Earlier last year my best girl friend, Colleen, got me a fantastic gift for my birthday: a small bunch of five lucky bamboo sticks. The little bundle was wrapped with a red silk ribbon and presented in a gorgeous glass pot filled with smooth pebbles. I didn’t want to seem ungrateful but it really wasn’t the most eye-catching bouquet I’d ever been given.

As I tried repressing a confused frown, Colleen laughed and said, “It’s Lucky Bamboo, Chynna. Surely someone as in tuned with the more spiritual side of life knows about Lucky Bamboo! It’s to bring peace to you and the baby.”

Now, although I’ve never been a person who believes in lucky charms, Colleen was right in that I am a very spiritual person drawn to the Chinese and Aboriginal traditions. Those cultures just seem to be so in tuned with the environment. And I love how they use things from nature to bring peace and meaning into their lives.
Not only did Colleen give me the bamboo as a birthday gift, I was also pregnant with my fourth child, Sophie. We’d just found out through a routine ultrasound that she’d had a heart abnormality. I was heartbroken and had never felt so powerless in my life. Knowing I’ve always tried drawing strength from forces around me, perhaps that’s why Colleen brought me a cluster of the beautiful green gnarled treasures.

I knew she was ultimately thinking of the baby but, secretly, I also think she got the bamboo because I have a horribly incurable brown thumb. I mean, I’ve managed to kill a cactus. But bamboo is very easy to care for as long as you remember to give it fresh water, lots of indirect sunlight and, as I liked to do, talk to it and tell it how beautiful it is. (Hey! Whatever I can do to help keep plants alive, I try!)

In celebration of this wonderful and spiritual plant, I’ve gathered a few layman facts in case you want to purchase one for your own home:

What is “lucky bamboo? In Chinese, the bamboo is called  “Fu Gwey Zhu.” Fu means Wealth, Rich; Gwey means Power, honor; and Zhu is bamboo. It isn’t the same sort of bamboo found in back yard barbeque parties. They almost look like tiny palm trees with their thick fibrous stalks and sparse foliage. Ironically, even though they are thought of in Chinese culture, they are actually species of Dracaena, native to Cameroon in tropical west Africa.

Why is it lucky? Lucky bamboo is the most popular feng shui cure.  The most amazing definition I’ve seen states that the bamboo “teaches the ultimate wisdom: how to be flexible and hollow (open) on the inside, so that the spirit can freely flow and heal your Being.” (About.com) The lucky bamboo is thought to emit a very peaceful and wise energy and considered the most lucky when it combines all five of the elements of true Feng Shui:

WOOD – the Bamboo itself

EARTH – the Rocks the plant grows in

WATER – the Water the plant grows with

FIRE – most pots usually have a red ribbon tied to them

METAL – the glass pots belong to the metal element. If Bamboo is planted in a pot other than glass (i.e. clay or ceramics) it will usually have either a metal coin, or a metal figurine with it.

Why are they bunched in specific numbers? I’ve seen these little plants in stores and, although you can get one on its own, it seems to be more common to buy them in little bunches. And specific groups of numbers have specific meaning. The most popular combinations are three for Happiness and five for Health. Other popular combinations include two for Love and Marriage and nine is considered a lucky number overall representing Good Fortune. Of course, there are other traditions for the bunching aspect but those are the most common.
It wasn’t until I read up on Lucky Bamboo that I understood the significance of the five bunching Colleen gave to me. The most miraculous part for me is that from when I got the bamboo, and throughout the rest of my pregnancy, those little sticks burst with life.

It seemed like every day a new stem bud appeared. And you know what? It actually did made me feel calmer, despite not knowing the fate of my unborn baby. It was as if the little plant was saying, “Don’t worry, Chynna. You’re bursting with life too and baby is fine. Take what energy you need from us to give you strength.”
Weird, I know. But when we finally got to bring Sophie home from the NICU wouldn’t you know that little plant was big, leafy and beautiful…and still is. In fact, I moved it into Sophie’s room the day after we brought her home. And as she’s grown—gorgeous and healthy—it has too. I guess, in this case, my brown thumb was overpowered by the strength of the Lucky Bamboo, and Sophie’s Auntie Colleen who cared enough to share its calming powers with our family.

Why not balance the energies in your home with one of these mysterious miracle sticks. I’m still not sure I believe in lucky charms but I do believe in the powers of the Lucky Bamboo!