The name, “Lucky Bamboo,” is a common name used to refer to the ornamental plant otherwise identified in scientific binomial nomenclature as Dracaena sanderiana or Dracaena braunii. We don’t know exactly when and how the plant came to be known as Lucky Bamboo Tree, but its appearance is instructive; its cane stalks bear a striking resemblance to real bamboo stalks. The latter, though, belongs to a completely different family. As for the Lucky Bamboo tree, it has been hugely popular in Asian culture where it has been considered a symbol of good fortune for well over four millennia. The reason you and I have come to know it, however, is almost certainly its use in gardening as a houseplant.
- Lucky Bamboo Tree Overview
- Lucky Bamboo Tree Care Instructions
- Common Problems and Pests
- Uses of Lucky Bamboo Tree
- Lucky Bamboo Care
- Number of Stalks
- Planting Lucky Bamboo in Soil
- Growing Lucky Bamboo Outdoors
- Caring For Bamboo Plants In Your Garden
- Choosing a Location for Bamboo Plants
- Planting Bamboo Plants
- Caring for Bamboo Plants
- Controlling Bamboo Growth
- How to Take Care of a Chinese Bamboo Plant
Lucky Bamboo Tree Overview
Lucky Bamboo Tree Quick Facts
|Common name||Lucky bamboo, ribbon plant, sander’s dracaena (or dracaena sanderiana after German-English gardener Henry Frederick Conrad Sander), Belgian evergreen, Chinese water bamboo, friendship bamboo, Goddess of Mercy plant, curly bamboo|
|Scientific name||Dracaena sanderiana or Dracaena braunii|
|Origin||West Africa predominantly in Cameroon and Southeast Asia in Taiwan and China|
|Leaf Arrangement:||Alternate, Sessile|
|Fertilizer||Weak liquid fertilizer. Once a week if you want|
|Max Growth||As much as five feet|
|Light||Thrives in rainforest shades in indirect sunlight|
|Water||Clean water free of chlorine. Should be changed at least once every two weeks|
|Temperature||65–90 degrees Fahrenheit|
|Soil||Grows both in water and aerated soil|
|Humidity||Mist the leaves when they turn brown (usually because of dry air)|
|Propagation||Make the cutting with at least one leaf join. Cuttings can root in either water or soil|
|Pests||Mealybugs, aphids, gophers, mites|
The Lucky Bamboo tree can be cultivated as a houseplant either indoors or outdoors. You could use decorative bowls or planters, for example, containing only rocks and adequate water. This makes it remarkably easy for gardeners or anyone to nurture indoors.
You might as well go the traditional route and opt to pot it in adequately aerated soil to induce a more vibrant growth. The jury is out on which of these two is the best way to cultivate the plant as gardeners have found that both approaches could be successful in the long-term if done right. So it really comes down to personal preference.
When you get your Lucky Bamboo from Taiwan or China, for example, and you take it out of the container it came in, it is very likely that it will be bound with string or wire gauze. The best course of action is to take off the string to prevent the possibility of diseases starting and spreading through the plant from a cut in the stalks as the plant grows.
Lucky Bamboo Tree Care Instructions
Lucky Bamboo Tree can tolerate bright sunlight, but it prefers indirect sunlight
This ornamental plant will grow vibrantly in nearly every area of the home. It thrives where so many other houseplants would struggle to survive. This is due to its adaptation in its natural habitat.
In Southeast Asia or West Africa, you can find the Lucky Bamboo plant growing in the shade of rainforest trees. This means that you would be right to conclude that while it will can tolerate a lot of bright sunlight, it has a natural preference for indirect sunlight.
It has been repeatedly demonstrated that growing bamboo under open, unobstructed sunlight will result in the leaves getting burned and subsequently turning brown. Be that as it may, you will need to strike a balance as growing bamboo under an inadequate amount of sunlight will adversely affect its growth.
In light of the foregoing, you can also learn a lot about what temperature is suitable for growing Lucky Bamboo tree. Since this plant’s natural habitat in Southeast Asia and West Africa is the tropical rainforest, it will grow best under warmer temperatures. As earlier alluded to, the ideal range should be 65 degrees Fahrenheit to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Whatever you do, avoid temperatures lower than 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lucky Bamboo Tree can grow well with its roots submerged into water at all times
The need for watering while cultivating this plant is very obvious; it lives in water in the tropical rainforest. It is, therefore, a no-brainer that the plant’s roots should remain immersed in an adequate amount water at all times. You should bear in mind, though, that keeping them submerged is not all that matters.
Changing the water at regular weekly intervals prevents the water from becoming stagnant and growing bacteria or attracting pests. You should also guard against using tap water over a sustained period. Instead, try to make use of filtered rainwater (don’t use stored rainwater) or bottled mineral water more often. Your tap water is almost certainly treated with fluoride and chlorine. The Dracaena Sanderiana plant is more sensitive to these chemical treatments than other houseplants like Peace Lily, Weeping Fig, etc.
