12/22/10

Is it normal for bamboo leaves to turn brown?

A customer who bought bamboo from us before the recent cold snap wrote to ask: 
Is it normal for the bamboo to brown in the winter?  All but the Golden Hedge now have brown leaves, following some rather bitterly cold nights we had last week and the week before.  The stalks still look basically the same.
 
Just wanted to see if something’s gone wrong.  I did avoid watering before the coldest nights for fear of freezing the roots, but otherwise they should have received plentiful water.
 
I replied:
You haven't done anything wrong.  The unusually cold weather has "burned" the leaves on many of the bamboos.  Those leaves will be falling off in the coming weeks and new leaves will form to take their place.  For information on which bamboos are most vulnerable to winter temperatures, please click on this post

56 comments:

  1. the stems of my two large potted bamboos are green but the leaves are all dead! will new leaves come from existing canes or do i need to cut them right back and wait for new shoots? its such a shame as they are lovely tall plants
    thanks
    Linda

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    1. If the culms (stems) are green, it means your bamboo is still alive and new shoots should be sprouting soon. New leaves might also regrow on the ends of the canes but I have to wonder why the leaves all died? Are you giving your potted bamboo enough water? Remember that potted plants dry out quickly and therefore need to be watered more frequently than bamboo planted in the ground. Also, are you adding fertilizer? Container-grown bamboo need regular applications of a time-release high-nitrogen fertilizer to help them grow healthily.

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  2. I planted six golden goddess 8" root ball clumps in May of 2013. They took off and each grew about 2-3' last year. We have had a mild winter in Kansas City and now they are ALL light brown (stems and leaves) and appear dead. Will they return to green this spring or should I plan on replacing them?

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    1. Golden Goddess is very hardy but it is still a tropical bamboo and cannot survive if temperatures dip below 13-15 degrees. If it got that cold (or colder) in your area this winter, it probably killed all the above-ground parts of the plant. You probably lost some, if not all, of your canes and leaves from the freezing temperature but hopefully, the roots should be fine and will rebound in spring. Please keep us informed on how the plants do as the weather improves. If they don't come back, please consider a running bamboo instead. Running bamboos do well in cold climates while clumping bamboos, even hardier ones like Golden Goddess, are meant to grow in climates that do not suffer severe winter temperatures.

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  3. My large bamboo is brown all the way down the stalk till about 5 inches or so from the soil, can I cut it down and will it go back?

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    1. Yes, you can cut it down but that cane won't grow back. The way bamboo grows is that every year during the warm months, bamboo produces new canes. How many new canes depends on the soil and water conditions, the age of the plant and the weather. If your bamboo was killed back because you planted a cold-sensitive variety in an area that gets cold weather, you might want to consider replacing that bamboo with one that is more appropriate for your location.

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  4. Hi, We had a horrific winter in PA last year. My very sturdy bamboo-some about 9 ft high are ALL light brown/hay colored. Have I lost them for good? I am so upset-I have been growing them for about 7 years as a cover across the back of my yard. Thank you for any help you can give... Judi Z

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    1. Despite the rough winter, it's likely that your bamboo will recover as the weather warms. The existing brown canes may have been killed by the cold but new shoots should appear as they do every year growing just as tall as the previous years' growth.

      Sometimes, severe winter temps can cause a normally cold-hardy bamboo like you have to suffer more than usual. Since this past winter was such a tough one, you may not get as many new shoots this summer as you usually do. I'd suggest spreading a thick layer of compost, manure or other high nitrogen soil amendment around your bamboo. Since it suffered so much this winter, you want to do everything you can to help it along. Improving the soil will help add important nutrients. If it a dry spring, irrigate and mulch. Doing those things will help your bamboo recover.

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    2. My bamboo is basically in the same condition as the above comment. I also live in eastern PA, where we had a very severe winter. I've had it for years...almost 40 years in some places, and never before did it turn this brown. I used to see some leaves turn brown and everything came back as the temperatures grew warmer. But now I'm really worried.

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    3. I was recently in western MA where I also saw brown leaves on running bamboos that normally withstand winter temperatures. At this point you need to wait and see if new shoots appear. Since your 40-year-old grove is so well established, I think there's a good chance the roots survived and will produce new canes this summer. If they do, those new canes will quickly grow as tall or taller than the previous years' growth. You should, however, cut down at the base the old canes. If you don't do it now, it will be much harder to do later. It would also help to spread compost and/or manure and mulch after you cut down the dead canes to feed the plants and encourage more growth. Please keep me posted. I'd like to know how the bamboos fare as summer progresses.

