Bamboo water plants are commonly sold as slender, single canes sitting in a container of water. They are often called "lucky bamboo" for the traditional Chinese belief that growing this plant as a houseplant would bring luck to your home. Interestingly, bamboo water plants are not bamboo at all--they are a plant called "Dracaena sanderana," according to the University of Arkansas.
Bamboo has risen in popularity due to the art of feng shui and the spread of Asian culture and ideas into the West, according to the University of Arkansas. Bamboo cannot be easily imported into the United States, however, due to laws restricting soil-based plants. Dracaena sanderiana plants, on the other hand, have canes that will live even after being cut. These unrooted canes can be imported to the United States because they are not dependent on soil to live--they only need water. Once you strip the leaves from the bottom of the canes, they look remarkably like bamboo.
Dracaena sanderiana is a small species of Dracaena. The plant only grows to a maximum height of 3 feet and is often pruned to remain much shorter, especially since it is usually sold in containers. The leaves are long, slender and curl slightly. The bright-green leaves are sometimes left just on the top of the canes. Other times, they are only stripped from the bottom third of the canes, creating a bushier appearance. Sometimes the canes are grouped and fastened together to create a unique shape.
Bamboo water plants are usually grown in a container filled with water and some pebbles or marbles to hold the canes upright, according to Plant Care. They can grow in as little as 1/2 inch of water. The water should be changed every other week or so to keep it fresh and to limit bacterial growth. Water that contains chlorine will hurt the plant, so avoid tap water and use distilled water.
Light and Food
Water bamboo grows best in bright but indirect sunlight, according to the Emily Compost website, but they will also grow in low-light conditions, or even under fluorescent lights. These hardy plants will grow well and do not need fertilizer, although a bit of water-soluble fertilizer every few months or so will not hurt them. Do not fertilize so much that salts build up in the water.
Temperature and Maintenance
Locate your water bamboo plant away from hot or cold drafts, such as those given off by a heater or air-conditioner. In addition, these plants should not be exposed to temperatures below 55 degrees F. Occasionally, the leaves or stalks of this plant will turn yellow. Yellowing leaves may indicate sun-scorch, which means the plant should be moved out of direct sunlight. Yellowing stalks usually mean that the cane is dying and should be discarded.