King tut papyrus plant

Papyrus is a sedge that naturally grows in shallow water and wet soils.

Papyrus is a sedge (family Cyperaceae) – one of about 600 species in the genus Cyperus – that is probably best known as the source of ancient paper called papyrus. C. papyrus, also called Egyptian reed or paper reed, is a clump-forming African species hardy in zones 9-12. It is native throughout the wetter parts of Africa, Madagascar and

Each stem is topped with feather-duster-like growth.

around the southern Mediterranean where it occurs in vast stands in swamps, shallow lakes, and along stream banks throughout the wetter parts of Africa. The large, dense populations often line bodies of water. In ancient times it was widely cultivated in the Nile Delta, but now is nearly extinct there. The starchy rhizomes and culms are edible, both raw and cooked, and the buoyant stems were used for making small boats. Upright stems topped with airy foliage gives this species a tiered effect that is quite ornamental.

New shoots at the plant base.

Papyrus is a vigorous grower that can grow up to 16 feet tall in its native habitat, but the ornamental selections are typically a more modest 3-6 feet. This herbaceous perennial produces just a few basal leaves and many strong, deep green, triangular (3-sided) stems (culms) from woody rhizomes. The new rhizomes and culm bases are covered by papery scales, which are actually reduced leaves. These are triangular in shape and a reddish brown color. The thick rhizomes creep horizontally along the soil, anchored by numerous roots.

The non-descript, greenish-brown flowers are wind pollinated.

Each straight stem is topped with an umbellate inflorescence. This is a dense cluster of many bright green, shiny thread-like rays. Small, secondary umbels with 3-5 rays and narrow, elongated bracts are produced on the ends of the rays. The non-descript, greenish-brown flowers that are produced at the ends are wind pollinated. Eventually brown, nut-like fruits are produced. The mature fruits are dispersed in water after they fall from the plant. This terminal growth, subtended by papery brown bracts, resembles a feather duster at first and will eventually grow to 4-12 inches across. They may become so large that they bend over under their own weight as the cluster becomes almost spherical in shape. These are often used by birds, especially the social species, as nesting sites in its native habitat.

Dwarf cultivars are well suited to container culture.

A shorter form than the species is normally available as an ornamental. This is variously labeled as variety ‘Dwarf Form’, ‘Nanus‘, Tutankhamun’ or King Tut®. It grows only 2-3 feet tall, grows vigorously in or out of water, and is more shade tolerant than the species.

Papyrus can be grown as an annual in the Midwest.

Papyrus can be grown as an annual foliage plant in the ground, in large containers, or in shallow water. The fireworks-like flower heads are a bold and dramatic addition to both the garden and cut flower arrangements. This plant is well suited for medium to large water features and adds an exotic, tropical feel to a sunny corner. Use it as a tall, vertical accent plant with other tropical plants. Because of it’s height it is best used in the middle or back of a bed or container to add drama and contrast to shorter plants.

Use papyrus in or near water gardens

It can be underplanted with annuals such as petunias or coleus, or used as a specimen or an accent in larger landscape beds. I have one in a container placed behind my water garden that is in a 2 ½ foot tall ceramic pot, and the papyrus towers over the small aquatic plants in the water garden.

Papyrus adds a tropical feel to sunny areas.

This is an easily grown plant, but needs warm temperatures to thrive. It does best in full sun when grown as an annual in the Midwest. Plant in moist to wet soil or cultivate in a container in order to regulate moisture levels more easily. This plant can be potted in a container without drainage holes. Because of its vigorous growth it can quickly become potbound. Cut off old culms that have browned heads with a sharp knife or pruning shears close to the rhizome. This plant can be fertilized heavily. Propagate by division of the rhizomes in spring.

Papyrus is a tropical plant, so must be protected from frost.

Because it is of tropical origin, this plant is sensitive to frost, and should be protected or moved indoors when temperatures are below 40°F. Plants can be kept over the winter as long as the rhizomes are protected from freezing. It will survive – but not thrive – in a bright spot indoors or in a greenhouse over the winter if kept very moist, preferably in standing water (i.e. placing the container in a deep saucer filled with 1-2 inches of water). It may become essentially dormant, but will resume growth with new culms quickly replacing the old, weathered ones in the spring when the weather warms.

– Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin – Madison


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Posted by Brian Sparks|November 28, 2016

Editor’s Note: Each month, the Greenhouse Grower varieties team chooses one noteworthy variety we think is worth bringing to your attention. Then we share growers’ and breeders’ perspectives on the best ways to produce it successfully at your operation.

This month we feature ‘Prince Tut’ from Proven Winners’ Graceful Grasses collection, a compact form of Egyptian Papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) that is half the size of ‘King Tut.’ ‘Prince Tut’ received an Honorable Mention from Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Medal of Excellence in Breeding award program. This sturdy grass is versatile, working well in all container sizes with its columnar habit and dense canopy and filling out well in the landscape.

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Growing Tips From Mike Goyette of Pleasant View Gardens

Greenhouse Grower magazine named Mike Goyette as a finalist for its 2016 Head Grower of the Year program and winner of its Excellence in Quality award. Goyette says ‘Prince Tut’ is an iconic plant with a tropical feel that stood out in trials. It is a compact, sturdier version of ‘King Tut’ Cyperus grass that handles light frost in the fall and is super easy to produce from rooted liners. It makes a good shade plant, too. Goyette says he has grown it under heavy shade, and it has performed well.

Goyette’s Recommendations For ‘Prince Tut’ Grass:
Fertilizer: Use any full package general use liquid fertilizer at 150 ppm nitrogen constant to match your operation’s water quality. ‘Prince Tut’ tolerates a wide pH range of 6 to 6.5 and a soil EC of 0.6 to 0.9 (2:1 method).
Propagation: Not allowed. Available as rooted liners via Proven Winners only.
Plant Growth Regulators: These are generally not needed, but to control height or to “miniaturize” for smaller pots use a paclobutrazol drench at 1 ppm.
Pinching: Not needed
Lighting: Artificial lighting is not needed. The plants do well with natural light from partial shade to full sun.
Growing Media: ‘Prince Tut’ will grow in most soils and tolerate poor soil conditions (heavy, wet, pond edges, etc.). Any standard growing medium will work fine.
Irrigation: Keep plants moist to wet. Water to 4 or 5 on the watering scale and allow to dry down to a 3. Do not allow the plants to dry down past a 2.
Temperatures: For growing on, temperatures should be mid 60s and warmer. Plants can go down to the mid 50s for finishing.
Planting/Scheduling: 4- to 5-inch quart pots (4 to 6 weeks), 6-inch and gallon pots (6 to 8 weeks)
Pests/Diseases: Due to the water requirements of ‘Prince Tut,’ scout for fungus gnats. There were no disease issues with this plant.

Production Quick Facts From Proven Winners

pH: 6 to 6.5
EC (2:1 Extraction Method): 0.6 to 0.9
Fertilizer: Medium (150 to 200 ppm)
Lighting: Medium
Irrigation: Moist to Wet
Growing on temperature: 65°F to 72°F
Holding temperature: 50°F to 60°F
Planting/Timing: Spring to summer sales, standard PPP
Pinching/PGRs: No pinching or plant growth regulators needed.
Pests/Diseases: Use general pest and disease practices. May need to repeat fungicide drench if soil-borne disease occurs.
Spring outdoor finish: Do not move outside until after last frost.
Grower tip: Can be grown as a water plant or bog plant.

Brian Sparks is senior editor of Greenhouse Grower and editor of Greenhouse Grower Technology. See all author stories here.

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