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Cyperus Papyrus

Cyperus Papyrus

A lot of natural light can make them grow really fast
A lot of natural light can make them grow really fast
Cyperus Papyrus started germinating
Cyperus Papyrus started germinating

Basic information:

Height: 4 to 5 m
Hardiness: Can not handle freezing
Characteristics: Cold sensitive, vigorous, loves boggy soil or even standing water, doesn’t like soil to dry out

After unsuccessful purchase when I received Umbrella palm instead of Cyperus papyrus, I tried buying another pack of seeds from different seller. Seeds germinated with high germination rate in only a couple of days. Small fragile plants were transplanted into larger pots, because summer was already there and I wanted them to grow as much as possible.

It's unbelievable, how fast it can grow.
It’s unbelievable, how fast it can grow.

In around two weeks, plant started to really take off! Each day, seedling grew larger and larger. By the time when first tillers appeared, it became evident that it’s really the large version of Papyrus and not the ‘umbrella plant’.
Unlike many other seedlings, it thrived in full sun from the beginning. At first I planed to protect it from scorching sun that can easily kill most of other plant’s seedlings, but since the plant originates from Egypt, I ditched the idea and keep it unprotected.
I found out that they don’t like too much fertilizing, especially when young. Even moderate amount of fertilizer resulted in plant yellowing and stunted growth. Transplanting it into peat moss solved the problem immediately.
Extremely fast growth continued during the hottest months of the summer and then they slowly stopped developing when it cooled off.
By the mid September, Papyrus started to look really exotic with nice looking ‘feather dusters’ emerging. Despite cold, overcast weather with regular rain intervals, seedling managed to use all the standing water inside the bucket within a day or two. With roots that were not well established, water level remained the same for days even when temperatures were high and there was a lot of sunshine – sadly, this year seedling missed most of the summer. With some luck, if Papyrus manages to overwinter successfully, it will start from the beginning and rise a couple of meters high.

Papyrus 'heads'
Papyrus ‘heads’
Papyrus seedling in September
Papyrus seedling in September

Flowering Papyrus King Tut
Flowering Papyrus King Tut

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
In it’s second year, in late spring it began to grow faster again and started to show first signs of flowering. It really needs high temperatures to start growing and while it can survive the spring when it’s not yet warm enough, it won’t grow much. It’s slow growth might also be related to low soil temperature and poor condition of the plant after long winter.
After first season during which I’ve kept it in container, I decided I should try planting it outside without any barriers, so the only thing that was limiting it’s growth was lack of sun and the fact that it got shaded by other plants that grew higher.
 
In early summer, first flowers emerged
In early summer, first flowers emerged
The plan was to keep part of it outside, protected as much as possible during the winter and to take smaller part inside. This way, with some luck I would at least get one plant for the next growing season.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Cyperus papyrus on the right and Cyperus alternifolius on the bottom left part of the photo. Swamp is getting crowded.
Cyperus papyrus and Cyperus alternifolius. Swamp is getting quite crowded.

'Heads' got quite heavy with flowers
‘Heads’ got quite heavy with flowers

Detailed photo of blooming Cyperus papyrus.
Detailed photo of blooming Cyperus papyrus.
Cyperus papyrus has grown a lot and the largest stems grew up to almost 3 meters. Umbels were large and perfectly shaped. All the stems that emerged during the spring started flowering almost immediately when we hit summer-like temperatures. Flowering persisted during the summer and as quickly as it started, ended in early autumn.
Flowers are brown with abundance of yellow anthers. During the most prolific flowering, umbels were starting to turn downward, due to the weight of all the flowers on it.
Flowers soon stop producing pollen, start drying and turn brown. When the seeds are ripe, they fall out and wait for a good time to start growing. I haven’t find any seedlings, despite the fact that there were millions of seeds that got ejected into the surrounding area. If they need stratification, hopefully they will emerge in the spring.

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Cyperus alternifolius

Cyperus alternifolius

Few months old Cyperus alternifolius seedling
Few months old Cyperus alternifolius seedling

Cyperus alternifolius seeds sown in the middle of March 2013 started sprouting after a couple of weeks and new plants continued to emerge for at least a month. Germination rate seemed to be terrible at first, but later it turned out, that most of 2 years old tiny seeds remained viable and sprouted. First week or two, seedlings remained extremely small and fragile, but with time, leaves grew larger and multiplied. Because I used old seeds and expected bad germination rate, all the seedlings ended up in one small plastic cup. With overcrowding that started to occur with time, I had to transplant seedlings soon after they got three or four leaves. I managed to keep their small roots by soaking the soil completely and pushing individual seedlings out using a toothpick. That way each seedling got a bit of soil with it around the roots which gave great results – none of them died off during transplant.

