Power seeding a lawn

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

About the Author

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.

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