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Overwintering Cyperus papyrus “King Tut”

Overwintering Cyperus papyrus “King Tut”

Papyrus waiting to be saved
Papyrus waiting to be saved
Cyperus Papyrus “King Tut” is only hardy to a bit below freezing and even that only for a short time. After first frost that did no damage to it, I decided to take a division and take it into protected place in the basement.

If grown from seed, it doesn’t get large enough the first growing season and I really need to save it. This summer it grew a lot, even with a lot lower temperatures than usual with abundance of rain. I saved some seeds, just in case I end up losing the mature plant. Some say, that with a lot of protection, Papyrus can handle the winter if it gets protected from freezing temperatures. I intend to keep most of it outside, covered with layer of dry grass, branches and straw, and large sheet of PVC above that to insulate the roots from winter cold as much as possible. If it can survive the winter outside, I’ll have one less plant to worry about next winter.

Overwintering Cyperus Papyrus Rhizomes are thick and hard to break using a shovel, so I had quite an exercise getting it out of the waterlogged soil. I dragged it into the large plastic container without drainage holes. I used concrete mixing tub – it’s strong enough so it won’t break when filled with water and large enough to accommodate the division. Hopefully I didn’t damage the roots too much in the process.

Papyrus in it's temporary container New division had to be trimmed first, so it doesn’t lose too much nutrients trying to keep the green parts alive.

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Cold

Cold

Cold weather ends the growing season sooner or later, this year it was rather soon. With no snow insulation, cold can induce more damage that with thick layer of snow insulation. This year, despite all the cold, we are yet to see the first snow.

Hard frosts had made Borinda fungosa suffer.
Hard frosts had made Borinda fungosa suffer.

Borinda fungosa seedling was holding on very well down to -5°C. Soon night temperature dropped down to -7°C and many of the leaves got damaged. Leaves that remained undamaged, surprisingly remained unfolded even during sunny and windy weather. It did loose all the shoots from this autumn, as it did last winter, but this time, some of them remained tall, only loosing their fragile top. Perhaps in the spring, they will begin the branching process. Cold weather persisted for around two weeks, daily highs were slightly above or below freezing, it was sunny and windy most of the time. Morning low temperatures were between -5°C and -8°C. This is it’s second winter outside, I’ll see how it resists cold. Last year when it was covered in thick layer of snow most of the winter, it managed to keep most of the leaves intact.fungosa winter damage
fungosa damaged by cold Well, the problem with all that snow insulation was weight. Heavy wet snow broke all the taller culms and only a couple of old tiny ones remained. Dead shoots that grew in late fall were not all dead, one of them managed to grow branches around the lowest node, that was buried under thick layer of mulch.
After almost a month of very cold weather, with fog persisting through most of the day, with day temperature slightly below freezing, leafs managed to unfold, showing the damage. It looks like most, if not all, leaves were completely killed or badly damaged. Culms and branches are showing their dark brown color and they seem to be alive even after prolonged period of cold weather. Hopefully in 4 months we’ll get some warm weather for it to recover.

 

Shiroshima with it's beautiful  varieagated leaves remains almost intact.
Shiroshima with it’s beautiful varieagated leaves remains almost intact.
Hibanobambusa tranquilans ‘Shiroshima’ is looking hardy enough to survive this kind of cold dry weather without hassle. There’s no evident damage, not even on several late fall whip shoots. Whips stopped growing with arrival of cold weather, lower nodes actually hardened enough to drop off culm sheathes, while their tops remained fresh and stopped growing completely. I guess we’ll have to wait and see if they resume in the spring. With temperatures close to freezing, white variegation on the leaves turned into bright yellow color, making bamboo look even better.

 
 

Moso seedling that remained inside the pot is showing quite some damage.
Moso seedling that remained inside the pot is showing quite some damage.

Phyllostachys pubescens ‘Moso’ seedling that escaped it’s pot is showing moderate leaf damage. It’s evident, that there’s almost no damage on the escaped part of bamboo that ran out of the pot two seasons ago. Leaves that were pale during the summer and showed some kind of stress, wilted after first heavy frost. Dark green leaves mostly remained undamaged, but they do tend to wilt when exposed
Moso seedling shows some damage, but it looks quite good.
Moso seedling shows some damage, but it looks quite good.
to sun. Wilting is normal, because soil already got frozen on top and bamboo have to save water inside it’s leaves.
The part that escaped managed to put out numerous runners and a couple of shoots that barely poked out through the mulch. They are most likely whip shoots that missed their growing season. So far they haven’t got soft and are most likely alive, waiting to resume in the spring. Last year, pot ended up as home of mice family that stayed there throughout the winter. They didn’t do much damage, but there were holes all around the pot and I’m sure there was some root damage. Well, better mice than voles! They can devastate whole bamboo clumps.
 
 
Umbrella palm seedlings, planted around the garden and inside the pond didn’t take the cold well. First hard frost killed everything above the soil/water level, and most likely, rhizomes as well. We’ll see if it restarts in the spring, if not, I still have one large seedling kept safely inside.
At first dark green damaged leaves turned into straw color. They’ve kept their appearance as they would still be alive. Dry clumps of umbrella papyrus are looking quite good. I’m going to keep them for a while, if rain or snow doesn’t make them look ugly that is.
Cyperus alternifolius that remained inside the pond got frozen. It's not ugly just yet, though.
Cyperus alternifolius that remained inside the pond got frozen. It’s not ugly just yet, though.

It changed color from dark green to straw yellow. I'm keeping those bushes, because they look quite fascinating.
It changed color from dark green to straw yellow. I’m keeping those bushes, because they look quite fascinating.
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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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