 
 
 

cp_seedlings
Seedlings on April 7th.
cp_ready_to_transplant
With days passing, more and more seedlings emerged. The strongest ones were picked out with a toothpick and transplanted.
cp_transplanted
Seedling in it’s own plastic cup. This time, I didn’t make drainage holes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Small seedlings were growing fast for their size and in only a couple of days, they were strong enough to go into individual pots. Placed under cheap Chinese cool white LED light, it was able to get at least some light. Rainy weather didn’t allow sunbathing behind the window.

Seedlings that got replanted, started to take off much faster than those that remained in original pot. Warmer weather finally allowed that they were placed outside. Soon, roots became apparent on transparent plastic cup again and I had to start preparing to move them into larger pots again. Plants started to grow shoots from gaps between lower leaves and original stem. Soon they became quite bushy and for their second time, ready to be transplanted. Cold rainy weather slowed down their growth considerably.

 

Seedlings on May 4th.
Seedlings on May 4th.
Seedlings on May 8th. The seedlings had to be placed into larger pots again.
Seedlings on May 8th. The seedlings had to be placed into larger pots again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the second half of May, it started elongating stems. Even with roots that started to get a bit overcrowded, strongest seedling continued to grow vigorously. I took this one inside during cold nights that drop well below 10°C.

May 21st.
May 21st.
Seedling is almost root-bound by now and will have to be transplanted into larger pot befor start of June.
Seedling is almost root-bound by now and will have to be transplanted into larger pot befor start of June.
seedling on May 21st
seedling on May 21st

‘Dusters’ started to grow scale like formations. With each additional day, plants are growing stronger. They are growing more and more stems that are getting taller and taller. I have a feeling, that every emerging shoot starts doing the duster thingie in short time. Sadly there’s still not enough warmth and sun exposure for the seedlings to really take off.  We’ll get there sooner or later. 😉

Cyperus alternifolius in the beginning of June.
Cyperus alternifolius in the beginning of June.

With warmer weather Cyperus alternifolius started to grow faster and needed to be transplanted from little plastic cup. I found small 5l bucket with a small hole on the bottom. I placed it inside another container filled with rain water and rusty nails. Water inside the plastic tub is keeping soil temperature more stable and prevent it to dry out. Nails made the water look orange with Iron oxide that will also help Cyperus alternifolius to remain healthy green.

Cyperus alternifolius shoots are getting thicker.
Cyperus alternifolius shoots are getting thicker.

Soon after transplant, new shoots started to appear. When plant received even more heat, growth further accelerated and it didn’t take long until first flowers started to emerge. At that point it was certain, it was not Cyperus Papyrus seeds I received at all! Seeds were supposed to be from larger sibling Cyperus Papyrus, but I ended up with Cyperus alternifolius instead. Flowers appeared on plant that was merely 20 cm tall, which came as a surprise, because Papyrus usually doesn’t flower in it’s first year.
I started researching a bit to find out what version of Cyperus I actually received. Flowers and overall plant shape was screaming Cyperus alternifolius (also known as: Cyperus involucratus, Umbrella Plant, Umbrella Papyrus or Umbrella Palm). It looks like I’ll have to go shopping again to get real giant Cyperus Papyrus seeds.

It seems that it can double its size in a week.
It seems that it can double its size in a week.
First flowers showed up unexpectedly
First flowers showed up unexpectedly

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Some flower buds didn’t turn into flowers, but instead, started forming small plants. Usually that happens if it gets sunk under water, but this one decided to multiply above water level. If I ever decide to divide it, there should be no problems.

Small plants instead of flowers!
Small plants instead of flowers!
One of many flowers.
One of many flowers.
Clump from one tiny seed in only a couple of months.
Clump from one tiny seed in only a couple of months.

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In only a couple of months seedlings became large and well established. Most of them started to flower and some of them managed to grow small plants on top of their “heads”. Some of these small plants also started to flower, while still attached to the mother plant.

This plant is quite rewarding. It’s easy and fast to grow, looks great when it starts to flower and it’s really easy to divide it. Sadly it can’t handle Zone 7 winters, which means I’ll have to make sure it survives the winter inside.

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