Spiral bamboo is not bamboo at all. Spiral bamboo is a specially grown version of what is commonly called lucky bamboo. The plant's botanical name is Dracaena sanderiana. This extremely easy-to-grow plant is often given as a gift for luck or for money. Chinese tradition and the practice of feng shui hold that different numbers of stalks direct good energy to various aspects of an individual's life. Although it is often grown hydroponically (in water), Dracaena also grows well in soil.
Dracaena does not grow naturally in a spiral shape. Achieving the spiral shape is a time-consuming process. The plant is placed in a three-sided box, allowing only one side at a time to be exposed to the light. The plant naturally grows toward the light, and once a spiral is achieved (sometimes in as long as six months), the plant is turned and the box modified so another portion of the plant has access to light. This process continues until the desired twists are achieved.
Normal household conditions and temperatures will support a spiral bamboo plant. Ideally, the indoor temperature should be between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Spiral bamboo likes humidity, so if there is not adequate humidity in the house, be sure to mist the plant with water every other day. Spiral bamboo does not respond well to rapid temperature changes, so avoid placing it next to a door or a heat register.
Growing in Water
If you grow your spiral bamboo in water, be sure to keep the roots covered and to keep the water level constant. The plant is sensitive to the salts and chemicals in tap water, so to avoid fluoride damage to the leaves, use distilled or filtered water. If neither of these is an option, let tap water sit overnight so that the chlorine can evaporate before using the water on the spiral bamboo. Mist the leaves every two to three days to provide the necessary humidity. Change the water immediately if the leaves begin to yellow. Brown-tipped leaves may be a sign of fluoride burn; filter the water before use.
Growing in Soil
Plants that are successful in water may eventually need to be re-potted in soil. If a hydroponic plant begins to fail, try planting it in soil. Use a good quality, general potting soil and amend it with sand or perlite for adequate drainage. Spiral bamboo does not like wet feet nor does it like soil that is too dry. Water when the soil feels dry up to an inch deep. (Stick your index finger in the soil up to the knuckle to test it.) Don't forget to mist it with water every two to three days.
Sunlight and Fertilizer
Keep a spiral bamboo plant out of direct sunlight. Too much sunlight causes the leaves to burn. Too little light will stunt the plant's growth. Plants grown in water and soil require the same amount of sunlight. Use a water-soluble fertilizer and apply it to the plant every two weeks. If the leaves begin to yellow, it may be a sign of over-fertilization. Follow the instructions on the packaging and withhold fertilizer for one week.
Plantcare.com reports that Dracaena filters harmful toxins out of the air. Spiral bamboo is certainly more decorative than an air purifier, so place as many as you want in your living space. It is said to remove formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, xylene, and trichloroethylene from the atmosphere. Spiral bamboo is also commonly used by practitioners of feng shui: three stalks bring happiness, five bring health, six harmony, and eight, 18, 28, or 38 stalks are given for prosperity.
Based in Fort Collins, Colo., Dannah Swift has been writing since 2009. She writes about green living, careers and the home garden. Her writing has appeared on various websites. She holds a Master of Arts in English literature from the University of New Hampshire and is currently pursuing a certificate in paralegal studies.