Dwarf Egyptian Papyrus


I bought this at a church bazaar in Toronto about 10 days ago. It is about 2.5 feet tall. I am not sure of the soil type.
The 5 fronds/umbrellas were green when I bought the plant but now 3 of the 5 have become brown and crispy. The stems by the soil look suggestive of root rot.
I live in an east facing apartment with maybe 2-3 hours of direct morning sun daily in this season. The apartment is heated by radiator and in order have the plant get as much sun as possible it has to be next to the radiator.
I googled and according to recommendations I have placed a dish under the planter and trying to keep the dish full of water. The problem is the soil sucks up the water within minutes to an hour. My questions are:
1))should I prune the dry fronds?
2)Should I use a plant lamp for the winter?
3)Instead should I cut all the fronds off for the winter? (In the summer there are 6 hours of strong direct sunlight)
4)Should I really keep the plant keep the dish of water full continuously?
5)Are the stems by the soil in good shape?
6)Should I accept it’s not a good plant for my apartment?


Dwarf Eygptian Papyrus is native to Africa. Cyperus prolifer is it’s botanical name and it is a dwarf version of Cyperus papyrus. It is a water plant and will grow in both standing water and in boggy soil.  In Toronto, it is used at the edge of ponds and in patio containers and must be moved indoors to overwinter. It can also be used as a houseplant. As you purchased your plant at a Church bazaar, I expect that it has been transplanted from someone’s garden. It requires continually moist soil, part sun (4-6 hours) to full sun (6+ hours) and a room temperature of 16-18 degrees Celsius.  With that background, here are some answers to your questions:

  1. Yes – feel free to prune the dry fronds.
  2. A plant lamp is a good idea during the winter. It would not only increase the amount of light but also allow you to move the plant away from the radiator. Proximity to the radiator may not only be keeping the air temperature too high for but also causing the soil to dry more quickly.
  3. I would not cut off all the fronds as this eliminates the plants ability to photosynthesize. I wonder though if the plant may be going dormant as it would in areas where the plant can survive the winter season outdoors. If all the fronds dry up, you may want to keep watering to see if it eventually comes back. However, this means looking at a mostly bare pot for a period of time so may not be desirable.
  4. Keeping the plant in a dish of water will assist in keeping the soil continually moist. When grown outdoors, around a pond for example, the plant is growing in standing water. Try sticking your finger a few inches into the soil to test that the soil is consistently moist.
  5. While the bulk of the soil should be kept consistently moist, the crown of the plant should never be covered in water. If you are doing any watering from above, the stems may be remaining too wet, contributing to rot.
  6. You will have to decide if this is a good plant for the conditions you are able to provide in your apartment. I think there are some steps you can take to improve the situation for your plant. You’ve only had the plant for 10 days, so I expect it is still getting use to its new home.

If you’d like to read more about Dwarf Egyptian Papyrus, I’ve included links to two good articles below. Best of luck with your new plant.

NC State Extension – Cyperus prolifer

Missouri Botanical Garden – Cyperus papyrus