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Lucky Bamboo

Dracaena sanderiana

Tip 1048



Gardening Tips for successful and beautiful Landscapes and Gardens

You should know that the plant we call ďLucky BambooĒ is not bamboo at all; itís Dracaena. It only looks like bamboo. Lucky Bamboo a plant often recommended by Feng Shui masters, is known as 'Fu Gui Zhu' in Chinese. Fu means rich, gui noble, and zhu bamboo. Lucky Bamboo is popular in Taiwan since it is believed that it can bring good luck.

As millions of "lucky" consumers around the world have discovered, Lucky Bamboo makes the perfect house or office plant, needing little care but an inch of water and little direct sunlight to keep it happy and thriving. Bright indirect light to Light shade work just fine.


New plants

are often in decorative pots

You may want larger plants in soil

Imported from Taiwan, Lucky Bamboo is extremely hardy.


They will grow indoors for years with very little care, requiring only an inch or two of water. To get new plants, you can break off a stem and re-plant it in water. Then by changing the water every three days, it will quickly root and can then be passed on to a friend



Because Lucky Bamboo grows so well in water, you can even grow it in a water fountain! Youíll need a fountain with a not-too-shallow bowl, so the root end of the stalks is in about 2Ē of water. Use pebbles or marbles to hold the stalks in place.

Bringing Your Lucky Bamboo Home

Moving can be a little stressful, even for resilient Lucky Bamboo. To help it adjust to its new environment, place it near a window where it will be close to Ė but not directly in Ė bright light. Unless the water level is very low (or the soil is dry, if your plant is in soil) donít water for two to three days. Allow the plant to adjust before giving it fresh water. If you plan to keep the plant somewhere rather dark, move it farther from the window for a couple of days before moving it to itís final location.


Where to Keep It

Lucky Bamboo can be poisonous to pets. If you have pets in the house, especially pets who like to chew on plants, youíll want to keep it where these pets wonít get at it. This may mean getting a smaller plant that will fit on a high shelf, rather than splurging on a large arrangement for your living room coffee table.

It is a very easy plant to have almost anywhere in the house from shady to bright rooms. The canes when old lose the smooth light green surface and begin to develop an attractive light brown paper like 'bark'.

Other practical considerations include making sure the plants will not be in much direct sunlight, and that they wonít get too dry or too cold. In other words, avoid putting your Lucky Bamboo arrangement right in front of the heating or A/C vent or on your sunniest windowsill. While need to avoid these extremes, Lucky Bamboo will do fine just about anywhere else. Since Lucky Bamboo can tolerate a wide range of living conditions, you have a lot of flexibility about where to display it.


Caring for Your Lucky Bamboo

Like any other plant, Lucky Bamboo does need some light. It of course needs water, and nutrients to survive. It will do better with little attention than if you fuss over it, however. This plant likes to be admired but not pampered. Here are some guidelines to help you give it the best care:

LIGHT & TEMPERATURE: Lucky Bamboo will do best with moderate levels of indirect light. Sustained direct sunlight is too strong. It will tolerate low level light more easily than too much light. If you want your Lucky Bamboo to grow, however, it will need to be at the higher end of its light-range. It may survive very low light, but it wonít put out new leaves or get any taller. Lucky Bamboo prefers room temperatures at 65-70o.

WATER: Lucky Bamboo grows very well hydroponically with its roots submerged in water, but it doesnít like the chemicals Ė chlorine and fluoride, to name just two Ė present in most tap water, or salts that are quite high in Las Vegas water. Filtered water or rain water will keep your Lucky Bamboo healthy longer. If you donít have a water filtration system, plan ahead and run tap water into a container the day before you water your Lucky Bamboo plants, and let it sit out, uncovered, at least overnight or for 24 hours to allow the chemicals to disperse. If you use distilled or reverse osmosis water, use a small amount of Dr. Qís Plant tonic to reinstate the necessary minerals for plant health.

Keep an eye on the water level in your Lucky Bamboo container, and add a little more as it gets lower; how often will depend on the size of your arrangement and the humidity in your home. Keep the water level at approximately an inch from the base of the canes. Every week or so, pour all the water out and refill the container with fresh water.

If you happen to have a fresh water aquarium in your home, save some of the dirty aquarium water when you clean it, and use that to water your Lucky Bamboo. Your fish may be sensitive to all the microscopic stuff that builds up in the water, but your Lucky Bamboo will love it! DO NOT USE SALT WATER!

