Many have heard of lucky bamboo, and it is in fact relatively easy to care for. People love to gift it as a housewarming gift or for other various occasions because of the supposed good luck and fortune it brings to the owner.
In this article, we’ll cover how to care for lucky bamboo, as well as other characteristics and considerations when growing to help ensure it thrives.
The name lucky bamboo is actually misleading, as this plant is not actually related to bamboo at all. Instead, it’s actually closer to a succulent.
Its scientific name is dracaena sanderiana and is originally native to Africa. Nowadays, the majority of these plants are now grown in Asian countries like Taiwan or China.
This is because of the superstition of it bringing good luck to the owner. Many believe that the number of stalks the plant has actually has specific meaning and each will bring a different type of good fortune.
Dracaena sanderiana is rarely planted by home gardeners themselves. Instead, you’ll likely have to buy it already partially grown and then care for it and watch it grow further at home.
Here are some key characteristics:
How Tall Does It Grow?
When it’s mature it reaches 1 to 3 feet (30.5 – 101.5 cm) tall, and 1 to 2 feet (30.5 – 71 cm) wide. This will vary depending on the conditions it’s in and if they are optimal or not.
How Fast Does It Grow?
At a moderate growth rate, you can expect it to grow roughly 1 inch (2.5 cm) per month in optimal conditions.
How Long Does It Live?
With proper care and good conditions, the plant can last years. When grown in water it will live for 2 years on average. When grown in soil, it can live a few years beyond that.
Is It Toxic to Cats and Dogs?
Yes, dracaena sanderiana is not pet friendly. Protect your furry friends by keeping it out of their reach. If it is ingested by your pet, it can result in symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and more.
If your pet does consume part of your lucky bamboo, seek a vet’s advice immediately to evaluate the need for further action.
Let’s talk about some of the key factors for caring for the houseplant.
Though it is easy to grow, lucky bamboo is a little finnicky when it comes to water quality. It is sensitive to a lot of the chemicals typically found in tap water such as chlorine. This can be common amongst certain houseplants, such as the prayer plant.
To avoid this, you can use distilled water. Bottled water works too but sometimes that also has minerals and chemicals added to it that will upset your plant. If using bottled water, you can leave it out for up to 24 hours to allow chemicals to evaporate from it.
Dracaena sanderiana does need ample drainage if placed in soil in order to thrive. To ensure that it has the drainage it needs, focus on soil that has mediums like perlite and coco coir to give it the proper aeration and density.
Compacted soil will likely result in less drainage for your plant so the more mediums you can mix in to provide aeration the better.
If you’re still concerned about drainage, you can add a layer of pebbles to the bottom of your pot to help aid in drainage. Alternatively, you can get a pot with a hole in the bottom too, although you’ll want to ensure that a saucer is placed underneath to avoid damaging any furniture or flooring.
Depending on the size of your houseplant and the size of your initial pot, you might need to repot it a few times over the course of its life.
You’ll know it’s time to replant when you see roots that are too tight in the container. You’ll be able to see roots crowding, and the plant will be root bound.
You can simply remove it from the vase and place it in a larger container. Fill the container with water until it is covering the roots, and then you’re good to go.
The process is almost as simple. Take the pot you want to move your bamboo to and place a layer of soil. You can also add a layer of pebbles for drainage if you want, as we mentioned. After adding the layer, remove it from the pot, and place into the new pot. Fill the remaining space in the container with potting soil.
Let’s talk a little bit about other aspects of successful care.
Light and Sun
In nature, dracaena sanderiana does best in sunlight that is filtered through a rainforest canopy. This might be hard to achieve in your home, but fortunately you can achieve the same effect by placing your plant in indirect light. The dracaena sanderiana thrives in indirect sunlight, just like the air plant.
Direct light cause damage, so make sure it is not placed in a spot where the sun hits it directly.
Another point worth noting is that if your lucky bamboo does not receive enough light, it could start to stretch.
This is where a plant grows towards the light and ends up growing tall and spindly. If caught early enough you can stop this process by ensuring that the plant gets enough light. However, if left for a long time in less-than-ideal light it can be hard to reverse.
Another sign of not enough light is if your dracaena sanderiana fades in color. If you begin to see this, increase the amount of indirect light it receives.
Lucky bamboo will thrive in rich potting soil. It’s recommended that the soil is kept moist without soaking the roots, the same way you would care for a peace lily.
Alternatively, as we briefly mentioned before, you can pot dracaena sanderiana in water instead of soil. This will shorten it’s life overall, but it could still live for up to 2 years in water alone.
If using water, be sure to fill up the vase at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) with water, or until the roots are fully covered. As the plant grows and the roots extend you will likely have to add more water to keep them covered. You’ll also need to change the water regularly to prevent algae from building up.
To do this simply remove your lucky bamboo from the vase, dump the water and clean the vase. Fill back up with water and place your houseplant in the water same as before.
One other point of interest is that its roots are red, so if you see this don’t worry. That is actually a good sign!
Though fertilizer is not necessary for dracaena sanderiana, some do choose to use it to achieve a faster growth rate.
