stalks of lucky bamboo symbolize happiness. One of
the luckiest aspects of this plant in the Dracaena
family is that it's very easy to care for, and
bamboo is not bamboo at all ó though it bears an
uncanny resemblance. Rather itís a plant called
for whether itís lucky, that pretty much depends on
you. Or does it?
and retailers are certainly doing what they can to stack
the cards in your favor, using the principles of feng
shui (the ancient art of harmonizing living spaces) to
train plant stalks into the shape of hearts or coils,
weaving stalks together to make decorative braids, and
potting a "lucky" number of plant stalks
together and wrapping the whole in a decorative and
auspiciously colored ribbon.
this makes the plant an appropriate and usually
affordable salute to the arrival of the symbol-rich
Lunar New Year (also popularly known as Chinese New
Year) on Feb. 19.
few websites have described the appeal of lucky bamboo
for its ability to intertwine Eastern mysticism with
Western New Age culture. Dracaena sanderiana (dra-SEE-na
san-dur-ee-AH-nuh) is native to Cameroon in Africa,
according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It is
also known as Belgian evergreen and ribbon plant.
for its more popular moniker, lucky bamboo, Mario Vega,
nursery specialist at San Franciscoís Conservatory of
Flowers, says the plantís stalks resemble bamboo, and
the leaves are similar in shape. But D. sanderiana grows
more slowly, more neatly and more compactly than bamboo,
he said, which makes it good for indoor use. Vega views
the plantís "lucky" element in a different
lucky aspect, thatís a curious one," he said.
"Bringing any plant into your home or any work with
plants can give a positive effect on your psyche and
therefore have positive energy ó potentially improving
your luck, so to speak."
whatís done to lucky bamboo plants in the name of good
fortune ó all the pruning, braiding, shaping, grouping
ó itís clear D. sanderiana is one tough number. But
itís not so lucky for pets and their owners, who
should think twice about having the plant in their home:
Plants in the Dracaena family are toxic to dogs and
cats, according to the American Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
plant can be grown in soil or water, in normal household
temperatures (65 to 75 degrees). Give it sunlight but
not too much, Vega says ó moderate to bright indirect
light is preferred. If youíre growing the plant
hydroponically, Vega says to make sure to flush out the
water regularly to prevent algae growth. If it is in
soil, be sure the pot has good drainage, and water as
you would any houseplant: Stick your finger in the soil
and water when itís dry about 1 inch down. (Donít
overwater.) Fertilize sparingly.
an online marketing service for florists in Paragould,
Ark., has blog posts about care and training of lucky
bamboo. One entry suggests using distilled water with
the plant because it is "sensitive to the salts and
chemicals in tap water." If tap water is your only
choice, let the water sit overnight to allow the
chlorine to evaporate, they advise.
the plants get too tall, no problem, writes Barbara
Pleasant in "The Complete Houseplant Survival
Manual" (Storey): Cut off the cane at any height,
and new leaf clusters will grow just below the cut. It
is easy to propagate new plants from the stem cuttings
too. Online tutorials (we found several on YouTube)
offer instructions on training the growing stem to curl
around in a spiral, but remember, this can take a while
because Dracaena is a slow-growing plant.
basically bulletproof," says Jason Lopez, living
collection manager at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
in Coral Gables, Fla. "Itís one of the easiest
plants you can pick."
bamboo plants are often sold as multiple stalks. What
the numbers mean may differ according to various
sources. Mandy Maxwell, writing on the website of the
Flower Shop Network, notes that three stalks are the
most popular ó and represent happiness ó while four
stalks are "almost never given" because
"four could draw negative energy, according to
Chinese culture." Two stalks symbolize luck in love
and marriage, and eight stalks represent luck in wealth.
for Lunar New Year
Lunar New Year, which takes place Feb. 19, is a holiday
ripe with symbolism, especially in food and flowers.
Terese Tse Bartholomew, author of "Hidden Meanings
in Chinese Art," wrote a pamphlet for San Franciscoís
Asian Art Museum on "Fruits and Flowers for the
Chinese New Year." Here are her floral picks:
According to Bartholomew, quince flowers around the
Lunar New Year in San Francisco and has become a
substitute there for the flowering peach or plum trees
of China. "It is customary for Chinese to decorate
their homes with blossoms during Chinese New Year,"
she writes. "For without flowers, there will not be
any formation of fruit." Blossoms will "bring
prosperity," she adds.
"The peach tree with its pink blossoms is a
standard decoration for the new year," she writes,
noting the peach is an "emblem of longevity."
is a "symbol of good fortune and prosperity,"
according to Bartholomew. Flowers in the narcissus
family include paperwhite narcissus, which are
especially easy to force in winter. The National
Gardening Association website shows how.
willow: "Since the Chinese like numerous blossoms
on a branch, the many buds of the willow make it a
favorite flower for Chinese New Year," Bartholomew
writes. "The fluffy white blossoms of the pussy
willow resemble silk, and they soon give forth young
shoots the color of green jade. Chinese enjoy such signs
of growth, which represent the coming of