A lucky bamboo in a glass vase, basking in sunlight on a window sill, showing how much sunlight lucky bamboo needs

How Much Sunlight Does Lucky Bamboo Need?

Lucky bamboo is an excellent beginner houseplant because it is such an easy, rewarding, and beautiful plant to grow at home or in the office. It requires minimal maintenance and can grow in either water or soil with success, but like all plants, it needs light to grow. The question is, how much light does lucky bamboo actually need?

Lucky bamboo houseplants need bright indirect light to thrive. That said, lucky bamboo can tolerate medium to low light levels more so than many houseplants, though it will grow less vigorously with less light. Ultimately, the amount of light you give your lucky bamboo will impact how well it grows and how much watering it needs on a weekly basis.

In order to determine whether the light in your space is enough for your lucky bamboo, it’s important to understand what affects light levels in the first place. Here we’ll help you decipher what bright indirect light actually means, and how you can measure it. We’ll also go through how different light levels affect lucky bamboo.

A lucky bamboo plant placed in a bright spot on a table inside the house

What type of light does lucky bamboo receive in nature?

Lucky bamboo is not a true bamboo, rather Dracaena sanderiana. This bamboo lookalike is native to northwest tropical Africa, where it grows naturally under the canopy of rainforests. 

Hence, in its native habitat lucky bamboo receives dappled sunlight. In houseplant terms, this is known as “bright, indirect light.”

Given that it grows natively in tropical environments, lucky bamboo is also used to warm, mild temperatures and high humidity. These factors are important to bear in mind when bringing a lucky bamboo plant into the home.

What exactly is bright indirect light?

You’ve probably heard the term “bright indirect light” before when it comes to plant care, but there seems to be little explanation for what it truly means. 

Generally speaking, bright indirect light refers to an abundance of light that isn’t shining directly on your plant, as it might if it were outside without cover.

Many consider any amount of light filtered by a window indirect light, even if the sun’s rays touch the plant. That’s because windows block out some UV rays, especially UV-B rays which are known to cause sunburns. Luckily, windows don’t completely block out UV-A rays, which are less harmful and more critical for photosynthesis.

As soon as you start to move away from the window, the amount of available light decreases rapidly. That’s why plants needing bright indirect light should be placed as close to a window as possible, preferably one that receives plenty of sunlight throughout the day.

How to measure light

Ultimately, the term “bright indirect light” is a generalization. If you really want to know how much light you have in your home, you’ll want to measure it.

Light is typically measured in foot-candles, or ftc. Depending on who you ask, bright indirect light can be as little as 300 or as much as 3,000 ftc. For reference, direct sunlight is typically considered anything over 1,000 ftc. 

In this article, we define bright indirect light as anywhere between 500-1000 ftc.

There are two ways you can measure light levels in your home:

Approximate with cardinal directions

a compass used for measuring light levels at home to determine lucky bamboo sunlight needs

When it comes to available light, not all windows are created equal. If you don’t have a light meter, you can estimate how much light your space has with cardinal directions:

South-facing windows tend to have the most exposure to bright light. If the window is tinted or slightly shaded (such as by a tree) that’s roughly equal to bright indirect light. If the window is unobstructed, however, the bright light may be too harsh for lucky bamboo. In this case, you can still achieve bright indirect light by placing your lucky bamboo approximately 2-4 feet back from the window.

East-facing windows are the second best option for lucky bamboo, as the sun is gentle in the morning and won’t burn your plant’s leaves even if placed directly by the window.

West-facing windows can experience fairly bright light, particularly in the afternoon. While the light isn’t as consistently bright as with a south-facing exposure, the sun is strongest in the afternoon. Lucky bamboo and other Dracaenas will still do very well with western sunlight exposure, as long as they are placed a few feet back from the window.

North-facing windows are the least ideal for lucky bamboo with the least amount of light, typically under 100 foot-candles. Can lucky bamboo survive there? Yes. But your lucky bamboo likely won’t thrive in these conditions since it simply isn’t enough light for them to grow.

Note: Shades or mosquito nets can additionally decrease the amount of light!

Use a light meter for accurate measurements

a light meter, a tool for measuring light levels at home to assess lucky bamboo sunlight needs

By far the best method is purchasing a light meter, such as this one, to measure the exact amount of light reaching any area of your home. Simply move the sensor to the spot you want to measure, and see how many foot-candles of light are reaching it!

This is a useful tool for understanding how light diminishes the further away you go from a window. It’s also helpful for understanding how the light changes throughout the day, or how windows facing different directions experience light differently!

How do different light levels affect lucky bamboo?

Now that you know how to measure or approximate the amount of light in your home, let’s see how different light levels affect lucky bamboo:

Low light: < 100 ftc

Although lucky bamboo grows best with plenty of bright indirect light, it can tolerate periods of low light conditions of 100 ftc or less. However, it will not thrive at this level of light. Low light can be found at obstructed north-facing windows or away from windows such as in the middle of a room.

Light is a critical component of photosynthesis, which is the process in which your lucky bamboo will try to turn light, water, carbon dioxide, and minerals from the soil (or water) into food to survive. 

While an absence of light won’t kill your lucky bamboo directly, it will cause the plant to weaken and become more susceptible to pests, disease, fungi, and rotting.

Signs your lucky bamboo isn’t getting enough light

The biggest sign that your lucky bamboo isn’t getting enough light is that it will start to stretch and become “leggy,” a process known as etiolation

In short, the plant grows longer internodes so the foliage can search for light. Eventually it will weaken as it takes more effort to deliver water and nutrients to the foliage.

