting that into context, this implies that dealing with dying outdoor bamboo is out of the question if the bamboo plants are adequately and properly cared for.
And since outdoor bamboos are relatively easy to grow, preventing the problem isn’t a tough task either.
Reasons Your Outdoor Bamboo Is Dying
As already stated, the majority of the factors responsible for this problem are linked to care issues. Below are some of the common reasons:
Whether you grow clumping or the more invasive running bamboo, you need to water frequently because all species of bamboo thrive best in moist conditions.
This is especially critical for young bamboo plants that find it tough to survive in dry conditions.
In both old and young bamboos, the result of underwatering is usually leaf discoloration or yellowing leaves.
When it comes to watering outdoor bamboo plants, the recommended frequency is about twice a week for newly-planted bamboos, and a little less frequently after the roots are established.
If you want the soil to retain moisture longer, consider mulching around the roots.
Over-watering on the other hand is not usually a problem for outdoor bamboos planted in well-draining soils.
In pots though, this can be a problem leading to soggy soil and finally root rot, a fatal disease with no viable solution in most cases.
The rule of thumb is to water the plant when the top 1 inch of the soil is dry no matter where they are planted.
Watering outdoor bamboo with tap water may lead to serious problems especially when the plants are young, or are potted.
Tap water contains fluorine; over time the fluoride salts accumulate in the soil.
This prevents optimal uptake of water and other nutrients by the roots.
And with the leaves deprived of the raw materials for processing energy, the bamboo starts to fail.
Soil pH level
Soil pH levels are also a critical growth requirement for outdoor bamboo plants. They love and grow best in slightly acidic soil between 5.5 and 6.
Soil pH levels above or below that narrow range could eventually prove fatal to the bamboo.
If you don’t have a pH testing kit, now is the best time to invest in one. They are inexpensive, easily available from garden centers or nurseries, and easy to use.
Follow the instructions carefully and test the soil’s pH.
For soil with a pH below the ideal range, you can mix in wood ash or add lime to elevate the pH.
And if the test shows it is above the required levels, a nitrogen-rich fertilizer added to the soil should bring it down. Using compost is another great option when trying to lower soil pH levels.
Outdoor bamboo plants love exposure to the full sun.
Anything that blocks sunlight or provides shade for too long hampers the health outlook of the plant in the long run.
This isn’t usually a problem if the bamboos are planted in an open field without obstruction.
But if there are tall trees around with branches that have extended to shield your bamboo plants from the sun, consider pruning the offending branches.
Under normal circumstances, outdoor bamboos can survive mild pest infestations.
In extreme circumstances though, they can become overwhelmed by pest attacks and begin to show all the usual symptoms of dying bamboo such as foliage discoloration.
The most common pests infestations are from mites, aphids, and mealybugs.
Most of the pests are tiny and require close examination of the leaves to be detected.
Mites appear as dusty webs with spots on the leaves while mealybug infestations show up as whitish, fluffy-like patches on the leaves.
Fortunately, bamboo pest infestation can be handled easily. Dousing affected leaves and stems with natural plant pesticides like neem oil should be sufficient to get rid of them.
Other solutions include the use of baking soda and vegetable oil pest deterrents like canola oil.
Outdoor bamboo plants typically don’t require much plant food supplement to grow as expected.
But soil nutrient depletion over time may make it necessary to apply fertilizer.
This can be a double-edged sword though: too little would only give a false sense of hope that you are doing something to save the plant while applying too much can be problematic to the plant.
In both cases, the appearance of yellow leaves would indicate there is a problem that needs to be dealt with.
If you haven’t fertilized the plant for years, consider using a slow-release, water-soluble fertilizer in the growing season.
About once or twice a year (ideally, once a month) would be okay
Steps To Saving Your Dying Outdoor Bamboo
Each of the steps listed in the bamboo revival plan below is crucial when it comes to saving your bamboo.
This is because, due to the multiple factors responsible, it is impossible to point at just a single remedy.
Essentially, you’d need to incorporate more than a couple of steps to get a satisfying resolution.
That said, as you’d notice soon enough, all the remedial steps are based on best gardening care practices that could even be applied to other plants.
Let’s get to it!
Step 1: Get a pair of sharp garden pruners and sterilize the blades with rubbing alcohol.
A sharp pair o scissors or shears would be fine too. Use the sterilized cutter to snip off all leaves that appear dead or are on the verge of dying.
That means all the yellow or discolored leaves.
This step ensures that all the plant’s energy and resources are not wasted on these leaves.
This also promotes new growth.
Step 2: Eliminate all unwanted organic life such as mealybugs and algae anywhere they are found on the bamboo.
Step 3: Stop using tap water to irrigate the bamboo. Use distilled water, rainwater collected in large storage containers, and spring water.
If you must use tap water, allow it to sit in a container overnight before watering your bamboo with it.
Most of the fluorides would have dissipated by then.
Step 4: Adjust your watering routine to match the ideal standard for outdoor bamboo plants. Basically, never allow the soil to dry out.
Constantly moist soil is best, but never let the soil become soggy from overwatering.
Step 5: Fertilize the bamboo with half-strength, water-soluble grass fertilizer not more than two times (once a month) in the growing season
Step 6: Spread a 3-inch thick layer of organic mulch around the base of your bamboo plants.
This helps to retain soil moisture, keep out weeds, and promote stronger roots.
Also, you don’t have to rake out. the pruned leaves in the first step.
Simply gather them around your bamboo plants to serve as mulch.
Hopefully, this article has successfully answered your question on; why is my outdoor bamboo dying?
The tall, elegant smooth-stemmed bamboos with thick green leaves make some of the best natural privacy screens and windbreakers in yards.
The low-maintenance plants are hardy, grow quickly, and can generally withstand tough conditions.
However, your outdoor bamboo dying is not unusual when faced with extreme neglect and some weather-related issues.
These include lack of water, inadequate exposure to sunlight, and depleted soil nutrients combined with lack of fertilization.
But you can easily revive your bamboo plants with careful applications of the right remedies.