Lucky bamboo has been a staple in homes and Feng Shui for years. It’s a symbol of luck and prosperity making it a common gift and the perfect small house plant. Learn more about why this plant is so popular and how you can grow one of your own. Included is information about the plant’s origin, symbolism, and FAQs, as well as lucky bamboo care tips. Use the menu below to skip to your desired section:
- Lucky Bamboo Overview
- Lucky Bamboo Care
- How to Twist Lucky Bamboo
- Lucky Bamboo Symbolism
- Lucky Bamboo FAQs
- Lucky Bamboo Overview
- Lucky Bamboo Care Tips
- How to Twist Lucky Bamboo
- Lucky Bamboo Symbolism
- Common Lucky Bamboo Questions
- Watering Bamboo
- Growing Bamboo in Water and Rocks
- Water Your Bamboo Plant
- Watering Lucky Bamboo in a Vase
- Provide Proper Lighting
- Maintain an Ideal Temperature
- Provide Humidity
- Fertilizer Is Optional
- Lucky Bamboo Problems
- How Long Does Lucky Bamboo Live?
- Care of Bamboo Plants
Lucky Bamboo Overview
Lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana) is surprisingly not actually bamboo as its scientific name suggests: It’s part of the Dracaena genus. The lucky bamboo plant is from Southeast Asia and is well-known for its use in Feng Shui for over 5,000 years. In these practices, it is said to represent good luck and happiness, making it an ideal and popular gift in business and personal matters. Another factor that makes lucky bamboo so popular is its ability to be trained into shapes like a swirl, heart, braid and other designs. See the sections below for a more in-depth look at the symbolism of lucky bamboo and how to create different bamboo designs.
Lucky bamboo is an easy plant to care for which makes it great for offices and homes alike. It’s happy growing in soil or water but has the longest life when grown in soil. Because it’s a Dracaena, lucky bamboo care is more in line with Dracaena care as opposed to bamboo. If growing in water, it should be replaced every week. If planted in soil, the soil should be kept slightly damp, so don’t overwater or let it get dry. Lucky bamboo does best in indirect light and in the temperature range of 65–95°F (18–35°C). It loves these somewhat tropical conditions and is considered to be in the hardiness zones of 10–11.
Lucky Bamboo Care Tips
It’s fairly simple to learn how to care for lucky bamboo. We’ve included in-depth information on sunlight, water, temperature, toxicity, potting, propagation needs and common pests and problems. Our quick step-by-step bamboo care guide can be seen below:
- Carefully remove any packaging and add rocks to your container to act as an anchor.
- Place your bamboo in indirect sunlight.
- Fill your container with enough water to cover the roots.
- Lucky bamboo prefers a temperature range of 65–95°F (18–35°C).
- Optional: use a liquid houseplant fertilizer every three to four weeks.
- Remove any yellow leaves.
- Repot the bamboo as its roots outgrow the container.
Sunlight: Lucky bamboo requires moderate or indirect sunlight. Direct sunlight will scorch the leaves, so avoid placing your plant in front of a bright window. Scorched leaves look like how they sound: The edges of the leaves will have a brown tinge to them almost like they were burned by fire. If your leaves look a little scorched, move your bamboo to an area with less light.
Water: If growing your plant in soil, make sure it’s kept slightly damp. Don’t let the soil get too dry and don’t overwater since that can lead to root rot. Bamboo does not need much water to survive, but it can be grown in water as well. If you choose to grow your bamboo in water, make sure the roots always stay covered with water. Replenish your lucky bamboo with fresh water every seven to 10 days to keep it happy and healthy.
Algae can form in the water, so try to clean out the container and change the water regularly (about once a week). Tap water is okay for the bamboo plant to drink, as long as chlorine levels are low. To be safe, leave tap water out overnight so the chlorine can evaporate before you use it to water your lucky bamboo.
ProTip: If you have high levels of fluoride in your tap water, we recommend using filtered water, such as bottled water. Fluoride will not evaporate and is toxic to plants like lucky bamboo.
Temperatures: Lucky bamboo thrives in temperatures anywhere from 65–95°F (18–35°C), so it makes a great office or house plant. During colder months, be wary about leaving your plant near windows or other places with a cold draft.
