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What Is Lucky Bamboo?
Lucky bamboo is a species of flowering plant from the family Asparagaceae, which is native to Central Africa. The plant is scientifically known as Dracaena sanderiana, and is a popular houseplant that thrives either in soil or hydroponically. It was named after famous German-English gardener Henry Frederick Conrad Sanders (1847 – 1920).
Other common names include the Chinese water bamboo, curly bamboo, Sander’s dracaena, ribbon dracaena, Belgian evergreen, Goddess of Mercy’s plant, and ribbon plant (the same name is used for the spider plant, scientifically known as Chlorophytum comosum).
Lucky bamboo produces stalks that resemble those of the common bamboo plant, hence the moniker. However, the plant isn’t an actual bamboo. In fact, the two plants come from entirely different taxonomic orders.
If you’re looking for a beautiful houseplant that’s also easy to grow and care for, you might want to look in the direction of lucky bamboo. But first, you’d need to arm yourself with the best tips for growing and caring for Dracaena sanderiana. And that shall be the focus of this post.
Why Cultivate Lucky Bamboo?
There are several reasons to consider lucky bamboo as your go-to indoor plant.
For starters, Dracaena sanderiana stands out for its beauty. The plant is noted for its eye-catching twists and swirls. It’s one of the few houseplants whose stalks can be braided. And the braiding process is super easy.
Lucky bamboo is also incredibly easy to cultivate. As we’ve just mentioned, the plant can thrive in the soil as well as in water. That feature makes it suitable both as an indoor and outdoor plant. Still on the ease of cultivation, Dracaena sanderiana is relatively hardy. That explains why a plant that was originally native to Central Africa is now widespread in numerous countries worldwide, including China, Taiwan, Belgium, and even the United States.
Lucky bamboo has also been used in feng shui from time immemorial. The plant is popularly promoted for its sleep-enhancing benefits in China and other countries that practice the feng shui philosophy.
Dracaena sanderiana also comes with immense sentimental value. The plant is believed to promote good luck. Having it in your home or office is a perfect way to attract success and happiness in your life.
Last but not least, lucky bamboo, like most indoor plants, promotes air purification. The plant may neutralize potentially toxic gases like carbon monoxide. It might even absorb radiation particles released by indoor electrical appliances and electronic gadgets.
The only glaring drawback to growing lucky bamboos is that these plants aren’t so lucky for our furry friends. Dracaena sanderiana has been shown to be toxic to cats and dogs. Common symptoms of toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, drooling, dilated pupils, fatigue, and incoordination. These symptoms are not always life-threatening. But it pays to keep the plant out of reach of your pets and even toddlers.
How to Grow and Care for Lucky Bamboo
1. Understand The Plant’s Physical Characteristics
This step is crucial when planning to grow lucky bamboos or any other plant for that matter. If you’re not familiar with the physical features of Dracaena sanderiana, you might end up buying the wrong plant.
Now, lucky bamboo is a perennial herb that can grow to a height of 39 inches (100 centimeters). The plant is distinguished by its swirly stalks and twisted leaves. The leaves are grey-green in color and can grow to be as large as 9 inches (23 centimeters).
Dracaena sanderiana stems are fleshy. That’s the primary feature that distinguishes it from standard bamboo plants.
It’s also worth noting that lucky bamboo is often confused with Dracaena braunii, a plant native to coastal West Africa. Although they may look similar from a distance, Dracaena braunii produces flowers that are up to five times shorter than those of lucky bamboo.
2. Decide Between Soil and Water
Lucky bamboo can thrive in both water and soil. So, the choice of a suitable growing medium depends on the cultivator and not necessarily the plant. Each option comes with pros and cons, depending on the amount of care you’re able to offer the plants.
For instance, growing Dracaena sanderiana hydroponically is easier if using rainwater or distilled water. Fluoridated water (such as water from your tap) or chlorinated water (such as water from your swimming pool) may contain potentially toxic chemicals. In this case, your best bet would be to grow the plant in soil to prevent yellowing tips. But if you have unlimited access to distilled water, you can comfortably grow your lucky bamboo plants hydroponically.
