Cyperus Umbrella Houseplants: Growing Information And Care For An Umbrella Plant

Cyperus Umbrella Houseplants: Growing Information And Care For An Umbrella Plant

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By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Cyperus (Cyperus alternifolius) is the plant to grow if you never quite get it right when you water your plants, as it requires a constant moisture at the roots and cannot be over watered. The tall stems have umbrellas of radiating bracts that look like leaves (the true leaves clasp the stem so closely you can hardly see them), giving the plant an oriental appearance.

Cyperus Umbrella Plants

The umbrella plant is a sedge and a member of the ancient Papyrus family. Cyperus umbrella plants are in a family of over 600 grass-like plants, most of which are native to the east coast of Africa and tropical zones. As such, the plant is not hardy and can only tolerate outdoor living in the tropical to sub-tropical zones of the United States. Umbrella houseplants will need moist, warm conditions such as those around an indoor pond.

Umbrella plants are native to the swamps of Madagascar. The riparian plants thrive in boggy conditions or even with roots fully submerged in water. The name for this plant comes from the arrangement of the leaves at the ends of the stems. The slender, rigid, serrated leaves are arranged in a ray around a central core, much like the spikes of an umbrella.

In ideal conditions, this central area produces a tiny cluster of florets. There is no special umbrella plant care necessary for outdoor plants. As long as the plant is moist and warm in slightly acidic soil, it will thrive. Prune off dead stems as necessary and fertilize annually with a diluted liquid plant food.

Growing Cyperus Houseplants

Cyperus umbrella plants are best suited to a moist, warm outdoor environment, but are adaptable to the home. If you are a gardener in zones below USDA hardiness zone 8, you can grow this fascinating plant inside. They can grow up to 4 feet (1 m.) tall outside, but umbrella houseplants generally are half that size.

Because this plant is an aquatic species, it needs to have the roots as wet as possible. In fact, leaf tips become brown if the roots become even slightly dry. One way to achieve this is to put the potted plant inside another pot with water at the root level. Use a planting mix rich in peat to provide an acidic medium. A mix comprised of two parts peat, one part loam, and one part sand provides a perfect housing for the aquatic roots. You can put small plants in a terrarium.

Umbrella Plant Care

Care for an umbrella plant indoors follows that of outdoor plants but is also similar to any tropical houseplant. The main concern about Cyperus houseplants is the moisture level and consistency. The umbrella houseplants must never be allowed to dry out.

Apply a half dilution of fertilizer once per month during the growing season and suspend in winter. Watch for splashing on the leaves, as fungal diseases can spread in this manner.

Propagating this plant is easy. Just take a 4 to 6 inch (10-15 cm.) cutting and suspend it upside down in water. Roots will emerge and you can place the new plant in soil.

Divide your houseplant every three years. Remove the plant from the pot and cut out the outside growth. Save and pot up this newer growth and discard the old central older plant.

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Schefflera Plant Care Indoors | Growing Umbrella Plant

Growing Umbrella Plant Indoors is a great idea, thanks to its lush glossy foliage and low maintenance nature. It’s commonly called the ‘Umbrella Tree’ because of the elongated leaves that resemble an umbrella!

It’s an ideal plant to place in an empty and bright spot of your home or office. The plant also acts as an air purifier, removing toxins from the indoor air. These qualities make it worthy enough to grow if you know what’s required when it comes to Schefflera Plant Care Indoors!

Check out our article on growing Areca Palm indoors here

Must-read Care and Maintenance Tips for Umbrella Plant

The umbrella plant is one of the most common houseplant you will find that is quite easy to maintain. Taking the following measures will ensure that your plant continues to liven up your home.

The umbrella plant is one of the most common houseplant you will find that is quite easy to maintain. Taking the following measures will ensure that your plant continues to liven up your home.

Houseplants add a lively atmosphere to an otherwise dull interior. The umbrella plant is often preferred as a houseplant, as it brightens up a home with its rich evergreen foliage, and is relatively easy to maintain.

To know more about how to take care of these plants, you should first know that umbrella plant is a name often used to refer to various unrelated species of houseplants. The plants that share the same common name are:

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Cyperus Alternifolius (Umbrella Papyrus)
The Cyperus Alternifolius is a common houseplant which is a native of Madagascar. This grass-like plant is often grown around ponds and pools. It has symmetrically arranged leaves atop long slender stems, which can add an ornamental touch to your garden. These plants can grow to a height of around 3 feet.


