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 Name||Dracaena braunii, also known as dracaena sanderiana|
|Origin||Southeast asia & west africa|
|Height||Up to 5 feet|
|Light||As much indirect sunlight as possible|
|Water||Often, can live in water|
|Soil||Araited soil, or water|
|Fertilizer||2-3 x monthly|
|Pests||Gophers, 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Make sure the cutting you are going to propagate is around 4-6" long
- Let the cutting dry overnight, then place in a container of distilled water
- Leave for 2-3 days.
- After 2-3 days, start to mist the cuttings to encourage new growth.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m the founder of Epic Gardening, a website dedicated to teaching 10,000,000 people how to grow plants. I enjoy skateboarding, piano, guitar, business, and experimenting with all kinds of gardening techniques!