Lucky Bamboo History

Overview

Lucky bamboo makes a wonderful office or houseplant. It is very easily cared for and doesn't need a lot of sun. The bright green color of lucky bamboo symbolizes good fortune, as it has for over 4,000 years in Asia. Practitioners of feng shui use lucky bamboo as a means of balancing the elements of the house, with this particular plant representing the wood element. Growing lucky bamboo improves the overall "chi," or life energy, in any space.

Identification

Despite bearing the name lucky bamboo, scientifically this plant isn't bamboo at all. Dracaena sanderiana is the botanical term, whereas sacred bamboo that grows in gardens is Nandina domestica. For centuries, people used the phrase "lucky bamboo" when this plant is actually part of the lily family. History tells us that the species got its name from a German gardener, Henry Sander, who lived from 1847 to1920. Its also sometimes is called a ribbon plant.

Considerations

Lucky bamboo endeared itself to gardeners quickly because it grows so easily. The overall look of the pant ties it to sacred bamboo, which is an evergreen that represents success and durability. The plant needs fresh water weekly, indirect sunlight and a temperature around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Periodically a little fertilizer helps, particularly if you are growing the plant in a water base. In truth, lucky bamboo prefers soil, even though historically most merchants sell it in a water-based container.

Problems

Ongoing observation of lucky bamboo reveals that it periodically develops yellow leaves. That means it's getting too much light or that your water is over-fluoridated or soft. To resolve this, leave a cup of tap water on the counter for a full day. This dissipates fluoride and chlorine. If you have soft water, avoid tap water and use distilled.

Origins

Lucky bamboo has long ties to the ancient practice of feng shui, also known as the art of placement. In this system, the location of each item in a house influences the overall energies therein. Since the traditional lucky bamboo has a water base with stones, it represents wood, earth and water together. Add a red ribbon and a decorative coin, and you have the fire and metal elements too. Choose a three-stalk plant for joy, five for prosperity and six for good health.

Propagation

Botanists and gardeners alike know from the long history of working with lucky bamboo that it propagates from stalk cuttings, below the joints. That cutting goes into water and receives regular misting. Once rooted, transfer the lucky bamboo to a larger container, preferably one with sand or soil in the bottom for drainage. To get the twist in the stalk, put your lucky bamboo in a window where it gets indirect light on one side. The stem naturally grows toward that light. Keep turning the plant as it grows.

Warning

Lucky bamboo is toxic to pets. Keep it well out of reach of your cats and dogs.

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About this Author

Patricia Telesco has been a writer since 1992. She has produced more than 60 books with publishers that include HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster. Her articles have appeared in "Woman's World" and "National Geographic Today." Telesco holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Buffalo.