You don't have to look very hard to find lucky bamboo nowadays. These sculptural plants, with eye-catching shapes, swirls, or braided stalks, can frequently be spotted in offices, businesses, homes, and on desks for good feng shui. They can also be trained so that stalks grow straight as an arrow and adorned with smallish, simple floppy green leaves.
Originally native to Africa, the vast majority of lucky bamboo plants are now shipped in from Taiwan or China, where professional growers braid, twist, and curl their stalks into a multitude of shapes. Though the plant looks like bamboo and grows as fast as bamboo, it's not related to it at all, and it's actually more of a succulent. Be aware that this plant is not lucky for pets because it's toxic to cats and dogs.
|Common Name||Lucky bamboo, friendship bamboo, ribbon plant|
|Botanical Name||Dracaena sanderiana|
|Plant Type||Perennial shrub|
|Mature Size||1–3 ft. tall, 1–2 ft. wide (indoors)|
|Sun Exposure||Partial shade|
|Soil Type||Water or moist but well-drained soil|
|Bloom Time||Fall, winter (does not bloom indoors)|
|Hardiness Zones||10–11 (USDA), but typically used indoors|
|Toxicity||Toxic to animals|
Watch Now: How to Take Care of Lucky Bamboo
Lucky Bamboo Care
Lucky bamboo plants are said to bring good luck and fortune to those that own them, especially if the plants were given as gifts. The plant's meaning can also be derived by the number of stalks your bamboo plant boasts—for example, three stalks are thought to bring health and happiness, while eight stalks represent development and prosperity.
Lucky bamboo has a well-earned reputation as being nearly indestructible. But, there are certain growing conditions your lucky bamboo needs to be healthy, such as proper light, water, potting media, fertilizer, and temperature. Beyond that though, there is little you can do to truly kill off a lucky bamboo plant, which is great news for novice plant owners or forgetful waterers. If you're feeling ambitious, you can attempt to create the shapes yourself, but it takes a lot of time and patience.
When it comes to light, lucky bamboo prefers bright, filtered sunlight, such as what is found under a rainforest canopy. Avoid direct sunlight as it will scorch the leaves. They are more tolerant of too little light than too much. If the plant begins to stretch, however, or the green fades, provide more light.
Lucky bamboo can be grown in well-drained, rich potting soil. The soil should be kept moist, but not soaking. Additionally, it can thrive well when housed in pebbles or simply a vase filled with water, as long as it has at least an inch of standing water at all times.
Lucky bamboo is very sensitive to chlorine and other chemicals commonly found in tap water. Because of this, it's a good idea to water your lucky bamboo only with bottled or distilled water, or tap water that has been left out for 24 hours to allow the chlorine to evaporate. Healthy lucky bamboo roots are red, so don't be alarmed if you can see red roots floating in a glass vase. If growing in a water vase, change the water weekly to avoid any diseases and odors.
Temperature and Humidity
As you may expect, lucky bamboo plants prefer warmer temperatures, ranging between 65 degrees Fahrenheit and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid placing your plant anywhere near a draft (hot or cold), in front of an air conditioner, heating vent, or by a drafty window. Average humidity is fine for your lucky bamboo plant, so don't stress about increasing the levels in your home.
A single drop of liquid fertilizer each month is plenty for most lucky bamboo arrangements, and plants grown in water will only need to be fed every other month or so, using a very weak liquid fertilizer. Alternatively, specialty lucky bamboo fertilizers are available.
Despite its complex appearance, lucky bamboo is not pruned and shaped in the same way as bonsai, with plant wire and judicious trimming. Pruning is an important part of keeping your lucky bamboo healthy. Over time, most plants will become top-heavy, or intricate shapes will begin to lose their form but trimming helps keep that under control. In general, it's not a good idea to cut the main stalk of lucky bamboo. Instead, cut the offshoots using sterile snippers. You can trim them back to within an inch or two of the main stem. New shoots will soon emerge, and the resulting plant will be bushier. To discourage new growth, dip the cut end in paraffin.
