Many propagated lucky bamboo stems in containers

How To Propagate Lucky Bamboo

A staple houseplant of every home, lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana) is a plant that you would be excited to share with friends or family due to its beautiful appearance and symbolic significance. 

If you have a lucky bamboo plant that is getting out of hand, you may be wondering if you can propagate it, and the answer is yes! Despite its unique appearance, lucky bamboo is almost as easy to propagate as a pothos plant. There are several ways you can go about it; from taking stem cuttings to propagating new offshoots, you can get successful propagations either in water or soil. If you take proper measures to prevent rotting, lucky bamboo propagations are often quite successful.

Lucky bamboo planted in containers with the text How to Propagate Lucky Bamboo

In this article, we’ll take a look at the various methods for propagating lucky bamboo and go through the steps you can take to avoid rot. Before you know it, you’ll end up with plenty of new lucky bamboo plants to share!

About lucky bamboo

You may not know this, but lucky bamboo is not, in fact, a true bamboo! It’s a member of the Dracaena genus, which includes another popular houseplant, Dracaena marginata. Lucky bamboo’s botanical name is Dracaena sanderiana, and it’s a member of the Asparagaceae family.

That’s right, lucky bamboo is a closer relative to asparagus than to true bamboo (family Poaceae). So why the nickname? These popular houseplants have nodes along the stem that make them closely resemble bamboo culms. Moreover, the leaves of lucky bamboo are long and angular, similar to the leaves of real bamboo.

While lucky bamboo may not be a true bamboo, having a lucky bamboo houseplant (or many) is a great way to bring some of the bamboo aesthetic indoors. Lucky bamboo isn’t only beautiful, but its stems are hardy and they’re notoriously hard to kill. Plus, lucky bamboo can symbolize good luck, fortune, abundance, and positivity.

Why propagate lucky bamboo?

There are a few reasons why you may want to propagate your lucky bamboo plant. The first is to simply make more plants. Lucky bamboo plants make fantastic gifts and are known to bring good luck (hence the name) and abundance into the home. You don’t need to purchase more when your own plant grows new offshoots readily.

Five potted Lucky bamboo arrangements with white rocks as soil and a red ribbon around

You can also propagate the offshoots to give your lucky bamboo plant a fuller appearance, as pruning the plant encourages it to grow new shoots and leaves. When you prune a plant, the plant growth hormones known as auxins spread to other areas of the plant, ultimately encouraging more lateral growth. This means that once you prune your lucky bamboo, you will likely see more offshoots develop.

The last reason why you may need to propagate your lucky bamboo has to do with rescuing it. If your lucky bamboo is suffering from a pest infestation, root rot, or infection, you may have to prune the diseased parts of the plant in order to prevent spread and encourage new growth.

Is propagating lucky bamboo easy?

Propagating lucky bamboo may seem intimidating due to its appearance, but it’s straightforward to propagate. As long as you follow the steps in this article, lucky bamboo cuttings have a high success rate.

The biggest problem with propagating lucky bamboo

That said, the most common issue with propagating lucky bamboo is root rot or stem rot. Below we’ll go over why cuttings rot, and when you may want to use a rooting hormone or alternative to help your cutting propagate.

Why do cuttings rot?

The biggest concern when propagating lucky bamboo is root or stem rot. Essentially, rot happens when water breaks down the protective outer layer of a plant to form lesions. These lesions leave your lucky bamboo vulnerable to microscopic bacteria, fungus, or disease that will cause the plant to rot.

Propagations tend to be more susceptible to rotting than established plants since the act of taking a cutting results in an open wound. If the rot reaches the node where roots typically grow, then that node may no longer be able to produce roots.

Protecting your cutting from root and stem rot begins at the initial pruning process and carries through the entire propagation process, which we’ll go over in more detail below.

Do you need rooting hormone for lucky bamboo propagation?

Rooting hormone is a synthetic growth hormone designed to replicate the effects of the auxins found naturally in plants. You can purchase powdered rooting hormone from most garden supply stores or online.

Alternatively, you can try natural rooting hormone alternatives, such as cinnamon, honey, or aloe vera, which have vitamins and antibacterial properties to help stimulate root growth.

Several cinnamon sticks with star anise laying on a dark surface

Whether you use rooting hormones to help propagate your lucky bamboo cutting comes down to personal preference, but in most cases, it’s not necessary. Lucky bamboo cuttings typically root well when propagated correctly, although some gardeners swear by the effectiveness of rooting hormone and will not propagate a cutting without it.

How to take a lucky bamboo cutting

When taking a lucky bamboo cutting for propagation, the more healthy stems you have available, the higher your chance of success. Ideally, you’ll want to take a cutting from an offshoot, cutting as close as you can to the mother plant without injuring it.

