If you are looking for a guide to growing a papyrus plant, you have landed on the right page.
Commonly found along rivers, streams, swamps, and lakes, this plant is a hardy water plant with a rich history.
The papyrus plant is a hardy plant with grassy foliage that tends to spread out like an umbrella atop triangular stems.
For this very reason, this plant is also commonly known as an umbrella plant.
Thick, woody rhizomes tend to support the growth of the tall, green stem, and help this plant to reach up to 12 feet in height.
Moreover, this plant is native to Madagascar.
This plant is also considered an aquatic plant as it naturally grows in shallow water or wet soil.
Papyrus plant tends to grow well in a water garden alongside other water plants like water lilies as this setup tends to mimic their native habitat.
Keep on reading.
Botanists classify a papyrus plant, Cyperus papyrus as one of the sedges, a family that is related to the grass family.
They are, in some cases, thought of as ornamental grass, however, are not true grasses.
A sedge is a grass-like plant with triangular stems and inconspicuous flowers, often growing in wet areas.
Moreover, the papyrus plant is a tall, stately plant and the triangular stems grow out of a clump, under the stem lies a thick mass of rhizomes.
These are the means by which the plant spreads.
Aptop the stems tends to rest the real beauty of this sedge, a showy umbel.
The greenish-brown flowers tend to bloom in summer, then give way to the fruits that look somewhat like a nut.
However, it is important to note that this plant is primarily a foliage plant, the accompanying bracts or modified leaves make the umbels pop and give them strong visual appeal.
Make sure to be aware that this is a fast-growing and spreading plant and is one of the many sedges known to impede waterways and encroach on native plants.
Due to this, the papyrus plant is considered invasive in the Southern U.S.
Quick Facts about Papyrus Plant
Some quick facts about the papyrus plant are:
|Botanical Name||Cyperus papyrus|
|Mature Size||5-8 ft. tall, 2-4 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full, partial|
|Soil Type||Loamy, moist|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral, alkaline|
|Hardiness Zones||9-10 (USDA)|
It is important to note that the papyrus plant will not need very much maintenance and while it is classified as a perennial, you can also treat it as an annual plant.
This plant tends to be native to the marshy borders of the Nile River valley in Egypt, so it tends to grow best in locations simulating that environment.
This means that it will grow best in constantly wet and sunny locations.
Moreover, papyrus plants can grow as tall as 8 feet and you can easily divide it in spring and plant it in other areas.
Light: These plants tend to grow best in full sun.
However, they can also tolerate part shade, especially in the hottest climates.
Soil: This plant will grow only in wet, boggy soil like swampy areas, around landscape ponds, and rain gardens that tend to see constant moisture.
It is important to note that the soil should be quite fertile, as you will need to amend barren soil before planting them.
However, if you do not have compost to use to amend the soil and need to settle for a commercial product, you can apply a balanced fertilizer at planting time.
A word of caution is to use half the recommended amount of fertilizer and water the soil thoroughly.
Water: Papyrus plants will need lots of moisture and a constant wet feet is preferable.
While in dryer locations, you will need to water this plant on a daily basis.
Temperature and Humidity: Papyrus is a plant that is indigenous to northern Africa, and will survive as a hardy perennial in North America only in USDA hardiness zones 8 and warmer.
While zone 8 may need winter mulching to protect this plant.
Moreover, in colder zones, this plant, in some cases, can be grown as a potted plant sitting in standing water.
You will need to bring the plant to a sunroom or greenhouse for the winter.
Fertilizer: Growing in fertile soil, this plant will not need feeding.
However, in poorer soil, you will need to amend the soil with organic matter before planting it.
Types of Papyrus Plant
A dwarf version of this plant, t, designated as C. p. ‘Nanus’ or C. profiler, often grows only 2 to 3 feet tall.
Other than the species version of Cyperus papyrus, a number of other related species are available commercially, including some compact varieties:
- Umbrella sedge, or umbrella palm (Cyperus alternifolius): 12 to 24 inches tall
- Dwarf umbrella sedge (Cyperus alternifolius ‘Gracilis’): 24 to 36 inches tall
- Dwarf papyrus (Cyperus haspens): 12 to 18 inches tall
- Giant dwarf papyrus (Cyperus percamenthus): 24 to 30 inches tall
- ‘King Tut’: 48 to 60 inches tall
- ‘Baby Tut’: 12 to 24 inches tall
Pruning and Propagating Tips
In zones where papyrus is perennial, you will need to cut back papyrus foliage to ground level in the fall or early spring.