  • If you want to plant this variety of umbrella plant, you should make sure that they get ample moisture, as they are originally tropical plants. In fact, you can let them soak in water too, as they are one of those rare houseplants that love water.
  • They grow best under full or partly-shady sunlight and a humid environment.
  • For propagating, you can sow the seeds or place cuttings of the plant with its leafy top in wet soil. New growth is seen within a week.
  • Pruning is very important, as these tend to grow and spread very fast. Also, the dry tips of the leaves turn brown, making it unsightly.
  • Although they are not affected much by pests, spider mites are of great concern. This can be easily tackled by spraying the plant with some insecticide. You can also use some fertilizer every other month for its successful growth.

Schefflera Arboricola (Umbrella Tree)
This plant is also known as the Dwarf Umbrella tree. These shrubs are originally from the sub-tropical region of Taiwan. They can grow to a height of around 6 feet, and have two variants, green or variegated. In winter, they sport small bright orange berries. However, these shrubs are more appreciated as bonsai.


  • They grow well in warm and humid climate, and are best for outdoor planting. But if you want to keep them as indoor plants, you can put them on top of a tray of pebbles and water. The evaporating water will create a humid atmosphere for the plant. This plant is best suited for temperatures ranging between 60 – 75° F.
  • They grow best in partial light, as direct sunlight will make them droopy, eventually drying them out.
  • Watering is essential, as too little or too much water can wither them. Make sure that they never sit in water, or the leaves will turn yellow, and eventually fall off.
  • If the plant is potted, then you need to make sure that there is proper drainage for the excess water.
  • In spring and summer, you can water the plants frequently, while in winter, this can be cut back a bit. However, you can mist them with distilled water every once in a while, if the climate is dry.
  • Every year, you can give it a half-soluble water fertilizer to ensure its healthy growth. The schefflera are not always bothered by pests, but in case it gets infected by spider mites or mealy bugs, you can wash the leaves with an insecticide soap.

Darmera Peltata (Indian Rhubarb)
The Darmera Peltata is a dramatic looking perennial. They have large rounded leaves with frilly edges atop slender naked stems. Clumps of pretty pink flowers bloom in spring. They can grow up to around 5 feet in height, and their enormous leaves can spread up to 3 feet wide. These plants are preferable only if you want to use them for decorating the waterside or bordering areas. There is a dwarf version of it called the ‘nana’, which is 30 cm in height, suitable for small outdoor gardening.


  • The Darmera Peltata does not need much attention, and is pretty easy to grow. They require full shade and thrive in boggy conditions.
  • Unlike the other umbrella plants, these plants prefer cool climate, rather than hot and humid surroundings. They can withstand temperatures down to even 5° F or -15° C.
  • Although they are usually found in wet lands, they can survive even in sandy clay (but moist), and loamy soil.
  • Propagation can be done by sowing the seeds in spring, and also by the cuttings off the rhizomes from which new leaves arise.
  • These plants hardly have any pest or disease issues, therefore they are excellent for covering up an unsightly spot in your garden.

The above were some of the most common umbrella plants that are grown as houseplants. There are two more species under this common name, however, they are hardly grown as houseplants.

Podophyllum Peltatum (American May Apple)

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These plants are herbaceous perennials, native to eastern North America. Also known as the ‘hogapple’ or ‘devil’s apple’, these plants can grow up to around 3 feet in height. They are known for their medicinal properties, though parts of them are highly toxic. The lemony fruits are edible when ripe. They are low-maintenance, and thrive in partial shade and moist soil.

Eriogonum Longifolium var. Harperi (Harper’s Umbrella Plant or Harper’s Buckwheat)

This plant is only found in the dry shale areas of Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky. It blooms once in 4 years, and then dries up. The state of Tennessee has listed it as an endangered species, and they are almost on the verge of extinction in Kentucky. However, very little is known about these plants.

One thing to keep in mind about the umbrella plant is that it is poisonous if eaten, so any trimmings should be kept away from children or pets. Apart from that shortcoming, the umbrella plant is proven to be relatively low-maintenance, therefore with minimum care it will continue to add life to your home and garden.

How much water does an umbrella plant need?

When it comes to watering your umbrella plant, I’ll get on my “don’t overwater!” houseplant high horse again. The only tricky thing about this guy is that, while it likes soil a bit on the moist side, it doesn’t like soggy soil. Finding that balance can be challenging and does depend a lot on the time of year and temperature conditions (i.e., how quickly the soil dries out).

Generally a good rule of thumb is to water when the top inch of soil dries out, unlike a lot of slightly more tolerant houseplants that can stand to have their top few inches of soil dry out. If you forget to water your umbrella plant and the soil dries out quickly, it will be quick to forgive and forget. But don’t make a habit of it! It might start showing some wear and tear. You can cut your watering way down—typically about in half—in the winter.

6 Reasons Why Your Umbrella Plant Is Drooping

I’m going to cover each of the causes of a drooping Umbrella Plant (Schefflera arboricola) in turn, explaining the symptoms to look for and how to fix and prevent each issue. Let’s get started.


