Lucky Bamboo Care A No-Fuss Houseplant That Grows In Water

About lucky bamboo


The first thing you need to know about lucky bamboo is that, despite its common name, this plant isn’t actually a member of the bamboo subfamily (Bambusoideae).

It instead belongs to the genus Dracaena, which is part of the asparagus family Asparagaceae. And that’s a good thing, because actual bamboo would be challenging to grow indoors. Plus, it gets huge!

How is lucky bamboo curled?

The spiraled lucky bamboo stems you’ll see for sale didn’t come about naturally. Instead, growers use an ingenious method based on the fact that plants will naturally grow towards the brightest light source. 

They put the stems on their sides and then gradually rotate them to manipulate their growth direction, allowing them to create curls, braids, and twisted arrangements.

It looks great, but remember you’ll have to keep twisting the stems yourself after purchase, since new growth won’t curl by itself.

Natural habitat

Although the “bamboo” name and the fact that it’s extensively grown in China seem to suggest that this is where this species is from, lucky bamboo is actually naturally found in Central Africa.

In countries like Angola, Cameroon, and Congo, Dracaena sanderiana can be found growing wild in what is called the wet tropical biome—basically rainforests. Here, the species forms part of the undergrowth.


Dracaena sanderiana was first discovered by Western botanists during an expedition by Johannes M. Braun in Cameroon, which was then a German colony. He collected various Dracaena specimens, including one that would later be named after him (the aforementioned Dracaena braunii, which is often confused with lucky bamboo). 

Braun sold some cuttings of one species to Henry Frederick Conrad Sander, a renowned German botanist living in England. These were the plants that would later become known as Dracaena sanderiana (or true lucky bamboo). They’ve been a staple in horticulture ever since, especially in China.

Cultural significance

The reason that lucky bamboo became so popular in China in particular is probably because bamboo itself has been a symbol of virtue and traditional Chinese values for thousands of years (much like another favorite houseplant, Pachira aquatica—also known as the money tree).

Since bamboo is difficult to grow indoors and the climate in much of the country is actually perfect for Dracaena, it’s not a surprise that lucky bamboo became the go-to replacement! 

Lucky bamboo is a symbol in Feng Shui, representing wood with its stems and fire with the red ribbon that often ties arrangements together. Additionally, different amounts of stalks in an arrangement carry different meanings. According to most sources, it goes a little like this:

  • 1 for good fortune
  • 2 for luck (for instance, as a wedding gift)
  • 3 for happiness
  • 5 for health
  • 7 for wealth
  • 8 for prosperity
  • 21 for general good blessings

You won’t see Chinese folks gifting arrangements of four stems: the number is considered an omen of bad luck, as its pronunciation is similar to the Cantonese word for “death.” Lucky bamboo sells particularly well around Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year), which typically takes place in late January or early February.

Lucky bamboo varieties

As with most houseplants, selective breeding and spontaneous mutations have led to a couple of different varieties of lucky bamboo. Originally, there was a green version and a single variegated one. 

Now, you can come across a few different variegation styles, like:

  • Dracaena sanderiana ‘Victory’: Two thin cream stripes on a green leaf
  • Dracaena sanderiana ‘Gold’: Two broad golden stripes with green leaf center
  • Dracaena sanderiana ‘Silver Ribbon’: Two thin cream stripes on the leaf edges
  • Dracaena sanderiana ‘Lemon-Lime’: Light and dark green leaves. 

The most striking differences in lucky bamboo plants aren’t the different types of variegation, though. It’s all in how an arrangement is presented! 

You can get a single curled stem, straight stalks, braided sets, twisted groups, pyramid shapes, Christmas tree-like towers and even hearts. Some will be grown in soil, but most are maintained in water.

Caring for lucky bamboo

Light and temperature

As discussed, lucky bamboo isn’t a very demanding houseplant at all. In terms of light, because it naturally forms part of the rainforest undergrowth, it doesn’t need much and is a great choice if you’re looking for a truly low-light houseplant.

Water and humidity

If you’re growing your lucky bamboo in water, then this section obviously doesn’t apply. You can head to my article on growing houseplants in water instead if you’d like to learn more about how to keep your plant happy in the long run. 

If your plant is in soil, then don’t worry either. Dracaenas are known for being quite forgiving when it comes to soil moisture! They don’t tend to be the quickest growers and their fleshy stems store water well, so it’s usually best to take it relatively easy with the watering can. 

Soil and planting

Again, if you’re growing your lucky bamboo in water, you can feel free to skip this section. Can you see why I love soil-less grow methods? So much less to keep in mind for your plant’s health.


Although lucky bamboo doesn’t need much to thrive, it will appreciate some fertilizer from time to time to prevent yellowing leaves and slow growth.

For plants growing in water, you can buy special hydroponic lucky bamboo plant fertilizers. Use these according to the instructions on the bottle.

For Dracaenas growing in soil, any regular liquid houseplant fertilizer should work well. How often you should fertilize depends on factors like light level and season; in bright light environments in summer, you can do so up to once a month.


Like most houseplants, a lucky bamboo plant won’t really need to be pruned. You can remove dead leaves and also opt to trim any offshoots that you don’t like the look of, but more than that won’t be necessary.

Dividing or repotting

If you’re growing in soil and have a larger lucky bamboo arrangement that’s starting to outgrow its current container, you could consider splitting it up in order to repot each stalk separately.