Nip and Tuck

I’ve owned this bamboo plant, Harold, for about three years. He’s hanging out on the little table there, just chillin’, as he is often wont to do. He went from a small standard “lucky bamboo” plant to a 3-foot-tall BambooZilla. I’m a proud plant mom!

Harold and his now-deceased fam

He’s been named because that’s the only way that my plants survive: name them, talk to them, give them plenty of water & sunlight. Sometimes food/soil, but that last one is optional. He did really well on my desk at work, but then my coworker tried to kidnap him (and did, for several hours on several occasions), so he needed to come home with me.

A couple weeks ago, Harold’s leaves started yellowing. He wasn’t looking too good, perhaps more sun? Less sun? New water? Less water? Bamboo is kind of hard to kill off (just make sure it’s got fresh water and filtered sunlight), but it seemed like that’s what was happening. He wasn’t getting much better.

This past weekend I noticed that the water was very dark, and the bottom stalks were turning yellow. Generally that means something is really amiss. Then, switching out the water, it dawned on me that the Really Awful Random Smell that seemed to be lingering over the past who-knows-how-long was coming from Harold. A couple weeks at least, long enough for me to not remember when it didn’t smell like something died. It wasn’t overpowering, but every so often when I went by the fridge there would be a whiff of something like food gone bad. It wasn’t pleasant, but it seemed like something that would just randomly waft in through the open window.


Now, it’s been a very hot week. It’s hot right now. I don’t do well in the heat, much like a delicate flower (or mayonnaise). I get nauseous very quickly and essentially can’t do much more than sit in front of a fan or A/C unit, eating a popsicle and trying to remember when it was cold enough to wear socks. My office and car has air conditioning, my home just has a window unit in the bedroom (which is on for the first time this year).

Keeping all that in mind, I’m not going to search for images of “bamboo rot” or anything else with the word “rot”. My stomach is already giving me the side-eye just thinking of that smell. We are barely on truce terms.

Digressing: back to Harold. About an hour ago I walked by and noticed the smell was stronger. A closer look confirmed the water was cloudy. The plan with “Operation Save Harold” was to drain the old water and add new water every day for a week, hoping to flush any toxins. This was day 3, and if the plan was to work, the water should have been fairly clear today. The smell definitely shouldn’t have been as strong.

I went into the kitchen and dumped out the water/rocks into a mixing bowl …and the smell was horrifying. There was a weird glaze of growth inside the vase that he’d been transferred to.

At this point, people are probably saying “JUST TOSS IT”.

You guys, I can’t. Harold’s been around for too long. I wanted to save him.

Upon closer inspection, he was made up of three separate stalks that were held together with twine or floral wire. That material had rotted, as did the bottom of all the stalks, as did the root system. Only one of the stalks had any green left – below the curl near the bottom of the stalk was all a yellowish-brown sick color, but the curl and above was still green. This rot appeared to only be coming up from the bottom and not infesting the entire stalk, thankfully. Made the cut under running water, tossed the whole root system and 2.5 stalks of the three. What remains is a small portion in a little round container filled with fresh clear water that I plan on switching out on a weekly basis. The only crappy side-note is that I have been sick over the past few weeks. It started with that summer flu/cold that was going around and my cough has lingered. My throat feels weird. I’m hoping/wishing/praying that all the lingering stuff is just that, and not some crazy illness from inhaling mold spores or some other such crap for me to get paranoid about. I’m sure all the A/C in my office/car is also a lovely home to mold, so let’s not think about that – but I do tend to run my car’s A/C with the windows open so the air circulates. Hopefully that helps any flying mold. Or whatever.


An interesting fact (thanks, Internet!) is that yellowing of the leaves and rot can come from too much sunlight, but typically more often from heavily-fluoridated water. Right around the time Harold started to get sick was about the time I saw an influx of articles that San Diego water has a higher fluoride content, which means while I still have no idea on if fluoride helps or harms (there are far too many people on both opposing and proposing sides), it’s just something to add to the thoughts. Anyway, the majority of the water I drink is from a Sparkletts jug at work, because it’s free and I love hydrating myself.

Stay tuned and keep your fingers crossed for Harold. And me.

Harold happier times


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