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A Houseplant That Grows In Water: Lucky Bamboo Care Tips

Lucky Bamboo is a fascinating houseplant that grows in water. It's great for beginning gardeners. Here you'll find lucky bamboo care tips.

3 twisted stalks of lucky bamboo & an arrangement of lucky bamboo sit on a table.

Are you a beginning houseplant gardener? Here’s a great one to get started with because it’s easy as pie to keep looking good and sure to become a topic of conversation as you’re busy showing it off. I’d to introduce you to Lucky Bamboo, a plant which grows in water,  and give you a few care tips to make sure yours stays as healthy as can be.

First off, Lucky Bamboo isn’t a bamboo at all. The canes, stalks or stems (whatever you prefer to call them) resemble the canes of a bamboo plant. It’s a dracaena, Dracaena sanderiana or braunii to be exact. Lucky Bamboo has been a part of Chinese culture for thousands of years but has really skyrocketed into popularity in the past 15 years and is now commonly found in many parts of the world.

This is a plant which goes both ways: it grows for the long haul in both water and/or soil. 

Lucky Bamboo is found in may different forms and arrangements. The number of stalks have different meanings as do the different forms like trellis, tree,  spiral, etc. This isn’t something I know a lot of about, but I do know that you should avoid an arrangement using 4 stems. It’s bad luck in the Chinese culture and who needs that? 3 stems is a favorite number because it represents happiness, long life and wealth.  Yes please!

a clear glass vase holds 3 twisted stalks of lucky bamboo

This arrangement sits in my guest room & hopefully bestows my guests with good luck & fortune.

an arrangement of lucky bamboo tied with gold foil ties grows in a low white dish

The color of the ties have meaning too. This 1 of mine has gold ties which represents abundance.

Lucky Bamboo care tips:

1- LIGHT: Lucky Bamboo does great in bright light. It’ll tolerate lower light levels just fine but it won’t grow much. Be sure to avoid putting it in direct, hot sun as it’ll burn baby burn. You may need to rotate your plant so it gets light evenly on all sides. Right now mine sits in a north window sill  but I’ll need to move it as the weather heats up because the glass gets hot here in the Arizona desert when those summer days roll around.

2- WATER:  There is a bit of mixed opinion regarding this. Some people never change water, some change it frequently & others every now & then. I fall into the every now & then category as I change the water about every 2 months. I make sure the water completely cover the roots in both of my arrangements so I add a bit of water as needed, every 2-7 days depending on the temps. If the water is smelling bad, then change it!

Here’s 1 thing I can tell you about your Lucky Bamboo & water: if your tap water is hard (containing a lot of minerals), then you’ll need to use distilled or purified water. All dracaenas are prone to tipping so if yours is starting to show a lot of brown tips or a build of white in the vase or dish, don’t use tap water. I use purified water now for mine (it costs about a dollar a gallon & lasts for at least 2 months) & I’ve already seen a difference.

nell waters a small lucky bamboo arrangement in a low white dish with distilled water

Topping the dish off with purified water.

3- CONTAINER SIZE: If your Lucky Bamboo arrangement is growing in a low dish or bowl, them make sure it has at least 1″ of space all the way around so the roots can spread out a bit. Mine which has been growing in the low white dish for 3 years now is going to need is going to need a larger vessel soon as the roots are stating to get crowded. My much taller spiral stems are in a glass vase proportionate to their height.  I only keep about 3″ of water in the vase, just enough to make sure the roots are fully submerged.

an arrangement of lucky bamboo with twisted stalks grows in rocks & water in a low dish

Lucky Bamboo grows just fine & looks great in pebbles, rocks or glass chips. Just make sure those roots stay covered with water.

4- FERTILIZER: I’ve never fertilized mine, but if you feel the need, there’s 1 called Super Green which is specially formulated for Lucky Bamboo growing in water.

