Should I switch lucky bamboo to dirt?

riptidefrogJune 12, 2012

I have a lucky bamboo (dracaena) that I and the S.O. have had for almost 3.5 years. During that time it has grown very little, maybe an inch or so of actual cane and a handful of leaves. The leaves have never been exceptionally healthy looking but until the past year they havnt looked very unhealthy either.

This past year they have been confined to a low light room and the new leaves came in pale but larger overall. Now that I've been able to move them to a bright location some of the leaves have recovered and some have faded away. The older ones seem to be the ones staying around while the newer ones fail to acclimate well to the change in light levels.

What does concern me is that even though they are now in bright indirect light and have been for over two months now and I do see some growth, the new growth doesnt seem to be a satisfactory shade of green. I will say that it is greener than it was when it was in the low light room but it would be hard not to be greener than that.

I even tried to fertilize the water a few weeks ago. I know I know, GASP! But what about fertilizer salts and tip burn!?! It was ok. I was taking a chance and I knew it. The fertilizer was highly diluted bonsai fert and I only used just a few tablespoons of that into the water the lucky bamboo lives in.

My current conundrum is this: Should I convert to soil or wait it out in water? And if I wait it out in water should I fertilize? If so what would be appropriate to use? If I convert what kind of results and how quickly will I see them?

Anyone have experience with this? If anyone has any pics of the before and results after converting to dirt id really appreciate seeing them.

Thanks for any and all advice,


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teengardener1888(NY Albany 5a)

here are some suggestions:

.for repotting- prepare a pot with a drainage whole with potting mix leaving 1/3 of it unfilled. put the bamboo in the center and fill it up to 1 in to the top. water it and if the soil settles add more soil again to one in to the top.

.For general care in a pot: put the plant in bright but indirect light. if you cant do that, buy a plant light and put it under it for ten hours. water it regularly and DONT let it dry out for a couple of weeks to help it adjust. dont overwater it either. after three weeks, water it when it starts to dry out. after the first year, fertilize it every two months in spring and summer only. and one more suggestion, water it with rain water or fishtank water to prevent flouride from burning leaves

.in a container it will have much more nutrients and it will start to grow very quickly. follow these steps to a t and your dracaena sanderiana(lucky bamboo) will thrive

    Bookmark   June 12, 2012 at 11:43AM
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stonesriver(6B Tennessee)

Hi, Riptidefrog:

I think you'll find all your answers at the Lucky Bamboo Forum.

Good luck,


    Bookmark   June 12, 2012 at 6:46PM
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I didnt know a lucky bamboo forum existed so thanks for that. The problem with the forum is that there are only two new posts for this year and noone has responded to any of them.
Thats over half a year of no activity.

I'd rather keep the post here because the plant is still a houseplant and i think my chances of getting the correct information are greater.

I'd look up everything on my own but that takes time and i have a full time job, a relationship, and lead an active lifestyle. So it might take me a while to find the time to research it.
I was really hoping that someone out there would have experience dealing with just what I described.
All in all the plant is hardly failing, its just chugging along very very slowly. So i do have time to make up my mind if no information is forthcoming.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2012 at 12:08AM
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I rescind my previous message. Nothing new on the forum really but once I paged down there was just what I was looking for!

Thank you kindly,


    Bookmark   June 13, 2012 at 1:01AM
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stonesriver(6B Tennessee)


I'm glad you found the answers you were seeking. It's very frustrating when one can't.



    Bookmark   June 13, 2012 at 2:09AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I agree about preferring to chat about house plants here and have never understood the need to micro-divide into so many forums that are so specific they have no action. A lucky bamboo forum? Sheesh!

    Bookmark   June 13, 2012 at 9:23AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Boy, do I ever agree with you, purple! The sub-dividing of categories really dilutes the forums, I think. I'm waiting for someone to ask for the Plants With Orange Flowers in Spring Forum.

The reason that the Lucky Bamboo Forum was started in the first place was because the people in the (real) Bamboo Forum became tired of newbies going over there and asking them about their Dracaenas (heavenly bamboo). There were some pretty mean comments. Some of the bullies even continued their harassment in the new forum!

    Bookmark   June 13, 2012 at 12:22PM
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Linda and Rhizo..A Lucky Bamboo Forum!! lol.

Rhizo, I guess there are battles in most if not all forums, huh?

Rip. Sounds like your LB was getting too much light..
When a plant is moved from shade to full sun, leaves can pale. Or burn. They need adapting.

