Lucky bamboo is a popular house plant, and it’s easy to see why. It looks good, is very low maintenance and is said to bring good luck to its owner.
While the plant looks like a bamboo, it actually isn’t one – it’s a member of the Dracaena family and is called Dracaena sanderiana. Also known as Chinese water bamboo, the ribbon plant and friendship bamboo, it’s native to Africa, although your plant is more likely to have come from Taiwan or China, where specialist growers braid and twist the stalks into attractive shapes.
Lucky bamboos are believed to bring good fortune. According to the ancient, Chinese art of Feng shui, the more stalks a lucky bamboo has, the more wealth and prosperity you will receive (avoid four stalks, though – they’re said to be bad luck). The best places in your home for a lucky bamboo are a spot facing east (to attract good health) or south east (to attract wealth).
How to grow lucky bamboo
Grow your lucky bamboo in a few centimetres of water, or in a pot of compost. Grow in a bright spot that’s out of direct sun.
Growing lucky bamboo: jump links
- Planting lucky bamboo
- Caring for lucky bamboo
- Propagating lucky bamboo
- Growing lucky bamboo: problem-solving
- Buying lucky bamboo
- Best lucky bamboo to grow
Where to grow lucky bamboo
Grow your lucky bamboo in a bright spot out of direct sun. Grow in warm room that’s around 16-24°C and no cooler than 10°C. Avoid draughty areas or places where the temperature fluctuates a lot – near a radiator or air conditioning unit, for example. Avoid direct sunlight – not only does this scorch the leaves, but it can also cause algae to develop in the water the plant is growing in.
How to plant lucky bamboo
You can grow your lucky bamboo plant in water or compost. If growing it in water, use bottled, distilled, filtered or rainwater as the plant can be sensitive to chemicals, especially chlorine, in tap water. Alternatively, leave the tap water to stand for 24 hours, so that the chlorine can evaporate. Grow in around 5cm of water, ensuring the roots are covered.
If’ you’re growing your lucky bamboo in compost, choose peat-free multi-purpose compost with some grit or perlite added, or house plant compost.
Caring for lucky bamboo
If you’re growing your lucky bamboo in water, replace it with fresh every week. Add a drop of liquid feed to the water every couple of months.
If you’re growing your lucky bamboo in compost, water when the top few centimetres are dry to the touch. Reduce watering in winter. Feed once in spring and once in summer.
If the air in your home is dry, the plant will appreciate having its foliage misted every couple of days.
Over time, most lucky bamboo plants become top-heavy, as new shoots grow. If you want to shorten it, don’t cut the canes (which do not grow) – instead, cut the offshoots with sharp scissors or secateurs to within a few centimetres of the stems. You can do this at any time of year.
How to propagate lucky bamboo
You can propagate lucky bamboo by cutting off an offshoot just below a node, and rooting it in water. Once roots appear, you can plant it in compost or keep growing it in the water. It will not grow in a twisted shape, however – this is a job done by specialist growers.
Growing lucky bamboo: problem solving
Brown leaf tips
This is most likely due to the chemicals in tap water, either that the plant is sitting in, or being watered with. The air in the room may also be too dry – mist the leaves occasionally.
The plant is standing in too much water – only the base and roots need to be covered. If the plant is in compost, the soil is too wet.
Brown patches on the leaves
This is probably sunburn. Move the plant out of direct sunlight.
Pale, fading leaves
This probably means the plant isn’t getting enough light – move it to a brighter spot.
The plant is stretching
If the plant is stretching in one direction, it isn’t getting enough light. Move it closer to a window.
Algae in the water
This is either caused by the chemicals in tap water, or by too much light getting to the water. Switch to an opaque container. Clean the container and fill with distilled, filtered or rain water. Move away from direct sunlight.
Your plant may have been exposed to big changes in temperature. It might also have been underwatered.
This could be due to lack of water, stagnant water, temperature fluctuations or the wrong light levels. The plant is unlikely to recover.
Fluffy white blobs on the leaves
These are mealybugs – wipe them off promptly with a cotton pad soaked in organic insecticide.
Webbing around the plant
This is red spider mite.
These are normal.
Best varieties of lucky bamboo to grow
Dracaena sanderiana ‘Victory’ – stripy stems and bright green leaves with contrasting creamy-yellow stripes.
Dracaena sanderiana ‘Gold’ – lime green leaves and stems.