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    4. Thanks...I had a feeling that what I had to do. I'll check back and let you know how things turn out. I'm curious myself.

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  5. I have just taken delivery of a black bamboo and most of the leaves are turning brown is this normal please

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    1. Sometimes, the leaves may turn brown due to the stress of the transplant. Just be certain that the plant is receiving adequate water, which would also cause leaves to turn brown.

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  6. Hello,
    My husband planted bamboo last year and it is all dead (yellow) but near the soil is green. Would we cut them down so new shoots can grow or leave them?

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    1. It would help to know where you live and what variety of bamboo you planted last year. Without specifics I can only assume you live in a climate that had a cold winter which killed back the young and vulnerable bamboo canes. Assuming you planted an appropriate bamboo for your climate, new shoots should begin to appear in the warm summer month. The canes that suffered cold damage will not recover but new canes should appear from the roots as the weather warms. It would be helpful to cut down the old dead canes and supplement the soil with a top dressing of manure or compost to encourage more new shoots to appear.

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  7. I live in Houston and have running bamboo. It has been a rainy year and the bamboo has really grown this year. I've been growing it for 5 years and this has been the best year so far. However, recently I've been noticing my bamboo starting to turn brown and some stalks die. Should I cut them out or leave them? Is this normal? It kind of looks like it is spreading. Do you have any suggestions?

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    1. I doubt if there is any serious problem with the bamboo. A 5-year-old stand of running bamboo in your area of the country should by now have a very strong, well-developed root system. The fact that you've noticed considerable growth this year reinforces that. However, because of the unusual amount of rain, the ground may be softer than usual and some of the bamboos canes may be leaning over more than they should. That could be what is causing the browning. You might try using some of the dead canes to stake up any canes that are leaning, if they are in fact leaning as I suspect. Keep in mind that as a grove matures, some canes are going to die. That is normal and you can cut them out. It is also normal for leaves to turn brown and fall off and be replaced by new leaves. Although I appreciate your concern, I really don't think your grove is in any danger. Bamboos are extremely hardy and your stand should be looking wonderful by the end of the summer.

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  9. Hi I live in South Central Texas near San Antonio. Recently my golden goddess bamboo that are closing in on about 21 e feet tall it started getting brown patchs of leaves, the canes are intact and are not dead and the other leaves on the same canes are fine. I am watching it progressed daily. It reminds me of when it gets burned in the winter from the freeze but its not all over. Any ideas?

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    1. The brown patches could be an indication that the plant needs more water. If it has been especially dry, you might try watering more frequently. However, it's encouraging that other leaves on the same canes are still green. My immediate thought is that this is just the natural progression of a leaf's life. As you probably know, bamboo leaves are continually getting old and falling off as new leaves emerge. It's good that you're noticing but I wouldn't worry about this. Bamboos are such hardy plants. Your golden goddess should be just fine.

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  10. I live in Florida and have Wong Chuck bamboo. One of them is 6 years the others are on second growing season. I have been using 16-4-8 on them. All new culms have burns on the tips and other spots that separate as it grows. I haven't noticed this in the past and it does't seem to be affecting the overall growth and health of the plants. any idea what could be causing this.

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    1. The spots might be an area where the granule of fertilizer stuck to the cane of the bamboo. Be sure that the canes are dry when fertilizer is applied so it does not stick to the canes or leaves.

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  11. Hi. I have a gold bamboo, live in south Fl. I noticed about 3 foot up from the ground it is black a little. Is this normal?

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    1. Sometimes, in the summer heat and humidity fungus can develop on the canes of bamboo. Typically, it is the older canes that will get this. It is damaging to the bamboo. Make sure they are receiving high nitrogen fertilizer two times a year. This will help keep them healthy. The damaged canes can be trimmed out if there are other nice, leafed out canes. The plant can also be sprayed with a fungicide containing copper. This is available at the home improvement centers. It will not remove the existing spots, but might help keep it from spreading.

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  12. Greetings from London, U.K. I have a bunch of bamboo trees (I don't know the exact name or type) on the windy roof terrace in a large planter. They were green, then turned yellowy brown, and completely shed leaves over the winter. Is there any chance of bringing back leaves or growing new ones? Are there any emergency fixes or pick-me-up for my sad looking bamboo? (I give plenty of bamboo food, water and love....)