While both of these chemicals are good for distributing pure water, exposing the Lucky Bamboo tree to either of them is sure to be detrimental to the plant’s leaves, and with the passing of sufficient time, robust growth may become unattainable.
If you opt to grow your houseplant in aerated potting soil rather than in water and rocks in a container, it is imperative that you keep it moderately moist all the time. In other words, your soil should neither be totally dry nor soaking wet. You’ll need to check it daily to strike a balance.
In this regard, you should constantly check the soil moisture irrespective of whether or not the surface appears to be dry. Whenever you feel moisture deep into the soil below the surface, it is time to get the plant watered again. That is the general way to go about it in growing season. When winter arrives, you will need to lower the amount of water you use.
If you decide on growing your Lucky Bamboo tree in water, then you are probably never going to have to feed the plant. If you start out that way and along the line, you see reasons to continue cultivating the plant in regular aerated compost, then you are going to need to use either normal strength fertilizers a few times a year or a tenth of that every two months.
Re-potting is not a necessity when growing and caring for Lucky Bamboo, but there are two scenarios that make doing so appropriate at best. If, for some reason, you chose to cultivate it in a pot containing aerated compost, then you are going to have to re-pot every 2 to 3 years after planting it.
On the other hand, if you plant your bamboo in a container of mineral water and rocks, it might not be out of place to consider switching the container for a larger one if you notice that the roots have become considerably long and extensive and knotted by the container shape. It isn’t necessary in this case, though, because simply replacing the water in the manner we describe above is sufficient.
So, you have been nurturing you bamboo plant for years now, and it has been responding to caring for it in all of the ways we have considered. It is growing nicely, but it seems you are going to have to keep changing containers or do some pruning. If you are considering the latter, have no fear.
It is perfectly safe to cut your precious Lucky Bamboo down to a more desirable size. Just be sure to do so using a sharp, sterilized cutting tool. All you need do is pick a section of the stem, preferably an inch above a given growth node, and cut it off. In time, you will be able to observe the plant growing wider rather than taller.
Height & Spread
The plant you buy might have already been cultivated to a specific height. It might be both wide and tall or one or the other. Whatever the preexisting condition, with many years of relentless care, you can be sure of doubling the height if you so desire.
If you have done some pruning, you might want to consider the possibility of propagation using mature cane cuttings. Like we said at the outset, Lucky Bamboo is remarkably easy to grow and you will find that these cuttings will thrive easily in both water and compost. Just ensure that you use cuttings that are approximately four to six inches long and have been dried overnight before you introduce them into water.
Note that despite the ease with which you can propagate this plant, soft tip cuttings are not as responsive to the methods just described and might begin to rot in water. That’s why you’ll want to use longer cuttings for propagation.
Common Problems and Pests
As is the case with every such undertaking, growing and caring for Lucky Bamboo is not without its challenges. This is despite the aforementioned ease with which it is cultivated. Let us consider some of the common challenges you are likely to face.
This is one of the issues that could crop up if you end up having an unhealthy amount of chlorine in the water in which you grow the plant. Remember this is most likely to happen if you water your plant with city tap water that has been chlorinated. You should use either freshly collected rainwater or distilled water instead. You can use tap water only if you have a filter system that removes the chlorine.
Yellow leaves could also occur if you neglect the sunlight requirement and expose your bamboo plant to excessive light. The plant thrives best in indirect sunlight.
Algae growth is bound to occur if you, like the vast majority of gardeners, choose to cultivate a Lucky Bamboo tree indoors in a container of rocks and mineral water. That is because these microorganisms have an affinity for sunlight and nutrient-rich water. To avoid this, you should guard against placing your pot under direct sunlight and fertilizing too frequently.
Brown Leaves and Leaf Tips
If you fail to water your Bamboo plant as regularly as you should, you will eventually observe brown spots on the leaves of your plant. The spot pattern is different from that observed if you water too frequently. If you observe brown tips on the leaves, you have probably been neglecting to filter your tap water for chlorine before using it to water your plant.
If you want to remove this possibility completely, then you might be better off growing the plant in a pot of aerated compost as the chlorine and fluoride will be rendered negligible by the other constituents of the compost.
Uses of Lucky Bamboo Tree
Symbolic Uses of Lucky Bamboo Tree
As we alluded to at the outset, Lucky Bamboo tree or Chinese water bamboo has been hugely popular in Asian culture where it has been considered a symbol of good fortune for well over four millennia. It has positive spiritual meanings and is also thought to increase Feng Shui (“wind-water” when transliterated into Chinese), the Chinese metaphysical system that orders and harmonizes humans with their environment.