5- PESTS: Mine has never gotten any. Like all dracaenas, Lucky Bamboo is subject to an infestation of spider mites, especially in the fall &/or winter when the heat comes on. Also, keep your eye open for thrips, scale & mealy bugs.

Time to wrap this up with a few “Do Not’s:

– Do not place your Lucky Bamboo in direct sun.

– Do not use tap water if your water is hard. Your Lucky Bamboo will do much better with distilled or purified water.

-Do not let your Lucky Bamboo dry out – keep the roots covered with water at all times.

-Do not keep the water levels too high – just covering the roots is fine.

-Do not place your Lucky Bamboo near a heating or cooling vent. Also, keep it away from any cold drafts.

-Do not let dust collect on the leaves because the pores need to breath. Periodically clean the leaves with a brush, damp rag &/or spray off with water.

an elaborate pyramid shaped lucky bamboo arrangement grows in a low dish

I saw this beautiful arrangement in a shop near Pasadena. The assortment of Lucky Bamboo was impressive!

Lucky Bamboo is not only 1 of the easiest houseplants to grow but it’s as fascinating and interesting as a plant gets. If you’re a beginning gardener, be sure to give this 1 a try. I’ve been gardening for over 55 years and I love this plant. And hey, don’t we all need a little luck brought into our homes?!!

Happy gardening,

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68 comments:

  1. Thank you so Nell for the information you provided. I just received a lucky bamboo plant from a friend. The pot its in is around 2an 3/4 ” deep & and 2″ around.There are 3 stalks. All but 1 leaf is yellow tipped.I know to cut the yellow ends off. There is about 1/2″ between stalk and edge of pot. According to you they should be transplantedCorrect? Wish me luck. Michael

  2. Hi Michael – You’re very welcome. If the roots are looking crowded, then yes, you need to put it in a bigger container. If the roots are too constricted, the plant won’t grow & may become stressed. I need find a bigger dish for my smaller arrangement & will be doing a video & post on that soon. I’ll also be adding some stalks in because some have died. Nell

  3. I love Lucky Bamboo & bought one 5 months ago (I don’t know how to care for a plant but still love it).

    A week ago, 2 out of 3 stalks starts to turn yellow (not all stalks, just small part of it). I thought it may be because they didn’t get the sunlight. So, I put it under the direct sun for few days. Luckily I saw your tips and quickly retrieve it.

    Phew!! Btw, thank you for your tips!! It really helps me a lot!!

  4. Glad I could help Marina! My Lucky Bamboo needs a bigger container & more stalks added in so that’s a project for early next year – post & video coming on that. Nell

  5. I have three stalks in a glass, straight-sided cylindrical vase. I’m getting algae build-up. The plants are not in direct sun. The water is about 1/4 up the stalks and anchored with clear glass beads. Any thoughts on the algae?

  6. Hi Donna – A bit of algae is okay but you don’t want too much build up of it. An extensive build of it can reduce the amount of oxygen in water. Algae tends to build up more in the sun, if it’s hot &/or if it’s in a glass container. Nell

  7. Why are my leaves turning yellow but the canes are still green. I repotted it because I saw the roots were starting to come out of the pot, it is growing in rain water only. Is it dying and what should I do.

  8. Hi Paula –

    Seeing you’re growing yours in rain water, that’s not the issue. It could be too much sunlight or over fertilizing. They don’t live forever in water so if yours is getting older, that’s also a reason. Nell

  9. hello Nell. my plant’s leaves turned yellow then i cut them. but now its top is drying n turning into yellow again. pls advise what is wrong?

  10. Hi Munguu – It could be too much direct sunlight, water with high salt & mineral content, or too much fertilizer. Nell

  11. I’m curious! My plant is about 20 inches tall! Can I cut it in half so I’d have 2 stalks?

  12. Hi Nell! I’m not really into gardening so I don’t really know what to do with my lucky bamboo plant.
    I got one from a wedding and I was advised to put it in water – I used tap water. The plant was there for more than a week and I placed it just inside the house. I didn’t check until this weekend. By that time, 80% of the stalk is already yellowish. I really want this plant to survive. Is there still a chance? Any advice, please?

