Lucky Bamboo Care: How To Grow Dracaena Sanderiana

Lucky Bamboo has been a symbol of good fortune for over 4,000 years. Known as Dracaena sanderiana, it thrives in almost any area of the home.

Lucky bamboo

Contents

In Asian cultures, the lucky bamboo plant 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. Indoor gardeners grow this bamboo plant in soil or water. It’s truly excellent for beginner plant parents and seasoned growers alike.

While they’re pretty easy to cultivate, with a relatively short lifespan of 1 to 2 years, lucky bamboo plants do have a few notable care requirements. So we’ve devoted this piece to examining those and touching on just what the lucky bamboo plant is.

Aside from being a pretty plant, one of the main reasons for its popularity is how easy it is to grow a healthy plant. Without further ado, let’s get into growing and caring for this easy-going bamboo plant.

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Quick Care Guide

Lucky bamboo
Lucky bamboo in a pot. Source: Dinesh Valke

Lucky Bamboo care is extremely easy!

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
FamilyAsparagaceae
HeightUp to 5 feet
LightAs much bright indirect sunlight as possible
WaterOften, can live in water
SoilAraited soil, or water
Fertilizer2-3 x monthly
Pests and DiseasesSpider mites, scale, root rot

All About Lucky Bamboo Plants

Lucky bamboo stems
The jointed stems of lucky bamboo. Source: akigabo

Here’s a fun fact: lucky bamboo isn’t actually bamboo! It actually belongs to the plant genus of Dracaenas, just like Dracaena marginata, or the Madagascar Dragon Plant.​ They’re tropical plants that can be grown in decorative planters or bowls filled with just rocks and water, making them some of the most tolerant houseplants you can grow. Of course, you can also pot one into soil for more robust growth.

Lucky bamboo grows wild in Southeast Asia. It is a short-lived perennial plant in the Asparagaceae family. Its segmented stalks reach up to 3 feet tall and have small shoots of clustered and curly leaves. Instead of hollow, woody stems like that of true bamboo, the lucky bamboo plant has fleshy stalks. Therefore it’s a very bamboo-like plant but not actually bamboo.

A lucky bamboo arrangement is a common gift of hospitality between friends and coworkers, and in Feng Shui, they are house plants that represent good fortune and prosperity. In this spatial and spiritual practice, people place lucky bamboo in the southern and eastern parts of a home. This also has a practical dimension, with lucky bamboo plants appreciating conditions that many other houseplants do.

The choice to care for lucky bamboo growing in soil or water is pretty much a personal preference as it 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 will 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 what is otherwise a healthy plant. As the bamboo grows, the string will cut into the stalks which can result in disease. Remove it so your plant can grow safely.​

Lucky Bamboo Care

Dracaena sanderiana flower
Dracaena sanderiana flower. Source: KHQ

Some gardeners prefer to keep them in water, and others plant them in soil for best results. Whichever you prefer, here is the basic care for lucky bamboo.

Light and Temperature

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 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 — but not too much sun. The temperature should always be at least 60°F, but the plant will thrive better in warmer temperatures. The climate in your home is perfect for this plant. Keep it out of temps below 60°F.

Water and Humidity

When the plant lives in a container filled with water, there’s no guesswork 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, use filtered or distilled water, or place the tap water in an open container overnight to allow the chlorine to evaporate.​

Soil-grown plants should have moist soil and should be watered when the soil is dry down to at least an inch. Try to keep the soil consistently moist. Drying between waterings is important for some plants, but lucky bamboo is used to humid and moist conditions in its natural habitat. It’s here the indirect sunlight doesn’t dry soil out as much.

Soil

As we’ve mentioned, water and rocks as a growing medium should be clean and from a non-treated source. If you must use tap water, leave it in an open container for a while to allow the chlorine to off-gas. The composition for lucky bamboo soil-dwellers should be mostly sandy loam. Therefore a cactus or succulent potting mix is perfect. Optimal pH for this plant is between 6.0 and 6.5.

