How to revive a bamboo plant – expert tips to bring life back to your lackluster greenery

Need tips on how to revive a bamboo plant? We've got all the advice you need to get it looking lush once again

Japanese garden ideas bamboo planting
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Looking for tips on how to revive a bamboo plant? It's such a popular plant, giving gardens an exotic, Japanese feel, as well as being ideal for creating privacy screens and covering large areas really quickly and effectively. While bamboo is known for being pretty hardy and perfect for the lesser green-fingered gardeners amongst us, it can start to suffer if conditions aren't right. 

You might find your bamboo plant wilts, turns brown or has a tinge of yellow, or the stalks have begun to wrinkle. While these might look pretty serious, don't despair, there are plenty of really easy ways to bring your bamboo back from the brink. 

'With regards to bamboo plants, one of the most important aspects of keeping bamboo healthy is to make sure there is enough water for them, planting them in soil that doesn’t dry out.' recommends garden designer Raine Clarke-Wills. 'Also, you could try giving the plants a good feed if they are not doing so well, as they love nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. A good prune should also encourage new, healthy growth too.'

The remedy might depend on whether your bamboo is kept indoor or part of a modern garden scheme, and the size of the plant too but we cover all the options here so you can get your bamboo looking its best again.

How to revive bamboo quickly and easily 

'Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing (sometimes invasive) plants that thrives in many different regions and zones.  It can create a beautiful hedge, and aids in adding a green wall and privacy to any space. ' explain Mel Brasier, Garrett Magee and James DeSantis, A.K.A the Manscapers (opens in new tab).

'Bamboo is not the highest maintenance plan - but because it grows fast, you have to take specific care of it, including constant trimming and maintenance.' So here are the top tips for caring for and reviving a bamboo plant...

1. Ensure the bamboo plant is getting enough good quality water

While bamboos are by nature really hardy and great for low-maintenance gardens if yours is struggling and especially if the leaves are starting to turn from lush green to yellow, you are best switching from tap water to filtered water. Tap water will often contain chemicals that could be damaging the bamboo, so make the change and you'll more than likely notice improvements. 

Also ensure your bamboo is watered regularly, especially during the drier, warmer months as bamboo needs moist conditions to thrive.  'Bamboo needs a ton of water.' explain the Manscapers. ' And make sure the irrigation system is running strong and that it gets an even, deep penetrating layer of water to continue to keep those roots healthy. Test the soil and make sure the PH is balanced enough for bamboo - you may need to add fertilizer and/or plant foods to get it back into shape!'

A weekly water should suffice but do regularly check the moisture of the soil whether your plant is indoors or out. You could also add mulch to the pot or around the roots of the bamboo if it's part of a garden border to ensure it retains moisture between watering. 

Top tip: if your bamboo plant has really dried out landscape gardener Andy Sturgeon suggests that 'Dried out plants should have dead stems cut back and the whole pot should be submerged in a large bucket of water or even a pond until all the air bubbles come out.'

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(Image credit: Getty)

2. Try adding fertiliser to the soil

Fertilizer isn't essential for bamboo to thrive, but if your plant is looking a bit worse for wear giving them a boost of nutrients will help. Use a nitrogen-rich fertilizer to begin with and then switch to a fertilizer with a more balanced pH. If you keep your bamboo in pots and containers then you should be feeding them regularly with a liquid feed.  

3. Adjust the lighting conditions

Most species of bamboo enjoy plenty of sunlight, however constant direct sunlight could cause the leaves to turn brown and the plant to become dehydrated quickly. So if your plant is in a pot or container, try moving it to a spot that's still bright but gets more filtered or indirect sunlight. Bamboo will grow in shady spots too, they will just grow slower, which could be seen as a good thing since they can quickly get out of hand, but bear in mind if you want to use bamboo as a privacy fence, a sunny spot will help it grow tall and fast. 

Ensure the spot is sheltered too and if it's planted into the ground, the soil should be moist and fertile. Bamboo is hardy so can cope with most conditions but if your plant is struggling a change in light exposure and ensuring the soil isn't too poor will help the plant revive. 