  13. Hi Cheryl – Yes you can; just make sure your pruners are clean & sharp so you don’t make raggedy cuts. Also, just know that both stalks will remain at 10″ tall. Nell

  14. Hi Camia – The stalk turning yellow is usually due to a watering issue. LBs don’t like chlorine or fluoride that is often in tap water in high levels. Also, only the roots & the bottom 1-5″ (depending on the height of the stalk) of the stalk likes to to covered with water. Changing location or being out of water for too long can do it too. Hope that helps, Nell

  15. I have 2 Lucky Bamboo plants in drinking glasses on my table on my verandah in Thailand. I took them from my garden where they grow naturally, I haven’t counted how many stems are in each glass, but I sure do like them. They get low morning sunlight from the East. The rest of the day they are in shade. UV Radiation perfect.
    A lovely plant is the Lucky Bamboo.
    Happiness, Health and Wealth….as they say in China.
    They definitely work in Thailand.
    ?

  16. Pingback: impressive bamboo water features – Business in the Shadows

  17. Hi Chris –
    Yes, they are lovely plants & are available in so many interesting forms. Thailand would be very well suited for growing LB, as you well know. Nell

  18. I have a lucky bamboo that is 10 yrs old. And at least 6 ‘ tall. Very hard to keep it standing up. Right now, I have a gardening stake, but I need to replace it because it’s grown past the stake. What do you recommend?

  19. Hi Patricia – You can always get a taller stake (I’m assuming you have it in soil) or you can cut it back to reduce the height. New heads will eventually appear. Nell

  20. I am going to follow on a question above. I too have mine at about 30″ not including 6″ pot it is in . If I was to cut in half to start new ones ,do I just stick the cuttings in water with rocks and they will flourish / do I need to add anything to jump start the roots. Also how do they get them to have the curl in them ? mine are straight. Thank you

  21. Hi Christy – I’ve always stuck the cuttings in water with no additives & they’ve rooted just fine. The growers put the twist in them by training the new, softer growth. they come in some wild forms! Nell

  22. What to clean algae out

  23. Well I am becoming a bit of an expert on Lucky Bamboo. It seems to me they need slightly acidic water on the pH scale. So I am trying a very very dilute lime juice solution in bottled water. Seems to be working fine. And my Lucky Bamboo came from naturally grown plants living and thriving under a canopy of palm trees next door to my Thai Spirit Homes with nobody looking after them.
    I remain confident of Health, Wealth and Happiness.
    And the LB definitely looks good.
    Definitely Positive Energy.
    I reckon I could grow an LB in Cupertino.
    ?

  24. Donna – Algae forms when the water is exposed to sunlight. Bleach kills algae. There’s info online to help you out with this regarding ratio, etc. Nell

  25. Hi Chris – I grew LB in San Francisco (indoors) so you can grow it in Cupertino. It’s a great plant; all the way around. Nell

  26. Yep. I do like a hardy low maintenance plant. One of my favourites is Aloe Vera. Looks nice, very low maintenance and the gel that you can extract from the leaves has medicinal properties.
    First Nation Americans and people in South East Asians have known this for centuries.
    Quite how the Aloe Vera actually produces the liquid gel given virtually no water is an absolute miracle. A Desert Rose also defies the odds.
    Beautiful.
    Keep planting and caring. Without plants the human race would be extinct.
    Regards.
    Chris

  27. how do I clean out the algae in my water bamboo house plant?

  28. Just bought a long bamboo & may be cutting it in half or maybe 3 pieces. I don’t have distilled water so I will use tap water & let it sit to remove the fluoride just in case. They will be in a clear vase with clear pebbles et rocks. Is it ok to use seashells? Not sure if I remember correctly that it is a no-no.

    Thank you!

