How to Plant & Grow Dwarf Papyrus (Cyperus haspan)

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how to plant dwarf papyrus in ponds
Dwarf papyrus has vibrant green, grass-like leaves that fan out almost like small palm fronds.

Cyperus haspan, commonly known as sharp edge sedge or dwarf papyrus, is a beautiful sedge plant that can grow very well in small backyard ponds or container gardens. It is almost grass-like in appearance, with very slim and delicate leaves. It grows tufted foliage that has a globular shaped display, somewhat comparable in appearance to a green and yellow colored firework burst! Dwarf papyrus belongs to the sedge family, Cyperaceae, and the genus Cyperus, which consists of approximately 700 species of flat sedges.

Dwarf papyrus is best suited to grow in moist, open habitats in mild climates. It is a native species in the Southeastern United States, the West Indies, Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Old World. Within its native range, C. haspan is most commonly found growing in tidal marshes, ditches, and low lying fields within wetland habitat.

If you decide to plant an ornamental dwarf papyrus plant in your pond, then you will also be doing the environment a wonderful service! These plants have the ability to sufficiently clean up the area they are growing in, which helps to maintain healthy soils and improve the quality of the water. Dwarf papyrus plants contribute greatly to the overall health and balance of the ecosystem in which they live.

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Dwarf Papyrus Fact Sheet:
Herbaceous Aquatic Perennial
USDA 4 – 9
Full sun to partial shade
White, pink
June – October (Summer to Fall)
Height 30 – 91 cm (12 – 36 in)
7.5 – 13 cm (3 – 5in)
pH 7.0 – 8.0

Dwarf Papyrus Growth, Hardiness & Climate

dwarf papyrus cyperus haspan growing on the edge of a pond
Dwarf cyprus grows fairly fast, but should only grow to a max of 1.5 feet tall. Photo by No machine-readable author provided. Valérie75 assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 3.0

As the common name suggests, Cyperus haspan is a dwarf variety of the giant papyrus (Cyperus papyrus), and is best suited to grow in smaller ponds or gardens. If you have a larger sized pond that you are looking to adorn, you might want to check out the larger (but still dwarf) variety, the giant dwarf papyrus (Cyperus percamenthus) which provides the same aesthetic but is better suited for deeper water and larger areas as it grows to up to 3 feet in height as opposed to just 1.5 feet. If your pond or garden area is on the smaller size, then the dwarf papyrus may be just the right plant to add to your space!

C. haspan grows best in full sun exposure or partial shade, and thrives in very moist soil environments. That being said, you can still enjoy having a dwarf papyrus plant if you live in more arid conditions. If given enough water, the dwarf papyrus will still be able to flourish.

Dwarf papyrus is a hardy enough plant to grow outdoors in mild climates, but it is likely to perish if winter temperatures are consistently dropping below freezing. If you plan on growing a dwarf papyrus plant in your pond or garden and you live in a colder climate, then it is important to grow it in a container that can be brought indoors during the wintertime.

How to Plant Dwarf Papyrus In Ponds

how to plant dwarf papyrus cyperus haspan in ponds
Dwarf papyrus does best when planted in a couple inches of water, or in rich, saturated soils. Photo by CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

The dwarf papyrus is a wonderfully versatile plant that can be grown in water or moist soil, inside of your home or out in your pond or garden! For optimal growth, they should be planted in loam or clay soil with a couple of inches of standing water. They are very low-maintenance and fairly easy to care for!

When you’re starting out, you can grow your dwarf papyrus plant from seed or by division. Planting C. haspan from seed can be a little more difficult, and germination is a slow process. It may take over a month for your plant to sprout up from seed. An easier method of planting dwarf papyrus involves division propagation using an already mature individual.

Dwarf papyrus needs to be planted by its rhizomes, in a pot containing very moist soil. After you plant your dwarf papyrus and it begins to grow roots and shoots, you can transport it into your backyard pond, or wherever else you would like it to grow! If you decide to care for this plant on your patio or inside of your house, it is important to remain mindful of its significant water needs.

If you are interested in using the division method, you can start a new plant using the tip of a mature stem. All you need to do is cut off the top 3-4” of the stem, and place it upside down in a container of very moist soil or standing water. In a few weeks, you will notice a new dwarf papyrus plant growing its own roots and shoots! To help ensure rooting takes place, you can dip the cut end into some rooting hormone powder and then plant it.

A dwarf papyrus plant growing in a pond or marshy environment will propagate very quickly and easily. If one of its florets simply touches the water, it will root and begin growing a new plant. In order to keep your dwarf papyrus under control, you can plant it in a pot prior to placing it into a natural setting like a pond. This is especially advisable if you live in an area where dwarf papyrus is considered invasive.

