The Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year is celebrated by millions of Chinese around the world sometime around January or February each year. This event is celebrated with much merriment and fanfare. Besides the fireworks and lion dances, one of the curiosities associated with this period are the “auspicious plants.” The Chinese have a penchant for growing auspicious plants, or plants that are good for Feng Shui, and such plants are a common gift during this period.
These plants are often interesting additions to your home. In Feng Shui, the placement of the plants matter. Standing in the center of your home and using a compass, you can find out the Feng Shui directions. Traditionally, there are 8 directions – north, south, east, west, north-east, north-west, south-east, and south-west. Generally, the south-east is the direction of wealth, while the east is for health. However Feng Shui is also very personal and you should find out where are your lucky directions, and place auspicious plants there to generate chi.
One of these “auspicious” plants is the Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana). It’s not a bamboo though, but a small shrub that grows wild in the rainforests of Africa; one of its other names is Belgian Evergreen. It became popular only quite recently, after getting a reputation as being good for Feng Shui. Lucky Bamboo is quite suitable for growing indoors; in the wild it is a jungle understorey plant. Indirect sunlight for a few hours each day is required, so place it near windows. It thrives in humid or subtropical climates, but will grow in most climate zones of west, central and south USA.
Lucky bamboo are often purchased from malls, and neglected afterwards. But they are in fact, easy to keep. They can be grown as cuttings with their stems soaked in water, but make sure the water is boiled first and left to stand for a day or two, or better still, use clean pond water. The water only needs to be changed once a week.
Don’t expect them to flower, but their white stripped leaves are definitely quite striking. Once they grow bigger and their roots start developing, plant them in a pot with well drained soil.
Another auspicious plant popular with Feng Shui is the Jade Plant (Crasulla ovata, formerly C. portulacea). It’s one of the few plants that can grow as indoor bonsai, and are valued by Chinese for their resemblance to real jade in color. They are native to South Africa, and are evergreen. Jade Plants are very easy to keep indoors and can live for a long time.
Just water them once a fortnight and keep their soil at roughly 40% sand or gravel. In the wild, they grow in areas with occasional droughts; hence their thick, succulent leaves are capable of storing water. It normally produces small white/pink flowers in early spring. Jade Plants can propagate from stem cuttings and will stay small if grown in small containers, but if grown outdoors, can reach up to 9ft in height.
Plum Blossom or Chinese Plum (Prunus mume) is another plant considered auspicious. They are native to China and popular throughout East Asia. Plum blossoms are common subjects in Chinese paintings, and symbolize good fortune and longevity (they are the longest living flowering fruit trees of all). You can plant plum blossom trees anywhere in your garden and they will produce a delightful flower show anytime during January to March, depending on the severity of the winter.
Although they are hardy and can live for many hundreds of years, plum blossoms only attain a height of roughly 20 ft high. Plum blossoms are perfect for Zen gardening, and planting them in the northern part of the garden is said to be auspicious.
Pruning is important if you want to get beautiful blooms. For new trees, let it grow for the first year, then prune back all the shoots to 6 inch stubs. The next year, repeat the procedure on half of the new growth, and the following year, prune the other remaining half. Continue this routine for all the subsequent years.
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