Lucky bamboo has been a staple in homes and Feng Shui for years. It’s a symbol of luck and prosperity making it a common gift and the perfect small house plant. Learn more about why this plant is so popular and how you can grow one of your own. Included is information about the plant’s origin, symbolism, and FAQs, as well as lucky bamboo care tips. Use the menu below to skip to your desired section:
Lucky Bamboo Overview
Lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana) is surprisingly not actually bamboo as its scientific name suggests: It’s part of the Dracaena genus. The lucky bamboo plant is from Southeast Asia and is well-known for its use in Feng Shui for over 5,000 years. In these practices, it is said to represent good luck and happiness, making it an ideal and popular gift in business and personal matters. Another factor that makes lucky bamboo so popular is its ability to be trained into shapes like a swirl, heart, braid and other designs. See the sections below for a more in-depth look at the symbolism of lucky bamboo and how to create different bamboo designs.
Lucky bamboo is an easy plant to care for which makes it great for offices and homes alike. It’s happy growing in soil or water but has the longest life when grown in soil. Because it’s a Dracaena, lucky bamboo care is more in line with Dracaena care as opposed to bamboo. If growing in water, it should be replaced every week. If planted in soil, the soil should be kept slightly damp, so don’t overwater or let it get dry. Lucky bamboo does best in indirect light and in the temperature range of 65–95°F (18–35°C). It loves these somewhat tropical conditions and is considered to be in the hardiness zones of 10–11.
Lucky Bamboo Care Tips
It’s fairly simple to learn how to care for lucky bamboo. We’ve included in-depth information on sunlight, water, temperature, toxicity, potting, propagation needs and common pests and problems. Our quick step-by-step bamboo care guide can be seen below:
- Carefully remove any packaging and add rocks to your container to act as an anchor.
- Place your bamboo in indirect sunlight.
- Fill your container with enough water to cover the roots.
- Lucky bamboo prefers a temperature range of 65–95°F (18–35°C).
- Optional: use a liquid houseplant fertilizer every three to four weeks.
- Remove any yellow leaves.
- Repot the bamboo as its roots outgrow the container.
Sunlight: Lucky bamboo requires moderate or indirect sunlight. Direct sunlight will scorch the leaves, so avoid placing your plant in front of a bright window. Scorched leaves look like how they sound: The edges of the leaves will have a brown tinge to them almost like they were burned by fire. If your leaves look a little scorched, move your bamboo to an area with less light.
Water: If growing your plant in soil, make sure it’s kept slightly damp. Don’t let the soil get too dry and don’t overwater since that can lead to root rot. Bamboo does not need much water to survive, but it can be grown in water as well. If you choose to grow your bamboo in water, make sure the roots always stay covered with water. Replenish your lucky bamboo with fresh water every seven to 10 days to keep it happy and healthy.
Algae can form in the water, so try to clean out the container and change the water regularly (about once a week). Tap water is okay for the bamboo plant to drink, as long as chlorine levels are low. To be safe, leave tap water out overnight so the chlorine can evaporate before you use it to water your lucky bamboo.
ProTip: If you have high levels of fluoride in your tap water, we recommend using filtered water, such as bottled water. Fluoride will not evaporate and is toxic to plants like lucky bamboo.
Temperatures: Lucky bamboo thrives in temperatures anywhere from 65–95°F (18–35°C), so it makes a great office or house plant. During colder months, be wary about leaving your plant near windows or other places with a cold draft.
Toxicity: Lucky bamboo is toxic for cats and dogs, so make sure to keep it out of reach. If consumed by your fur babies it can cause incoordination, weakness, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, drooling and dilated pupils. Lucky bamboo is not toxic to humans, however.
Pests: Some common pests that affect lucky bamboo include mealybugs, mites and fungal infections. If you notice grey fuzz on your plant it could be a fungal infection, so remove the infected growth, keep the stalk and leaves dry, and increase air circulation. Mealybugs are small white insects that should be removed manually and with rubbing alcohol. Although mites (presented as white webbing or fuzz) don’t typically affect lucky bamboo, they can be caught by other household plants. They need to be eradicated with water and dish detergent — see plant disease treatments for more detail.
Problems: Your lucky bamboo should be green, but if any part of the stem or leaves are yellow, this indicates your plant could be sick. Remove the yellow part of the stem or the leaves completely so it doesn’t spread to the rest of the plant.
Repotting: How do you know when to repot your bamboo? You should repot once the roots become too tight in the container. Once you see the roots crowding, move the bamboo to a larger container. If your plant is growing in just water, simply move it to a new vase. If you’re using rocks, dump them out, place your plant in the new container (or trim back the roots to use the same container) and replace the rocks. If you’re using soil, dampen the soil, flip the plant with your hand on the stalks and soil to remove the plant, and move it to a larger pot.
