You don't have to look very hard to find lucky bamboo nowadays—these plants can be spotted in offices, on desks, in businesses, and in homes pretty much daily. Lucky bamboo plants are said to bring good luck and fortune to those that own them, especially if the plants were given as gifts. It also helps that they have a well-earned reputation as nearly indestructible—these tough stalks can survive in vases of pure water or in containers of soil, and in a wide variety of light conditions. Even a poorly kept lucky bamboo plant will live for a long time before it finally succumbs.
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. That being said, though the plant resembles stalks of bamboo, it's not actually related to bamboo at all—it's actually more closely related to a succulent. Rarely are they planted anew by home gardeners, so you can expect to purchase a young lucky bamboo plant and nurture it as it slowly grows to new heights, rather than plant and harvest it on your own.
|Botanical Name||Dracaena sanderiana|
|Common Name||Lucky bamboo, Chinese water bamboo, friendship bamboo, ribbon plant|
|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)|
Watch Now: How to Take Care of Lucky Bamboo
Lucky Bamboo Care
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. Lucky bamboo plants can also be purchased in a variety of eye-catching shapes and swirls. If you're feeling ambitious, you can attempt to create the shapes yourself, but it takes a lot of time and patience.
As suggested by its name, the lucky bamboo plant is thought to bring good fortune to the owner. In addition to the plant's overall representation, 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.
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 in a glass vase if you can see red roots. If growing in a water vase, change the water weekly to avoid any diseases.
Temperature and Humidity
As you may expect, lucky bamboo plants prefer warmer temperatures, ranging between 65 degrees Fahrenheit and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. When choosing a spot in your home for your plant, avoid placing it anywhere with a draft (hot or cold), including 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.
Shaping Lucky Bamboo
Despite its intricate appearance, lucky bamboo is not shaped in the same way as bonsai, with plant wire and judicious trimming. Rather, they are formed by rotating the plant stalks in front of a light source, thus causing the plant to naturally grow toward the light. In China, the stalks are often grown on their sides to create their distinctive spiraling shapes. At home, this is a laborious process, but it can be accomplished by placing the plants under a three-sided box and paying close attention to its growth rate, rotating the plant slowly and regularly. Be patient, as it can take a while to get it right.
Trimming, however, 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. 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.
Common Pests and Diseases
The most common mistakes related to lucky bamboo are usually connected to the water. Chlorinated water will kill them over time, and water that is dirty or infected with bacteria can be deadly. If a plant develops black roots, these should be cut away. Similarly, dead leaves should never be allowed to rot in the water as they may introduce bacteria. 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 it out and start again, switching to an opaque container if algae is a persistent problem.
Leaves that are yellow usually indicate too much sun or too much fertilizer. Cut out the fertilizer and move the plant to a shadier location. Brown leaves usually indicate dry air or polluted water—you can raise the humidity level by spraying the plant regularly and make sure you're using the appropriate water. If the stalks themselves begin to rot or turn mushy, they are likely beyond saving. Decaying stalks threaten any other stalks they are close to, so your best bet is to remove them at once.
Finally, 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.