Arranging Lucky Bamboo in different patterns connote different significance. Consider the following:
- 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
- Nine stalks represent general good fortune
Using these arrangments of the Lucky Bamboo can remind you of its origin and cultural significance. If you want to use it in more than one area of your home or landscaping, you can set up different arrangements in each location.
Use Lucky Bamboo to Beautify Your Home
This ornamental plant, native to both Southeast Asia and West Africa, where it lives in water in the shade of rainforest trees is great for decorating your home or office as a houseplant. It is easy to grow because it only needs water and indirect sunlight for robust growth. That is as long as you change the water regularly, rotate your plant regularly, and feed the plant sparingly. Vibrant growth also requires that you guard against dust collecting on the leaves.
You can control the growth pattern to achieve beautiful aesthetics by rotating the plant stalks in front of a light source. You could also grow the bamboo stalks on their sides for a spiral arrangement or achieve the same effect by cultivating the plant beneath a three-sided box while you rotate slowly and regularly. Curling the stalk is not going to happen right away. In most cases, you will need to wait up to a year and a half.
Lucky Bamboo Care
Native to Southeast Asia, the lucky bamboo plant has been valued for 4,000 years as a sign of good luck, health and fortune. Because of Lucky bamboo’s wide variety of symbolism, it makes a great gift, for many occasions. And because it’s virtually care free, and can be grown in almost any light condition, it’s the perfect plant to add beauty and nature to any room.
Number of Stalks
Practitioners of the ancient Chinese tradition of Feng Shui hold a special reverence for the lucky bamboo plant, which is believed to bestow good luck, happiness and a long life – and the number of stalks used in an arrangement means something specific:
3 – Happiness, wealth and longevity are represented by three stalks.
5 – Five stalks bring a healthy balance, or type of wealth, to the five areas of life–the spiritual, mental, emotional, physical and intuitive. (The sixth, incidentally, is cold beer and pizza).
6 – Six bamboo stalks represent luck and favorable conditions for prosperity.
7 – Seven stalks of lucky bamboo represent health.
8 – Eight stalks owe their significance to the similarities in sound of the Chinese word for the number eight and the word “fah,” which means to grow or thrive, and thus represents success.
10 – Ten stalks suggest that a situation is ideal or perfect.
21 – Are considered extremely lucky and are used to grant a blessing on a household.
Lucky bamboo is grown in a container filled with water and rocks. The water in this container should be changed once a week or so. Tap water is okay, filtered water is better and distilled water is great.
Lucky Bamboo is a low light plant and does best in filtered sunlight. Direct sunlight will make the leaves wither and turn yellow.
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Planting Lucky Bamboo in Soil
Planting Lucky Bamboo in Dirt or Soil
We often get asked the question of whether or not you can plant lucky bamboo in dirt or soil. Further inquiry usually reveals that these folks would like to plant their lucky bamboo plants outdoors in their garden or on their balcony, etc. So the question is really two fold: 1) Can I plant lucky bamboo in soil? and 2) Can I plant lucky bamboo outside?
The simple answer is “yes”, you can plant lucky bamboo in soil, and occasionally, you will even find it for sale that way. However, I usually don’t recommend it because it is very easy to let the plant dry out too much in soil. If you do plant in dirt or potting mix, make sure to always keep the soil very, very moist, almost swampy, to keep your lucky bamboo looking its best for a long time. And be sure to use dirt or potting soil that is NOT pre-fertilized as lucky bamboo stems are quite sensitive to over fertilization. Most potting soil has a built in “boost ” of nitrogen and nutrients to explode new growth in house plants. Sensitive lucky bamboo explodes.
Regarding keeping your lucky bamboo out of doors, you must first understand lucky bamboo in its natural environment. Lucky bamboo is naturally found as an “underbrush” plant. It grows under a thick canopy of dense trees in a warm, moist environment; it rarely receives direct light. If you can recreate this environment for your lucky bamboo AND keep the soil sufficiently moist, your lucky bamboo might just make it. Otherwise, it is safer to keep your lucky bamboo plant indoors where it can be regulated much more easily
Growing Lucky Bamboo Outdoors
lucky bamboo image by Peter Baxter from Fotolia.com
Lucky bamboo is, in fact, not bamboo. It is a type of water lily. It is also a tropical plant and will not do well if temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. If you live in a place where temperatures drop below 50 degrees in winter, you may need to bring your lucky bamboo in for the winter. Although lucky bamboo is not generally an outdoor plant, with proper care and site selection, you can grow bamboo outside during warmer parts of the year in many places.
Lucky bamboo will grow in all United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Hardiness Zones as long as you bring it indoors when nighttime temperatures will be below 50 degrees. It will not survive winter outdoors in any USDA Hardiness Zone because winter temperatures in the warmest listed zone, Zone 11, can still drop to 40 degrees.
