Cyperus Alternifolius Care: Tips On Growing The Umbrella Papyrus

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Cyperus alternifolius is one of the most popular houseplants from the sedge family Cyperaceae.

If you’re caring for a Cyperus Alternifolius plant, you’ll want to know everything there is to know about umbrella plant care and cultivation.

Attractive Cyperus Alternifolius growing by a backyard pond.Pin

The plant is native to Madagascar, the Arabian Peninsula, and many East African states (Ethiopia, Eritrea, Malawi, Mozambique, Sudan, Somalia, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe).

But, it has also been naturalized in many tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world, such as the southern USA, New Zealand, many Pacific Islands, and many parts of Australia.

You may hear it called by its common names, including:

  • Unbrella Plant
  • Umbrella Palm
  • Umbrella Sedge
  • Dwarf Umbrella Sedge
  • Papyrus Umbrella Plant
  • Papyrus Palm
  • Umbrella Grass Plant
  • Umbrella Tree
  • Cyperus Umbrella Plant
  • Cypress Grass

Cyperus Alternifolius Quick Care Tips

  • Botanical Name: Cyperus Alternifolius
  • Common Name(s): Umbrella Papyrus Plant, Umbrella Plant, Umbrella Palm, Umbrella Sedge, Umbrella Grass, Dwarf Umbrella Sedge, Umbrella Sedge Plant, Umbrella Palm Care
  • Synonyms: Cyperus involucratus, Cyperus diffusus, Papyrus Unbrella Plant
  • Pronunciation: Sy-PEER-us, al-tern-ee-FOH-lee-us
  • Family & Origin: Cyperaceae family, native to Madagascar, the Arabian Peninsula, and East African states (Ethiopia, Eritrea, Malawi, Mozambique, Sudan, Somalia, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe
  • Growability: Easy to grow
  • Grow Zone: 9-12
  • Size: Can grow up to 18” – 48” inches in height; but can grow up to 5’ feet
  • Flowering: Produces elongated flower spikelets in summer (July to August)
  • Light: Prefers partial shade but can grow in full sun
  • Humidity: Requires a warm, humid environment
  • Temperature: Thrives in temperatures between 50° to 72° degrees Fahrenheit
  • Soil: Prefers wet and boggy, with a 5.5 to 6.5 pH range
  • Water: keep the soil moist or in standing water
  • Fertilizer: Feed with standard-strength fertilizer can be applied once a month during active growing periods
  • Pests & Diseases: Susceptible to spider mites, aphids, and mealybugs
  • Propagation: Can be propagated through seeds, division, and cuttings
  • Plant Uses: Makes a great indoor or outdoor plant, can be used as a natural air purifier, and is often used in water gardens or as a decorative accent in ponds.

Cyperus Alternifolius Care

If you are wondering about umbrella palm care, you’ll want to ensure your plant is well-watered and kept in a warm and humid environment.

Size and Growth

C. alternifolius is a semi-aquatic (like variegated Acorus gramineus), perennial, grass-like plant hardy to USDA zones 9-12.

It typically grows to 18” – 48” inches in height; however, occasionally, it can grow up to 5’ feet.

The cyperus grass plant features multiple upright stems that are long, rigid, slender, and topped with large leafy bracts.

The green-colored leaf-like bracts grow into a circle, looking like an umbrella.

This is why the plant is commonly referred to as an umbrella papyrus plant.

The leafy bracts are often confused for leaves, but the true leaves of the plant are located on the lower side and cover the bases of the stems.

The leaves of the umbrella plant cyperus are also reduced to long sheaths.

Flowering and Fragrance

Cyperus plants produce unattractive, flattened, and elongated flower spikelets in summer (July to August).

The flowers grow in dense clusters at the tip of the stems, between the leafy bracts that resemble the spokes of an umbrella.

They are initially green but turn brown when given proper care for a Papyrus alternifolius until maturity.