Propagation: To propagate a lucky bamboo plant, first identify a healthy parent stalk (should have more than two bamboo segments) with an offshoot. Clip the offshoot from where it connects to the parent plant stalk and remove its bottom layer of leaves to create a new independent stalk. Place the new stalk in a small container of water and nurture the plant as you would a larger one. Repot as needed.
How to Twist Lucky Bamboo
Some of the most alluring parts of lucky bamboo are the cool designs that you can create by twisting different stalks together. The key to training lucky bamboo is using light. By manipulating the light source you can create a fun spiral or other design.
How to Make a Lucky Bamboo Spiral
Spirals are one of the most popular lucky bamboo manipulations. Follow the steps below to learn how to create spiral bamboo plants.
- Cut one side out of a cardboard box.
- Place your plant inside the box.
- Set the box so its open side faces a light source (not the top).
- Care for your plant as normal until the plant starts leaning towards the light.
- Slightly rotate the plant, and it will continue to grow towards the light.
- Keep rotating the plant as it leans slightly — if you spin it in the same direction it will eventually become a spiral.
- Prune your plant’s leaves as it spirals so it doesn’t become too top-heavy.
How to Braid Lucky Bamboo
Intertwined lucky bamboo is another popular option. Create a gorgeous braided bamboo look by following the instructions below.
- Choose a container with three potted stalks (they should be ½ to one inch thick and planted about two inches apart from each other in a triangle or row) or plant your own.
- Prune the base of the three stalks.
- Braid the stalks by taking the right stalk over the middle stalk and bring the middle stalk to the right. Take the left stalk and cross it over the stalk that’s now in the middle and bring that stalk out to the left of the new middle stalk.
- Continue braiding until there are four to five inches left at the top of the stalks.
- Wrap a twist tie around the top of the braid (make sure it’s secure but not tight).
- Care for your plant normally, then watch it grow and the braid strengthen.
Lucky Bamboo Symbolism
Lucky bamboo is a perfect option if you’re looking for a Feng Shui compatible plant. According to the Chinese practice, lucky bamboo is related to the five elements: Earth (pebbles in the container), wood (the plant itself), water (the water in the container), fire (the red ribbon often tied on the plant) and metal (the metal coin attached to the ribbon). Since the bamboo is hollow it’s said to be a great conductor of Chi energy. This allows wisdom and prosperity to flow through. The amount of stalks also has a big effect on the meaning of a particular lucky bamboo plant. They all have positive meanings except for four-stalk lucky bamboo, which is one you should avoid. See the different meanings below:
- One stalk: represents unity and unobstructed flow of energy.
- Two stalks: represents good luck in love (a great gift for a partner).
- Three stalks: represents continued growth, birth and family.
- Four stalks: represents death (avoid this plant, it is also considered a rude gift).
- Five stalks: represents wealth, longevity, luck, happiness and prosperity.
- Six stalks: represents wealth through opportunity and luck (great for businesses).
- Seven stalks: represents health and personal growth.
- Eight stalks: represents infinite energy and many blessings.
- Nine stalks: represents success and gratitude.
Common Lucky Bamboo Questions
Have a question about your lucky bamboo plant? Check out these frequently asked questions and find your answer. If you don’t see your inquiry, feel free to post it in the comment section below.
Why does a bamboo plant turn yellow?
A bamboo plant can turn yellow for a couple of reasons. These include too much fertilizer, too much chlorine or fluoride in the water, or too much sun.
How do I bring my bamboo plant back to life?
This depends on what your plant care routine is. If you have a yellow bamboo plant, adjust accordingly by stopping fertilization, switching to filtered water or moving your plant to a place with less light. If your lucky bamboo has been infiltrated by pests or fungi, remove the infected area and use a (natural) pesticide, soap or rubbing alcohol depending on the plant’s ailment.
How long do bamboo plants live?
Bamboo grown in water can live about one to two years. For a longer lifespan transfer your bamboo to soil where it can live for several years. It may shed leaves, but as long as you care for it well, it will keep replenishing and growing new leaves.
Can you grow bamboo in water?
Lucky bamboo can grow in water, but for the best results, it should be transferred to soil after it grows solid roots.
How many bamboo stalks are needed for good luck?
Lucky bamboo plants with one to nine stalks are all acceptable for good luck and well wishes (except four stalks which is bad luck and should be avoided).
Is it bad luck to buy your own bamboo plant?
No, lucky bamboo is considered a token of good luck even if you purchase it yourself.
Lucky bamboo is a versatile plant that makes a great gift for anyone, because who doesn’t need some good luck every now and again? It’s a perfect gift for dads who can be notoriously difficult to shop for as well as other guys in your life, including friends, boyfriends, husbands and family members. Use the lucky bamboo plant symbolism listed above to find the perfect amount of stalks for you or a loved one.
Sources: Dracaena | Lucky Bamboo: Braiding | Know Feng Shui