Bamboo (family Poaceae) is considered one of the fastest-growing plants in the world, with some varieties growing more than 3 feet in just 24 hours. Despite its name, the lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana, USDA zones 9-12) does not belong to the grass family as bamboo does — it's part of the asparagus family (Asparagaceae). Lucky bamboo's canes make it resemble bamboo, but it's a slow to moderate grower and is perfect for growing indoors in soil or water.
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As a slow to moderate grower, the lucky bamboo plant can grow about 6 to 12 inches every year to a maximum height of around 5 feet.
What Are Dracaenas?
There are about 120 species of Dracaena plants, trees and shrubs. At least a couple dozen of them are extremely popular for interior spaces thanks to their great foliage, variable light tolerance and moderate water requirements.
Some you may know include Dracaena marginata (zones 10-12), commonly known as the Madagascar dragon tree, and Dracaena reflexa 'Variegata' (zones 11-12) known as the Song of India. Dracaena fragrans (zones 10-11) 'Limelight' and 'Lemon Lime' are native to tropical Africa, where they can grow to 20 feet tall in the wild, and homeowners love them as vibrant houseplants that grow between 5 and 10 feet tall indoors. All of these are in the genus that includes lucky bamboo.
How Quickly Does Lucky Bamboo Grow?
While some species of true bamboo grow more than 100 feet tall, your lucky bamboo can reach heights of 6 to 10 feet in the wilds of Africa, its home turf. But, grown domestically in soil, it maxes out at around 5 feet in height, where it grows taller more quickly in soil. Its expected mature height and spread are in the range of 3 to 5 feet as a shrub, but spread comes down to your pruning choices.
It's more popular to grow lucky bamboo in water, however, as it makes for a great décor piece when grown in glass or translucent containers with pebbles or rocks to complete the appearance, but the average water-grown bamboo struggles to live beyond 9 months and a couple of feet in height because water contains no nutrients for growth.
In optimal growing conditions in water or soil, expect a healthy lucky bamboo to grow about 6 to 12 inches each year, reaching full height in just a few years.
Can Lucky Bamboo Grow Slower?
If you want to slow the growth rate of lucky bamboo to keep it on the smaller side, you can try a few things. A slightly dimmer area of the room will mean it grows more slowly due to less light. Lucky bamboo never likes direct sunlight, but it enjoys medium to bright indirect light for optimal growth. Less light equals slower growth.
To help bamboo reach its maximum height quickly, you could grow it in soil and keep it steadily moist. If growing in water, it likes fresh filtered or distilled water every week, and you should change the water completely at least every couple of months. Lucky bamboo is quite sensitive to chlorine and fluoride, and these additives to tap water can damage its roots or cause its leaf margins to burn, so always use filtered or distilled water.
A drop — just a drop — of liquid fertilizer monthly will give it the oomph it needs to get big and healthy. Not fertilizing the plant, however, will not hurt it, as it's likely to be healthy without fertilizing, especially if your goal is to slow its growth some.
Controlling Height Through Pruning
You can disrupt growth by pruning the plant too, but this will change the appearance far beyond just dropping its height. Pruning will encourage more growth in foliage, as new shoots will grow from the nodes where you cut the stalk. New leaves, new shoots and a whole new appearance will result, and it will grow quickly.
Always make sure you cut the stalk with a razor-sharp, sterile knife and make a straight, clean cut about 1/4 inch above one of the nodes — the horizontal rings that break up the sections of the stalk. If you cut off about 6 inches with a complete node or two included in the section, then you can propagate that cutting by dipping it in rooting compound and pressing it into the soil to create a whole new plant that's perfect for giving to a friend or keeping your plant company.