All the Dirt on Gardening: Lucky bamboo easy to grow

In our family and probably in yours, there are things you can do and foods you can eat that are believed to increase luck; for example, if you carry a rabbit’s foot on a keychain or eat black-eyed peas for New Year's.

Lucky bamboo is also thought to attract luck, happiness, success and health and it is for sale in many Asian stores as well as big box garden centers.

Dracaena sanderana or sanderiana is not a bamboo at all but a tropical plant from West Africa where it grows to 3 feet tall. Eastern cultures, Chinese in particular, assigned lucky bamboo with mystical properties in Confucian times.

The art of feng shui, arranging work and living spaces to attract the best energy (chi) has been practiced for a thousand years but became popular in the U.S. 30 years ago, and lucky bamboo was a part of that system. Bamboo is said to be strong even in a storm, swaying with the wind; so, having a container of Dracaena sanderana brings an element of that strength into homes and offices.

Lucky bamboo resembles true bamboo if the bottom leaves are stripped off. The stem tops are usually arranged in a container. They are often near the cash register in Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Thai restaurants to attract happiness and prosperity.

In Asian markets it is available as unrooted stems. Dracaena sanderiana was named for the German orchidologist, Henry Frederick Conrad Sander. Common names for the plant include Sander’s dracaena, Goddess of Mercy’s plant and Belgian evergreen.

Dracaena is tough plant and will grow in 1 or 2 inches of distilled water for a year or more with a little houseplant food. Give it bright light but no direct sun and fresh water every two weeks. Cut side shoots/offshoots an inch away from the main cane and new growth will fill out the appearance. Those cuttings can be rooted for more plants.

Dracaena sanderiana roots are red, so putting the stems in a tall, clear glass container with pebbles would be decorative.

Molly Day has been gardening for 40 years and garden writing for 15 years. You can search 2,000 entries in her blog at www.allthedirtongardening.blogspot.com.