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    1. I am sorry to hear about your bamboo. You are doing the correct things, with the food, water, and love. If you had a very cold winter and too much damage was done to the root system, the plant may not recover. If possible, protect future bamboo in the winter with heavy mulch or bringing them inside.

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  13. Hello, I'm new to having Bamboo plants they were given to me and both of the little plants had some brown leaves and stalk. I quickly looked up how to treat them and save them for i thought they were dying. I have them in my front room window where i can open and close the blinds to lement how much sun light they get. I love them think they are truly beautiful just want to know what i'm doing wrong.
    They are in a twisted motion around a green bar.... "Help Me Save Them PLEASE"

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    1. I believe you are saying the canes are wrapped around a bar. Without seeing it, it sounds like you are describing lucky bamboo. If this is the case, it is not actually a bamboo. It is a dracaena.

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  14. I am on a board of my HOA. We planted bamboo shield that cost $5k. It looked great at first, very green. But now it has looked very dry and brown for a long time. I keep asking our landscaper to do something to make it healthier. Im in san diego and it has been warm lately and dry. They have increased the watering at my request a few times but soil is still dry. Can i send you pictures of the plants? If so, please send you email address. Xavier

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    1. Xavier,
      If the plants are receiving water, but are still dry, a couple of things may be happening. First, the water may be running off of the root ball. In this case, it would be a good idea to water by hand, putting the hose directly into the root ball for a few weeks until the plants become established.
      Another problem might be hydrophobic soil. This is identified by water pooling on top of the soil rather than soaking in. If this is happening, applying some water with dish soap to the soil around the plants.

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  15. Hi from rural Victoria, Australia.
    It's currently summer here and I've just divided and planted a clumping bamboo. I watered in with a root hormone and fertilized with Nitrophoska. It's been about a week, some leaves on each division are curled, dry but still green coloured, some plants seem to be completely crunchy, canes turning yellowish as well.

    Some plants are hanging on to their leaves where they have shelter from the sun because of their neighbours and still have green (albeit wilted looking) leaves.
    I'm watering every day and the soil is a mix of sandy loam possibly interspersed by clay pockets but after watering I can see water running off the property.

    I'm worried there's too much cane/leaves to root ratio. But if the cane and leaves are still greenish should I leave it alone and keep watering? And at what time should I cut the canes or remove leaves? Wouldn't it stress the plant if I took all of its leaves off?

    Thanks for any info

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    1. Dividing your bamboo puts a great amount of stress on the plant. That is most likely what you see going on. For this reason, we usually do not recommend doing divisions and planting them into the ground. We typically will keep them in containers for a few months or even an entire year before planting. This allows the root system to recover before replanting.
      Since you already have them in the ground, keep watering them. Also, you might try cutting the canes back to the lowest node where there are still leaves. This will allow more energy to go to establishing the roots. If there are no leaves in the lower parts of the canes, you may have taken them too soon.
      I hope you find this helpful. Good luck and be patient with your bamboo.

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  16. Greetings from the N. Ca mountains! My daughter got herself a bamboo plant from a local home improvement store. It's done well for over a year and was happy hanging out next to my prayer plant until..they were both by the big picture window during a cold snap. The leaves started getting wilty and brown and now the cane has turned a deep brown and is wrinkly. We've been trying to nurse it for about two months now. Are we fighting a losing battle? I should note there is not one bit of green on that cane, even at the soil line. Any help is much appreciated.

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    1. Based in your location, it must be a running bamboo that she purchased. Most are cold hardy down to 5 to -10 degrees. It is possible that it will come back in the spring. The canes that are no longer green will not come back, but there may be rhizomes under the soil just waiting for it to warm back up. I would apply a thick layer of mulch to protect the roots. In the spring put down some high nitrogen fertilizer. From there it will be a wait and see.

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  17. Hello, dear Jennifer! I write from Serbia.I recently planted some bamboo plants which I got from a guy growing them here, so I suppose, they withstand cold winters fine (in Serbia it can be down to -20 at night). But now it has been rather warm- about 10-15 degrees celsium, an occasional 0 at night. The first week the canes and the leaves were fine (they are about 1,5m high, separated, with some rizooms). But after the leaves started to lose color, get dry and curl. The canes are yet green. I water them every day, except for rainy days, but it doesn't help. i read that bamboo does not tolerate flooding, we checked the soil- it' s quite wet, but the water seems to drain more or less. What should be done to keep the plants alive? Shall I continue to water them even if the land is quite wet? what is going wrong and when to expect progress? Thank you so much in advance!