Lucky Bamboo Fertilizer

Bamboo only needs to be fertilized if it’s growing in soil about every two months with a very weak solution of fertilizer. You can use a good quality liquid houseplant fertilizer and mix it to one-tenth of the recommended amount, or use a few drops of food that is made for aquarium plants.​ There are even specialty lucky bamboo fertilizers you can purchase.

If you’re growing the plant in just water, you can let your lucky bamboo grow without any fertilizer at all. In both soil and water-grown cases, dilute your fertilizer before applying by 1/4 strength.

Repotting Your Lucky Bamboo Plant

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. 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.​

To repot it in soil, water the plant thoroughly ahead of your up-potting process. Choose a pot just slightly larger than the current one, and add a thin layer of your preferred growing medium. Then remove the plant from the old pot, and place it at the same level it was in prior to up-potting. Fill in with more media and water lightly.

Pruning​ Lucky Bamboo

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 leafy stem that is around 1″ above a growth node. Slice it off​ , and your bamboo will respond by growing bushier rather than taller. Never cut a central stem, as this can damage the plant and cause issues with growth and disease. You can also cosmetically prune away yellowing or damaged leaves.

Propagating Lucky Bamboo

Of course, you don’t have to throw away your cuttings — you can propagate lucky bamboo plants! Make sure the cutting you are going to propagate is around 4-6″ long. Remove this cutting with sterilized pruning shears. Let the cutting dry overnight, then place it in a container of distilled water. Leave it for 2-3 days. After 2-3 days, start to mist the cuttings to encourage new growth.

Once you have adequate root growth, plant the cuttings into water and rocks, or soil. It will take about 1 month for rooting to occur in soil.

New Dracaena sanderiana leaves
Dracaena sanderiana leaves. Source: yokkoi

Troubleshooting

Now that we’ve discussed lucky bamboo care tips, let’s talk about problems that can arise. You might run into a few issues growing it. Here’s what to look out for.​

Growing Problems

Yellow leaves are almost always due to high amounts of chlorine or too much fertilizer in the water. Either switch to distilled water or leave your tap water out overnight to allow the chlorine to dissipate. Dilute your fertilizers as well. Another reason for yellow leaves is that you’re giving the plant too much direct sunlight. Bamboo likes light, but it must not be direct sunlight, 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. Clean water-grown plants regularly, ensuring stagnation isn’t occurring.

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. A light misting of neem oil will kill any mites or scale insects left behind and prevent further infestations.

Diseases

Yellow stalks and leaf tips are sometimes caused by the beginning of rotting roots. Root rot is usually caused by fungus fueled by overwatering, but in this case, lucky bamboo is sometimes grown in water! In this case, the issue for water-grown lucky bamboo is caused by allowing the water to go stagnant. Replace stagnant water with fresh water and rinse the root system and rocks to prevent yellowing stalks. If the condition of your plant doesn’t improve after this treatment, or if it emits a foul odor, dispose of the entire plant and sanitize the container before using it again.

Frequently Asked Questions

Lucky bamboo being trained to shape
Lucky bamboo being trained to a specific shape. Source: NH1976

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 are supposed to bring you wealth.
  • Six stalks are meant to keep you healthy!​
  • Seven stalks for good health.
  • Eight stalks represent growth.
  • Nine stalks represent great luck.

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.

Q: Where is the best place to put my lucky bamboo?

A: Your lucky bamboo needs bright, indirect light. Place it offset from the southernmost or easternmost window in your house.

Q: How long do lucky bamboo live for?

A: This plant is great for new gardeners because it generally only lives for 1 or 2 years.

Q: Should lucky bamboo be in water or soil?

A: A lucky bamboo plant will grow just fine in either soil or water. However, lucky bamboo lives longer when it is grown in soil.

Q: How often should you water lucky bamboo?

A: Water soil-grown lucky bamboo once per week during the growing season and cut back on that in winter. You want the soil to be slightly and consistently moist.

Q: Why is my lucky bamboo going yellow?

A: There are a couple of reasons this could be happening. It could be that your lucky bamboo plant is receiving too much sunlight. It could also be a disease or pest issue. Look at the Troubleshooting section of this piece to determine what kind of yellowing you’re dealing with.

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