Segmented, hollow, vertical-growing and vibrant green in color, lucky bamboo may look a lot like bamboo, but it isn’t; they aren’t even closely related. In fact, this popular houseplant, known scientifically as Dracaena sanderiana, is more closely related to African lilies than actual bamboo, which is a type of grass.
They have different growing conditions, and lucky bamboo care is significantly different than care for bamboo. Yet in feng shui, lucky bamboo is used as a representation of bamboo and the spiritual qualities attributed to it.
In traditional Chinese culture, bamboo stands as a symbol of virtue and the harmony that can exist between people and the natural environment. Its physical characteristics are believed to represent admirable human qualities.
For example, its hollow interior stands for modesty and a willingness to let energy flow through you. Its deep roots represent determination and a sense of purpose. The straight growth of bamboo symbolizes moral uprightness or honorability, and its clean, minimalist exterior represents decency and chastity.
The Five Elements in Feng Shui
In feng shui, lucky bamboo is always arranged in a way that encompasses the five elements. These aren’t actual elements, but rather things that are fundamental to human life. They also play a critical role in the theory and practice of feng shui.
The elements have a creative relationship to each other as well as a destructive relationship. In the creative cycle, wood fuels fire, fire creates earth (ashes), earth becomes metal (ore), metal produces water and water nourishes wood. In the practice of feng shui, these elements can be used to strengthen each other.
For example, if you wanted to improve your health and family relationships, you could place plants as well as a small fountain or picture of water in the eastern part of your house.
This is because family and health are located in the east of the bagua, or feng shui energy map, of your home, which is also associated with wood. The plants represent wood, and placing them in the east is good for health and family.
By including a fountain or other water-themed décor, you also nourish the wood, strengthening the positive effect of the plants in this area.
In the destructive cycle, wood disrupts earth because roots grow into the ground and break it up. Earth stops water by damming it, water puts out fire, fire melts metal and metal chops wood.
It might seem counter-intuitive to inhibit the effects of an element in feng shui, but it can be used to bring balance to a lopsided space.
For example, in a room painted green that is full of plants, wooden furniture and rectangular shapes, the wood element may be too overwhelming.
This can be brought into balance through the introduction of metal design components, such as metal vases or picture frames, a white rug or grey throw pillows. These metal items help control the wood to bring balance to the space.
Lucky bamboo intended for use in feng shui is presented in such a way that all five elements are in balance. It either comes in a glass vase or one with a metal rim, and the vase is filled with stones and water.
The vase or the plant will have a red ribbon tied around it, which represents fire, the stones symbolize earth, the glass or metal elements represent metal. The water is critical for lucky bamboo care, but it’s also an element.
The lucky bamboo itself represents wood, as all plants represent wood in feng shui. This makes the lucky bamboo plant a perfectly balanced design component.
Lucky Numbers for Lucky Bamboo Plants
A lucky bamboo plant is thought to bring positive energy and good luck. In feng shui, varying the number of stalks can even generate good luck in specific areas of a person’s life.
Often, the meaning of a particular number is related to what the word for that number sounds like in Mandarin. For example, the word for “four” sounds like “death” and is considered bad luck throughout Asia.
You should never give four stalks of lucky bamboo to someone. Because lucky bamboo plants are usually given as gifts, it’s good to think about the recipient and what number of stalks will be most helpful for her or him.
Where To Place Lucky Bamboo in Your Home
Where you keep your lucky bamboo plant might be the most important aspect of feng shui. In the traditional practice, the home is divided into eight areas that align with eight compass directions: north, northeast, east, southeast, south, southwest, west and northwest.
These are arranged like the slices of a pie around the center of your home, also called your home’s heart. Each directional pie slice is associated with an area of your life and one of the elements.
The two best areas for your lucky bamboo plant are the east and southeast because these are both wood element areas. A lucky bamboo plant in the east will bring positive energy to your health and family relationships while placing one in the southeast can increase your wealth and prosperity.
Lucky Bamboo Care
While lucky bamboo plants are fairly low maintenance, they do require some basic care to thrive. If you are purchasing a plant for yourself or someone else, always choose one that is a bright, vibrant green with no yellowing.
Take time to smell the plant too. If you notice a sour odor, especially around the base, it could be sick and you should choose a different plant.
Although some lucky bamboo plants come planted in soil, this isn’t necessary, and adding any kind of fertilizer can kill it. If the plant is in soil, make sure to keep it moist, but not saturated, at all times.
More commonly, the plant is placed in a vase with some stones and water. The stones are used to keep the stalks upright. The water should be changed every 10 days or so, and there should always be enough water to cover roots but not leaves.
Filtered or deionized water is best because the fluoride and chlorine in tap water can cause the plant to turn yellow.
Keep your lucky bamboo plant out of direct sunlight. In nature, they are usually shaded by larger plants, and direct sun can cause them to turn yellow. They do well in bright rooms away from the windows.
Too much sunlight can also cause algae to grow in the water, and this excess of nutrients is also bad for your plant. Lucky bamboo care is important because a sick or dying plant is bad for feng shui.
With appropriate care, your plant will bring positive energy to your home for years to come.