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Papyrus is an easy-to-grow water plant with a rich, long history. Native to areas of Africa, the plant has been used for thousands of years to make a paperlike material. But papyrus is also loved in gardens.
Papyrus sends out grassy sprays of leaves that jut out from the stems like a fireworks display. The leafy clusters may form plantlets that you can separate and grown individually. Grow papyrus in a weighted pot so that the stems rise above the water surface in a pond, or grow it in moist soil at water's edge.
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Because it thrives in wet soil, you can enjoy papyrus in ponds, bogs, and containers where it adds height. Many common water garden plants are relatively low growing, so papyrus makes a dramatic focal point—both for its height and texture.
Papyrus' texture works well with practically anything—the big, bold texture of canna, the fine, delicate look of parrot's feather, or dramatic lotus. It's also stunning when planted by itself in a single large pot.
Papyrus is delightfully versatile. You can plant it in standing water and allow it to rise majestically from pools and ponds. Or you can plant it in wet soil, either at the edge of a water garden or someplace that stays consistently moist, such as beneath a leaky spigot.
Papyrus does best with afternoon shade and morning sun, but tolerates full, all-day sun as long as it's never allowed to dry out.
It typically doesn't require fertilizing to do well, but if you grow papyrus in a container by itself or a similarly closed ecosystem, it will benefit from a water-garden fertilizer. Look for one at your local garden center and follow directions carefully.
Papyrus is a tender plant usually treated as an annual in Northern regions, but it can be grown as a houseplant or overwintered indoors if you have a bright spot. Simply bring it inside before frost and keep it moist or wet until you can move it back outdoors in spring.
Though papyrus has been grown for thousands of years, there aren't many varieties available or new innovations.