A few nearby businesses/restaurants have D. sanderianas growing in north windows. Their plants are tall and very healthy. All in soil.

I've tried growing Sanderians in soil, unsuccessfully. They've been in water for years, one in semi-shade, the other in a north window.

They don't grow as fast, in water, but at least they don't
Every so often, 1-2 times a year, I add a little fertilizer.

BTW, neither are show plants. They're substitues for areas high light plants wouldn't survive.
Good luck, Toni

    Bookmark   June 13, 2012 at 1:07PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

This plant is known to grow well in water but that is a relatively new phenomenon popular very recently. There's no inherent reason for this plant to be grown in water any more than any other plant that will survive and put out a new leaf occasionally this way. According to Wiki, this is an understory plant from the rainforest, so it probably gets pissed if it gets really dry, but not a bog or water plant as it naturally occurs.

If you have more than 1 stalk, you could pull one out and pot it up. If a bookie gets involved, my money's on the potted plant growing faster.

Wiki article agrees, the rest is here.

"Plants are the strangest people" blog has a profile of Dracaena sanderiana that I found informative & hilarious, like most of the plant profiles there. D. saneriana is rated 3.5, to make it easier to find in the list on the right as you scroll down the page, section called "Plant Difficulty Levels, So Far (from most to least difficult)." Sorry, gardenweb (rated G) won't let me link to the profile page (not rated G) because part of the URL is a prohibited word, understandable.

If it were mine, I'd pot it when convenient. It is a matter of personal preference & doing what works for you. It's attractive either way, IMO.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2012 at 3:34PM
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teengardener1888(NY Albany 5a)

yea, i posted something on the canna forum and it has took forever for any responce. who is the leader of this site i want to file a complaint

    Bookmark   June 14, 2012 at 11:26AM
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i did transfer to orchid mix someone recommended some time ago after years spending in water. It did well but after several months just died. Still dont know why. I used to cut of all yellow or pale leaves and even stocks and it would send new growth. i can buy them in Chinese stores 2 for $1,but i'm not planning to.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2012 at 12:02PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Excuse me TeenG,

This is a voluntary forum here, no one is REQUIRED to do anything! Perhaps spend some time reading The Terms of Service & rules for posting. Then maybe you'll also find out where to send complaints. I don't think it's up to the site, but individuals to answer or not.

You've been on here exactly one month, largely benefitting from the site (rather than contributing) & you want to make a complaint already? Really? Just for that I won't tell you; take the time to read around here CLOSELY & it's there.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2012 at 12:20PM
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stonesriver(6B Tennessee)

TG: Are you referring to this post? The question that would have been answered immediately if you had done as requested on the Canna Forum home page:

"Before posting a question, please check the FAQ and do a search to make sure it hasn't already been answered."


Grave danger you are in. Impatient you are.
-- Yoda

Here is a link that might be useful: Amazing

    Bookmark   June 14, 2012 at 4:05PM
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teengardener1888(NY Albany 5a)


i was just agreeing with the fact that all of these subdivisions of forums were diluting the consentration of answers. i am a gardener just like the rest of you. pirate girl i dont think that you seen the responces to that I GAVE to people in this post and other post. i only answer questions i know. yes i agree i have been asking more questions but that because i am a gardener and i want to know the best for my plants. different people have different growing styles. i just perfer other peoples advice. AND AS FOR the complaint thing i meant to say talk to the leader not complain i was thinking about something different when i was typing this. am i am extemely sorry if this post and anyother post i made since may 15 sounded offensive in any way. pirate girl, i dont mean to be your or anybody elses enemy. please forgive me. and plus that post was not to downgrade or mock gardenweb either. and as for stoneriver, what do you mean that i am in "Grave danger you are in"? i do agree that i can be impatient and again im sorry

    Bookmark   June 15, 2012 at 10:07AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Teen, you don't have anything to apologize for. Some of us just forget that you are so young.

There are no "leaders " in the forums. You do have an option of expressing a complaint, though. However, not having your questions answered quickly enough for you is not just cause for complaint. You may have selected a slow forum or your question may simply be too broad. We like to help those who help least a little bit.

Remember, all participation in these forums is on a voluntary basis. Therefore, each person needing some information should come to the table with after doing a little bit of their own reading and research. After all, information is just a few keystrokes away.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2012 at 3:28PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Well said, rhizo.