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    1. It seems the soil may be holding too much moisture for the bamboo to thrive. I would cut back your watering to allow the soil to just dry up a little. The leaves on a plant that is too wet will curl up like a straw. If it is too dry, they will fold in half lengthwise.
      As long as the canes are still green and there are some leaves, the bamboo is still trying to survive.
      I hope this helps.

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  18. Thank you for all the info. I have a large spread of phyllostachys, variety unknown, but one that grows to over 30 feet sometimes. The patch is over 20 years old. I live in CT close to the shoreline. Every winter, some of the leaves turn light brown and fall off, but pop back quickly in the spring. The winters of 2013/14 and 14/15 were severe here, with many days below 0 degrees F. Still, we had only some browning and early recovery those years. This winter however, we were unusually mild. We still had some wicked windchill, but for short periods. My stachys leaves are ALL brown. The culms are mostly green, but I can see that we lost several because even the culms are brown on a small portion of the patch. We're having a very early spring and I still don't see any rejuvenation on most of the still green culms. I only have a handful of culms, all of them unusually short at 5 feet or so, that seem unaffected and have their green leaves again. It just doesn't seem totally weather related. Could a pest or disease have compromised my bamboo so it was more susceptible to the winter, even though it was mild? Where should I look for pests on the bamboo? Or what are signs of disease? Thank you.

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    1. It may just be that your grove needs some nutrients to help it get going again. We have had success with applying a layer of compost in the spring. A few inches deep through out the grove is usually good. You may want to thin out any dead or old canes at the same time.
      It would be uncommon for a pest to be at fault, but possible. If there is scale, it will look like small raised bumps on the underside of the leaves or even on the canes. Bayer Tree and Shrub with Merit works well for scale. Bamboo spider mites are rare. These would be seen by shaking the leaves over a white paper. There will be little dots moving around the paper. If you run your hand down the paper, there will be smears. Another sign would be webbing on the under side of the leaves. The best control for mites would be physical removal of as much damaged leaves as possible. Apply a product labeled for spider mites. Then a good dose of high nitrogen fertilizer.

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    2. I live in Boston (near the river but not the ocean), and my bamboo is in terrible condition, despite the mild winter. My bamboo is now 3 years old - the past springs (after 2 harsh winters) there were some yellow leaves but nothing like this. I have almost no green. I guess I made a big mistake trying to prune because now it looks even worse (I pruned then went on vacation 2 weeks, durig which time there was some unexpected snow and a decent amount of rain). The winter was mild, but we did have a few intense wind storms.

      It sounds like I should put down some compost? I have a rhyzome barrier containing my little grove. How long will it take to recover, if it will indeed recover. I'm wondering if I should just think about replacing it. I started with 5 plants, and after one spring/summer it was perfect).

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    3. Annabella,
      A layer of nutrient rich compost a couple of inches thick may be all you need to bring your grove back to life if there is any green left. We have found that even in areas where there are no visible canes left, the bamboo will find its way back if there were healthy rhizomes under the good soil. You may add some additional small plants as a back up plan or wait a month or two to see if any new growth emerges.

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    4. Thank you, Jennifer! Is there any particular type of compost that you think is best for bamboo? Even though we have a PVC rhyzome barrier underneath, I believe our neighbor's oak tree roots are also invading our bamboo grove, but I think I'll try your suggest and see if I can supplement with a couple of additional plants.

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    5. Annabella,
      We are fortunate here to have access to mushroom compost. Really, any broken down organic matter will be fine. You might check to see if someone near you has horses or cows and has been composting their manure. Usually, these folks are happy to get rid of it.

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  19. Celeste, I live in Rhode Island a few miles from the ocean and am seeing the same conditions on my grove of bamboo. (I see your post is just a few days old) Ours is also the 30' tall running type, and a few weeks ago, after a rather high wind, over the space of one night, we noticed that all the bamboo leaves had suddenly turned shriveled and gray. They have since turned golden brown and are now dropping. I was wondering if salt in the wind might have damaged it, as the air was not terribly cold that day. Many, but not all of the culms look brown, but there is some green remaining. This bamboo is more of a nuisance than a desired feature for us, as it was here when we bought the land, and we have gradually been downsizing the grove by cutting new culms and treating them with Roundup. There is another grove of the same type across town which is in the same condition, however, so I doubt anything we have done has harmed it.

