The umbrella plant is an all-around easy to grow and care for. It’s exactly what you need if you’re new to caring for houseplants and are eager to see quick and visible growth.
This long, luscious, green indoor houseplant will make for a beautiful addition to your home and patio. This guide will fill you in on everything that you need to know about how to maintain a happy and healthy umbrella plant.
The houseplant is also commonly known as umbrella grass, umbrella papyrus, umbrella sedge, or the umbrella palm, and its botanical name is cyperus alternifolius. Native to Madagascar, just like the dragon tree, this perennial sedge is part of the Cyperaceae family.
Its ‘umbrella’ name comes from its appearance. The leaflets that grow on top of the stems look like the spokes of an umbrella. This aquatic plant is perfect for those who tend to struggle with overwatering plants. It’s extremely unlikely to die from overwatering, as it thrives in boggy and moist conditions.
In suitable conditions, the cyperus alternifolius can reach up to 18 to 36 inches (46 – 91cm) in height, and a spread of 15 to 18 inches (38 – 46cm). Their thin, flat leaves grow around 6 to 10 inches (15 – 25cm) long.
You’ll enjoy watching your plant grow at a relatively fast speed. If you treat it right and care for it optimally, you can expect the cyperus alternifolius to grow 1 to 2 feet (30.5 – 61cm) each year.
This houseplant has an indefinite lifespan as it continually produces offsets that spread and grow; however, the individual plant survives for 2 to 5 years.
Are They Toxic for Cats and Dogs?
The umbrella plant is slightly toxic and will cause minor vomiting and diarrhea if ingested by a pet or even human. I highly doubt an adult will be walking around gnawing on this sedge’s leaves or stems but a child or pet might.
Keep it out the way of children and your pets. If the symptoms continue for a prolonged period of time, please seek medical advice or call your veterinarian.
The cyperus alternifolius, like all other houseplants, requires some TLC to flourish and prosper. Let’s delve into the precise care needs and environmental conditions for your umbrella plant to thrive and survive.
The cyperus alternifolius is a semi-aquatic plant that thrives in swamps and ponds, so it needs a high level of water saturation at all times, to maintain a lush and healthy look. The potting mixture should never dry out, it must always be moist, just like you would keep a Chinese evergreen plant‘s soil moist.
Ideally, you should water your houseplant every 2 to 3 days with tepid water. Lukewarm water is preferable as cold water will shock its tender root system. Make sure that you water the soil and roots, and not the entire plant itself.
The umbrella palm loves moist conditions, but it doesn’t enjoy sitting in excess water as this promotes disease. You should always empty the saucer so that its roots can breathe and receive oxygen.
Keep in mind that in the cooler autumn and winter months, you may need to water the umbrella papyrus less frequently.
The umbrella grass thrives in a moist and boggy environment. If your houseplant is grown in soil then the pot should have a drainage hole, to allow for excess water to flow out.
Quick Tip: Always empty out the saucer of water, to prevent disease and algae build-up.
Grooming and maintenance are done once a year and renders a few benefits. Trimming and pruning shouldn’t be done during the cool winter and autumn months. Trimming promotes growth, enhances your plant’s appearance, and rescues your luscious green plant from disease.
The umbrella papyrus grows relatively quickly, so the new growth sometimes overpowers the original planting location. Simply, trim this growth down. Any decaying roots, stems, or leaves should be trimmed not only to maintain the plant’s health but also appearance. How to trim your umbrella plant:
- Use your clean shears or pair of scissors and cut the stem down to 3 inches (7.6cm) above the potting mix. This will encourage new growth.
- If you notice any roots popping through the drainage hole, then remove the plant and cut back the roots. The great thing about this sedge is that the severe cutting of roots will not cause tremendous damage to the plant.
Top tip: When trimming, pruning, or cutting your plant for any reason, always clean your pruners/shears. All you need to do is wipe the blade with rubbing alcohol or a diluted bleach solution.
The cyperus alternifolius is a fast grower, which means that it needs to be repotted more frequently than most other houseplants. Typically, you should repot it once a year or when it becomes pot-bound. It’s best to transplant it before winter or autumn, during the springtime.
The umbrella sedge requires frequent watering. This means that over time the potting mix becomes disintegrated and loses its nutrients, so repotting with fresh, nutritious soil will greatly benefit your houseplant’s health. Here’s a quick and simple guide to repot your umbrella sedge.
- Water it a day before you plan on repotting your plant. This will give it plenty of time for the roots to be sufficiently hydrated.
- Choose a new pot that is 1 to 2 inches (2.5 – 5cm) larger than its current pot. Make sure that the container has a drainage hole.
- Fill the container one-third of the way with potting soil that has a high loam content.