When growing them as annuals, make sure to pull out the entire plant and discard it in the fall.
It is important to note that the papyrus plant is a tough plant, and you should not assume that you have lost a specimen as it looks dead.
In case the foliage turns brown, make sure to trim the stems down to within a couple of inches of the ground and provide it with water.
Within three weeks, new, green shoots might emerge.
Moreover, you can divide this plant in early spring to keep them vigorous.
As part of the division process, trim away some of the older, less healthy rhizomes, and for cosmetic purposes, make sure to remove the vegetation that turns brown.
When propagating, you can easily separate the root clumps into pieces for replanting.
Here is how to do it:
- you will need to dig up a mature plant using a shovel and be careful not to damage the roots
- then gently pull apart the roots with the help of your hands to create individual plants
- plant them in desired and suitable location and water
Potting, Repotting, and Overwintering Tips
It is important to note that you can grow a papyrus plant in containers.
You will need to place them in containers with drainage holes filled with potting soil and put the container into another water-filled pot or a saucer that is filled with water.
Moreover, these plants will need constant watering, so make sure to keep a continuous water source that is ideal for them.
Only papyrus plants that are in pots can be bought indoors in areas where the temperature tends to fall below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Make sure to place the pot in full sun and ensure that you keep the soil wet.
And the plant will continue to thrive and grow well.
However, do not fertilize this plant during winter, and make sure to wait until the spring when you move it back outdoors.
Common Pests and Diseases
It is important to note that a papyrus plant does have serious pests and diseases.
Though they can get rust fungus.
This type of fungus tends to show up as spots and discoloration of the leaves and stems of the plant.
Moreover, you can treat rust fungus will neem oil, a DIY baking soda spray, or chemical insecticides.
Papyrus vs. other Sedges
A number of other plants in the Sedge family have become popular in landscaping as go-to plants for boggy plants in the yard, especially the genus Carex.
It is also known as true sedges.
The variegated Carex phyllocephala ‘Spark Plag’ is an example.
Moreover, this palm-sedge cultivar is a great substitute for invasive ribbon grass, Phalaris arundinacea.
Spark plug tends to be a clumping plant that reaches about one foot in height with a spread of less than that, and is a perennial in USDA hardiness zones 8 to 10.
Unlike papyrus, it will need part shade to full shade, so it can serve as a substitute for papyrus in shady areas.
However, the Chinese water chestnut, Elocharis dulcis is also a sedge, as is the tenacious weed, nutgrass Cyperus rotundus.
So this family is quite diverse and is not always desirable in the landscape.
The Historical Significance of Papyrus
Papyrus is a plant brimming with historical significance.
Along with perhaps being the bulrush referred to in the Old Testament, where baby Moses was discovered, this plant is most famous for being the writing material used by ancient Egyptians.
However, its use as an ancient writing material tends to spread well beyond the borders of Egypt.
Papyrus was the writing material choice until the 7th century or 8th century when parchment supplanted it.
While paper comes to mind first and foremost when thinking of the historical uses of papyrus, it has had many other uses, including food and building material.
Landscape use of Papyrus
Though you do not have to treat papyrus as an aquatic plant, this plant is most valued as a wet area plant.
You can plant it in a rain garden and it will make a stunning addition to a water feature in your garden.
However, it is important to note that this is a marginal plant like marsh marigold, not a deep-water plant, so make sure to be careful that you do not drown it.
You can submerge its root ball, but, not its crown.
Consequently, if you want to grow this plant in a water plant, you can grow it in containers.
You may want to experiment with the water levels to get it just right.
This is easily accomplished by building up bases under the container to elevate them so that the crown of the plant does not submerge.
A tall papyrus plant can become top-heavy, so consider weighing down the container with stones.
Moreover, this plant also works well as a focal point in an arrangement of a number of aquatic plants with shorter plants surrounding them.
While its flowers are not showy, it can severe as a poster child for so-called architectural plants, thanks to the height it achieves, the sleekness of its leafless stalk, and the bold statement made by its fascinating umbels.
While papyrus plants are perennial in warm climates, northern gardeners tend to use them as annuals.
Ambitious gardeners who own greenhouses, in some cases, tend to overwinter them indoors in a greenhouse or sunroom.
However, an average gardener may find it easier to replace them yearly.