NUTRIENTS: Lucky Bamboo is pretty hardy, but it needs modest amounts of macro and micro nutrients occasionally. If it gets spindly and pale, try moving it a little closer to a light source and give it several drops of Plant Tonic. However, if it turns yellow shortly after you bring it home thatís often a sign it was over-fertilized before you purchased it. Change the water immediately, and donít fertilize at all for several months.

The best time to feed your Lucky Bamboo is when you change the water. Just add a couple of drops of Plant Tonic to the water you use to refill the container. If your Lucky Bamboo is growing in soil, you can use a stronger solution (1/2 teaspoon diluted in a quart of good water).

Donít feed every time you change the water! Every 2 monthsóor longer-- is often enough. Water-grown plants do not need to be fed as frequently as soil-grown plants, and feeding too much or too frequently is more harmful to plants than not feeding enough! Lucky Bamboo is naturally a very slow-growing plant, so donít assume it needs to be fed just because it doesnít seem to be growing.


SHAPING YOUR PLANT Lucky Bamboo stalks are naturally straight. If you want curls, you have to encourage them by manipulating the plantís position relative to its light source. Youíll want to place your plant where there is not much overall light, but with a strong light source from one side (avoid too much direct sunlight!).

Try cutting the end and one side from a cardboard box, and set it over the entire thing so the open side is toward a window and the other three sides and top are shaded. After a while, youíll notice that the stalks are starting to turn or bend toward the light. Once a definite bend to the stalk can be seen, turn the plant slightly by rotating the pot an inch or so. The plant will keep growing toward the light, and if you keep rotating the pot from time to time eventually you will have a spiraling stalk. Be patient, this process can take time.


In case your plant needs some extra attention here are some signs of trouble and what you should do if you see them:

- Leaf tips turning brown: fluoride or salts in the water, or the air is too dry. Try switching to distilled or filtered water if youíve been using tap water. If youíve been using fertilizer a little too often, change the water and skip the plant food for several months. Low humidity can also cause the leaf tips to turn brown; remember that this is a tropical plant, so it likes high humidity. Donít over water the plant (if in soil); itís the leaf tips that are drying out, not the roots. Fill a plastic squirt-bottle with water and mist the leaves every day to keep them healthy.

- Leaves turning yellow: too much light or too much fertilizer. Change the water immediately, move the container further from the light, and donít feed at all for several months.

- Stalks turning yellow from the bottom: too much fertilizer. Change the water and donít feed, and thereís a chance the plant may recover. You can also cut off the stalks above the yellow part and root the tops. If one stalk turns yellow and the others look fine, just remove that one from the arrangement.

- Stalks turn brown or mushy: the roots have rotted, probably from overfeeding, or from over-watering soil-grown plants. You CAN NOT save the bottom, but you can cut off  healthy tops and restart them.

- Insects or larvae in the water, or white sticky-looking stuff on the stalks: remove the stalks from the container and soak them in soapy water (Dove is fine, a few drops is enough), then wipe each stalk and rinse well. Wash out the container and the rocks or marbles, and then replace the stalks and add fresh water.

- Algae growing in the water: too much light and/or fertilizer. An opaque container is better if you are using plant food. Wash everything (plant stalks, container, rocks) and start over with clean water. Keep glass containers away from bright locations.

If the Stalks Get Too Tall

Your Lucky bamboo may grow to be three feet tall. It likes to be crowded, so donít be in a hurry to move your arrangement into a bigger pot. Lucky Bamboo grows tall rather than wide. When it does get too tall, you can cut off each stalk an inch above one of the nodes (the rings around the stalk), and it will restart from there. Lightly misting the tops of the stalks with water can encourage new growth Ė but wait a few days before doing this, so the cut surface can dry out first.

Potting Up

Although Lucky Bamboo grows well in water, you may decide youíd like to grow yours in soil. If your Lucky Bamboo has been growing in water for a long time, it may not survive the transition to soil unless you keep it quite moist until the roots have adapted. Use a soil mixture that drains well. Make sure the pot has holes in the bottom, and use rocks in the bottom to assure uniform drainage. If the soil does not drain well, the roots can rot and the plant will suffer or die. Use a container thatís no more than about 2Ē larger than the stalk group.

Lucky Bamboo grown in soil should be keep slightly moist, not soaking wet. Donít allow it to dry out completely. Use a moisture meter to determine when to water, donít let the surface fool you. Often the soil will still be damp a half-inch or so below the surface.










© 2006, Frank Rauscher              Courtesy of www.Garden-Galaxy.com