In addition to stretching, another sign your lucky bamboo isn’t getting enough lights is if it’s turning pale or discolored. If leaves are turning yellow, it’s possible that your lucky bamboo is developing root rot as a result of slower photosynthesis. 

In addition, your lucky bamboo can be more susceptible to pests or infections as it will be experiencing more stress.

If your lucky bamboo is growing in low light conditions, consider moving it to a bright window for several hours each day, if not permanently. This will give it a better chance of growing for a long time to come.

Medium light: 100-500 ftc

Chances are, your lucky bamboo will still do well in medium-light levels. It may not thrive to the extent it would under optimal light conditions, but it will still continue to grow. 

Depending on your climate, winter can temporarily result in medium light levels even in south- or west-facing windows.

Typically, medium light levels are found at unobstructed north-facing windows or shaded east- or west-facing windows. With less sunlight, your lucky bamboo will absorb less water from the soil, so it may take longer for the soil to dry out. 

In this case, keeping your lucky bamboo in well-draining soil is ideal so it isn’t sitting in soaking wet soil for too long. Monitor your lucky bamboo and only water it if the soil is nearly completely dry to prevent it from developing root rot.

Bright indirect light: 500-1000 ftc

Bright indirect light is just about as bright as you can get in a home besides unobstructed south-facing windows. The light is typically partially blocked by windows or obstructions such as trees or nearby buildings.

For lucky bamboo, bright indirect light will result in plenty of growth. Whether planted in water or soil, make sure that your lucky bamboo doesn’t dry out, as the increased photosynthesis and light exposure result in more water being absorbed and evaporated.

Direct light: > 1000 ftc

It is possible to have too much of a good thing. In nature, lucky bamboo doesn’t get the sunlight beaming down on it constantly throughout the day, so it isn’t adapted to direct light conditions. 

It can tolerate a few hours of direct light, but I’d avoid sitting it in direct light for days at a time. You should also avoid bringing it outdoors without proper cover.

Signs your lucky bamboo has too much light

If your lucky bamboo is getting too much light, the foliage and stems develop patchy yellow spots as if the green has faded or scalded. In some cases, sunburnt lucky bamboo may even develop translucent or white-ish patches on the foliage.

It also isn’t uncommon for your lucky bamboo’s foliage to become brown and crispy. When exposed to too much light, your lucky bamboo will become much thirstier and dehydrate much faster, causing the leaves to become parched. 

If you find that your lucky bamboo is drying out faster than you can keep up with and is in a location with bright light, you may want to relocate your lucky bamboo to a partly shaded spot.

lucky bamboo in sunlight with a text above: How much sunlight does Lucky Bamboo need?

How to supplement light for lucky bamboo

If you think the light conditions in your home are insufficient to keep your lucky bamboo plant happy and thriving, consider adding a full-spectrum grow light. Dracaenas can handle up to 2000 or 3000 foot-candles of artificial grow lights.

So many different grow lights on the market fit every home’s aesthetic. There are pendulum lights that fit into modern decor, panel lights that can be installed into bookshelves, or even special light bulbs you can install into your existing lamps. 

Supplementing your lucky bamboo with a grow light for 6-12 hours per day is ideal, and you will notice a huge difference in your lucky bamboo’s growth and overall happiness.

Additional light tips for your lucky bamboo

One important thing to consider when giving your lucky bamboo plant natural light conditions is to make sure that you are accounting for any obstructions in your plant’s view of the sun. 

If there are buildings, trees, other houses or even attachments to your home like balconies, you will ultimately end up with less light for your plant. Take a look at how much sky is in view for your lucky bamboo to get a better idea of how much light you are getting.

If you find that your south- or west-facing windows are giving light that is a bit too strong for your lucky bamboo, hang a sheer curtain in the window to filter some of the direct sunlight as an extra layer of protection.

Lastly, if you bring your lucky bamboo outside during the summer, make sure that you do so gradually, introducing it to the outdoors a few hours at a time so it can adjust to the changes. Keep it in a shaded location so the leaves do not burn.

FAQs about lucky bamboo’s sunlight requirements

How much light do lucky bamboo propagations need?

Bright indirect light is critical if you are propagating your lucky bamboo plant. If you only have medium light in your environment, I’d suggest supplementing with a grow light. Light is necessary to develop healthy roots in propagation, as it is often a race for the plant to develop roots before the stem rots. Learn how to propagate lucky bamboo here!

Do lucky bamboo plants potted in water need more light?

If you are growing your lucky bamboo plant in water, it will benefit from getting more bright indirect light, as it will help to prevent the roots and stems from rotting. However, avoid keeping your lucky bamboo in glass containers if you are giving it plenty of light. Light hitting the water encourages algae growth.

While your lucky bamboo leaves need the light to photosynthesize, the roots will do just fine in darkness. Learn whether it’s better to grow lucky bamboo in water or soil here!

Should I mist my lucky bamboo plant?

While lucky bamboo enjoys higher humidity levels, you’re better off using a humidifier than misting the leaves and stems directly. Water pooling on the leaves and stems can cause lesions, leaving your lucky bamboo vulnerable to fungal infections and bacteria. Fusarium leaf spot is a disease that Dracaenas are particularly susceptible to getting that often comes from water sitting on new leaves.

Where do you keep your lucky bamboo? Share your light hacks for your lucky bamboo below!
Woman (Natalie) and man (James) in front of bamboo
About the Author: Natalie Schneider

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