Light and Temperature

The Cyperus umbrella prefers a warm, humid environment and grows best in part shade or light shade.

While it can grow in full sun, exposure to harsh sun rays can cause scorching of the leaves.

The plant cannot survive cold weather; the roots cannot tolerate temperatures lower than 15° degrees Fahrenheit (-9° C), and leafy bracts will turn brown if exposed to frost.

United States hardiness zone 8 – 11 (USDA Zone).

umbrella plant papyrus Watering and Feeding

Since cyperus papyrus is a semi-aquatic plant, it requires adequate water for proper growth.

This is why it is often grown as a pond plant.

Even in its natural habitat, the plant is usually seen growing at damp sites near waterways.

When grown as a houseplant, the best way to ensure the plants’ water requirements is to place the pot in a plate or bowl filled with water.

The plant doesn’t mind getting a bit submerged in water.

It also doesn’t need as much feed. However, you can fertilize the plant once a month during active growth to produce a lot of growth.

Soil and Transplanting

While Cyperus involucratus is easily grown in regular potting soil, it thrives in rich peaty soil containing 2 parts moss to 1 part sand to 1 part loam and is wet and boggy.

5.5 to 6.5 is the preferred soil pH range.

Since this cyperus plant cannot tolerate cold weather, it should be transferred to a pot before the first frost in fall and kept indoors during the winter.

When grown in pots, the plant may need to be repotted to larger pots once a year.

Grows well in both standing water (up to 4” inches) and in bog plant soils.

Grooming and Maintenance

Umbrella Cyperus is an easy-to-grow and low-maintenance plant.

The plant grows long roots, and when planted in pots, the roots often grow out of them and invade the bowl or the plate below it.

Many gardeners choose to cut the roots to limit them to a particular area.

One thing to note here is the papyrus can even tolerate severe cutting of roots, and it will not cause any harm to the plant.

It also needs some pruning to remove the dying leaves and stems, which look unattractive.

How to Propagate Umbrella Plant

Cyperus Alternifolius propagation can be achieved through a few different methods, such as division, seeds, and cuttings.

If propagating through seeds, simply sow them in wet soil.

Make sure to water regularly, and the seedlings will start to appear within a few weeks.

Another method to propagate the cyperus plants is to cut the clumps into sections using a sharp knife and plant them separately.

Propagation through cuttings is considered the most efficient and reliable method, and there are several methods of doing it.

The simplest way is to remove a whole stem of the plant and cut it, using a pair of sharp scissors, to around 4” inches in length.

Now, cut the leaflets to about half and place the cutting upside down in small jars filled with water.

The submerged leaflets will form a new stem within a few weeks.

As the new plant stem grows out of the water surface, it will develop roots as well as new leaflets.

When the new growth stem has developed a reasonable set of roots, take the cutting out of the water, remove the newly formed stem from the old one, and plant it into a pot filled with potting compost.

Make sure to water the newly potted plant regularly, and it will grow to a substantial size within a few months.

The plant also spreads through self-seeding under optimum growing conditions.

If things are too dark, it will tell you by producing very few new shoots.

Cyperus Umbrella Pest or Diseases

The greatest concern for the umbrella papyrus is spider mites. Other insect pests include mealy bugs and black flies.

However, they are easily controlled by spraying the plant with neem oil insecticide.

Brown leaf tips are also a common problem for this plant.

Umbrella Sedge Uses

The umbrella grass plant can make a great indoor or outdoor plant and can be used as a natural air purifier. It is often used in water gardens or as a decorative accent in ponds.

Cyperus is one of the most widely cultivated landscape plants grown as a background plant, accent plant, or incorporated into a water feature.

This garden plant loves moist soil and works great in partially shaded water gardens.

It’s suggested we use it as a water plant.

However, be careful when handling the upside down umbrella plant, which is listed as slightly toxic. Mild symptoms include diarrhea and vomiting.

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