Toxicity: Lucky bamboo is toxic for cats and dogs, so make sure to keep it out of reach. If consumed by your fur babies it can cause incoordination, weakness, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, drooling and dilated pupils. Lucky bamboo is not toxic to humans, however.
Pests: Some common pests that affect lucky bamboo include mealybugs, mites and fungal infections. If you notice grey fuzz on your plant it could be a fungal infection, so remove the infected growth, keep the stalk and leaves dry, and increase air circulation. Mealybugs are small white insects that should be removed manually and with rubbing alcohol. Although mites (presented as white webbing or fuzz) don’t typically affect lucky bamboo, they can be caught by other household plants. They need to be eradicated with water and dish detergent — see plant disease treatments for more detail.
Problems: Your lucky bamboo should be green, but if any part of the stem or leaves are yellow, this indicates your plant could be sick. Remove the yellow part of the stem or the leaves completely so it doesn’t spread to the rest of the plant.
Repotting: How do you know when to repot your bamboo? You should repot once the roots become too tight in the container. Once you see the roots crowding, move the bamboo to a larger container. If your plant is growing in just water, simply move it to a new vase. If you’re using rocks, dump them out, place your plant in the new container (or trim back the roots to use the same container) and replace the rocks. If you’re using soil, dampen the soil, flip the plant with your hand on the stalks and soil to remove the plant, and move it to a larger pot.
Propagation: To propagate a lucky bamboo plant, first identify a healthy parent stalk (should have more than two bamboo segments) with an offshoot. Clip the offshoot from where it connects to the parent plant stalk and remove its bottom layer of leaves to create a new independent stalk. Place the new stalk in a small container of water and nurture the plant as you would a larger one. Repot as needed.
How to Twist Lucky Bamboo
Some of the most alluring parts of lucky bamboo are the cool designs that you can create by twisting different stalks together. The key to training lucky bamboo is using light. By manipulating the light source you can create a fun spiral or other design.
How to Make a Lucky Bamboo Spiral
Spirals are one of the most popular lucky bamboo manipulations. Follow the steps below to learn how to create spiral bamboo plants.
- Cut one side out of a cardboard box.
- Place your plant inside the box.
- Set the box so its open side faces a light source (not the top).
- Care for your plant as normal until the plant starts leaning towards the light.
- Slightly rotate the plant, and it will continue to grow towards the light.
- Keep rotating the plant as it leans slightly — if you spin it in the same direction it will eventually become a spiral.
- Prune your plant’s leaves as it spirals so it doesn’t become too top-heavy.
How to Braid Lucky Bamboo
Intertwined lucky bamboo is another popular option. Create a gorgeous braided bamboo look by following the instructions below.
- Choose a container with three potted stalks (they should be ½ to one inch thick and planted about two inches apart from each other in a triangle or row) or plant your own.
- Prune the base of the three stalks.
- Braid the stalks by taking the right stalk over the middle stalk and bring the middle stalk to the right. Take the left stalk and cross it over the stalk that’s now in the middle and bring that stalk out to the left of the new middle stalk.
- Continue braiding until there are four to five inches left at the top of the stalks.
- Wrap a twist tie around the top of the braid (make sure it’s secure but not tight).
- Care for your plant normally, then watch it grow and the braid strengthen.
Lucky Bamboo Symbolism
Lucky bamboo is a perfect option if you’re looking for a Feng Shui compatible plant. According to the Chinese practice, lucky bamboo is related to the five elements: Earth (pebbles in the container), wood (the plant itself), water (the water in the container), fire (the red ribbon often tied on the plant) and metal (the metal coin attached to the ribbon). Since the bamboo is hollow it’s said to be a great conductor of Chi energy. This allows wisdom and prosperity to flow through. The amount of stalks also has a big effect on the meaning of a particular lucky bamboo plant. They all have positive meanings except for four-stalk lucky bamboo, which is one you should avoid. See the different meanings below:
- One stalk: represents unity and unobstructed flow of energy.
- Two stalks: represents good luck in love (a great gift for a partner).
- Three stalks: represents continued growth, birth and family.
- Four stalks: represents death (avoid this plant, it is also considered a rude gift).
- Five stalks: represents wealth, longevity, luck, happiness and prosperity.
