Water to soil?

eileen_plantsJuly 15, 2007

I have an established (over 4 years) lucky bamboo in water; it has outgrown 2 previous containers and is almost three feet high. I would like to pot it in soil, as the glass container I have it in is not large enough, nor steady enough; I have it at work and if it falls, I don't want shattered glass everywhere. Should I take the chance and pot it in soil? What kind of soil? Will the roots make the adjustment from water to soil after all this time? I love this plant and any advice is very welcome.


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Lucky bamboo like sandy soil, water every twice per day when you pot them, just can see the soil is wet, hope your lucky bamboo will have new sprouts.

Here is a link that might be useful: http://www.luckybamboo-moneytree.com

    Bookmark   July 18, 2007 at 5:06AM
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Your plant will do much better if you plant it in soil. The "Lucky Bamboo", or "Ribbon Plant", is often grown by followers of the ancient oriental art of Feng Shui. Growers of this oriental gardening technique use the plant but they don't grow it in water. They grow it in soil. Growing the plant is considered to have the capacity to create a space where you feel safe and energized. Whether or not it brings luck to the grower is open to interpretation. But the way the plant is commonly sold, and grown in many homes, may determine if the plant itself will eventually be lucky, or perhaps unlucky.
The scientific name of the plant sold as "Lucky Bamboo" is Dracaena sanderiana. It is found growing in the tropical rain forests of Cameroon in west Africa. Despite the fact it is commonly sold in a container of water, the species is not aquatic. It grows in moderately bright light in the understory (area beneath the canopy) of the rain forest. Some say it "can't" grow tall, but I've seen photos of the plant at six to eight feet in height and it is relatively attractive with its ribbon edge. It looks very little like the "bamboo" canes you buy it in the store, largely because it isn't a bamboo. And its also not a palm as some folks like to insist. According to TROPICOS, a service of the Missouri Botanical Garden, the species is a member of the lily family. Growers in southern Florida who plant it in their yards have produced plants that are quite attractive. However, it is tropical, so don't try to plant it outdoors in colder climates.

The "Lucky Bamboo" is frequently marketed and "grown" as a hydroponics plant, in a decorative jar including colored rock or marbles to keep the plant standing upright. Sometimes aquarium stores will sell one with a Beta fish inside the jar. They claim the plant produces food for the fish and the fish provides nutrients to the plant. Both are highly doubtful. It is rarely sold, at least in discount stores, in soil. Many plants can be grown using hydroponics, but are not intended, at least by Mother Nature, to grow exclusively in water. Commonly "ivy" such as juvenile Philodendron and Epipremnum species will survive for extended periods of time in water. But they don't grow that way in the rain forest. They are found rooted in soil and almost always climbing high into a tree.

Dracaena sanderiana is a relative of the commonly grown "Corn Plant", Dracaena fragrans. Some sites call that species Dracaena 'Massangeana', but that is not a species, but rather a cultivar. In total, there are well over 100 Dracaena species known to science. Dracaena sanderiana will do better, and is actually much less difficult to maintain, if grown as it does aurorally, in soil. One reason is Dracaena sp. are easily affected, and sometimes killed, by fluoride. Unless you are using well water, you almost certainly have fluoride in your city water. As a result, if you insist on growing the plant in water, you'll need to make it a habit to draw the water and allow it to stand in an open container for at least 24 hours so the fluoride can evaporate. You will also need to make sure the water stays clear. Fog in the water is a sign of bacteria and that bacteria, can and will, attack the plant. Typically, people soon tire of constantly doing that routine every few days and soon just begin draw water out of the tap. Almost inevitably, the plant will begin to decline. I often wonder how many plants are sold by discount sellers that eventually lead buyers to kill their plant due to poor information.

Obviously, you've been doing the right things with your plant since it has lived for such a long time. But a frequent major problem with growing Dracaena sanderiana in water is the salts that accumulate from fertilizer. Fertilizers are fine provided they are given in small amounts. But if allowed to accumulate they will burn the leaves of the Dracaena. Many won't change the water as necessary but will continue to add more fertilizer once the plant begins to decline in hopes of saving the specimen. Constantly adding fertilizer in a attempt to make the plant "healthy" works against the plant's health. So how should you plant and fertilize the "Lucky Bamboo"?
Generally, rain forest species grow in very loose, fast draining soil. The majority enjoy damp roots, but not wet. Obviously, this one can live for longer periods of time in water since growers have figured out a neat way to sell millions of them by implying it is an aquatic "bamboo" and selling it in a jar. The soil should drain quickly. You can use a "moisture control" soil mix and then add a handful of orchid bark and gravel such as found in Schultz orchid potting mix to help keep the soil loose. A good helping of PerliteƂ will also be beneficial and some sand can't hurt. Keep the soil damp, but not soggy. Your "Lucky Bamboo" will do best if kept in bright indirect, but not direct sun.
So will Dracaena sanderiana bring you "luck"? Only if you commit to keep it alive and healthy. And in almost every case, using nature's preferred method to grow any plant is the best way to keep it both healthy and growing.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2007 at 1:12PM
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Hi! I realize this thread is a tad old, but I am wondering how the transition from water only to soil went for Eileen. While I understand that these plants should be grown in a soil mixture, I am wondering if the roots of one grown in water will adapt to being grown in soil, or will the die off and new one's replace them?

    Bookmark   November 15, 2008 at 12:10PM
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I transitioned three good sized lucky bamboo without a difficulty. I have not examined the roots to see if some of them died off and new ones have returned. I can tell you that my plants have grown much larger than the similar plants grown by my friends.

I don't water more than twice a week, but I do have the plants potted in moisture control potting soil mixed with orchid bark. I did keep the plants well watered for a couple of weeks after repotting to give them a nice transition.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2008 at 4:06PM
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I know this is an old post, but I have a related question.

I'm a newbie to all things plants/green, but my roomate recently brought a pot of lucky bamboo back from winter break and I've adopted it. It's being grown in water at the moment and I want to repot it in soil.

Except I've never repotted anything before, especially not bamboo and I don't know what to expect. If someone would be willing to give me some tips so I don't kill the poor thing, I'd be really appreciative.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 11:21AM
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I repotted my lucky bamboo plants into Miracle Grow Moisture Control potting soil mixed with a handful of orchid bark and a little sand. I kept the plant well watered for a couple of weeks to get the plant started well. Now I just water it normally every two weeks.

Place the plant in a safe place where it will not get jostled much for a long time. The roots are very shallow at first and need some time to anchor the plant.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 30, 2009 at 9:48PM
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I agree with everything Exotic posted above. However, my experience has been that LB respond very well to packed soil. Since there is obviously experience or evidence that LB grow well in loose soil, consider trying one or the other and letting us know how it goes. Maybe I'll try a side by side comparison.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2012 at 10:15AM
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My lucky bamboo is now five feet tall.I potted it up when it was about 2 feet tall. It's in ordinary potting soil(peat based) and is watered when the soil drys out a bit, but not completely, as the leaf tips dry out if it gets too dry. Also the roots adapt easily to soil and then rot easily if water logged...so keep it either just moist or let it dry out a bit ...very adaptable plant.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 1:23PM
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