Encyclopedia of Houseplants

Bamboo Plants: Your No-Dirt, No-Fuss Touch of Green

updated Oct 5, 2022
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(Image credit: Utkarsh Johri)

Indoor bamboo plants are usually of the Dracaena sanderiana variety, also known as “lucky bamboo.” They are bright and cheery, a chartreuse splash of color that invigorates an office space or an overlooked corner of your home. With the right knowledge, bamboo plants are relatively easy to care for. Here are our tips.

How much water does a bamboo plant need?

As with many plants, water is a balancing act with your bamboo. On the one hand, over-watering is probably the worst thing you can do to your bamboo; it will cause root rot. On the other hand, your bamboo needs adequate moisture, more than is usually provided by ambient indoor air.

Many people like to keep their bamboo in clear glass containers filled with pebbles and water. This is a good solution both because it’s attractive and provides a humid micro-environment for the bamboo plant.

Another way to make sure your bamboo is getting enough moisture is to mist it every couple of days. If you can turn a gentle fan onto it a few hours a week, it will also be very happy.

To know how much water your bamboo plant should have, keep an eye on its roots. Before your bamboo stalks have roots, they should be in one to three inches of water. After roots develop, make sure the roots are covered in water.

Bamboo plants are very sensitive to chemicals and salts in tap water. If you’re using tap water to water and mist your plant, leave the water out overnight to let the chlorine evaporate. Fluoride is particularly difficult to get out of tap water, and bamboo plants don’t like it; it can cause leaf tips to turn brown. As an alternative to tap water, try using rainwater or distilled water.

Thoroughly change your bamboo plant’s water every couple of weeks.

Credit: New Africa/Shutterstock

What kind of soil does your bamboo plant need?

As discussed above, bamboo plants do not have to be planted in soil, but they can be if you prefer. Just make sure the soil drains well. Keep soil moderately moist—not soggy, and not desert dry. Don’t ever let your bamboo plant become water-logged.

What kind of light does your bamboo plant need?

Bamboo plants enjoy bright indirect light but can tolerate low light conditions, although they will grow more slowly. Ideal temperatures are in the 60 to 70-degree range, which isn’t a problem in most home or office conditions.

What kind of fertilizer does your bamboo need?

Bamboo plants can go for a long time with just water. However, they will benefit from a small drop of fertilizer added to their water when you give them fresh water.

If your bamboo plant is in soil, fertilize with a high-nitrogen, slow-release formula in the spring, according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Troubleshooting Bamboo Plants

The Flower Shop Network has some good tips for helping bamboo plants that aren’t thriving. Yellow leaves indicate either too much fertilizer or too much light. Yellow stalks indicate too much fertilizer. If this happens, remove the yellow portion of the stalk and re-plant the still-green portion. Brown or mushy stalks signal root rot. Again, the affected portion of the plant will need to be removed. A white, sticky substance or snail-looking growths on the bamboo stalks indicate the presence of scale or spider mites. Wipe the stalks with soapy water, rinse thoroughly, and replace water.

Credit: New Africa/Shutterstock

How do you propagate bamboo plants?

Bamboo plants are easy to propagate. In fact, part of the reason they are easy plants to grow is that when you have problems with them, you can cut away the affected portion and keep the unaffected parts of the plant.

To multiply your plant, cut about an inch above a node, dip the cut in rooting powder and let it dry overnight before placing it in a new container. To encourage new growth on the parent stalk, mist with water every couple of days.