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Caring For Lucky Bamboo – Dracaena Sanderiana

Dracaena sanderiana has many common names associated with it: Lucky Bamboo, Ribbon Dracaena, Ribbon Plant, Belgian Evergreen, Chinese Water Bamboo, Friendship Bamboo, Water Bamboo. Although many of these names contain the word bamboo, Dracaena sanderiana is in no way a member of the true bamboo family.

Lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana) is native to Cameroon in West Africa. It has become widely popular due to its ability to intertwine eastern mysticism with western new age culture. Lucky bamboo is a popular Feng Shui plant.

Dracaena sanderiana (Lucky bamboo) can be grown hydroponically or in soil.

Lucky Bamboo Care

Light Requirement for Lucky Bamboo: bright indirect light. In it’s native environment Dracaena sanderiana receive an ample amount of light. However, the surrounding plants shade the lucky bamboo from direct exposure to the sun. Too much direct sunlight can cause the leaves to burn. It is important that the lucky bamboo receive adequate light; lack of light will cause week growth, stretching and poor color. Low light conditions will, also, cause stunted growth and inhibit new leaf growth. The light requirements for lucky bamboo are the same whether grown in water or in soil.

Water Requirements for Lucky Bamboo

In water: Water level should be at least a couple of inches. Make sure the roots are covered with water; add water to keep the water level constant. Every couple of weeks change the water completely. Refill the container with clean water. Lucky bamboo is sensitive to the salts and chemicals in tap water; use distilled water or rainwater if possible. If you must use tap water let it set in an open container over night; this will let the chlorine evaporate. However, there is no way to remove the fluoride from the tap water. Fluoride can cause leaf tips to turn brown. Low humidity can cause leaf tips to turn brown as well. Mist the leaves of the lucky bamboo every couple of days if lack of humidity is a problem.

In soil: should be kept moderately moist. Lucky bamboo doe not like to be soggy or dry. To determine water needs stick your finger in the soil up to your first knuckle (about an inch deep); if soil feels dry, water. It is very important for lucky bamboo to have good drainage good drainage when planted in soil. Lucky bamboo in soil will need to be misted every couple of days.

Fertilizer Requirements for Lucky Bamboo

Lucky bamboo doesn’t require much fertilizer and can survive in pure water for quite a while. When you bring lucky bamboo home don’t fertilize it for a couple of weeks; this will prevent over-fertilization. In fact, if your lucky bamboo turns yellow when you bring it home immediately change the water. Yellow leaves on lucky bamboo are an indicator of over-fertilization. Anytime your lucky bamboo has been over-fertilized, change the water and don’t fertilize for several months.

In water: Fertilize your lucky bamboo every couple of months (you can go longer). You can use a little dirty aquarium water (if you have it) or a diluted (tenth of the normal strength) water-soluble houseplant fertilizer. The best time to fertilize is when you change the water.

In soil: You can fertilize with the same type of fertilizer as above, however you will need to fertilize once a month. Just replace one of your regular water cycles with the diluted water-soluble fertilizer.

Lucky Bamboo Problems, Pests & Diseases

Leaves with brown tips – Fluoride burn or lack of humidity.
What to do: Fluoride Burn – replace water with clean distilled or rain water; Dry Air – mist leaves every day or every couple of days.

Yellow Leaves – too much light or fertilizer.
What to do: Too much light – place more distance between the lucky bamboo & the light; too much fertilizer – replace water with distilled water & don’t fertilize for several months.

Stalks yellow from bottom up – too much fertilizer.
What to do: Replace with distilled water and don’t fertilize. At the point that the stalks turn yellow it is often too late for the lucky bamboo to recover. It is often better to cut the green top off and start a new plant. If you have more than one stalk in a container, but only one is yellow, remove the yellow stalk and change the water.

Brown or mushy stalks – root-rot; roots have rotted from over-fertilization or over-watering (plants potted in soil).
What to do: Cut the healthy tops off and root new plants.

White sticky substance on stalks, snail-looking growth on stalks or cottony substances on stalks – insects. Scale and spider mites can be, although rarely, a problem for lucky bamboo.
What to do: Clean the container and pebbles with soapy water (a few drops of dish detergent in water works well) and rinse completely. Wipe each stalk gentle with the soapy water and rinse well. Place the clean stalks in the container and fill with distilled water or rainwater.

Algae growing in water and on container – too much fertilizer and light. Algae grows in nutrient rich water with ample light.
What to do: Clean the lucky bamboo, pebbles and container with soapy water following the same procedure as above. Place the lucky bamboo in the container and fill with water. You might need to move it a little farther from the light or switch to an opaque container.

Other Conditions Needed for Lucky Bamboo

Temperature: Lucky bamboo needs moderate temperature. Normal household temperatures are fine. However, placing lucky bamboo next to an air vent or a door can cause problems due to rapid temperature changes.

Propagation: New Lucky Bamboo can be created through vegetative propagation. Begin by finding a node – the raised rings that grow around the stalk – make a cut about an inch above the node. You will now have a top and a bottom. Leave the bottom in the original container. The bottom will have no leaves and after a few days will need to be lightly misted every few days to encourage new growth. The tops will have all of the leaves. Take the top and dip the cut end in rooting hormone. Let it dry overnight before placing the top in the original container or a new container.

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