Select a location for your lucky bamboo. Lucky bamboo is sensitive to direct sun and needs to grow in full shade.
Place an inch or two of sand or gravel in the bottom of your outdoor container, if you are growing the plant in a container. If you are planting it in an existing pond that has sand, soil or gravel on the bottom, you do not need to add sand or gravel.
Remove the lucky bamboo from its original container or bag. Some sellers place the roots of lucky bamboo in a plastic bag filled with water for transportation.
Place the roots of the lucky bamboo 1/4 to 1 inch deep in the sand or gravel.
Fill the container with water, if growing in a container. Make sure that the roots and at least the bottom inch of the stalks are covered with water. You do not need to fill the container to the brim.
Caring For Bamboo Plants In Your Garden
Once considered an exotic plant in the garden, many gardeners have discovered that bamboo is a versatile and robust addition to the home garden. Bamboo growth is fast and thick, and can quickly add a lovely and lush feature to the garden in no time. Caring for bamboo plants is easy and simple. Here are a few tips on bamboo plant care to help you.
Choosing a Location for Bamboo Plants
Bamboo (Bambusa spp.) is a versatile plant and most species can survive in many conditions. But bamboo growing in full sun will grow the fastest. Bamboo plants also like to have fertile, slightly acidic, well drained but moist soil.
Remember, these are simply the best conditions under which to get the best bamboo growth. As long as you provide a few of these conditions, most bamboos will still be happy.
Planting Bamboo Plants
Once you have chosen a place to start your bamboo growing, you can plant your bamboo. Dig a hole that is twice as wide as the rootball on your bamboo. Set the bamboo in the hole and spread the roots out some in the hole. Gently backfill the hole, tamping down the soil some as you go. Water the hole thoroughly to help fill in any air pockets.
Planting the bamboo this way allows the bamboo to establish faster, as the soil around it will be loose and the roots and rhizomes will be able to grow in it more quickly.
Water weekly until the bamboo plants are established. If possible, provide some shade to the newly planted bamboo for the first two weeks after planting.
Caring for Bamboo Plants
Bamboo plant care after the plants are established is pretty straightforward. Bamboo does best if it gets at least 1 inch of water a week, either from rainfall or manual watering. Water bamboo deeply to encourage deep roots, which will help protect your bamboo from drought.
If possible, do not rake up bamboo leaves from the bamboo roots. The leaves will help keep the roots protected and moist. They will also return essential nutrients to the soil as they decompose, which will encourage bamboo growth.
Adding a layer of mulch to bamboo roots will also keep your bamboo growing strong.
Proper bamboo plant care recommends that a layer of compost or balanced fertilizer be added in the spring.
Controlling Bamboo Growth
Sometimes bamboo growing in your yard will grow too much. It is important to find out how aggressive your variety of bamboo plants are. If you have a vigorous growing bamboo, such as the running type, you will want to consider planting it in a barrier or installing a barrier if the clump is already established. The barrier should go down at least 2 to 3 inches underground, if not more, and be 2 to 3 inches above ground. The barrier should surround the bamboo completely.
Once the barrier is installed, check the top of the barrier at least once a year. Cut back any bamboo growing over the top of the barrier to prevent it from escaping.
Caring for bamboo plants is almost care free, especially if growing the clumping variety vs. the running, more invasive type. Also, check with your local extension office beforehand to see if planting the running bamboo varieties is allowed, as in some areas it may be banned, though the clumping bamboo is typically fine.
Enjoy the tropical and Asian flair that having bamboo growing in your garden is sure to add.
How to Take Care of a Chinese Bamboo Plant
bamboo image by Bube from Fotolia.com
Chinese bamboo are considered lucky plants that bring good fortune. Once seen primarily in China, they are now common in much of the United States. They are often used in feng shui (the art of placement) because they symbolize water and wood elements. Bamboo is grown in tray-like containers filled with water and gravel, instead of soil. Though they are low-maintenance, Chinese bamboo plants still require some attention to enhance their growth.
Water with filtered or purified water if your tap water contains fluoride or chlorine. The chemicals will have adverse effects on the plant.
Pour the water over the gravel in the bamboo container. Make sure there is water on all the rocks, so that it cleans out any mold or algae. Dump the water from the tray once a week and add fresh water.
Fertilize Chinese bamboo annually in the summer. Apply 1 or 2 drops of aquarium plant food to the water at the base of the plant. Adding more than this will hurt the plant.
Keep the plant in indirect sunlight. Inside a room is a good place because it receives filtered light. Direct sun can burn the bamboo.
Keep the temperature indoors between 50 and 90 degrees F. Humidity or cooler temperatures can kill the plant.
Prune the Chinese bamboo if it grows too long. Snip off the very top. You can place this segment in gravel and water to establish a new plant.