Dracaena braunii

lucky Chinese bamboo


Dracaena braunii

Engl. 1892

pronounced: dra-KEE-nuh BRAW-nee-eye

(Asparagaceae — the asparagus family)

synonym — Dracaena sanderiana

Mast. 1892

pronounced: dra-KEE-nuh san-der-ee-AH-nuh

common name: lucky Chinese bamboo

It is neither Chinese nor a bamboo, but this is the name under which the plant is normally marketed here, and also in the USA and the UK.
Dracæna is Latin for a she-dragon; braunii may be for Alexander Carl Heinrich Braun (1805–1877), German botanist, or for Dr. J. Pierre Braun, expert on Brazilian cactus and bromeliads. Sanderiana is named for Henry Frederick Conrad Sander (1847–1920), British nurseryman who specialized in orchids and other exotics. There are many plants named in his honour.

This species of Dracaena is native to Cameroon in tropical West Africa. It is one of a group of small shrubby species with slender stems and flexible strap-shaped leaves that grow as understorey plants in rainforests. It is an upright shrub growing to 1.5 m tall, with leaves 15–25 cm long and 1.5–4 cm broad at the base. There have been many cultivars developed.

Although it grows better in soil, it is often sold with the roots in water as a hydroponic plant. If kept in water, the water should be completely changed every fortnight. Bottled water should be used, or soft tap water with very little fluoride, or even water from a filtered, established aquarium. It does best in bright, indirect lighting and temperatures between 15 and 25º.

These plants are often sold in artistic or grotesque twisted shapes. These shapes are produced by rotating the plant with respect to gravity, and directed light sources. This is difficult to achieve for most home users, but not impossible with a lot of patience.

Well-known throughout China, this is probably the most popular indoor plant in that country, and is well-regarded in Feng Shui as a symbol of good luck. New businesses are presented with the plants as gifts of luck for the new venture, and the plants will be kept near the entrance to the business in order to attract good luck to enter. The plants are also frequently given to friends at the Chinese New Year, to bring good luck, prosperity, health (Chi), harmony, peace and virtue (Zen) in relationships.

The canes will produce new shoots when cut. The cut surfaces are usually covered with wax to prevent the entry of fungi. The shoots will grow upright to about a metre, with about 3 or 4 cm between each leaf. The growth is controlled by the availability of food, so a plant can be kept small for quite a long time. Once the stems are too tall, they can easily be cut to produce new shoots. Although best growth will be achieved in any well-lit spot, as mentioned earlier, the plant can survive in low light, and can live in a room without natural sunlight, provided it gets 4 – 6 hours of light from an artificial light source. Larger towers require more light, as the lower plants are often in shadow. Towers should be rotated every week or two to allow all sides to receive light. Any stems that rot (and this will often happen with newly acquired plants) should be removed. The actual plant should be handled as little as possible.


Photograph taken in Picnic Bay 2009
Page last updated 15th December 2018