Header image courtesy of Nancy Wong (via Wikimedia Commons)
Aside from an abundance of great food and receiving lai see, one of the best parts about the Lunar New Year celebration is the fact that there are plenty of plants and flowers that have been conferred auspicious meanings in Chinese tradition. Most malls and businesses will be decorated with multicoloured blossoms to make the coming year an auspicious one, so here are 10 of the most popular plants and flowers for bringing luck into your home as well.
Ever seen bright green stalks twisted into elaborate shapes while walking through Lunar New Year flower markets? These are what is known as lucky bamboo (富貴竹; fu3 gwai3 zuk1)—despite its name, this plant isn’t actually part of the bamboo family but rather the Dracaena instead, and is sometimes also known as Devil’s Ivy. It is believed to bring good fortune and is therefore a very common plant to have in the house over the festive season.
Boost the lucky bamboo’s auspicious qualities by complementing its wood element with the other elements of Chinese tradition: gold-coloured decorative accents such as coins representing the gold element; obviously water for sustaining the plant; red accents, usually a ribbon, representing the fire element; and pebbles in the plant pot for the earth element. Lucky bamboo usually comes neatly bundled in a small tiered tower, and is very easy to care for. Keep out of direct sunlight, make sure the roots are covered with the water changed weekly if growing in water, or water when the top inch of soil gets dry if potted.
As evident from its name, the money tree is considered an ornament that will bring financial success, and therefore can often be found displayed in offices and places of business, but even more so during Lunar New Year. This plant can be easily identified by its trunk which is usually braided together for aesthetics. Money trees flourish in bright, indirect sunlight, where humidity is higher—mist regularly and water when the top inch of soil is dry.
As with much of Chinese tradition, there is emphasis placed on homophones and wordplay—in Cantonese, the word for tangerines or kumquats (橘; gwat1) is pronounced very similarly to the word for fortune (吉; gat1), so these fruit trees are prized by association. Dwarf varieties can be grown indoors, so buy yourself a pot to bring windfall this year! Those sold over Lunar New Year will already have tangerines or kumquats on them, but try to place the tree where it can receive four to six hours of sunlight each day so it can continue to bear fruit.
This delightfully fuzzy plant, also known as catkins, signifies the start of spring. Its long branches dotted with silvery buds is beloved for connoting reaching new heights with an abundance of prosperity. If sold with cut stems as is usually the case, the water that it is kept in will need to be changed twice a week, which will also prevent mosquitoes from breeding.
Known in Chinese as the water fairy flower, the narcissus has always been a firm favourite for Lunar New Year plants. Symbolising good fortune and prosperity, this is considered one of the most auspicious blooms, but we love it for its delicate simplicity and the fact that it smells great! These flowers are also easy to keep—they just need to be placed in a shallow dish with pebbles and water that just about covers its roots.
It’s not hard to see why the fleshy emerald green leaves of this plant could be likened to jade. By association with the precious stone, the jade plant is believed to bring good fortune and wealth to a household, and therefore makes for great housewarming gifts as well as being a Lunar New Year top pick. As a succulent, it is very easy to care for—just stick it in full sunlight and don’t over-water!
Apart from being one of the most intricate and elegant blossoms, orchids also traditionally symbolise fertility and abundance in Chinese culture. While these flowers come in a huge variety of colours and sizes, one of the species most favoured for Lunar New Year is the oncidium orchid, sometimes also known as Dancing Ladies. This variety bears tiny yellow blossoms that are prized for resembling golden coins, and therefore prosperity. Orchids should be kept in bright, indirect sunlight, away from drafts, and in medium bark with good drainage.
Because of how peonies grow in clusters, these beautiful flowers have traditionally been associated with richness. To inject your home with some Chinese painting vibes, get red peonies instead of the pastel-toned varieties that have recently become more popular—red is the most appropriate colour for this celebration anyway.
Also known as the sword lily (劍蘭; gim3 laan4), gladiolus has flowers which grow in neat layers all the way up its stalks, and therefore is associated with the Lunar New Year greeting to “rise to new heights” (步步高升; bou6 bou6 gou1 sing1). A full bouquet of gladiolus will make for a very elaborate and festive display.
These weirdly shaped citrus fruits are thought to resemble the hands of the Buddha, and therefore will impart good luck. Even though they’re technically a citrus fruit, it’s also purely ornamental, so don’t get tempted to eat it! Its bright orange hues do contribute to a festive atmosphere and the plant is great to have around simply for its interesting appearance. The Buddha’s Hand plant needs a lot of sunlight and watering once daily, with soil that drains well. A similar alternative also popular during Lunar New Year is the Solanum mammosum, otherwise hilariously known as the nipplefruit, cow’s udder, or fox head fruit.