If using fertilizer, one drop of liquid fertilizer per month is sufficient for your plant that is planted in soil. In water, you’ll likely have to do it even less frequently.
Do not over fertilize, as this can burn the plant and result in yellow leaves.
Lucky bamboo in nature is found in warmer climates, however it can survive in most temperatures that you would experience inside also. A range between 65 and 90 °F (18 – 32 °C) is optimal for it.
Additionally, you’ll want to make sure it is not next to a vent, as strong drafts of air conditioning or heat can upset the houseplant.
It is best to grow this plant indoors as ranges outside of this temperature are often very damaging to dracaena sanderiana. If you do choose to place it outside, be sure to bring it in as the weather cools off or on days where there is extreme heat.
Outside vs Inside
As we briefly mentioned earlier, we recommend keeping dracaena sanderiana indoors as it is susceptible to varying temperatures. Most moderate climates will reach temperature ranges outside of what dracaena sanderiana will thrive in.
Additionally, if placed outside you run the risk of it receiving direct sunlight. Lucky bamboo prefers indirect light, and direct light could cause damage if exposed for too long.
In the same way, the ponytail palm enjoys an average level of humidity, it is not a huge factor for lucky bamboo plants. As long as they are inside and not exposed to extremely humid or extremely dry climates, they will be ok.
As a general rule of thumb, a sufficient pot size for lucky bamboo is around 1 ft (30.5 cm) in height. Additionally, the roots should have at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) of space between the plant and the pot. As it continues to grow you may have to move to a bigger pot to accommodate the roots without crowding the plant.
How to Grow Lucky Bamboo
Now that we’ve covered some of the basic characteristics and care, let’s cover some of the steps to planting and propagating it.
As we briefly mentioned earlier, it’s very rare for home gardeners to grow lucky bamboo from seeds. Odds are you’ll need to purchase it from your local gardening store or online, and then repot it at home.
The steps to potting or planting a plant are fairly straightforward. We’ve outlined them below:
- First, remove the packaging associated
- Next, you can line your desired pot with fertilizer. If you prefer, you can add a layer of pebbles for additional drainage
- Next, place your lucky bamboo in the pot
- Finally, fill your pot with soil until the roots are adequately covered
- Water generously to ensure your plant will take root and grow
If you’re choosing to plant in water, follow the same basic process, except fill your container with water instead of soil. With water the main concern is that you cover the roots of your plant sufficiently to prevent them from drying out.
Propagating is fairly easy to do as well. This is a fun way to increase the number of lucky bamboos you own, or to create a unique gift for a friend.
The steps to propagate your plant are detailed below:
- First, cut an offshoot from your plant’s parent stalk. Make sure you cut from a healthy stalk to ensure your propagation will have the best chance of success
- Clip the offshoot at the point that it connects with the parent stalk, then remove the bottom layer of leaves
- Place your offshoot clipping in a small container of water and leave it there until roots sprout. Change the water if it gets dirty as needed
- After roots sprout, either leave it in water if that’s what you prefer or repot to soil for longer living
FAQ: Troubleshooting Common Issues
Let’s go over some frequently asked questions for those growing dracaena sanderiana for the first time.
Root rot is a common issue among many house plants. It can occur if you water your plant too frequently, or if there is not enough drainage for the water to run off of your plant’s roots.
Essentially root rot is what happens when your plant’s roots sit in water for extended periods of time. The roots of a plant begin to deteriorate, and it results in damage to your plant.
Lucky bamboo is susceptible to root rot. To combat this, you can choose potting soil with mediums like coco coir and perlite. This will add aeration and help provide drainage for your plant’s roots.
You can also ensure your pot has drainage holes in them, but make sure a saucer is underneath to catch any water flowing through. Another alternative is to add a layer of pebbles to ensure that the water can run off of your plant’s roots.
Yellow leaves are likely a sign of using too much fertilizer. To avoid this, only add one drop of fertilizer to your plant once a month. If it is in water, you can use even less and fertilize every other month.
Brown Tips on Leaves
Brown tips on the leaves of dracaena sanderiana is likely a sign of water issues. As mentioned earlier, it is sensitive to chemicals and minerals in the water. Chlorine is a common culprit found in tap water.
Using distilled water will help avoid this issue. If you’re seeing brown tips, try switching your water source to see if it improves your plant’s condition.
Leaves Falling Out
Leaves falling out of your lucky bamboo is likely a sign of too much water. Reduce your watering frequency to try to avoid or prevent this problem.
Spots on Leaves
Spots on the leaves of a lucky bamboo could be a sign of either too much sunlight (meaning it is getting burned) or lack of nutrients. Try first moving it out of direct sunlight if applicable. Then try adding a small amount of liquid fertilizer once a month to reduce this issue.
Lucky bamboo is a plant that is relatively easy to care for, especially if you have experience with houseplants.
This unique plant is a great gift for a friend and can be very fun to grow. As long as you focus on the key factors of light, temperature, nutrients, and proper watering amounts it should thrive and be a great addition to your home.