Use a sharp, sterile knife or pruning shears to cut the offshoot with minimal damage to the mother plant. Remove the lower leaves from your lucky bamboo offshoot. However, you must keep some leaves at the top of the cutting for photosynthesis.

If you’re taking a cutting to save a diseased plant, you may have to take a stem cutting rather than an offshoot cutting. In this case, cut a piece of healthy stem with at least one node. Nodes are quite easy to find on lucky bamboo, simply look for a bump or “knuckle” in the stem.

Once you have taken the cutting, whether offshoot or stem, allow the wound to callus over by leaving it alone for about 12 hours. Allowing the wound to develop a protective layer will reduce the chances of fungus or disease infecting the stem. Alternatively, if you’ve taken a stem cutting, you can use melted wax to seal the wound and reduce the chance of rotting.

Once you’ve taken a cutting, you can either propagate it in water or soil:

How to propagate lucky bamboo in water

To propagate your lucky bamboo cutting in water, simply place it in a small glass or vase with approximately 1-2 inches of distilled water. Make sure that the node is submerged, but you want to avoid completely submerging the stem, as this can increase the chances of developing rot. You may have to lean your cutting on the sides of the container to hold it up.

Lucky bamboo planted in water

Monitor your lucky bamboo cutting for root growth and signs of rot. If you notice that the stem is turning discolored or black, you may want to consider cutting the rotted portions back and trying again. Change out the water once weekly to avoid algae growth in the pot, which can encourage rot.

Lucky bamboo cuttings tend to produce new roots within 1-2 weeks, but sometimes it can take up to a month. Pot your lucky bamboo once the secondary roots form from the original primary roots to give your cutting the highest chance of success.

Can I keep growing my lucky bamboo in water?

You may have seen people growing lucky bamboo in water with stones or gravel, and wondered whether you can do the same with your new lucky bamboo cuttings. Once those cuttings are rooted, you can indeed “plant” them in water as they are notoriously hardy plants that don’t need too many nutrients to thrive.

Some people use rocks or gravel to help stabilize their lucky bamboo when potted in water. However, if you hope to encourage root growth in a lucky bamboo cutting, avoid adding rocks or gravel until a healthy root system is established. Adding rocks prematurely can suffocate new roots and may result in root rot.

How to propagate lucky bamboo in soil

While it’s easy to propagate lucky bamboo in water, you can even plant your fresh cuttings in soil. To propagate your lucky bamboo cuttings in soil, start by finding a small pot or a container with sufficient drainage. Add a well-draining soil mix, such as cactus mix, or make your own soil mix with elements such as compost, peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite.

Next, place your cutting in the soil, just covering the node. Be careful not to submerge the entire stem as this can lead to stem rot. If your lucky bamboo has a hard time standing up, you can help it with a small stake (popsicle sticks with twine work nicely) until it starts to develop those sturdy roots.

Six Lucky Bamboo stalks in a white pot planted in soil with black background

Place your lucky bamboo cutting in a location that receives bright, indirect light and keep the soil moist but never soggy. You may be tempted to tug on the bamboo to see if healthy roots have developed, but it’s best to avoid disturbing the roots in their early stages.

FAQ about lucky bamboo propagation

Will my lucky bamboo cutting grow curly?

You may have purchased your lucky bamboo with curly stems or have noticed other people with these unusual spiraling lucky bamboo plants. Unfortunately, lucky bamboo does not grow this way naturally. This is done through a process called phototropism, where a young lucky bamboo is trained to follow a light that rotates every few days.

You can experiment with shaping your lucky bamboo at home, but if you simply place your cutting on a windowsill, your lucky bamboo will grow vertically, which is still quite beautiful!

How does a dying lucky bamboo cutting look like?

It is possible that your lucky bamboo cutting doesn’t look very happy. If the cutting turns yellow and even gets black roots, it’s a sign that it got root rot. And this, unfortunately, causes your plant to die. Especially fresh cuttings are more vulnerable. So it’s very important to use sterile tools for propagating your lucky bamboo. 

If your cutting starts developing a yellow or brown leaf, immediately check the water and roots. You still might be able to turn it around.

Is it better to grow lucky bamboo in water or soil?

This house plant can tolerate both, soil and water. However, it will survive longer in soil as it’s the natural ground. Each methods has it’s pros and cons. You can always switch from water to soil if you want to give both a try.

What will you do with your lucky bamboo cuttings? Let us know in the comments!
Woman (Natalie) and man (James) in front of bamboo
About the Author: Natalie Schneider

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