- Six stalks: represents wealth through opportunity and luck (great for businesses).
- Seven stalks: represents health and personal growth.
- Eight stalks: represents infinite energy and many blessings.
- Nine stalks: represents success and gratitude.
Common Lucky Bamboo Questions
Have a question about your lucky bamboo plant? Check out these frequently asked questions and find your answer. If you don’t see your inquiry, feel free to post it in the comment section below.
Why does a bamboo plant turn yellow?
A bamboo plant can turn yellow for a couple of reasons. These include too much fertilizer, too much chlorine or fluoride in the water, or too much sun.
How do I bring my bamboo plant back to life?
This depends on what your plant care routine is. If you have a yellow bamboo plant, adjust accordingly by stopping fertilization, switching to filtered water or moving your plant to a place with less light. If your lucky bamboo has been infiltrated by pests or fungi, remove the infected area and use a (natural) pesticide, soap or rubbing alcohol depending on the plant’s ailment.
How long do bamboo plants live?
Bamboo grown in water can live about one to two years. For a longer lifespan transfer your bamboo to soil where it can live for several years. It may shed leaves, but as long as you care for it well, it will keep replenishing and growing new leaves.
Can you grow bamboo in water?
Lucky bamboo can grow in water, but for the best results, it should be transferred to soil after it grows solid roots.
How many bamboo stalks are needed for good luck?
Lucky bamboo plants with one to nine stalks are all acceptable for good luck and well wishes (except four stalks which is bad luck and should be avoided).
Is it bad luck to buy your own bamboo plant?
No, lucky bamboo is considered a token of good luck even if you purchase it yourself.
Lucky bamboo is a versatile plant that makes a great gift for anyone, because who doesn’t need some good luck every now and again? It’s a perfect gift for dads who can be notoriously difficult to shop for as well as other guys in your life, including friends, boyfriends, husbands and family members. Use the lucky bamboo plant symbolism listed above to find the perfect amount of stalks for you or a loved one.
Sources: Dracaena | Lucky Bamboo: Braiding | Know Feng Shui
In general, bamboo is a fairly versatile plant and can be relatively drought tolerant. Bamboo grows best with ample water but the roots must not become soggy and waterlogged. Having soil that is constantly over saturated with water will suffocate the roots from air and can cause the roots to rot. As long as the soil allows good drainage and is well aerated, overwatering bamboo is not a concern.
Newly planted bamboos in the ground require frequent watering. They should be watered twice a week during summer and more often if the weather is hot and windy. As the bamboo matures and the root system becomes more established, the bamboo can become more drought tolerant. However, even mature bamboo groves can be distressed from lack of water during shooting season. Water stress can cause the bamboo to abort new shoots.
Bamboo grown in pots and containers do not retain moisture as well as bamboos grown in the ground. During summertime, potted bamboo should be watered three to four times a week or roughly every other day.
Applying mulch to bamboo is a terrific way of helping the surrounding soil retain moisture. See Mulching Bamboo.
Most often if bamboo is underwatered, the leaves will roll inward and if severe enough, will begin to drop its leaves.
Unlike the majority of plants, a very unique characteristic of bamboo is that it renews it’s leaves in the Spring season. During this period, the leaves will wither, drop and grow new foliage. Spring time is the Autumn season for bamboo! Often, this behavior can be mistaken for underwatering or plant issues.
Some shade loving species of bamboo will curl up their leaves when exposed to direct, hot sunlight. Typically, the foliage of these particular bamboos will uncurl once the hot sunlight disappears. This too can also be mistaken for lack of water.
A hearty and resilient plant, lucky bamboo requires little care to maintain its rich green color and lovely visual appeal. Often referred to as the bamboo money tree, you want this feng shui plant to be in top health. Knowing the right lucky bamboo care techniques and rules ensures your plant will be beautiful, strong and healthy. Caring for lucky bamboo isn’t difficult. All you need are proper growing conditions.
Growing Bamboo in Water and Rocks
Usually, lucky bamboo is grown in water, but also grows well in soil. When growing a plant in water, place small marbles, pebbles, or stones in the container to give the stalks added stability.
Water Your Bamboo Plant
Use filtered, bottled, or rainwater for your lucky bamboo plant. This keeps the plant healthiest.