    Zita

  29. Hi Penny – Algae forms in sunlight so keep your vase or container out of the sun. Rinse the roots off thoroughly. I’ve heard hydrogen peroxide with a scrubber can work. Just be sure to rinse the vase out well so there are no traces of H2O2. Nell

  30. Hi Zita – Your tap water may be just fine. Yes, I’ve seen in a vase with seashells & it was quite pretty. Just make sure they’re not dyed or are thoroughly rinsed to remove the salt. Nell

  31. Hey! I have a question and hope you know the answer 🙂 I have 3 bamboo plants sticks and they are all in 1 vase with water. It’s been a year and their roots started mixing together. Now it looks like 1 plant. Is this okay? Do I need to transfer them to another pot with soil?
    Thank you!

  32. Hi Anastasia – The roots of my 3 Lucky Bamboo Stalks have mingled together but I can gently pull them apart. They aren’t an aquatic plant in nature but grow in moist conditions. I’ve never grown one in soil but if you do, put it in a rich mix which drains well. And, don’t let it dry out. Nell

  33. I have been growing the bamboo plant in soil. My bad!! Can I just take it out of the dirt, wash off the roots, and place in a water vase?

  34. I have a lucky bamboo that is several years old and is doing great. It is in a 4 inch pot in stone s. It is currently 31 inches tall and I’m afraid it has outgrown its pot. Should it be repotted or is it ok in that pot? I wanted to send a photo but can’t find a place to attach a photo

  35. Hi Nell,

    I have 2 stalks that I’ve had in a glass vase for a few years now. They don’t seem to grow much! I have a lot of brown at the end of the leaves and the roots are growing up the stocks. I’m guessing that is because I have way to much water in the vase? (About 5″ of water). Should I take the roots down to the bottom, and just leave a little bit of water as you suggested? I live in So. Fla., and move it around, trying to find the best location, but they still don’t seem to get much fuller and taller. Thanks for any advice!

    Pam : )

  36. Hi Nancy – Lucky Bamboo isn’t by nature an aquatic plant but it grows in the tropical rainforest where it’s very wet. If you want it for the long haul, it’s best to grow it in soil. As a novelty, it started to be sold as a plant which grows in water & that stuck. They grow in water or soil – not your bad at all! Nell p.s. I’ve never taken one out of soil to grow in water so I don’t know the answer to that.

  37. Hi Placido – It’s good to up the size on the pot, because just like plants growing in soil, the roots out grow the pot. Nell

  38. hello,

    can i use asprin solution with lucky pampo , i heared it bring very good result when sprayed once a week on garden plants

  39. Hi – I’m not sure about that. I know there was some research be done on that subject but I never saw if they came to any conclusions. Nell

  40. Hi Pam – The stalks don’t grow but the foliage part does. On my twisted stalks, I can see quit a bit of growth because it’s spring & the temps are warm here in the AZ desert. I keep 2-3″ of water in the vase (just enough to keep the roots covered) because I like the look of the roots at the very bottom & not up & down the stalk. You can cut some of the roots if you’d like just as long as there’s sufficient root growth at the bottom. A bit of brown tipping is normal. I use distilled water & that really helps with significant tipping. Nell

  41. Hello Nell
    I had a chinese bamboo plant given to me about 6 years ago.
    It is in a pot which is 2 inches dia. and 3 inches high. It has 2 stalks with 2 stems of foliage on one and 1 on the other. The foliage stems are now twice the height that it was. It sits in a bowl with plenty of room around in my bath it but I only water it about every 5 days and it seems to be doing ok except for the brown tips and your advice to others has helped me out here.
    It did suffer when I left it with a neighbour for 2 weeks whilst I was away and I didn’t water it for about 3 weeks hoping it would improve – It did.
    1. Should I transplant it and how do I get it out of this container without damaging it as it seems to be sealed in
    2. Are the foliage stems very thin because of crowding in pot
    Thanking you
    Carol

  42. Hi Carol – The root systems on these plants grow over time so it’s best to give them a larger pot. They’ll do better. I’m not sure what you mean by sealed but you may have to break the pot to get the plants out. The stems on my LBs never get thicker – it’s the foliage part which grows. Nell

  43. Hi Nancy ,

    i did a mistake by cutting the roots of the plant “the roots become rot and smells bad” ,i was hopping that a new roots will grow , but this not happen and the plant begin to yellowing from bottom to top
    i still see the major part of the plant healthy

    can i do anything to survie it ?