- Take the current pot and hold the plant at the base while flipping it over, and knocking the bottom of the pot to loosen the soil.
- Gently remove any excess soil with your hands or by placing it under a stream of water.
- Quickly look at the root system and cut back any damaged roots.
- Place the rootball in the center of the new container, and add some more potting mix to cover the rootball. The rootball should be positioned 1 inch (2.5cm) below the pot’s rim.
- Use your fingers to gently firm the soil, and water the plant until it flows out the drainage hole.
- Position your newly potted houseplant in a bright, well-lit area where it’ll soak in plenty of sunshine.
Just like the century plant the cyperus alternifolius flourishes in full sun and does best in bright, well-lit rooms. It can survive in partial shade but may not grow as fast or flower as often.
In the summertime make sure that the soil doesn’t dry out and that the leaves don’t become scorched. You should keep an eye on your plant and adjust its position as necessary.
The soil should always be kept moist and immersed in water. It thrives in lightweight and fertile soil. The umbrella sedge prefers nutrient-rich, loamy, or clay potting soil with a pH soil range of 5.5 to 6.5.
Here’s a rich peaty soil mixture that you should try out: 2 parts peat moss, 1 part loam, and 1 part sand.
Feeding your cyperus alternifolius once a month during the spring and summertime will encourage growth and flowering. Be cautious to not overfeed your plant, so cease fertilizing it during the winter and autumn months. A balanced water-soluble fertilizer that’s diluted to half strength is optimal for this houseplant.
Pot Size and Type
The container’s width should be 1 to 2 inches (2.5 – 5cm) larger than the rootball’s diameter. Additionally, the pot must have a drainage hole, so that the plant doesn’t sit in excess water. A plastic container will do just fine, as long there’s a drainage hole.
The umbrella grass thrives in moist conditions, so avoid using a terracotta pot as this will absorb too much water.
This houseplant prospers in temperatures between 59 to 77°F (15 – 22°C). It cannot survive at a temperature below 50°F (10°C) for prolonged periods of time. You must also make sure that your plant isn’t exposed to extremely hot temperatures as its leaves will become scorched, and the soil will become too dry.
If you adequately water your cyperus alternifolius, it should do well in a household with an average level of humidity. The water and moisture retained in the roots will create a humidity level naturally around the plant.
If you notice that your home has a very low level of humidity, try misting your houseplant with lukewarm water, or place it around other houseplants to create a humid environment.
Outdoors vs. Indoors
The cyperus alternifolius is a tropical perennial so it’s only suitable to grow outdoors in USDA hardiness zones of 8 and 9. It can only tolerate sub-tropical and tropical regions, similar to that of the bromeliad.
If you live in a cool area, your plant will not survive outside especially during the winter. To grow your umbrella papyrus outdoors make sure that it receives an ample amount of sunshine, water and is planted in a humid environment within its optimal temperatures.
It usually blooms during the summertime at the tips of the stems. The cyperus alternifolius blooms small green or yellow, flat, and elongated flowers that grow at the center of the leaves.
They usually grow in a dense cluster of about 10 or 20. They’re long-lasting and will turn brown once they mature. If you follow the previous caring tips and guides, your umbrella papyrus will flower once a year.
You should keep the seeds produced in the flowers so that they can be planted and propagated later on.
There are a number of methods to grow and propagate an umbrella sedge. It can be propagated from cuttings, division, and seeds, and it can be grown in soil or water.
Propagating the cyperus alternifolius from cuttings is the most reliable way to grow more umbrella palms.
- Prepare a container with a drainage hole by filling it with a moist potting soil.
- Choose a healthy stalk and cut off the top of stem, leaving about 4 inches (10cm) of the stalk.
- Trim the leaves with a clean pair of scissors, so that it’s 2 inches (5cm) long.
- Plant the leaflet upside down by gently pushing it in the soil, and cover the top of the leaflet with some potting mixture.
- Find a sunny and warm area for the pot and expect new growth within about a month.
- Care for the cutting as you would a mature umbrella palm.
From Rootball Division
- Get out some new plastic containers with drainage holes, and fill them one-third of the way with moist potting mixture.
- Remove your plant by loosening the soil with a blunt knife. You can slide the knife around the edge of the container.
- Wash off the excess soil under a gentle stream of water or remove it with your hands.
- Use a clean blade to cut off any unhealthy roots, and look for natural places of division.
- Cut the rootball, and place the divisions in the moist potting mix, so that the rootball is 1 inch (2.5cm) below the pot’s rim.
- Position your new plant in a well-lit area where it’ll bask in direct sunlight, and care for it as you would a mature umbrella papyrus.
- Prepare a container with moist peat moss.
