Umbrella Palm

Cyperus alternifolius, the umbrella papyrus, umbrella sedge or umbrella palm, is a grass-like plant in the very large genus Cyperus of the sedge family Cyperaceae. The plant is native to West Africa, Madagascar and the Arabian Peninsula, but widely distributed throughout the world.

They have the appearance of the spokes of an umbrella. The bracts are sometimes referred to as leaves. The true leaves on this plant clasp the tall stem in a manner so that they are hard to distinguish from the stem. The leaves of the umbrella plant are narrow and flattened. All the leaves are arranged atop triangular stems. It is simple to grow, but it requires plenty of water and dew.

Table of Contents


4 - 6 feet

Width-Circumference (Avg)

2 - 3 feet

Approximate pH

5.5 - 6.5

Planting Umbrella Palm

Umbrella palm can be planted via seed and propagated via root division and cuttings. If using seeds, select a warm, shaded area for your pots. Ideally, the pots should be placed in a tray with a few inches of water to ensure that the soil remains wet. The seeds will struggle to germinate if the soil is allowed to dry out. Once seedlings have grown to a manageable size, they can be transplanted to their own pots or re-arranged so that a few inches of soil separate them from one another.

Using cuttings may be a more efficient means of enlarging your plant populations. One way of using cuttings is by removing a whole section of stem with leaves on top. The cutting should be around 4 inches (10 cm) long. This water propagation method involves removing half the number of bracts and placing the cutting upside down in a jar or tub of clean water. Over time, the remaining bracts will produce new shoots and roots. When large enough, these can be separated from the main cutting and planted into their own pots. Make sure to keep your propagation area well-lit to encourage the growth of new tissues.

Care for Umbrella Palm

Umbrella palm is a low-maintenance plant. It is generally undemanding of resources, apart from well-maintained moist soil, but may benefit from periodic fertilization. Application of fertilizer should be done during its growth period, spring to summer, and should be limited to once a month. Pots that are submerged in your pond need not be fertilized as pond water nutrients can enrich the soil.

Maintain your plant’s appearance by removing any decaying parts and overgrown roots. The stems tend to crowd out pots, so you may wish to divide your plant or repot it into larger pots prior to overcrowding. You should also do so once the soil has become root-bound.

Keep an eye out for biofilm growth or dropped bracts in your pot, especially as these can decompose and attract more bacteria in a moist microenvironment. Standing water in pots should be replaced every now and then, otherwise it may attract a host of insects and eventually serve as home to larvae. Lastly, regularly check foliage and stems for spider mites, which tend to favor this species. Manually remove these from the plant or use neem oil and organic insecticides to keep them away.

Wintering Umbrella Palm

C. alternifolius is not a cold-hardy plant and may have to be brought indoors for the duration of winter. It may survive through cold spells that dip to 10˚C (50˚F), permitted there are no occurrences of frosts, but may be unable to recover through long bouts of cold temperatures. Bracts are likely to turn brown when exposed to frost. The soil should still be kept wet even when the plant is indoors; 2 inches (5 cm) of standing water should do. Withhold fertilizer through winter.

If you live in a northern temperate zone, it is advisable to keep your umbrella palms in easily movable pots. This will ease relocation to a warm indoor environment towards the end of each year. Once temperatures have begun to rise in spring, you can return your plant outdoors.

Propagating Umbrella Palm

  • Propagation of an umbrella papyrus is done in a number of ways – through seeds, division, and cuttings.

  • If propagating through seeds, simply sow them in wet soil.

  • Make sure to water regularly, and the seedlings will start to appear within a few weeks.

  • Another method to propagate the cyperus plants is to cut the clumps into sections using a sharp knife and plant them separately.

  • Propagation through cuttings is considered the most efficient and reliable method, and there are several methods of doing it.

  • The simplest way is to remove a whole stem of the plant and cut it, using a pair of sharp scissors, to around 4” inches in length.

  • Now, cut the leaflets to about half and place the cutting, upside down, in small jars filled with water.

  • The submerged leaflets will form a new stem within a few weeks.

  • As the new plant stem grows out of the water surface, it will develop roots as well as new leaflets.

  • When the new growth stem has developed a reasonable set of roots, take the cutting out of the water and remove the newly formed stem from the old one and plant it into a pot filled with potting compost.

  • Make sure to water the newly potted plant regularly, and it will grow to a substantial size within a few months.

  • The plant also spreads through self-seeding under optimum growing conditions.

  • If things are too dark it will tell you by producing very few new shoots.

Umbrella Pest or Diseases

The greatest concern for the umbrella papyrus is spider mite. However, they are easily controlled by spraying the plant with neem oil insecticide.


  • It is used as an ornamental plant worldwide. It is planted in gardens in the ground, pots, in ponds, and as a house plant.

  • Cyperus is one of the most widely cultivated landscape plants grown as a background plant, accent plant, or incorporated into a water feature. This garden plant loves moist soil works great in water gardens with partial shade. It’s suggested to use it as a water plant.

  • The leaves of the umbrella papyrus plant are also reduced to long sheaths.

  • It can be used as a filter for soils, known as phytoremediation, where plants have the ability to extract and remove pollutants from soils, Cyperus alternifolius can accumulate copper, manganese from the surrounding soil.

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