Oh bother! - Winnie the Pooh

These forums have been pretty much exactly the same as they were when they were invented in the Windows 95 era, I think. Anyway, lots of people have some great ideas for how it could be better, and they have expressed those ideas over and over for well over a decade. So for someone so new to this acts like they can get something changed around here, it can hit people the wrong way.

Incidentally, the forums that do exist were hard-won through years of efforts by their advocates and although I might not appreciate all of them, somebody wanted them. There's no harm done in discussing all of your house plants here, or there, or wherever you want. But if you post on a forum that is not as heavily visited, the responses will be fewer and farther between. That would be true if there were 10 forums or 100. Some are just going to get more action.

Your enthusiasm and gung-ho attitude are awesome! Try not to take this stuff too seriously, and everyone's input helps make it more interesting. I mean, really, we're all just strangers who know a bit too much about each other's plants, really not a serious thing.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2012 at 3:33PM
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stonesriver(6B Tennessee)


The quote was not from me. It was from Yoda in "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi" who was warning Luke Skywalker (who wanted shortcuts to being a Jedi knight) that acting with impatience can lead one into danger.

For fun, type "Yoda Quotes" in your search engine. Surprise your friends when you quote his wisdom. I do it all the time. :-)


And here's one to impress your English teacher:

"Young men soon give and soon forget affronts; Old age is slow in both." -- Joseph Addison, English essayist.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2012 at 4:02PM
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Thanks to everyone that has contributed to answering my question. I really appreciate your time and expertise. I have decided to perform a little experiment I leiu of moving my prized lucky bamboo to dirt.

I've bought a few of those striped dracaenas that are sold as aquarium plants in petsmart. I'm fairly certain they are the same type of dracaena that lucky bamboo is, just variegated.

I'm putting those into a cactus type soil that is heavy on the perlite and bark but light on the 'soil'. In this case it has compost added.

This is also the first time ill be using anything close to a 'gritty mix' so it'll serve the dual purpose of telling me if the gritty mix is for me and to see if I can safely switch my houseplants and my lucky bamboo over to it.

It might sound silly to go to such lengths for a cheap lucky bamboo from IKEA but the plant has emotional value so I'd hate to lose it. People seem to have very mixed results when switching to soil from water for these plants.

As far as our responses go.... I think it behooves us all to be a bit circumspect in the way our responses may be perceived. There are many nonverbal cues and aspects to our daily speech, and a comment made at work or to friends may come off entirely differently in a pure text Internet forum.

Thanks ,

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 12:42PM
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teengardener1888(NY Albany 5a)

your welcome. i should have thought before posting that on the internet were everyone can see

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 1:59PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

riptide, it doesn't sound silly to be attached to a plant. If it is, all of us sillies can keep each other company.

You have to keep in the back of your mind when reading people's experiences with this, what motivated them to change their plant? In MOST cases I'll bet it was because it was visibly unhealthy in some way and they wanted to fix it. Sound familiar? So it's not really fair to gather the collective story of scores of unhealthy, struggling plants and call the result of such a definitive answer. It's impossible to know how bad-off all of these plants were when their owners felt desperation. I've grown many a plant in water for extended periods of time, years. So I know what the root ball likely looks like, and ball is an accurate word. What was done to these gangly masses of roots between the decorative glass container and the pot of soil? What was in that soil? Where was the plant then put - what kind of light? Temperature? Water? The variables are endless.

So your experiment sounds good because I think it will give you confidence, assuming it goes well. But I don't think it has any real bearing on your other plant. If you'd like some more specific suggestions in regard to your particular plant (although this philosophical discussion has been engrossing,) I hope you can post a picture or two of it. Then people who have done this before can refer to a specific leaf or root and it will be clear to everyone.

TG, a lot of people have posted something they wish they could go back and delete. I've made a couple jokes that totally missed the mark, and other things that are still out there in print. Admitting when you've made a mistake and apologizing builds character and everybody hates when they have to do it.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 2:27PM
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Back to the Topic:

Yes I do agree that you should plant your Lucky Bamboo in soil only if it has at least 3 or 4 inch leaves....I am sorry my camera is acting up but I have a 8-foot one in dirt along with a 2 foot drop down to a 2 ft size all in one pot.

Now my question.....How long do you thing there life span are/is ? now i water they gonna rot due to they need the soil for growth no plant can live without dirt I have a few curly ones that are around 4 years old and slowly die and its not just curly but all sizes and shapes have been collecting for around 4 years and I see a pattern going on here.

I truly wish my camera was not on the blink I would show you the 8 ft stair step. One note I bought it when it was 6 ft.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 8:23PM
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