By far the most common cause of an Umbrella Plant drooping is overwatering. When I say overwatering, what I really mean is any conditions that cause the soil to remain wet or poorly aerated for a long time.

This will cause the roots to suffer, become diseased, and die. Without functioning roots, your plant will be unable to absorb the water and nutrients it needs to survive and will start to droop dramatically.

Here are the symptoms to look for that might indicate that overwatering is the cause of your Umbrella Plant drooping

  • Your plant is wilting but the soil feels wet.
  • The lower leaves may be starting to turn yellow. Although other things can cause yellow leaves, it is a very common sign of overwatering.
  • You may see brown tips on the leaves, particularly younger leaves. Unlike other causes of brown leaf tips, the leaves will be limp and they may show yellow mottling.
  • There may be an offensive smell coming from the soil. This is a sign of root rot.
  • You may also see leaves or branches dropping. I’ve written a separate article on leaf drop in Schefflera plants.

If this sounds like what is happening with your plant, let’s now think about what factors could have caused the problem. It’s not always just as simple as watering too often.

  • Your plant is in low light conditions. Plants in low light grow more slowly and use less water, making overwatering problems much more likely.
  • You have been watering on a schedule. Make sure that the top few inches of soil feel dry before watering your Umbrella plant, rather than watering on a set schedule.
  • The plant pot has few or no drainage holes. Drainage holes are essential to let the excess water drain out of the soil and away from the roots after watering, to reduce the risk of root rot.
  • You sometimes forget to empty the drip tray or outer decorative pot after watering. Leaving the bottom of the pot sitting in water will submerge the roots, preventing root aeration. It won’t take long for root rot to set in.
  • The soil drains poorly. Poorly draining soil dramatically increases the risk of root rot, and even if you provide good care, can result in an unhappy plant that fails to thrive. Make sure to use a well-draining potting mix, and ideally add some coarse sand, perlite, or gravel to the mix to improve drainage. Learn more about making or buying a good potting mix here.
  • Your plant is in a pot that is too large. If you have a small plant in a large pot, the soil will take a very long time to dry out after watering. Match plant and pot size closely so your plant won’t be left sitting for weeks in a mass of soggy soil.
  • You forget to reduce watering in winter when water use is lower due to slower growth and reduced evaporation.

Once root rot sets in, its only a matter of time before your Umbrella Plant starts drooping.

What To Do If Your Umbrella Plant Is Drooping Due To Overwatering

If your plant is drooping due to overwatering, you need to take immediate action to save your plant.

  • Slide your Umbrella Plant out of the pot and remove excess soil so that you can inspect the roots. Rotten roots will be black/brown, feel mushy, and will smell bad.
  • Using sharp, sterile pruning shears, remove any unhealthy roots. If you have to remove more than half of the roots, consider pruning the foliage back so that the remaining healthy roots can support the plant’s needs.
  • I normally wash the remaining soil from the healthy roots, in case any of the pathogens that caused the root rot remains in the potting mix.
  • Choose a new, clean pot that is only just big enough for the plant. Make sure it has plenty of drainage holes.
  • Use fresh potting mix – 2/3 commercial potting mix and 1/3 coarse sand or perlite is a good option.
  • Gently repot your plant, taking care not to compact the new soil excessively.
  • Water your Umbrella Plant lightly and place in bright, indirect light.

You will need to provide great care conditions for the next while to help your Umbrella Plant recover. It will take a few months to grow healthy new roots, and this will then be followed by new leaves.

Cold Stress

Shefflera arboricola is best grown in temperatures of 65-90°F (18-32°C), but can tolerate temperatures of as low as 35°F (2°C). Even a short period of time below this can cause significant damage to your plant, and it will likely droop and die back.

Obviously, this is unlikely to be an issue indoors, but your plant could be exposed to low temperatures on the journey from the grower to the store, or on the way to your home.

In addition, if you grow your Umbrella Tree outside, or put your plant outside over the summer and forget to bring it inside as the cool nights of winter approach, it could be exposed to low temperatures.

Interestingly, even if your Umbrella Tree dies or droops badly due to cold stress, the roots are much more hardy, and the plant can recover or grow again even if the foliage dies back completely.

Transplant Shock

If you repot an Umbrella Plant that is already sickly or stressed, it can make the situation worse. Sometimes the roots will cease functioning temporarily and this will result in your Umbrella Plant drooping really badly.

Many plant won’t survive transplant, shock, but as Umbrella Plants are a bit more resilient than many houseplants, you can usually nurse your plant back to health with good care.

It is generally best to avoid repotting a stressed plant unless failure to repot is likely to result in the death of the plant anyway. If you do repot, try not to disturb the roots unless necessary, and make sure to provide moderate, consistent conditions after repotting.


