Lucky Bamboo: Now in Living Color!

As I warned you when I revived this blog, most of my posts this go around are short and papercraft-related. It’s what I have done the most recently as far as DIY things — except food and meals, which are generally a bit beyond what I’d like to cover here and have already been done more thoroughly by other bloggers. Papercraft also happens to be the topic for which I had the largest backlog of projects to become blog material. However, I do occasionally have other projects, such as gardening. I also occasionally like to talk about said projects with great verbosity. Don’t worry, I’ll be back to smothering you with paper models next week.

After last week’s post about the paper bamboo I got interested in real, living lucky bamboo. Like many people I had a little plant of it a number of years ago during my “obsessed with ‘Chinese’ style” phase. Sadly, I managed to kill one of the three stems quickly, and the others soon followed. I figured they were just temperamental and that I had a black thumb instead of the lucky green one required. Fast forward to today when I have much more success with plants (the failure rate is about the same, but the successes live long enough to make it look like I might know what I’m doing). The propagation of lucky bamboo particularly interested me as I had never seen a piece growing straight up — always with the leaves growing off a main stem, which was cut at the top. I didn’t think that seemed entirely natural, but I never bothered investigating. Turns out, lucky bamboo are not actually that difficult to keep alive or to regrow; I just did the entirely wrong things for them. My first round, I gave my bamboo stems too much sun when I thought they didn’t have enough, gave them tap water when they like distilled, and fertilized far too heavily. I can certainly work around such guidelines now, so I thought I would stop by my local plant shop and try again.

The Flower Bin, my local plant store, currently has a sign on door that says “We’re open and it’s really warm inside!” The prospect of green plants and warm, moist air sounds like the best possible thing in the middle of a cold and cloudy day. After a quick look around the relatively empty store (not too many plants at this time of year) I head to the bin with lucky bamboo stems. I chose three of the healthiest-looking mid-sized stems. In the potting media area, I picked up a bag of “Rock” for $3. This very descriptive title distinguished it from the bag of “fancy rock” for $15. For the sake of completeness I also picked up a bottle of “Green green” food for the bamboo.

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Home I went with my wonderful spoils! However, I couldn’t plop my bamboo in the vase I had just yet. Lucky bamboo like clean water, and these rocks were not remotely clean. With a sieve and lots of water, the most of the dust finally washed off the rock. In retrospect, I probably should have sterilized the rock with boiling water as well. Hopefully that won’t be the thing that kills my new babies. Next, I needed to prepare the water for the bamboo. The Brita filter I use filters out chlorine, but does not significantly reduce any fluoride that may be in the water. Since my city does add fluoride to drinking water, it was time to try distilling! I distilled the water using a pot, a metal vegetable steamer tray (to keep the bowl off the bottom of the pot), a bowl, an inverted lid, and ice. Despite it taking much longer than I expected, I got just enough distilled water for the vase and a small spritz bottle to keep the leaves humidified.  I opted not to fertilize them this time around since most growing places fertilize more strongly than necessary and I didn’t want to burn their newly-transplanted roots.

The bamboo now has water and growing media. Yay! I have a few improvements I would like to make to this setup. A twist-tie would help hold the bamboo together so they look nicer. The vase is really deep and won’t work when I move to the next step of my lucky bamboo plan — propagation! — so I’ll need to find an alternative in the next few months. And this bamboo may still die like my much earlier attempt — Some leaves have a slight yellowing (a sign of too much light or too much fertilizer), dead tips (non-distilled water), and slightly bad stems. But, for now, I have a lovely vase with lucky bamboo.

Learn more about lucky bamboo here:


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