  44. I bought a small 3 inch bamboo in a decorative desk vase and my plant was getting way too big, so I put in a large glass vase with rocks, as it grew more the roots broke through the vase, what a mess, it ruined an electrical box due to being on a counter above it. Should I cut the roots back often and if so around how much? I don’t want to hurt the bamboo plant due to it thriving for the last year. I also don’t add soil just rocks and water.

  45. Yes Donna, you can trim the roots of your Lucky Bamboo. Make sure your scissors or nippers are clean & sharp. Don’t trim away more than 1/4 to 1/3 of the roots. Easy does it. Nell

  46. Hi Nell,

    I have 2 stalks of lucky bamboo that I bought a few months ago in a little pot with soil. It has always been very healthy looking and grows well, and I water them every now and again with bottled water.

    Few days ago I noticed the stem of one of the stalk turning yellow right at the top, and the yellowing is slowly spreading downwards and also into the leaves. However the second stem is still a nice healthy green- I’m not quite sure what I can be doing that one stem is fine and the other not so!

    Not quite sure what to do here! Thank you for any advice.

  47. Thank you so much for the post Nell! I’ve been growing a lucky bamboo in soil for a few months not. I tried them just in water with the glass beads a couple of times but they never did well. This one seems to being doing much better. I just have to make sure I use water that’s a little on the acidic side. I searched several sights for information about how to grow them and yours by far is the best. It’s straightforward and concise. Thank you!

  48. I was given one and it has a lot of tall leave on it, taller than the plant itself. Should I be cutting them back?

  49. Hi Jean – It could be water quality, over watering or too much light. It may have stared before you even bought it. Keep watering with distilled water & keep lightly moist but not wet. Nell

  50. I’ve had 8 bamboo in the same vase (in water) for about 10 years now. It’s looks like it’s time to move it into something larger. The roots are so intertwined, I feel that breaking the vase is the only way. Any suggestions? Thanks!

  51. Hi Nell,

    I have a LB that came potted in dirt with pebbles on top. Is it possible to remove it from the soil and clean the roots so I can grow it it water? I’ve had much better luck that way!

  52. Thank you so much Laura – I appreciate that! This response is certainly delayed but I have so many comments to answer that it takes a while. I’ve found that using distilled water has really made a difference with mine. Nell

  53. Hi Marsha – You can leave it if you’d like. Just know that the leaves do the growing over time, the stalk doesn’t. Nell

  54. Hi Jon – I’m assuming the mass of roots is larger than the opening of the vase & that’s why you can’t just lift it out. So yes, unless it’s an antique or has sentimental value, breaking it sounds like the best option. Nell

  55. have one stalk in 6 inch tall glass container, living in Texas mosquitos are a problem and have to empty water often for larva in water, what can be done safely for plant

  56. Hello, I received a “lucky bamboo” with 35+ stalks. Unfortunately, one of the outer circle, lower stalks died. I need to know if I should yank it out, leave it or what I should do. It’s a multi level wrapped bundle that I LOVE and don’t want to upset the balance or the “Juju”
    ?HELP.

  57. Hello..mine is in a big clear vase in water and now has Browning dry tips and very sticky stuff on leads..what to do? Thank you

  58. Hello Nell, I have just purchased the Lucky Bamboo. I have never tried them before but always wanted to. I’ve had houseplants about 48 of my 68 years. This one is a challenge. I’m so glad I found your site. Apparently I’ve done everything wrong except the distilled water. I bought 4, bad luck. My question is just to verify because you have mentioned this, too much water. I bought a clear vase but it’s not very tall. I bought a bag of decorative colored round rocks. But to get the bamboo to stand up I put 10 ounces of water. It looks very pretty. But is it too many rocks and too much water for a vase 8tx4wx3d? .Will water rot the stem. I thought it was bamboo until you enlighten us. Thank you so much.

