Get lucky for Chinese New Year with Lucky Bamboo

Whether you believe in a plant bringing you luck or not, bringing any plants into the home or workplace is a health benefit.

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Lucky Bamboo plants have become a common example of
Lucky Bamboo plants have become a common example of "feng shui" in the U.S. Photo: Mokkie, Flickr/Creative Commons

SAN DIEGO, February 17, 2015If you’re just now getting used to writing 2015 on your checks (if you still do something so old fashioned as writing out checks), imagine having to remember the year 4713.

Chinese New Year falls on Thursday, February 19, starting the lunar year 4713. In traditional Chinese culture this is the most important holiday of the year. Don’t be surprised if your favorite Chinese or Southeast Asian owned neighborhood business is closed. The New Year starts with the first new moon of the lunar year and ends with the full moon 15 days later, so New Year moves around a bit on our Gregorian style 12-month calendar.

Being a plantscaping professional for a living, I always associate holidays with the plants that represent the occasion. The plant associated with Chinese New Year is something Americans call “Lucky Bamboo.” You see it sold everywhere this way, but this isn’t an accurate name from a scientific point-of-view. Lucky Bamboo is actually a Dracaena sanderiana, related to the common Dracaena houseplant, including the one called a Corn Plant.

Whether you believe in a plant bringing you luck or not, bringing any plants into the home or workplace is a health benefit. Chinese culture is way ahead of American culture on this. In traditional feng shui, the lucky bamboo is used to attract whatever you need more of in your life in the coming year whether it be health, happiness, love or money.


Your indoor lucky bamboo is considered most lucky when it includes all five feng shui elements:

  • Wood: This is the bamboo itself
  • Earth: The earth the Bamboo grows in, or decorative rocks in the pot
  • Water: The water the Bamboo grows with
  • Fire: Many Lucky Bamboo pots have a red ribbon tied to them to symbolize fire
  • Metal: This can be the pot, but it doesn’t have to be metal. Glass pots belong to the feng shui Metal element. If your plant is in a clay or ceramic pot, put either a metal coin or a metal figurine with it.
If you need a lot of luck, you may need one of these intricate Lucky Bamboo arrangements. Photo: Tracy Hunter
If you need a lot of luck, you may need one of these intricate Lucky Bamboo arrangements. Photo: Tracy Hunter

The number of bamboo stalks in your arrangement will attract different types of positive energy. When you put a Lucky Bamboo plant in your home, select the right number depending on your goals in the coming year:

  • Two for Love and Marriage
  • Three for Happiness
  • Five for Health
  • Eight for Wealth and Abundance
  • Nine for Good Fortune

Avoid keeping a Lucky Bamboo with four stalks. In the Chinese language, the word used as four sounds very similar to the word used for death. Don’t give four bamboo stalks as a gift except to your worst enemy, as it means you’re giving the recipient a death wish.

Dogs and cats don’t consider this plant lucky at all. According to the ASPCA, Dracaena sanderiana is toxic to dogs and cats. Be sure your Lucky Bamboo is located where your pets can’t get to it.

Have you ever wondered how some Lucky Bamboo plants end up in a curly spiral? Growers lay the straight stalks flat with the light source above them. As the stalks grow upward toward the light source, the grower will slowly rotate the stalk and the plant will curve to follow the light. Growers will also twist stalks and with patience they can be made to grow in nearly any shape. Some of the more intricate plants can cost hundreds of dollars.

With a little patience, Lucky Bamboo will grow into patterns like the popular spirals here. Photo: Johann H. Addicks
With a little patience, Lucky Bamboo will grow into patterns like the popular spirals here. Photo: Johann H. Addicks

This growing method is similar to the way we establish plants for living walls. They start planted in a living wall system module lying flat on a bench, and are slowly tilted vertically, a little at a time, until the roots are established and the plant is growing vertically. The modules are then fitting into frames in the living wall structure.

These lucky little beauties are easy to grow and take care of, but although fairly tolerant they do need minimum light and attention to thrive. Dracaena sanderiana can be grown on soil or in water. When growing in water (hydroponically) it’s important to flush the water regularly and have proper drainage. Doing this will prevent algae growth. Try to avoid using tap water; if you must, let it stand overnight to let the chlorine dissipate before adding it to your plant.

When your Lucky Bamboo/Dracaena gets too tall and looks leggy, cut the canes off shorter and new leaves will grow. Your cuttings can be used to establish new plants. After the stalks have been cut, plant them in soil or water and “voila”, you have a new Dracaena.

To all, Gung Hay Fat Choi!, which is Happy New Year in the Cantonese dialect.

Jim Mumford, GRP, CLP is the owner of Good Earth Plant Company and GreenScaped Buildings, San Diego, California. Find Good Earth Plants on Facebook and Twitter.

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