Papyrus Plant

Botanical Name: Cyperus papyrus 

Once used by the ancient Egyptians to make paper, papyrus plant is now cultivated as an ornamental in tropical wetlands. Dwarf varieties, including 'Nanus' and 'Baby Tut' are small enough to grow as house plants.

papyrus plant, cyperus papyrusClose-up foliage and tiny flowers of the Cyperus papyrus plant. Image by JacLou DL

Growing in clumps, the thin papyrus stems are topped with dark-green, grass-like rays that resemble umbrella spokes. Some varieties have fountain-like feathery clusters.

This evergreen plant grows from thick rhizomes. Fast-growing, it's considered a weed in some countries. However, it won't spread too far in a pot.

Papyrus flowers in late summer, when given enough sunlight. The greenish-brown flower clusters appear at the crown of the rayed stems.

Repot in spring when the roots have filled the pot. Move up only 1 size larger.

Early Stationery

Ancient Egyptians used papyrus stems to make paper for writing and drawing. 

The labor-intensive process involves stripping off the stem coverings, removing the inner pulp-like fibers and slicing them into wafer-thin strips. Laid side by side, the papyrus strips are moistened, pressed, then dried into a sheet.

Where to Buy Papyrus 

Finding papyrus for sale may be a bit challenging. Cyperus papyrus 'Nanus' and 'Baby Tut' are dwarf papyrus varieties that make unusual, easy-care house plants on your windowsill. Or put them on the patio to give them the light they want. 

papyrus plant, cyperus papyrus

Papyrus Plant Care

Origin: Africa

Height: Up to 10 ft (3 m); dwarf papyrus grows to 2 ft (60 cm)

Light: Full sunlight to low light

Water: Keep the soil evenly moist at all times. Native to wetlands, this exotic-looking plant prefers wet soil so it's almost impossible to overwater. You can leave the pot in a saucer filled with water, if you want. Just don't let this plant dry out. Brown tips are a sign that the soil is dry. It's a good idea to keep a watering can nearby so you won't forget to water!

Humidity: Average room (around 40% relative humidity)

Temperature: Normal room temperatures 60-75°F/16-24°C. Cyperus papyrus is not winter-hardy. You can move your container outdoors for the summer, if you want. But bring it back in when the temperature drops below 55°F/13°C.

Soil: Any good potting mix.

Fertilizer: Feed monthly spring through fall with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted by half. Only fertilize when watering to avoid fertilizer burn. 

Propagation: Divide plant in spring. Or take 4 in (10 cm) stem tip cuttings in spring and root them in water. Papyrus plant is also easy to grow from seed.

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