- Add fresh, clean water to your bamboo plant two or three times each week.
- It is important to keep several inches of water in the container, making sure to keep the roots of the plant wet.
- Change the water every seven to 10 days to keep your lucky bamboo in top condition.
Watering Lucky Bamboo in a Vase
If you keep your bamboo plant in a vase, keep the water levels low. The roots of a lucky bamboo plant grow wherever it contacts water.
Provide Proper Lighting
Indirect light at moderate levels is best for a lucky bamboo plant.
- Never place your plant on a sunny windowsill as the direct sunlight is too strong and the leaves will scorch.
- Preferring low light, lucky bamboo plants are even happy with artificial light from a lamp.
- If the bamboo leaves are fading to a light green color, the plant is not getting enough light.
- Insufficient light also causes slow plant growth. In many cases, the plant will not grow in height or produce any new leaves.
To remedy these problems, simply move the plant to a location with more indirect light.
Maintain an Ideal Temperature
The optimum temperature for a bamboo plant is between 65 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Lucky bamboo plants may not survive in temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit and should never be placed in front of an air conditioner. Just as direct sunlight should be avoided, extreme heat should also be avoided. Never place your plant near a heat source such as a heating vent or wood stove.
If it’s particularly dry, consider spritzing your bamboo leaves with a little distilled water occasionally to keep the environment more humid.
Fertilizer Is Optional
Lucky bamboo does not require any regular fertilizer and can survive for years in nothing but clean water. If you do choose to fertilize your plant, use only fertilizers made for lucky bamboo. A plant food called Green Green is popular with many growers of lucky bamboo plants.
Lucky Bamboo Problems
Lucky bamboo problems occur for a number of reasons; take precautions to prevent and fix any issues that arise while caring for your plant. From algae to the wrong water, learn how to combat the problems which can take hold in your plant through a variety of ways.
Too Much Light
Since lucky bamboo is generally grown hydroponically at nurseries and green houses, most people keep their bamboo in a vase of water and pebbles when they bring it home. The type of vase your lucky bamboo lives in makes a huge difference as to whether or not it develops an algae problem. Clear vases expose the water in the vase to too much light. The light reacts with the algae spores, causing them to bloom or grow.
Too Little Light
While too much light can cause algae growth, not enough light can cause your bamboo to fade in color. While you need to keep your bamboo is an opaque vase, you also need to ensure it gets plenty of indirect light, meaning it can be near, but not in, a window.
Too Many Nutrients
Algae also thrive in nutrient rich water. Phosphates and nitrates are a favorite food source of algae. Many plant foods contain both nitrates and phosphates; overfeeding your lucky bamboo could be the cause of your algae problem, in addition to yellowing of the leaves.
If your bamboo is suddenly showing yellowing leaves, this could be caused by using the wrong water. Tap water is full of things like chlorine and fluoride, which can cause your bamboo to begin to yellow or turn brown. Using distilled or filtered water will prevent this yellowing from occurring.
If you must use tap water and you know it has high levels of chlorine, keep it in a container on the counter for 24 hours before using it. This allows time for the chlorine in the water to evaporate. If your water is high in fluoride levels do not use it for your plant. Fluoride will cause your lucky bamboo to turn brown and it does not evaporate.
If you already have some problems with your bamboo, try these solutions:
- Change the vase: If you don’t have another vase handy, simply take the bamboo out of its vase, then wash the vase with a warm water and a tiny bit of mild soap. Be sure to rinse thoroughly. Then add the bamboo back to the clean vase.
- Change the water frequently: Remember to use distilled or filtered water.
- Move the plant: If the bamboo is in a spot exposed to a lot of direct sunlight, which encourages algae growth, move the plant to an area that receives indirect sunlight. If your plant is not growing well, or has begun to fade in color, move it to another source of indirect light instead.
How Long Does Lucky Bamboo Live?
If you care for your lucky bamboo plant properly, it can live a very long time. In fact, SF Gate notes it may actually outlive you under proper growing and care conditions.
Care of Bamboo Plants
When you take good care of your lucky bamboo plant you are rewarded with a plant that attracts positive energy and adds beauty to your home. Follow these tips and care instructions to ensure you get years of luck in your home.