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How to feed bamboo plants

Bamboo has more than 2,000 species and is a symbol of longevity, wisdom and strength. It can thrive either outdoors or indoors, if fed properly. Some species of bamboo can reach an indoor height of 20 feet; some small varieties have an indoor height of 2 feet or less. Although the very popular "lucky bamboo" plant that grows in vases or bowls of water is commonly called bamboo, true bamboo plants are grasses and will not grow in standing water. "Lucky bamboo" is actually member of the Dracaena family (usually D. sanderana). Feeding requirements are considerably different between true bamboo and lucky bamboo.

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  1. Identify the type of bamboo you have. Temperate bamboos have a native dormancy period during cold winters. If grown indoors where the temperature won't get as cold, the plant will still experience a dormancy period and leaf drop will occur. Feeding should not be done during this dormancy period.

  2. Use a high-nitrogen, low potash fertiliser (such as 30-10-10) for true bamboos.

  3. Feed indoor tropical bamboo plants every time you water. Use a half-strength solution If the fertiliser you choose only provides instructions for feeding monthly.

  4. Feed temperate bamboos during the growing season every time you water (with a half-strength solution) but do not feed during winter months. Decrease watering frequency during dormancy; water only to keep the soil from drying out.

  5. Put lucky bamboo plants in 2 inches of filtered water (tap water has too many chemicals that can harm the plant).

  6. Change the water once a week.

  7. Use a liquid fertiliser formulated for aquarium plants or a weak solution of a water-soluble plant food, such as Miracle-Gro for water plants diluted to 1/10th the recommended strength.

  8. Add the plant food once a month at a time when you change the water.

  9. Tip

    True bamboo plants require heavy watering, but they do not like soggy soil. You can use a slow-release fertiliser for both tropical and temperate bamboo plants if you prefer (such as Osmocote 28-14-14 or Sierra 17-6-10), in which case follow the manufacturer's instructions on the label appropriate for the size of your plant. If you have an aquarium, substitute a regular feeding with some of the used water from your aquarium to your lucky bamboo. There are also foods formulated specifically for lucky bamboo, like Green Green Plant Food, sold by sellers of lucky bamboo. If using these types of plant food, follow the manufacturer's directions on the label.


    Lucky bamboo is poisonous to pets. Keep plants where pets can't get to it.

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Things You'll Need

  • For true bamboo:
  • Water-soluble 30-10-10 fertiliser
  • For "lucky" bamboo:
  • Liquid aquarium plant food
  • Filtered water

About the Author

Lisa Dorward was a corporate financial executive and business consultant for more than 15 years before becoming a writer in 2003. She has B.A. degrees in both history and creative writing and earned her M.F.A. in creative writing in 2008, specializing in novel-length historical fiction.

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