How to Care For Dwarf Papyrus

Due to its practical and manageable size, many people may choose to grow dwarf papyrus on their deck or patio rather than in a pond ecosystem. The good news is, C. haspan can be grown successfully in a tub planter, pot, or even a kettle. If you take this route, it is important to remember that dwarf papyrus has high water demands, and that its roots must always have access to an inch or more of water.

Dwarf papyrus does not have any significant pests associated with it, and the only disease known to affect it is rust fungus. Rust fungus will cause some discoloration to the foliage of the dwarf papyrus, and while it isn’t good for the plant by any means, it rarely results in the death of a plant. To minimize the effects of rust fungus, you can observe your plant to remove and dispose of any visibly damaged parts. There are also fungicides that you can buy and apply to your C. haspan plants to help with the fungus.

Pruning your dwarf papyrus is only required if a stem breaks, but providing your plants with natural fertilizer in the springtime will promote stronger and healthier stem growth to make breakage less likely. Keep in mind that using fertilizer in or near a pond can be detrimental to water quality and the overall health of the pond – if you have fish or wildlife in your pond, they should naturally produce enough nutrients via waste to help feed dwarf papyrus without fertilizers being necessary.

How to Winter Dwarf Papyrus

Overwintering your dwarf papyrus is a pretty simple and painless process. If you live in a mild climate where winters do not typically remain below freezing for prolonged periods of time, then your dwarf papyrus can be left to its own devices.

In colder climates, you can care for your plant through the winter by placing it into a container that has a drainage hole. Then, put this container inside of a larger container that has no holes. Fill this bottom container with water. Check on the water level regularly to make sure there is always 1-2”. Once winter is over, your plant can be moved back into your pond or garden.

Is Dwarf Papyrus Toxic, Poisonous or Invasive?

Dwarf papyrus is not known to have any toxic traits, so it is safe to grow even if you have children, pets, or livestock at your home.

C. haspan is considered invasive if it’s growing outside of its native range of Africa, and if conditions permit, it has the ability to spread like fire! If you want to have a solid handle on your dwarf papyrus, and need to prevent it from growing out of control, then using containers within your pond will help you to prevent any undesired new plants from sprouting.

Is Dwarf Papyrus Edible? Will Fish Eat it?

While there is little information available regarding its edibility for fish, the dead and decaying plant matter of papyrus plants near the base does provide nutrients for many aquatic invertebrates. So while fish may or may not directly feed on the plant matter, C. haspan does at the very least have an indirect positive effect on pond-dwelling fish like koi and goldfish by feeding insects that your fish can in turn feed on.

Papyrus is an edible plant for humans, and people utilized it for food readily in ancient Egypt and other Mediterranean cultures. The tubers can be roasted and eaten, and the starchy rhizomes can be consumed raw or cooked. The leafy parts of C. haspan can also be used to feed livestock.

Where to Buy Dwarf Papyrus & Seeds? (UK & US)

As dwarf papyrus is native to Africa, the easiest way to obtain it is via online outlets. However, you can check with local nurseries to see if they carry it; if not, they may be able to special order it if requested. 

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Rebecca H
About the author

Rebecca H

Ambitiously passionate about conservation, eco-sustainability, and having new experiences and adventures! Alongside writing, I work as a Herpetological Technician, collecting and analyzing data about endangered reptile species. I'm also skilled with the proper identification of native and invasive flora and fauna, as well as habitat assessment/restoration of a variety of ecosystem types.

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1 thought on “How to Plant & Grow Dwarf Papyrus (Cyperus haspan)”

  1. I just bought a dwarf papyrus and it’s still in the pot I bought it in.
    I’m wanting to grow in a large container that has a raised spot in the middle, so that I can fill the bottom of the container with water, sit the plant on the elevated part, and keep the water level an inch or so above the bottom of the original container. I’m wondering however, how long the soil that the plant is in now will stay ‘good’ – that is, how long will it retain nutrients for the plant.
    I have some CaribSea aquatic medium that contains nutrients for aquatic plants. The guaranteed analysis is listed on the label, as follows:
    soluble potash 0.37%
    calcium 3.89%
    Magnesium 4.08%
    Iron 5.91%
    Derived from basalt.
    The label also states that the CaribSea ‘may raise pH’.

    I was thinking about using the CaribSea in one of the following ways, and would like your input:
    1. Keep the plant in it’s original pot and soil, fill the container in which I’m going to sit it with water up to 1-2″ above the bottom of the container,and adding the Carib Sea to the water in the amount that’s recommended per gallon of water.
    2. Mixing the CaribSea into the original soil mixture, but am not sure how much I would use (what proportion – 1/4 the amount of soil, 1/3, 1/2, etc.
    3. Mix up new soil using Carib Sea, but not sure with what other ‘ingredients’, and in what proportions.

    Any help or ideas you can provide will be much appreciated!



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