Cyperus Papyrus, commonly known as Paper Reed, Papyrus Sedge, Nile grass, Indian Matting plant, or simply Papyrus, is a type of aquatic flowering plant from the Cyperaceae family. Papyrus plants were originally grown in the tropical regions of Africa, around the Nile river, and as of late, they have become highly cultivated as ornamental houseplants.
These plants have very old and well-known uses among their close relatives in the history of Ancient Egyptians. They are the source of what we learn about in history class – the papyrus paper, one of the first types of paper that humans ever made. Moreover, their buoyant stems served as an excellent natural material in the manufacture of reed boats, baskets, mattresses, sandals, mats, and rope.
Although there is no scientific evidence of Papyrus plants being effective in medicine, they were very popular in traditional practices in the past. Ancient Egyptians used the ashes of burnt papyrus sheets as a treatment for certain eye diseases and the spread of malignant ulcers. It was also believed that if the ashes were macerated in vinegar and burnt, they could have healed wounds.
About Papyrus Plants
- A Norwegian ethnologist, Thor Heyerdahl, used papyrus to build two boats in which he planned on crossing the Atlantic Ocean. His goal was to demonstrate that Ancient Egyptian civilization reached America and exchanged cultures with the indigenous people of Central and South America.
- Besides economic purposes, Papyrus plants have great environmental value. They are known for their high capacity to clean the medium and regulate the ecosystem.
- The stems contain a white pith inside, which is the actual source of papyrus paper.
- Some parts of these plants, such as their starchy rhizomes, are edible and they have been used as raw or cooked food for many years.
- Their woody roots were often used to make bowls and many other tools for daily usage. Ancient people also burned their rhizomes to obtain fuel.
- Papyrus plants grow healthy and happy if they get plenty of bright and direct sunlight, but they can tolerate partial shade for a few hours.
- They grow at their best in a soil that is slightly acidic to alkaline. The soil must be rich in organic matter and constantly damp.
- These plants are used to aquatic conditions from their natural habitat. You might consider growing your Papyrus in a medium where its roots can be submerged in water.
- There are no toxic effects reported regarding Papyrus plants, so you can grow them safely around children, pets, or livestock.
Papyrus Plants Features: An Overview
- They belong to the Cyperus genus that contains more than 600 species from around the world. This particular species can be found in the tropical rainforests of Madagascar.
- Besides the Papyrus plants, there are several popular Cyperus species including Umbrella Palm, Dwarf Umbrella Sedge, Giant Dwarf Papyrus, Dwarf Papyrus, ‘King Tut’, and ‘Baby Tut’.
- Cyperus Papyrus specimens add an exotic vibe to every garden and they are an excellent companion to other aquatic plants, such as lotus (Nelumbo spp.) or water lilies (Nymphaea spp.).
- Papyrus plants are tall and robust herbaceous perennials that can reach up to13 to 16 feet (4-5 m) in height and 2 to 4 feet (0.6-1.2 m) in width. They form high stands of grass-like vegetation in shallow waters.
- Their thick, wood-like roots are called rhizomes and produce clumps of triangular-shaped stems. The rhizomes contain younger parts that are covered by red-brown and triangular scales.
- The scales found on the younger rhizomes and stems’ base are considered reduced leaves. Botanically speaking, these plants cannot be considered fully leafless.
- Each rigid stem is adorned with a dense cluster of slender, bright green, hair-like stems that grow between 4 and 10 inches (10-30 cm) long. These stems spread out like the ribs of an open umbrella.
- From mid to late summer, Papyrus plants exhibit clusters of green-brown flowers.
- These plants bear dark-brown and nut-like fruits once their blooming period is over.
Growing Papyrus Plants
Papyrus plants are used to the mushy environments from their natural habitat, so they will thrive in areas that simulate those conditions. They are low-maintenance and easy-going plants if you manage to find a sunny place and plant them in a fertile soil that is constantly moist.
These evergreen plants are usually planted by rhizomes in a pot filled with suitable damp soil and submerged in aquatic mediums. However, they can also be planted outdoors in muddy soil at 3 feet (0.9 m) deep to help in keeping their heavy stems upright.
Despite their umbrella-like features, Papyrus plants do not hide from the sun at all. They are light-feeders that enjoy full days in bright and indirect sunlight, but will also tolerate partial shade. If you live in a region with hot climates, it is suggested to grow these plants in a location with bright, indirect light or partial shade. A sun that is too harsh will burn their foliage and this may cause irreversible damage to your plants.
