Cyperus alternifolius

Cyperus alternifolius

Cyperus alternifolius or Umbrella Papyrus is of the same family as Cyperus papyrus, this one also prefers swamp conditions.

Its elegant and lovely fresh green foliage looks very exotic in the garden and it looks lovely near a pond or on its own. You can grow it in the garden or in a pot, outside or inside.

This Cyperus is hardy: it will resist in USDA zone 8 down to -8 °C.

Well watered and nourished it can reach 2 m height quite rapidly.


Cyperus alternifolius is a perennial plant with thick, fleshy roots and a short, thick rhizome.

The culms are 0.5-1.5 (sometimes 3) m tall, 3-angled to almost round.

The leaves are light green, usually up to 20 cm long and standing in rays from the top of the culm, more or less horizontally.

Inflorescence 8-18 rays, 3-10 cm, each with 1-4 groups of 3-9 spikelets. It is green, then brown when flowering is over.


The culms are used to make mats.

Medicinal: leaves are used for edema and skin diseases, root for rashes and pimples. It is also used as a medicine for camels.


Common names:

Umbrella papyrus, Alternate papyrus, African umbrella plant, umbrella palm, umbrella plant, umbrella sedge


Cyperus frondosus, Cyperus involucratus, Cyperus onustus, Cyperus racemosus, Eucyperus alternifolius


Cyperus: from the Greek kyperos (sedge)
Alternifolius from the Latin alternus (alternate) and folium (leaf)




Riverside and stream banks, moist soils


USDA zone 8-11
Foliage dies at -2 °C but will recover the following spring. Root mass dies at -8 °C.



Will thrive in any kind of soil, as long as it’s wet


Sun, light, semi-shade


Likes plenty of water, keep it under water at all times. Is somewhat drought resistent: the stems will dry out but if you give it water again, growth resumes from the root.


In the garden: a large portion of organic fertilizer in spring.

In pot: universal liquid fertilizer weekly during growth, monthly in winter.


Sowing, division of the rhizome, cuttings


  • cut the stem at about 1 cm from the head
  • cut the leaves at about 2-3 cm from the center of the umbrella
  • place upside down in a glass of water
  • roots and new plants will start to form after about 1 week
  • the new plant can be repotted 1 or 2 months later
  • when the roots have started developing, you can repot it by adding soil in small quantities to the glass of water as it evaporates
  • thenrepot by tapping the whole thing out of the container. This way roots will not be stressed when repotting.

Sowing instructions:

  • sow in light soil
  • seeds are very small, sow at the surface and press gently down
  • water well
  • keep at 20-25 °C
  • germination: 2-3 weeks
  • it’s impossible to repot individual seedlings, they are too small and delicate. Repot in a bigger container when the plant has outgrown its current container.