- Sprinkle the little seeds evenly over the container, and spray with tepid water.
- Place a clear plastic bag over the container.
- Put your container in a bright, sunny area, and always keep the soil moist.
- After about a month, once you’ve noticed seedlings and new growth, repot them.
- Care for these little seedlings as you would a mature umbrella sedge.
- Use a clean blade to cut off the top of a healthy stalk, leaving about 4 inches (10cm) of the stem.
- Remove any seed heads and make sure to trim the leaves slightly, so that they’re about 2 inches (5cm) long.
- Place the leaflets into a cup of room temperature water. The stem will be upside down and you should see it stick out of the cup or jar.
- Find a sunny, bright home for the cutting.
- A new stem is likely to grow in about 2 to 3 weeks’ time.
- Once you’ve noticed that new leaflets have sprouted and there’s a reasonable amount of root growth, you can cut off the new growth and repot it in soil.
From Rootball Division
- Get out some glass jars and fill them halfway with tepid water.
- Remove the plant by sliding a knife around the perimeter of the container to loosen the soil, and slide it out.
- Remove the excess soil with your hands or run a stream of water through the roots.
- Use a clean blade to cut back any damaged roots. Take a look at the rootball to locate some logical places for the division. The division should occur where the least number of roots will be cut.
- Cut the rootball with a clean pair of pruners or scissors, and place them in a glass of water.
- You should change the water every week to prevent disease and algae build-up.
- You’ll notice new growth in about 2 to 4 weeks, and then you can repot the division in soil.
Although it’s relatively simple to care for this houseplant, sometimes a few environmental factors will negatively impact your plant’s health and appearance. We’ll tell you what to look out for and how to revive your plant’s health.
Why Are the Plant’s Leaves Falling Off?
If you notice that your houseplant’s leaves are regularly dropping off, this is due to improper care. Please keep in mind that older leaves will naturally fall off, however, if you notice a large number of leaves dropping off, then you need to make some changes in your care routine.
Your plant may be underwatered, or placed in a low-lit area with extreme temperatures. Additionally, it may be experiencing a lack of humidity, or it’s being over- or underfed. If your umbrella papyrus is being underwatered, touch the soil and feel whether or not it’s dry.
If your potting mix is dry to touch, you must water it until the excess water drains out the bottom hole. Remember to water it every 2 to 3 days to ensure a moist and boggy environment for your umbrella papyrus. The cyperus alternifolius absolutely loves sunlight.
It needs full sunlight to thrive and bloom, so find a bright, well-lit room for your plant. Additionally, you should keep in mind that your plant is not withering in extreme temperatures. Make sure that your houseplant’s home is not above 77°F (22°C), but also not below 59°F (15°C).
Your region may be too dry for this houseplant, and if that’s the case then all you need to do is mist your plant with lukewarm water or place a humidifier around the plant.
If you fear that your plant is being overfed, all you need to do is flush out the fertilizer salts that have built up, and change your feeding schedule. Only fertilize your houseplant during spring and summertime with a balanced, diluted fertilizer.
Here’s a quick guide on flushing your plant: run a stream of tepid water through your container and potting mixture for 5 minutes, and then let the excess water drain out.
Why Are the Leaves Turning Yellow?
There are three potential reasons that the umbrella papyrus’s leaves are turning yellow; a lack of water, a cool environment, or a lack of sunlight. Always keep this in mind, your umbrella sedge prospers in a very moist and boggy environment. It needs frequent watering.
The potting mixture should always be moist, so water it every 2 to 3 days to maintain a suitable environment. The cyperus alternifolius is native to a tropical, warm environment.
It cannot withstand cool temperatures below 50°F (10°C) for a prolonged period of time. You may want to try to find a new home for your plant in a warmer area where it’ll receive more direct sunlight.
Why Are the Leaves Browning?
The browning of leaves is all about high temperatures and a lack of moisture. Unfortunately, your umbrella palm is trying to tell you that the potting mixture is too dry, the temperature is way too high, or it’s receiving too much direct sunlight. This sedge enjoys a moist potting mix.
If your soil is too dry, simply water it more frequently and do it until the water flows out through the drainage hole. The umbrella grass cannot survive in temperatures above 77°F (22°C). It will cause the soil to become too dry and the leaves may burn.
If you live in a hot region, you may want to move your houseplant to a partially shady area during the summer months. The leaves will become scorched and burnt if it receives too much direct sunlight.
The umbrella plant is an easy-to-care-for houseplant that really only requires frequent watering, direct sunshine, and a moist environment.
If you give this plant everything it needs, it’ll produce new offsets and bloom yearly. It’s an exciting houseplant for a beginner as its speedy growth is visible and overwatering is not a real problem.