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  20. I live in Boston (not near the water), and my bamboo looks just awful. This is its 3rd year. After 2 harsh winters it had a lot of yellow the past couple of years but it dropped quickly and then flourished. Now, after a mild winter (but a couple of intense wind storms) my poor bamboo is completely yellow. I made the mistake of attempting to prune it, and now it's even worse. Stalks are green, but there aren't any green leaves at all.
    Sounds like I should compost it, but I don't know if that will be enough to save it. I wonder how long I should give it to try to recover or if I should dig it up and plant new plants?

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    1. Annabella,
      I think a good top dressing of compost is a great idea. You still have green canes, so the bamboo is still alive. We have had great success with just doing a good few inches of compost.

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  21. I live in Springfield, MA and like the Boston poster, my Green Panda bamboo just turned all yellow brown but for a few canes on the edges. The canes are all fine so far. It's a very small fine bamboo and I'm wondering if I should just cut it all down to give it a chance to regrow. Thanks so much for helping all of us out with our bamboo questions.

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    1. If the canes are still green, I would not cut them down. New leaves may still flush out. These will be available to help the plant take in sunlight and put up some new canes. Once new canes emerge and leaf out, then go ahead and remove any canes that are damaged or ugly.
      It would also be a good idea to apply a high nitrogen fertilizer to help promote new growth. We use Dynamite, available at our nursery. You can contact us at (352)429-2425 to order. If you chose a different fertilizer, make sure it does not contain any herbicides. Do not use anything labeled "weed and feed".
      Make sure that the plant is receiving adequate water as it recovers. It is a good thing to let just the top 1-2" dry out and then give the bamboo some water. This will keep it from ever getting too dry.

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    2. Thanks for the advice. Would I kill it if I cut everything back? After posting I did find brown canes at the core and mixed between some healthy canes, and it'd be easier to manage the clump if I just buzzed it all down (or most of it). It'd also let me manage the size of the rootball at this time, since it's getting a bit big. Is this a bad idea?

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  22. Christa Carnegie4/16/2016 03:01:00 PM

    Based on these recent posts there must be something going on in the Northeast neighborhood. I live just north of New York City and have had about 17 fargesia robustas (cumping about 12 ft tall) on my property for at least 15 years. This is the first year that I have had any problem. Before reading these post, I was about to “deep 6” at least 4 of them. Now I will try prune the clearly dead stalks and fertilize ---these plants had thrived on “benign neglect will”—and see what happens. Thanks for the info.

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    1. Keep us posted on your bamboos after you fertilize and as the summer growing season progresses.

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  24. I live in Haverhill MA on NH border, our 10 yr old well established bamboo also is 90% yellow instead of the other way. I wonder if the lack of snow and mild winter is to blame. Then the deep cold snap.
    We will fertilize and cut back - hope it works

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    1. keep us posted on how it works out, janet

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  25. Hello. I live in revere ma about 5 miles north of Boston and less than a mile from the ocean.
    I have a small grove of extremely robust, cold tolerant bamboo over 15' tall.
    I'm having the same issues as the rest of the new englanders. All my foliage turned a straw/ brown(not yellow) color. It has dropped leaves but at a normal rate. The plants look alive and strong, just with this straw coloring. This happened about 8-10 weeks ago and as the weather has turned I've been expecting a change to green. I've never seen this issue. Plants have been in the ground for 10 years and survived horrific winters. This winter was mild for NE and I was thinking windburn but by now I'd have thought they'd have started to change.
    I'm in the green industry and asked around to nurseries and have got very vague answers.
    It seems as though many of my fellow New Englanders are experiencing the same issue.
    I've been in wait and see mode but I'm starting to get anxious.

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    1. Tony,
      A layer of good compost has always worked well for our groves down here in Florida. Certainly, the bamboo can get some windburn if there are cold winds. They should recover from this just fine. One other thought, is if the winter was so mild, new growth may have begun to emerge but became damaged by an unexpected cold front before becoming hardy.
      Please keep us posted as your weather up there begins to improve.

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