Sure, you can give someone an everyday cactus or fern as a housewarming gift, but houseplants like the lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana, USDA hardiness zones 9-12) have symbolic meanings that make them much more meaningful. The lucky bamboo meaning is a bit deeper than some other plants, which makes it all the more interesting. Besides that, it's pretty to look at and requires very little maintenance.
Various Bamboo Meanings
There are more than 1,000 species of genuine bamboo, but lucky bamboo is different. The stalks look similar, but it has long, thin foliage and is part of the asparagus family. Bamboo leaves are tough and leathery and wider with pointed ends. Lucky bamboo is smaller and is sold as a houseplant. It is also called friendship bamboo, Chinese water bamboo and goddess of mercy plant.
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A few very cold-hardy species of true bamboo (Bambusoideae, USDA hardiness zones 4-13) can survive outdoors in zones 4 and 5, but most are better suited for warmer climates. Bamboo symbolizes longevity because it is resilient, flexible, strong and durable. It bends with the wind and returns to its upright position and can stay green throughout the year. Even though the word "bamboo" is part of the lucky bamboo plant name, it's not the same thing as regular bamboo and does not follow the same growing conditions or soil requirements.
Lucky Bamboo Stalks Meaning
The meaning of lucky bamboo plants is based on the number of stalks, and if there is only one, this represents truth or commitment. One-stalked lucky bamboo plants are not that popular because they're smaller and not as pretty. Two bamboo stalks signify love and the Chinese belief that all good things come in pairs. Lucky bamboo plants with two stalks are often given as wedding gifts.
A plant with three bamboo stalks symbolizes happiness and new beginnings. You can give these as New Year's gifts or housewarming gifts. Five lucky bamboo stalks are for happiness, health, prosperity and wealth. Six are for happiness, success and harmony at home and in business ventures, and seven is a lucky Chinese number. Eight stalks are associated with great joy and wealth, and nine are for good fortune. There are also meanings associated with higher numbers, such as 21, 88, 99, 289 and 888; all focus on good tidings.
Other Houseplants With Symbolic Meanings
The lucky bamboo isn't the only houseplant that symbolizes something; there are countless other meaningful options. For example, the peace lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii, USDA hardiness zones 10b-11) was traditionally given at funerals because it stood for sympathy, but it has evolved to be more about peaceful spaces. Then, there's the Chinese money plant (Pilea peperomioides, USDA hardiness zone 10) with its coin-shaped leaves, representing financial stability and wealth.
The interesting prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura, USDA hardiness zones 11-12) features leaves that curl up at night, hence its name and association with gratitude. It also makes sense that aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis miller, USDA hardiness zones 8-11) symbolizes healing and protection since its leaves are filled with clear, healing aloe vera gel. The stunning bird of paradise (Strelitzia, USDA hardiness zones 10-12) also has a name associated with its distinguishing characteristics: Its flowers resemble birds, so the plant is associated with freedom.