Regarded as a symbol of longevity, wisdom and strength by many cultures around the world, bamboo has an appeal few other plants can match. While most people think of bamboo as an outdoor garden plant, it can actually be grown indoors quite easily, lending an exotic look to any dÃ?Â©cor.
Caring for your bamboo house plant
Like other house plants, bamboos require well-drained and nutrient-rich soil, sufficient light, humidity and fertilizer. Because flowering is rare and sometimes detrimental to a bamboos vitality, the best fertilizer to use is a high-nitrogen, low potash solution such as 30-10-10, although a balanced solution like 16-16-16 is okay. Water-soluble fertilizer is preferred because it reduces the potential for fertilizer burn.
Don’t be afraid to prune your bamboo house plant. It’s tolerant and forgiving, and an occasional manicure is the key to keeping your plant looking its best. Remove ugly or withered culms (the stems) by cutting off at soil level. Control the height of any culm by cutting just above the node, and if the bamboo reaches your ceiling, it won’t suffer from being “topped.”
Most bamboo house plants grow best in a moderately acidic soil. You can buy potting soil specifically for acid-loving plants (such as azaleas and camellias) or use an all-purpose mix and add some organic material like peat moss.
It’s important to choose the proper size pot for your plant. Use a container with adequate room for the soil and the plant’s roots, with at least two inches between the container sides and the root ball. Bamboos are fast growers, though, and will eventually need to be “potted up” to a bigger container.
Bamboos don’t like saturated soil, so be careful not to over-water. Saturated soils leave no room for oxygen, and will cause the roots to rot, eventually killing the plant.
Lack of sufficient water is also capable of killing your bamboo house plant, however, so the best way to determine when it needs to be watered is with the finger test. Simply stick a finger or two into the soil about an inch, and if it feels moist, you can wait another day or two.
Proper lighting is probably the most important element to house plant success. Light provides the energy source for the plant, and too little results in poor growth or death. Artificial lighting with fluorescent lamps or special incandescent bulbs can supplement the natural light your bamboo receives. They are easy to use, and can even add ambience to your room.
Another tip for keeping your bamboo house plant happy is that the higher the temperature in your home, the brighter the light should be. Adjustments for the heat and light level differences in winter and summer will help your bamboo thrive.
To increase humidity, place pots on a tray with pebbles and a little water, or use humidifiers to add moisture to the air. Misting the plants occasionally is also helpful.
With just a little care and attention, bamboo has an amazing ability to thrive and delight. I hope these plant care tips will help you enjoy continued success with your bamboo house plant.
A side note on the “Lucky Bamboo” plant
Those small green stems sold in vases with water and rocks, often called Lucky Bamboo, Chinese Bamboo or Curly Bamboo, aren’t bamboo at all. They’re a common house plant of the Dracaena family, and none of the above plant care tips will apply. However, Lucky Bamboo is a hardy plant that is able to survive in very low light conditions, and it’s very easy to care for. Select a spot with good air circulation, avoiding cold drafts, heat vents, and direct sunlight. Clean water is essential, so keep your Lucky Bamboo plant healthy by regularly replacing the container water.
In China, Lucky Bamboo plants are considered Feng Shui symbols of good luck. New businesses are often presented with these plants, which are kept near the entrance to attract good fortune. Chinese New Year is celebrated by giving Lucky Bamboo to bring prosperity for the new year. Lucky Bamboo is also attributed to bringing health (Chi), harmony and peace.