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November 9, 2004 > Lucky 'Bamboo'

Lucky 'Bamboo'

by Pat Kite

A wonderful holiday gift item, or just a treat for yourself, is the "Lucky Bamboo" now being offered at assorted markets. Why do I like it? It not only is pretty, but it stays green and healthy under somewhat limited light. In brief, it makes me look talented without any work on my part.

Before you shudder at the word "bamboo," be calm. Lucky bamboo isn't a bamboo at all. Its stems merely resemble bamboo. The fancy scientific name is Dracaena sanderiana. The word Dracaena comes from the Greek word drakaina, which means dragon. There's a Dracaena drago, or "dragon tree" which hails from the Canary Islands. It was long ago thought of as a sacred plant.

Of course there are many types of Dracaena, including the ceiling-high one in my living room. Some are small. Some have yellow-spotted or white-striped leaves. None are difficult to grow provided you water regularly and give moderate light. However for luck, one should consider Lucky Bamboo.

In Chinese culture, Lucky Bamboo is given as a gift for special occasions, such as the Chinese New Year, a new home, the opening of a new business, or just as a good luck charm. For Feng Shui enthusiasts, the presence of Lucky Bamboo gives its surroundings a positive energy. Other purported advantages include: business success and prosperity, improving your love life, plus a peaceful and healthy longevity. And, in addition to all this, the presence of Lucky Bamboo in the household is said to be a positive influence on virtue, manners and decency.

Lucky Bamboo is sold two ways. It is sold by the stem. Each stem goes from about $1 to $5-plus, depending on size and shape. Some stems are straight; others have been trained in spirals. More costly versions are sold in pretty pots, sometimes with ornaments. There are usually several stems in a pot, depending on size. The bigger containers with many exotic spiral stems can be pricey, but they sure are pretty. Again, the advantage is easy care as well as looks. In addition to being a nice houseplant and a great gift, Lucky Bamboo is also useful in flower arrangements.

If you purchase several stems, select ones of varying length for best appearance. They will do nicely for a very long time just plopped in a vase of water. In a little while, long oval green leaves emerge. Eventually the stems will grow little roots. After about a year, I placed my four stems in potting soil within a tall blue vase with an Asian motif. It is happy under ordinary house light. Do remember: Lucky Bamboo doesn't demand much, but it must have sufficient water. If not, leaf tips tend to brown.

It looks like we're in for a wet winter. If I can't garden outdoors, I'll garden indoors. A little bit of luck, wherever it comes from, is always welcome.

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