This might seem obvious, but underwatering is also a very common cause of an Umbrella Tree drooping. If you struggle to remember to water your Umbrella Tree, you may see it wilting sadly, and discover the soil is as dry as dust. The solution is simple, but prevention can be more tricky as we go about our busy lives.

  • Try to pick a time of the day or the week to check your houseplants. Once it becomes a habit it will be much harder to forget to give your plants a quick check.
  • Place your plants somewhere you will see them on a regular basis. You are more likely to remember to check and water them if you can see them.
  • Consider using a self-watering pot, so they can go a lot longer without needing attention.

In addition to remembering to water your plants, make sure you are giving your Umbrella Plant a good drink when you do water it. Sometimes when you water a plant that has dry soil, the water will run through the pot quickly without really soaking the soil.

Add a little water at a time to give the soil plenty of time to absorb the water. Alternatively, place the pot in a sink filled with a few inches of water and let the soil soak up water from the bottom.

Another thing to bear in mind is that rootbound plants are much more likely to show signs of underwatering. As the pot will be full of more roots than soil, the plant will use any available water very quickly. It can also be hard for water to get into the tightly coiled rootball.

My rootbound Umbrella Plant


A range of pests can attack your plant, and a bad infestation can result in your Umbrella Plant drooping. Mealybugs, thrips, scale, and spider mites are the most common offenders. All these bugs will feed on your plant, particularly on the juices within the stems and leaves.

This will cause significant water loss and stress, which will result in your Umbrella Plant drooping. It’s important to check your plant on a regular basis for any signs of pests and deal with them promptly. A few bugs will rarely cause a major problem, but a bad infestation could kill your plant.

If you discover pests on your Umbrella Plant, follow these steps

  • Separate the affected plant from any other houseplants, to prevent the bugs from spreading.
  • Manually remove as many of the pests as possible. You can use a damp cloth, or soak the plant gently with a hose or showerhead to dislodge as many as possible.
  • Spray your plant with either neem oil, horticultural soap, or isopropyl alcohol. Test a small area of the plant to ensure your plant can tolerate this. None of these treatments use harmful chemicals and are safe to use in a home with pets or children.
  • Re-treat your Umbrella Plant on a weekly basis until you are confident that there are no more pests. At this point, you can move your plant back to its normal spot.
  • Read my guide to identifying, treating, and preventing common houseplant pests to learn more.


When it comes to fertilizing plants, you’re much more likely to cause a problem by adding too much, rather than too little. As with so many things, whilst a little can be great for the health of your plant, too much can be toxic.

The first signs of overfertilizing are usually brown patches, edges, or tips on the leaves. In addition, you may see fertilizer salt deposits accumulating in the soil.

Applying too much over time, or a super strength dose on one occasion can damage the roots and prevent them from working. This leads to the plant being unable to absord the essential water and nutrients that it needs to survive and thrive. All this will result in your Umbrella Plant drooping.

If you think you may have been feeding your Umbrella Plant too much or too often, you have two options to fix your plant.

Option 1 – Flush the soil with copious quantities of water to help rinse excess fertilizer salts out of the soil. It’s a good practice to routinely flush the soil of most houseplants every few months to prevent the build-up of fertilizer salts over time.

Option 2 – If your plant is really struggling, you can repot it in fresh soil. This is a high-risk strategy, as it may cause transplant shock. However, if disaster has struck, it may be the best choice to give your plant a shot at survival.

Landscape Uses

Although you don't have to treat papyrus as an aquatic plant (for example, you could grow it in a container garden for the patio, as long as you water enough), it's most valued as a good wet-area plant. You can use it in rain gardens, and it makes for a marvelous addition to a water feature. But this is a marginal plant (like marsh marigold), not a deep-water plant, so watch out that you don't drown it. It's all right to submerge the root ball, but not the crown.

Consequently, people who want to grow papyrus plants in a water garden typically place them right in their pots. You may have to play around with the level to get it just right. This is easily accomplished by building up bases under your pots to elevate them so that the crowns of the plants aren't submerged. A tall papyrus in such a pot can become top-heavy, so consider weighting down the container with stones.

Papyrus plant works well as the focal point of an arrangement of various aquatic plants, with shorter plants surrounding it. While its flowers aren't showy, it could serve as the poster child for so-called "architectural plants," thanks to the height it achieves, the sleekness of its leafless stalk, and the bold statement made by its fascinating umbels.

While papyrus plants are perennials in warm climates, in the North, many gardeners use them as if they were annuals. Ambitious gardeners who own greenhouses sometimes overwinter them indoors in a greenhouse or sunroom, but the average person may find it easier to replace plants yearly.

Watch the video: Growing UMBRELLA PAPYRUS collected = Cyperus Alternifolius = Umbrella Palm