What Is Lucky Bamboo?
Despite the name, lucky bamboo isn’t really bamboo. It is a dracaena plant that resembles bamboo. Lucky Bamboo plants will either be Dracaena sanderiana or Dracaena braunii; this is the same family as lilies. Both species have been part of Chinese culture for thousands of years, thought to increase the feng shui of your home. That is why lucky bamboo is so popular. They’ve gained popularity with home decorators and gardeners because they are so easy to take care of.
Lucky bamboo is commonly called curly bamboo, friendship bamboo, ribbon plant, Belgian evergreen and Chinese water bamboo. The last name comes from the fact that you can grow it in pots of water as well as in soil.
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How Not to Harm Your Lucky Bamboo Plant
Suppose you received a lucky bamboo plant as a gift, a common occurrence considering it is thought to give luck to the recipient. Where should you put it? Lucky bamboo thrives in bright light, but that doesn’t mean you want to plant it. It can tolerate lower light levels such as sitting near desk lamps, but it won’t grow as quickly.
Avoid hot, direct sunlight, because lucky bamboo can get sunburn. This means you should keep lucky bamboo in bright indoor light or areas that get moderate outdoor light. Just don’t plant it outdoors where it gets too much summer sun or put it under a bright sunlamp twelve hours a day. Whether the lucky bamboo plant is near a window or receiving abundant indirect light, rotate it periodically so that all of the stems receive enough light.
Lucky bamboo is a tropical plant, but it often grows in the shade of other plants. It needs temperatures between 65 and 90. Don’t put it under the air conditioner vent or right next to your heater.
How to Take Care of Lucky Bamboo in Water
Lucky bamboo plants are often given in vases full of water. You can keep the lucky bamboo in a clear container; it won’t hurt the plant if the roots get sunlight. The best containers will be tall enough to support the plants if they’re leaning.
That water must always cover the base of the roots completely. Depending on the temperature and humidity of the room, you may be adding water every other day or once a week. Distilled or purified water is best. You can add just enough water to cover the top of the roots and then let it be absorbed by the plant.
The slow evaporation of water leaves behind minerals that can cause problems for the plant if they become too concentrated. You need to completely change the water every two months. If you pick up a foul odor that suggests bacteria or mold living in the vase, the water needs to be replaced regularly until the smell is gone. Lucky bamboo plants shouldn’t generate a smell at all.
You can add a drop of liquid fertilizer to the lucky bamboo vase once in a while. This is essential if the leaves or stems are losing their bright green color. You can cut off the yellow part of leaves with a pair of scissors. Rub the area with vinegar or a touch of rubbing alcohol to prevent mold from growing in that area.
Remove dead or yellow leaves from your lucky bamboo. However, if you’re seeing several yellow or dying leaves, you may need to give it more water, cut back on the fertilizer, or check its water level. In some cases, the problem is too much soil around the roots. If the plant has brown spots on the leaves, try changing out the water with distilled water, since they can be caused by too much fluoride or chlorine in the water.
Lucky bamboo plants can grow in just water. When they’re getting too big for the current container, simply transfer them to a clean pot and fill it with enough water to cover the roots. If you want to add pebbles to help support the plants or for the sake of appearances, ensure that the rocks are clean.
The rocks should cover the roots without harming them. Nor should the pebbles and rocks be so dense that water can’t reach the roots. However, it doesn’t matter if light can’t reach the roots.
How to Take Care of Lucky Bamboo in Soil
Lucky bamboo should be placed in potting soil with good drainage, and you can ensure this by having a drain hole in the pot. The soil in the pot should cover the roots.
When the plant is in soil, keep it moist but not water-logged. The soil also needs to be aerated. You can improve the drainage and aeration by mixing sand, soil and peat moss to the container. When you’re raising lucky bamboo in soil, it will need to be watered every day or two since excess water will drain away.
As the plant grows, move it to a container that gives it at least one inch in every direction so the roots can spread. When the plant is too tall, you can cut off the top of the stalk with sterile scissors and plant them in clean water. Just make sure the part you’re removing has at least two nodes of leaves or stems and new growth off the top. You can put more than one cutting in the same container.
The new cutting should be kept in a shaded area for a month and properly watered while it sprouts roots. Once it has roots, you can transplant it in the pot next to the main plants or put it in its own pot and place it in the light.
How to Take Care of Lucky Bamboo in a Pebble Bed
Lucky bamboo plants are often raised hydroponically, and they can be placed in a pot with only small rocks or pebbles. In these cases, you need to ensure that the base of the roots is covered in water like a lucky bamboo plant in a vase by itself. If the soil is mixed with pebbles, then keep the soil moist but don’t submerge the plant. Don’t pour in so many rocks that you end up crushing the roots.
When you’re caring for lucky bamboo in a pebble bed, it is a good idea to rinse out the pebbles, the vase and the plant every time you change out the water. If the water looks black, that is due to root rot and you probably can’t save the plant. Discard the plant, the rocks and the water used.
Shaping Your Plant
Whether the lucky bamboo is growing in soil or water, you can arrange the stalks to grow in a variety of patterns. They’ll normally grow straight unless leaning toward a light source; that’s why you want to rotate a group of stalks regularly.
If you want the plants to continue to grow straight, tying them together with a ribbon helps. A red or gold ribbon tied around the lucky bamboo plants is seen as a symbol of good fortune, as well.
You can get the lucky bamboo to grow in a curl. Cut the bottom and one side from a cardboard box. Place the box over the plant while leaving the open side exposed to the light source. The stalks will curl as they grow toward the light. When you see the bend, rotate the plant so that they continue to bend. Expect it to take a year or more to create a swirled stalk.
Another tactic is wrapping wire around younger stalks, causing them to crisscross. You’ll need to add wire as they grow to keep them stable. Eventually, the stalks should either support one another, or you can support them with wires. Never let the wires actually cut the stalk or leaves.
The Symbolism of Lucky Bamboo
You can physically have four stems of lucky bamboo in a pot together, but it is rarely done because that is considered unlucky in Chinese culture. This is because four is associated with death.
Conversely, three is considered a lucky number, and five is equated with wealth. This explains why you’ve been told not to add a fourth lucky bamboo stem to the pot though they would physically all be fine. It also explains why you might see half a dozen in a pot together growing merrily and groups of ten and twenty.
A Few Words of Warning about Lucky Bamboo Plants
Lucky bamboo plants are not toxic to people. They’re not known to cause allergies, either. However, you need to keep this plant away from your pets, since it can be toxic to both dogs and cats if they eat the leaves or chew on the stems.
If the leaves have small black spots with red margins, that’s called leaf spot fungus. This fungus is more likely to occur if the plant is stressed, but it can strike any plant. Cut off infected leaves to limit the spread, but the best treatment is with a fungicidal spray.
Sooty mold won’t have the same red edge, but it will cause black spots on the leaves. Lucky bamboo is prone to this infection when it has been attacked by small insects. You can treat it at first with insecticides to kill the insects.
A white powdery coat on the leaves is due to another fungus. This will turn leaves yellow before they die. The infected foliage needs to be removed from the plant and the rest of the plant treated with fungicide.
If the plant develops small blisters that turn into brown bumps, the issue is called edema. It will eventually cause leaves to become yellow. This is caused by over-watering. Reduce how much water you’re adding to the plant, and remove the dying leaves.