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4. Give the plant a good prune

If it's just a small section of your plant that's wilting or turning yellow, cutting this away will help the rest of the plant continue to thrive. You should always pull off problems leaves (ones that look dry or yellow) and cut away any bad stalks that are shriveled and dehydrated. 

'When long shoots become brown and dry hack them off.' suggest the Manscapers.  'It needs to be constantly trimmed and pruned back to make sure that the green shines through.'

'As bamboo searches for light it grows taller and taller – it loves a healthy amount of sun.  Every 6-8 months, or once a season it's a good idea to get an extended saw, or trimmer and hack off the top layers so that it doesn't droop too far into your yard or space, and then inhibit your own sunlight that the bamboo is so desperately searching for.'

You should also prune your bamboo if it starts to flower. It's not a guarantee but a flowering bamboo can die or at least weaken the plant, turning it brown. So when you catch a flowering shoot, remove it straight away to discourage more flowers. 

If you have left it to the point where the whole plant is flowering, you can try and revive the bamboo by feeding it and watering it regularly. Then once it's finished flower cut the whole plant right back to the ground. This may seem brutal but it will hopefully encourage new growth. 

5. Check for signs of pests

'Insects are a big cause of bamboo dying -–so make sure that there are no pests taking over your bamboo!  There are many organic and non-toxic pesticides on the market now - one natural bug deterrent is neem oil.' explain the Manscapers. 

If aphids are the problem, you can try soap spray.  Just mix soap and water with a ratio of 1/4 together in a clean spray bottle and then cover the plant, focusing on the underside of the leaves and you'll find this is where most insects will be. 

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(Image credit: Matthew Williams)

6. Protect your bamboo over the winter

Bamboo is hardy, we've established that, however, they will start to suffer when temperatures drop below freezing. If it's not an option to bring your bamboo inside or pop it in a glasshouse, The Manscapers suggest 'Wrapping up your bamboo in burlap in the wintertime will help protect it from snow damaging the long limbs. If a lot of snowfall occurs it can easily break and damage the bamboo, so having it covered and wrapped will really help protect it, and keep those long shoots strong and tall and healthy-looking.'

How do you take care of an indoor bamboo plant?

Bamboo plants are a lovely way to bring the outdoors in, and they are usually really low maintenance and can survive in most conditions. However to help bamboo thrive indoors and keep it looking its best, keep it in a sunny spot that's not in direct sunlight for more than 5 hours a day and water it weekly with clean, filtered water. 

Beyond those basics, you also want to consider what your bamboo is growing in. Landscape gardener and designer Andy Sturgeon (opens in new tab) advises that 'Bamboo plants soon become pot bound meaning there is little soil to retain moisture and nutrients for the roots to access.' So it's important that the pot or container should be big enough to sustain it and you will have to repot it fairly regularly in order for it to stay healrthy. You always want your pot or container to be twice the size of the root ball (this is just the main mass of roots).

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How much sun does an indoor bamboo plant need?

The amount of sunlight an indoor bamboo plant will need will depend on the species, but the majority of bamboo like a sunny spot. Too much direct sunlight however will dehydrate the plant and could cause the leaves to shrivel so be sure to choose a spot that's either in filtered sunlight or indirect sunlight. 

As a quick rule of thumb, you can often judge how much light an indoor bamboo plant needs based on the size of its leaves. A species with smaller leaves needs more light, whereas a plant with larger leaves would be fine in a shadier position. 

How often should you water a bamboo plant?

Bamboo plants will need watering weekly. If outside that can of course come naturally from rainfall – just be sure to monitor the moisture of the soil in warmer, drier months. If your bamboo plant is kept indoors, you'll need to manually water it once a week and will need more frequent watering in the summer. 

Hebe is the Digital Editor of Livingetc; she has a background in lifestyle and interior journalism and a passion for renovating small spaces. You'll usually find her attempting DIY, whether it's spray painting her whole kitchen, don't try that at home, or ever changing the wallpaper in her hallway. Livingetc has been such a huge inspiration and has influenced Hebe's style since she moved into her first rental and finally had a small amount of control over the decor and now loves being able to help others make decisions when decorating their own homes. Last year she moved from renting to owning her first teeny tiny Edwardian flat in London with her whippet Willow (who yes she chose to match her interiors...) and is already on the lookout for her next project.