  59. Hi I removed one of my stalks from my plant that I have it’s only about 6 inches tall yesterday but it just smelled so bad. now i noticed that one of the taller stalks is turning yellow today. i’ve put my usual amount of water in the pot and i am just hoping it won’t wilt. i just couldn’t handle the smell.

  60. Hi, I got a lucky bamboo recently because it was root bound and I wanted to help it. I did, and put it in water. I haven’t even had it for a week and the water started smelling really badly. I’ve heard that you’re supposed to change the water every week, so that concerned me a bit that it hadn’t even been in water for a week yet and it started smelling. So I changed the water, rinsed the pot and rocks. It’s been probably not even a day since I changed the water and it already smells AGAIN. The thing is, though, the plant looks perfectly healthy. It’s green, not browning at all, and the roots look healthy and the stalks are firm. I couldn’t find anything about this anywhere. Maybe you could help? Thanks.

  61. Totally off topic, and, I have been enjoying your videos so much, especially houseplants. Being in California drought, I am preferring house plants to outside gardening.
    My question…….because you relocated to a Tucson from California, how do you like it? I aske because .i am searching for a place to relocate. Any suggestions, ideas, opinions, etc. appreciated.

  62. Hi Saiko –
    In its natural environment, LB grows in soil & actually prefers to grow that way. Yes, you can transition from soil to water. Make sure to rinse the roots well & transfer to a clean vase. LB is sensitive to salts so I use distilled water. Keep just the roots covered with water – in other words, don’t fill the vase. You might want to test it out on 1 or 2 stalks 1st to see how it goes. Nell

  63. Hi Lydia – You can buy an enzyme (safe for the plant) which is formulated for this purpose. I’ve also heard of someone using apple cider vinegar but don’t know the portions on that. Nell

  64. Hi Raven – If just the tips are brown & dry, that could be due to salts in the water (I use distilled water) or dry air in your home. The sticky stuff sounds like nectar secretion caused by pest. The most likely cause is spider mites which love Lucky Bamboo. Here’s more on that: https://www.joyusgarden.com/lucky-bamboo-spider-mites-how-to-prevent-treat-this-common-plant-pest/ Nell

  65. Hi Lydia – You’re very welcome. I always keep the water level of my LBs 1-2″ inches above the highest roots. You can keep it higher but roots will form higher up on the stems & I don’t like that look. LB does fine in rock or glass chips. 10oz of water sounds fine. I like to allow for evaporation (which is fast here in Tucson!) so I need need to put water in the vase every day. Nell

  66. That happens Bridget. Mine would would do that every now & then. Remove the stalk or hide it in the middle. Or, you might have to remove another stalk or 2 or good “juju”. Nell

  67. Carolina- Sounds like stem root. Nell

  68. Hi – It sounds like stem or root rot because it’s happening so fast. If it was root bound when you got it, that along with the previous owner not changing the water, could cause that bacterial infection. Nell

  69. Hi Cathy – Thank you! I like it here a lot; especially now that the weather is cooling. June, July & August are killer but the rest of the year is fine. It’s nowhere near as crowded or congested as parts of California which I love. Also, I have a lot more financial freedom here which I love. I travel a lot now & the Tucson airport is a breeze. There’s a variety in food, a great farmer’s market, a fairly busy music & arts scene, lots of artists & beautiful mountains surround the city. I live just outside the city limits & love my morning walks in the desert. Sold my house in Santa Barbara & bought one for cash here. Plus, it’s a snap to get to California. I just came back from a week in San Diego. Let me know if you have any other questions! Nell

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