Lucky Bamboo Care – Growing Dracaena Sanderiana

In Asian cultures, lucky bamboo has been a symbol of good fortune for over 4,000 years. Recently it's also become popular house plant that is widely available outside of Asia.

Aside from being a pretty plant, one of the main reasons for its popularity is how easy it is to grow.

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Lucky Bamboo Overview

Common Name(s)Lucky bamboo, sander's dracaena, ribbon dracaena,curly bamboo, Chinese water bamboo, friendship bamboo, ribbon plant, Goddess of Mercy plant, Belgian evergreen
Scientific NameDracaena braunii, also known as dracaena sanderiana
FamilyDracaena
OriginSoutheast asia & west africa
HeightUp to 5 feet
LightAs much indirect sunlight as possible
WaterOften, can live in water
Temperature65-90°F
HumidityHigh
SoilAraited soil, or water
Fertilizer2-3 x monthly
PropagationStem cuttings
PestsGophers, mites, aphids, mealy bugs.

Here's a fun fact: lucky bamboo isn't actually bamboo!

It actually belongs to the plant family of Dracaenas, just like Dracaena marginata, or the Madagascar Dragon Plant.​

It can be grown in decorative planters or bowls filled with just rocks and water, making it one of the most tolerant houseplants you can grow.

Of course, you can also pot it into soil for more robust growth.

Lucky Bamboo Care

Lucky Bamboo care is extremely easy!

The best way to care for them is up for debate: some gardeners prefer to keep them in water and others plant them in soil for best results.

The choice is pretty much a personal preference as lucky bamboo seems to do well in either medium. It's usually sold in a clear or decorative container with just rocks and water.

If you removed your bamboo from the container you purchased it in, you'll most likely find that it's been bound with a string or wrapped wire.

While the wire will hold your bamboo together, it will eventually damage the plant. As the bamboo grows, the string will cut into the stalks and can result in disease. Remove it so your plant can grow safely.​

Light

Bamboo will thrive in almost any area of the home where many other plants could not survive. In nature, bamboo grows in the shade of rainforest trees, so they prefer indirect, but bright sunlight.

If the plant receives too much direct sunlight, the leaves will burn and turn brown. But, if it gets too little sun, it will cause hamper the plants growth.

Temperature

Lucky bamboo is a tropical plant, so it prefers warm temperatures. The temperature should always be at least 60°F, but the plant will thrive better in warmer temperatures. 

Water

Since the plant lives in water, there's no guess work when it comes to watering lucky bamboo! All you need to do is to make sure that there's always water in the container. Some people suggest that you change the water on a regular basis, but as long as clean water is used, it's not necessary to keep changing it.

However, if the water begins to look as if it's stagnating, it should be changed and the container washed thoroughly.

The chlorine found in tap water can cause damage to the plants leaves. You should either purchase spring water or place the tap water in an open container overnight to allow the chlorine to evaporate.​

Soil

When grown in potting soil, it should be kept just slightly moist and never soaking wet. And, you shouldn't let the soil dry completely between waterings. Even thought the top of the soil may be dry, it can still be moist down in the soil. Always stick your finger into the soil to check it. When the soil is dry a full inch below the surface, it's time to water it.

Fertilizer

Bamboo only needs to be fertilized about every two months with a very weak solution of fertilizer. You can use a good quality plant food and mix it to one tenth of the recommended amount, or use a few drops of food that is made for aquarium plants.​

Repotting

After the first year of growth, it's common for your lucky bamboo plant to have a knotted ball of container-shaped roots. While you do not have to re-pot it at this point, you may want to anyways.

All you need to do is pick a larger container than the existing one and place the plant back in a mixture of rocks and water. When adding water, make sure it's a room temperature spring water to avoid shocking the root system.​

Pruning​

If your lucky bamboo is growing out of control, do not fear! You can top it and bring it back down to size.

To top, use a sharp, sterilized cutting tool and choose an area of the stem that is around 1" above a growth node. Slice it off​ and your bamboo will respond by growing bushier rather than taller.

Propagation

Of course, you don't have to throw away your cuttings — you can create little lucky bamboo plants!

Here's a a quick guide to propagating lucky bamboo:

  1. Make sure the cutting you are going to propagate is around 4-6" long
  2. Let the cutting dry overnight, then place in a container of distilled water
  3. Leave for 2-3 days.
  4. After 2-3 days, start to mist the cuttings to encourage new growth.

Problems

Lucky bamboo is one of the easiest plants to take care of as long as you provide it with what it needs to thrive. However, you might run into a few issues growing it.

Here's what to look out for.​

Growing Problems

Lucky Bamboo - Yellow Leaves

Yellowing leaves are almost always due to high amounts of chlorine in the water. Either switch to distilled water or leave your tap water out overnight to allow the chlorine to dissipate.

