It’s time to bring papyrus plant inside

I have a plant I planted in a pot that I need help identifying. It grows like a reed with dark green stems that are hollow in the middle. The stems are kind of three sided and topped with a thick cluster of green “threads” that look like a mop. Should this be replanted outside or in a pond?

— Sheila

What you have is a papyrus (cyperus papyrus). This plant has been used for thousands of years as a source of paper — it’s where “papyrus scrolls” come from — as well as boats and food. The plant is native to North Africa and naturally grows in wet, marshy areas in subtropical areas of the world, though it can grow in rich soil with regular watering.

Here in western Colorado it’s used as either a house plant or as an annual outdoors. It’s considered a perennial in warm winter climates like Southern California or the Deep South, but around here it gets too cold for the plant over the winter and will die if unprotected.

If you want to bring it inside, find a spot with tons of bright light (this is important!) that won’t get below 60 or 65 degrees (though I’ve heard of people saying that it isn’t all that sensitive to temperature and will tolerate 50 degrees) and be sure to water it regularly.

You really want to pay attention to the watering. If they dry out even a little they’ll start to brown and dry up. Since they’re marsh plants people even put them in buckets of water successfully. One last caution is that the plant can be a bit sensitive to salts in the water and since our water here can be a bit “hard” the safest way to go is to use distilled water with them.

 

I have two tropical house plants that I’ve had since we were married (23 years). I would like to take cuttings from them and start one for each of our kids but don’t know how. Could you help?

— Curt

 

The answer to your question really depends on the specific type of houseplant you have. Most of them can be propagated by softwood cuttings. We have an information sheet here at the nursery that talks about how to do it. Stop by when you get a chance and we’ll be happy to give you one. Hopefully that will give you the information you need.

Now there are a few plants (especially rubber plants of the genus ficus and schefflera) that are best propagated by a different method. I like to air layer this type of plant. What you do is choose a shoot tip you’d like to root to form another plant. Don’t cut it off though! Strip a half-inch-wide piece of bark from around the stem. You want to remove all of the bark down to the harder wood at the core of the stem. Once you’ve done that, pack around that band with a handful or two of MOIST sphagnum moss (not peat moss). Make sure that the wound is well covered by the moist moss, then wrap the moss with some aluminum foil, crimping it tightly. You don’t want gaps or holes where water can dry out quickly.

You then need to monitor the moss, making sure that it stays moist. When the moss starts to dry out, moisten it again. Don’t pull the moss off — wet it in place around the stem. After two to four months you should see roots growing in the moss. At that point, cut the stem off just below the moss and plant your new plant in its own pot.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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