The Meaning of Lucky Bamboo

Live bamboo plant and bamboo board background
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Lucky bamboo is a household plant known to increase feng shui. The common houseplant that most people refer to as lucky bamboo is not actually bamboo. While the stalks or stems do resemble bamboo, it's actually called dracaena or Dracaena sanderiana.  

Lucky Bamboo and Chinese Traditions

According to Chinese traditions, the significance of lucky bamboo is tied to how many stalks you have. There are different meanings associated with various lucky bamboo arrangements. For example:

  • Two stalks represent love.
  • Three stalks represent Fu (happiness), Lu (wealth), and Soh (long life).
  • Five stalks represent the areas of life that impact wealth.
  • Six stalks represent good luck and wealth.
  • Seven stalks represent good health.
  • Eight stalks represent growth.
  • Nine stalks represent great luck.
  • Ten stalks represent perfection.
  • Twenty-one stalks represent a powerful blessing.

You'll never find a traditional lucky bamboo arrangement with four stalks. In Chinese culture, the word for "four" is close to the word for "death," so a gift of four bamboo stalks would be considered very rude, as if you had wished death on the recipient.

lucky bamboo
 Illustration: © The Spruce, 2018

Caring for Lucky Bamboo Plants

Lucky bamboo is a relatively easy plant to care for and will thrive in a light-filled home. It grows best in bright light. While it can tolerate lower light levels, it won't grow very much without a lot of bright light. Rotate your plant often so that the light reaches the entire plant evenly.

Most lucky bamboo arrangements feature the bamboo stalks growing in a decorative pot of water or planted in pebbles. Make sure that the water is always completely covering the roots. Add a bit of water as needed; depending on the temperature, this may be between two and seven days. Completely change the water every two to three months or more frequently if you find the water giving off a foul odor. Tap water is fine to use unless your tap water is hard (containing a lot of minerals). If so, use distilled or purified water. 

The Right Container for Your Lucky Bamboo

A lucky bamboo arrangement in a low dish or bowl should have at least one inch of space between the stalks and the edge of the vessel. This space allows the roots to spread out and support the plant. If your stalks are growing in a large glass vase, be sure the vessel is proportionate to the bamboo's height and can support the stalks. The water level should be just enough to fully submerge the roots but not rise above to the stalks. 

If your plant has outgrown the vessel, transplanting lucky bamboo is relatively easy. Start with a clean container that is slightly bigger than the current one. If your bamboo is growing in a pot of water, simply remove the stalks from the water, place them in a larger container and refill the water to the same level. If the lucky bamboo is growing in a pot of pebbles, gently dig up a planted lucky bamboo. Clean the pebbles with water before placing them in the new container. Carefully add the bamboo plant and take care to nestle the roots within the pebbles. You may need to add more pebbles to cover the roots and support the plant.