The shapes of lucky bamboo plants are formed not by trimming, but by rotating the plant stalks in front of a light source, which causes the plant to naturally grow toward the light. Professionals often grow stalks on their sides to create their distinctive spiraling shapes. But at home, this is a laborious process that takes patience and time to get right. It can be accomplished by placing the plants under a three-sided box, then paying close attention to their growth rates, and rotating the plants slowly and regularly.
Propagating Lucky Bamboo
You can propagate lucky bamboo at any time using cuttings to create new plants for yourself or to give to someone as an auspicious gift. But the rooting won't be shaped like the kind of plant you'd purchase.
- Use a sterile, sharp cutting shear to take a stem cutting off the main stalk that has at least one leaf joint and trim the leaves to expose the growth nodes.
- Put the bare cutting into a container filled with enough distilled water to completely cover the bottom of the cutting.
- Keep the water clean and fresh as you watch for the development of red roots. Roots should appear in around 30 days.
- When the roots emerge, put the stalk in a decorative vase with water and pebbles or a pot with soil.
Lucky bamboo is susceptible to the same insect problems as other indoor tropical plants. They can be treated manually (picking off bugs) or by the same methods you'd use on any other indoor plant. Watch for mealybugs, aphids, and mites. You can even wash the entire plant in a very mild liquid dish soap and water (rinse thoroughly) to remove bugs, as well as any moldy spots.
Common Problems With Lucky Bamboo
Although lucky bamboo is an easy-going plant, there are a few issues to be on the lookout for as it grows. The problems usually have to do with the quality of water used to grow and maintain the plant. Taking care to stay on top of changing the water and using the right quality water may eliminate any of the following problems.
Browning Leaf Tips
Chlorinated water or water with high levels of additives can cause leaf tips to turn brown and possibly kill the plant over time. Remove affected leaves with a sterile, sharp scissor. Remove dead leaves from the water so they do not rot because this may introduce bacteria.
If a plant develops black roots, it could be from many reasons. The best course of action is to use a small clean snips to cut the black roots away immediately and return the stalks to a container of new water. Healthy lucky bamboo roots should be red or orange.
If you notice algae growing in the water, it's usually because the plant is potted in a clear vase, allowing light to penetrate and encouraging algae growth. Just clean out the vase so it's squeaky clean (use mild liquid dish detergent and water) and start again. You may want to switch to an opaque container if algae is a persistent problem.
Yellow leaves on lucky bamboo usually indicate that the plant is receiving too much sun or too much fertilizer. Cut out the fertilizer and move the plant to a shadier location.
Brown leaves on lucky bamboo usually indicate dry air or polluted water. You can raise the humidity level by spraying the plant regularly. Make sure you're using the appropriate quality of water in the container, as well.
If the stalks themselves begin to rot or turn mushy and black, they are likely beyond saving. It also means the roots are likely dead or dying. Many reasons contribute to dead stalks, such as poor water quality, a fungus, or bacteria that was growing in the plant when it was received. Decaying stalks threaten any other stalks they are close to, so your best bet is to remove them at once. If you have surviving stalks, you will need to change the water and replace the stones that were in the container.
Is lucky bamboo easy to care for?
Lucky bamboo is very easy to care for as long as you grow it in good quality water.
How fast does lucky bamboo grow?
Lucky bamboo grows moderately fast. It can grow around 19 inches in six months. It will likely grow to a maximum indoors of 3 feet, but sometimes lucky bamboo houseplants grow to 5 feet.
How long can lucky bamboo live?
Lucky bamboo is a short-lived plant and lives for one to two years. However expect your plant to live a few years longer if you transfer it to a pot with soil.
Dragon trees are toxic to pets. Pet Poison Helpline.
Dracaena sanderiana. Missouri Botanical Garden.
Growing Indoor Plants with Success. University of Georgia Extension.
Kumar, Narendra & Dubey, et al. Fusarium solani causing stem rot and wilt of lucky Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana) in India-first record. Indian Phytopathology, 72 (1), pp. 367-371, 2019. doi:10.1007/s42360-019-00119-8
Over-Fertilization of Potted Plants. Pennsylvania State College of Agricultural Sciences Extension.