Papyrus plants prefer temperatures that resemble those from northern Africa. When growing them indoors, the average room temperatures that range from 40 to 72 °F (5-22 °C) should be ideal for your plants. You can grow Papyrus plants outdoors if you live in cooler climates with very little snow and frost. They cannot tolerate freezing conditions, so you should bring them indoors in winter if the temperatures drop below 40 °F (5 °C).
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They grow happy and healthy in a soil that is constantly wet or soggy. For optimal results, Papyrus must be planted in swampy locations including rain gardens or landscape ponds. If you want to grow them in a container, they do well in most types of soil, such as clay, loam, or sand.
These plants can also grow in a commercial potting mix, but you will need to provide them with additional organic matter. When first planting your Papyrus plants, feed them with a balanced liquid fertilizer at one half the recommended amount. During the spring, they will benefit from regular feedings with a fertilizer diluted at ½ strength once a month. It is better to fertilize your plants when watering to avoid any potential burn.
They are typically grown as annuals by most gardeners. If you prefer them as perennials, Papyrus plants require pruning occasionally. Make sure you cut their foliage back to the ground level in autumn or early spring to induce new growth and keep them vigorous.
Generally, Papyrus plants have no harmful pests or diseases, but they can be affected by rust fungus. This disease will damage the foliage, discoloring their stems and leaves. If you notice any signs on your plants, you can treat them once a week with neem oil, a dusting of sulfur, or baking soda sprays.
Watering Papyrus Plants
The best thing about papyrus plants is that you can’t overwater them. As long as you keep their roots always wet, your papyrus plants will be happy. They love lots of moisture, so you should check their soil frequently to make sure you provide them with plenty of water. If you live in a region with dry or hot climates, these plants may need watering once every day. During the winter or cooler months, you can water your Papyrus plants less often.
Although it is pretty impossible to over-water these plants in proper environmental conditions, in winter they might receive more water than needed. This will result in root rot and your plants may never recover. Moreover, under-watered plants will start to produce brown spots on their foliage or yellow to brown stems.
Due to the constant providing of moisture, Papyrus plants do not require extra humidity. These watering conditions will create a mini-ecosystem in which the humidity levels will rise around your plants naturally.
Propagating Papyrus Plants
If you grow Papyrus plants as perennials, they need to be propagated through division. You do not have any extra space for more plants in your home or garden? No worries! You can always gift these peculiar specimens to those friends who are passionate about ancient culture and history.
Propagating Papyrus plants through divisions is not as hard as you would imagine. Their root clumps can be easily separated into more babies and transplanted in their own pots. They can be grown and cared for as usual with no extra demands. Keep in mind that these plants respond best to propagation if the process is done in spring.
Papyrus plants can also be propagated using seeds, but it will take more time for them to germinate. Fill a container with fresh soil or potting mix and plant the seeds found in their fruits. For optimal results, place the pot in a sunny and humid location and maintain the soil constantly damp. You can provide the seeds with more humidity by covering the pot with plastic wrap, but make some holes in it to allow air circulation.
Well, these funky-looking plants can be a pleasant landscape filler in every home and garden. Papyrus plants are pretty easy to grow by any type of gardener, requiring only basic environmental conditions and a lot of moisture. Plus! They are an excellent gift for your plant-lovers friends and you have so many varieties to choose from!
Nice info, but double-check your spelling on Cyperus–you’ve got cyberus in a number of places
I am glad you liked the article and thanks for pointing out the spelling mistakes. Mark Zuckerberg is secretly trying to replace Cyperus with Cyberus (not the best joke, I know).
Have a great day,
I have Cyprus Papyrus growing in a pot partially submerged in an outdoor water garden. When the stems get long and heavy the needle-like top will bend down into the water and roots will form. I have cut off these rooted tops and planted them in soil and started several plants that way. Just another way of propagating this plant.
I annually purchase papyrus for my pond and it thrives all summer. I brought it inside and put it in a very large container along with a bubbler and a large goldfish. It gets some sun and is always kept at least 68 degrees. It did fine for a few months but the foliage died off. I just don’t know if its dead or will come back. the tuber portions at the base are thick and dense but the grassy portions have all pulled off easily. Is there any hope once things warm up, any advice. we are in Chicago zone 6 so we have a month before we are fully clear of the threat of frost.