How to Prune Papyrus

by Jenny Harrington

Papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) plants grow as graceful tall reeds for your backyard water garden, in a boggy garden bed or as a patio accent in containers. The clumps of grass-like reeds develop tufts at the top, which later form seeds. Papyrus grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 and 10, where it provides year-round texture and interest. You can prune out the old stems as needed throughout the year. Remove the tufts after they turn brown and begin to form seed.

1 Fill a small bucket with 1 part bleach and 9 parts water. Rinse the pruning shears in the solution to disinfect them before pruning and after each cut.

2 Cut off the tufts that form at the top of the papyrus stems before they form seed to prevent self-seeding. If you're not concerned about self-seeding, remove the tufts once they begin to become ragged and unattractive.

3 Examine the stems and locate those that are dead, weak or broken. Follow the stem down to its base, where it attaches to the main rhizome.

4 Cut through the stem flush to the rhizome, removing it completely. Repeat for each dead or damaged stem.

5 Dispose of or compost the pruned stems promptly. Leaving the stems in the water garden to decay can result in pest or disease problems.

Items you will need

  • Bucket
  • Bleach
  • Pruning shears


  • Papyrus is toxic if ingested.
  • Wear gloves when you prune papyrus. The leaves and stems can cut your hands, resulting in infection from bacteria in the water and soil.
  • Papyrus can become invasive. Removing the seed heads promptly minimizes invasive potential. The plants can also spread by their root rhizomes, but planting them in containers helps prevent this.