Another reason for yellow leaves is that you're giving the plant too much sun. Bamboo likes light, but it must not be direct sun or you'll stress it.

Algae Growth

Because most gardeners grow bamboo in water and rocks, algae can develop. Algae likes nutrient-rich water and a lot of light. To prevent it, make sure you aren't over-fertilizing your bamboo plant and that it isn't exposed to direct sun.

Pests

The classic houseplant pests can also affect lucky bamboo, but it's pretty rare. Spider mites and scale insects can make their way to your bamboo plant, but getting rid of them is as simple as rubbing them off of the plant with an isopropyl-soaked cotton swab.

Diseases

Lucky Bamboo - Yellow Stalks

Yellow stalks are usually caused by the beginning of root rot. Root rot is usually caused by over watering, but in this case lucky bamboo is grown in water! So, root rot in lucky bamboo is caused by allowing the water to go stagnant. Replace the water and rinse the root system and rocks to prevent yellowing stalks.

FAQs​

A thriving specimen

Q. What is the meaning of the number of lucky bamboo stalks in my container?

A. You may be interested in knowing that the number of stalks in your container has a meaning! Although lucky bamboo is most associated with luck in love, it's also lucky for other purposes as well:

  • Two stalks are for love
  • Three stalks are said to bring luck in happiness.
  • Five stalks is supposed to bring you wealth
  • Six stalks are meant to keep you healthy!​

Q. What does lucky bamboo have to do with feng shui?

A. Bamboo is closely associated with the ancient practice of feng shui, which means bringing all the natural elements into balance. Bamboo is an ideal representation of water and wood elements. The red string or wire that is wrapped around the plants is thought to enhance the flow of energy in your room!

Q. Should I plant in rocks and water, or in soil? Does it matter?

A. If you are going for simplicity, plant in rocks and water. If you'd like your bamboo to grow larger and faster, plant in soil...just keep in mind you'll need to water it much more often.

Lucky Bamboo has been a symbol of good fortune for over 4,000 years. Also known as Dracaena sanderiana, it will thrive in almost any area of the home.
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15 thoughts on “Lucky Bamboo Care – Growing Dracaena Sanderiana

  1. Well, I never realized this wasn’t actually bamboo. In fact I recall a friend of mine being here and making a comment about my “fake bamboo”. I never thought much about it at the time. No big deal, its just funny that my entire family have always took for granted that this was bamboo.

  2. Thank you, i keep water fresh by changing it every week, and always keep water levels at approximately an inch from the base of the canes.

  3. A friend once told me that you could pull off one of the shoots from the stalk and root it in water to start a new plant…is this true? I haven’t tried it…Lea

  4. These are great plants for anyone that doesn’t have a green thumb. Keep water in them and give them some light and they’re good to go. Not sure how lucky they are though lol

  5. A person I used to work with had 3 containers with 1 stalk in each one. The water was full of algae that was thick as leather. He was going throw them in the trash – I have them now. I took out the stalks – cut off the dead leaves (all the leaves) – The stalks had new shoots so I kept them attached (1 fell off – I put that in the new water, maybe it will root). I cleaned all the marbles (yuck) and put the rooted ends of the stalks into one container and the tops that were cut off into another container to see if they would root. Any other suggestions?

  6. ok I know this might sound funny or strange……but you need to talk to your plant once in a while……i know i know…lol…a little crazy huh?….but it works….plants are alive and thrive and live a long healthy life if their around good positive energy…..its kind of like having a pet (low maintance of course)…..if you neglect it…it will die…..if you care for it and give it what it needs…it will live a long healthy life……you don’t have to believe me if you dont want to…..but ive had good experiences with this kind of thing….it doesnt hurt to try it….just make sure no one is around when you do…or you’ll seem like a crazy person talking to a plant…ha ha ….hope this helps 🙂

  7. Just got 18 beautiful stalks from FTD and they are beautiful, wait, did I say they are beautiful. Do the stalks sit in water or not?

  8. My lucky bamboo has been growing in brackish water for 8 – 10 years. Sometimes the leaf tips get brown but it’s probably from chlorine in water. When I got the plant I put some water in a small vase added a tiny bit of soil and that’s it. People said it wouldn’t grow. When water gets low I top it off. Used to be very tall but I accidentally broke it in half (knocked it over) so i ended up with two fairly leafy plants. It’s growing pretty slowly in small glass vase so I may move it too a larger glass vase. I’m a bit worried that if I mess with it it’ll die.

  9. I have a “Fake Bamboo” I got a broken piece ( about an inch tall, very tiny) of one given to me. I had it in water and it was happy. Then I planted it into soil about 4 years ago. Now two feet tall, 2 times re potted into a bigger pot and it runs away. It loves my fish fertilizer and the shady west wing kitchen window.
    It’s a cool and easy plant.

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