Also, if growing Dracaena sanderiana in water, you’ll need to use pebbles to keep the plant upright. That won’t be necessary if growing the plant in soil.
3. Choose a Suitable Growing Container
Height and spaciousness are the two primary considerations when looking for the best container to grow lucky bamboos.
Experts recommend allowing for at least one inch of space all the way around if growing in a low bowl or dish. This ensures the roots can spread out freely.
Once the roots are established, you can consider transferring your lucky bamboo plants to a larger vessel. Remember to wash the pebbles before transferring the plants to a new container.
Another best practice is to clean the container every 2 – 4 weeks. During this time, you’d also need to change the water to prevent algae from forming.
In terms of container material, you’re better off with glass. Glass containers make it easy to track the water levels. Just be sure to keep it out of direct sunlight. If glass pots are hard to come by, you might also consider ceramic containers.
4. Implement Ideal Growing Conditions
How frequently you water your lucky bamboo plants largely depends on the growing medium.
If growing Dracaena sanderiana hydroponically, the conventional wisdom is to keep the water level high enough to submerge the roots but low enough to prevent the stalks from rotting.
And if growing lucky bamboo in soil, water the plants just enough to keep the soil moist.
Dracaena sanderiana prefers well-drained soils. Try mixing equal portions of sand, regular soil, and peat moss to enhance drainage.
Also, remember that your lucky bamboo plants will need a container whether you’re growing in soil or hydroponically.
So, it’s important to poke holes underneath the container as well as on its sides to enhance drainage and airflow.
c) pH Levels
Dracaena sanderiana thrives in slightly acidic environments, typically within the ranges of 5.8 and 7 on the pH scale.
These conditions are fairly easer to achieve if growing the plants in water than in soil.
Lucky bamboo is a highly tenacious plant that requires little to moderate fertilization. In most cases, these plants will thrive with no fertilization at all. All you’ll need to do is nourish them with high-quality water.
But if you must fertilize your Dracaena sanderiana plants, administer small drops of liquid fertilizer once in a while. Keep the fertilizer levels low to prevent the yellowing of leaves.
The best time to fertilize hydroponic lucky bamboo plants is when changing the water.
Lucky bamboo requires plenty of bright light. But the plants can also tolerate light shade and filtered sunlight, which explains why they do remarkably well indoors.
You don’t necessarily need to expose your Dracaena sanderiana plants to direct sunlight. In fact, direct sunlight can scorch leaves.
Just ensure the room where the plants grow receives at least six hours of bright light every day.
f) Temperature and Humidity
Dracaena sanderiana will do exceedingly well in average warmth, with a temperature range between 15 to 22 degrees Celsius (59 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit). The idea is to try and imitate the ideal conditions of the plant’s native environment.
However, avoid placing your Dracaena sanderiana near open-air vents to prevent damage induced by rapid temperature fluctuations around these vents.
Lucky bamboo also does well in average humidity, which is reasonably easy to achieve in most indoor environments. The plants can tolerate dry air provided you keep the room ventilated.
5. Pest and Disease Control
Lucky bamboo is susceptible to the same pests that infest common indoor plants. Examples include aphids, mealybugs, and mites.
You can eliminate these bugs by manually picking them off the plants, washing the plant with soap water, or using other conventional pest control methods.
In terms of disease, lucky bamboos are mainly susceptible to fungal infections. Leaf yellowing and wilting are the tell-tale signs that your Dracaena sanderiana is afflicted by disease.
One effective method to manage fungal infections in lucky bamboo plants is by removing the diseased growth. It’s also recommended to increase air circulation to keep the leaves and stalks dry at all times; hence, reducing the risks of fungal growth.
Lucky bamboo is one of the most iconic houseplants to add to your home or office. The plant is noted for its charming braidable stalks and twisted leaves.
Dracaena sanderiana is also remarkably easy to grow. The plant can thrive both in soil and hydroponically.