Bamboo is an incredibly versatile plant, with thousands of species and cultivars to choose from. It can be found in a variety of environments, from oppressive heat to extreme cold. However, contrary to popular belief, bamboo does not grow well in swamps or wet, saturated soil.
Bamboo needs soil with good drainage, so it will not grow in ponds, and it's not recommended to grow it too close to the lake shore or the riverside. But there are a few bamboo species that can tolerate more water than others, including Phyllostachys heteroclada, also known as "Water Bamboo."
Misconceptions About Bamboo Growing in Water
Many people have the misconception that bamboo can grow in water, perhaps due to depictions in movies or TV shows where bamboo is shown growing in lagoons or rice patties. However, these are just special effects or overly imaginative set designs. Bamboo does not grow in lagoons or rice patties.
Another common misconception is that "lucky bamboo," the short, segmented cuttings often seen growing in a vase of water, is a true bamboo. In reality, lucky bamboo is not a true bamboo but a type of Dracaena, an indoor decorative plant sometimes referred to as "corn plant." Lucky bamboo grows perfectly well in water, but it is not botanically considered bamboo.
Bamboo Species for Wet Soils
There are a few bamboo species that have rhizomes with air canals, making them more adaptable to wet soil. However, even these varieties will not survive prolonged periods (more than about five days) underwater. Some of these species include:
- Arundinaria gigantea 'Macon' (Macon River Cane)
- Phyllostachys heteroclada (Solid Stem Bamboo or Water Bamboo)
- Phyllostachys parvifolia
- Phyllostachys atrovaginata (Incense Bamboo)
- Bambusa blumeana (Thorny Bamboo or Spiny Bamboo)
Lucky Bamboo: A Unique Houseplant
Lucky Bamboo, scientifically known as Dracaena sanderiana, is a fascinating houseplant that grows in water. It's a great choice for novice gardeners and those looking for a novelty plant. Despite its name, Lucky Bamboo is not a true bamboo.
The canes, stalks, or stems of the plant resemble the canes of a bamboo plant, which is the origin of the "bamboo" in its common name. It's actually a member of the Dracaena family, along with popular houseplants like Dracaena Lisa, Dracaena massangeana, Dracaena marginata, and Dracaena reflexa.
Lucky Bamboo has been a part of Chinese culture for thousands of years and is known to bring good energy into your home. It comes in many different shapes, forms, and arrangements, from a single stalk to an arrangement with multiple twisted stalks. The number of stalks and the forms of the arrangements have different meanings in Chinese culture. For example, three stems represent happiness, long life, and wealth.
Lucky Bamboo Care Tips
Lucky Bamboo does great in bright light. It'll tolerate lower light levels indoors, but it won't grow much. If it's not getting enough light, it'll become leggy and thin, trying to reach for the light source. Avoid putting it in a location with direct, hot sun, as it'll burn.
Lucky Bamboo is sensitive to minerals, including chlorine, in the water. If your tap water is hard and contains a lot of minerals, use bottled water like purified or distilled water. Rainwater and spring water are also great options. Change the water every six to eight weeks, or if it starts to smell bad. Make sure the water completely covers the roots and keep the water level just above the roots, not too far up on the stems.
If your Lucky Bamboo arrangement is growing in a low dish or bowl, make sure it has at least 1 inch of space all the way around so the roots can spread out. Glass and ceramic containers are the most popular for Lucky Bamboo.
Lucky Bamboo doesn't need too much fertilizer, but if you change the water out, it's a good idea to use a fertilizer like Super Green 3-6 times a year to ensure a healthy plant.
Lucky Bamboo is native to tropical rainforests and prefers high humidity. If you're seeing brown leaf tips, one of the causes could be the dry air in your home.
Lucky Bamboo prefers warm temperatures but adapts fine in our homes. Keep it out of drafts and away from heating and cooling vents.
Lucky Bamboo is subject to infestations of spider mites, especially in the fall and/or winter when the heat comes on. Other common pests include thrips, scale, and mealybugs.
Pruning or trimming your Lucky Bamboo can encourage new shoots to appear at the top of the stems or canes.
If you're trying to landscape around a swamp or a river bank, or looking for something to grow in your pond, bamboo is probably not the best choice. There are just a handful of bamboo species that are adapted for very wet soil, and even these varieties will not survive prolonged periods underwater. Better choices for a pond are water plants like lilies, hyacinths, and duck moss.
If you're determined to grow bamboo around a body of water, it's better to plant the bamboo on higher ground near the water and let it spread naturally within its comfort zone.
On the other hand, Lucky Bamboo is a great choice for those looking for a houseplant that grows in water. It's easy to care for and can bring good energy into your home. Whether you choose to grow bamboo or Lucky Bamboo, it's important to provide the right care and conditions for your plants to thrive.
Hi there, I’m Sam Billings, and I’m all about sustainability. Running a printing business is my thing, but my real passion is preserving nature. That’s why I run the Live Health blog, where I focus on Bamboo plants and their eco-friendly goodness.