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Umbrella Grass Cyperus alternifolius

Previously known as:

  • Cyperus frondosus
  • Cyperus involucratus
  • Eucyperus alternifolius
Phonetic Spelling
sy-PEER-us al-tern-ee-FOH-lee-us
Description

Cyperus comes from a Greek work meaning 'sedge', while alternifolius translates to 'alternate-leaved'. 

The common name of Umbrella Plant, Palm, Sedge, or Grass comes from the bracts that grow atop of its tall stems.  They have the appearance of the spokes of an umbrella.   The bracts are sometimes referred to as leaves.  The true leaves on this plant clasp the tall stem in a manner so that they are hard to distinguish from the stem.  

The Umbrella Plant is a member of a large family of plants, with over 600 grass-like varieties, typically native to predominately tropical locations.  

Its root system is well-developed, anchoring the plant into the surrounding wet soil where it can spread via its rhizomes as well as by its self-seeding tendencies.  In some locations, with the rights conditions, it can become weedy and invasive.

Typically reaching heights of 4', under ideal outdoor conditions of a warm, moist environment, they can grow up to 6'.  As a houseplant, the size can be cut in half.  

This plant does well in sun or light shade, however, requires protection from strong sun and harsh winds, as the bracts can be damaged from exposure,   Whether grown as part of a water garden or indoors as a houseplant (container on tray of water), keep the soil moist or grow in standing water.  Fertile soil is preferred.  

Browning leaf tips can be caused by the lack of proper water conditions.  The roots need to remain wet at all times.  

It can be used as a filter for soils.  Known as phytoremediation, where plants have the ability to extract and remove pollutants from soils, Cyperus alternifolius can accumulate copper, manganese from the surrounding soil.  

Quick ID Hints:

  • Grass-like leafy bracts form umbrella at top of scape
  • Stem (scape) up to 3' long, green, glabrous
  • 20-25 linear, leaflike bracts crowded at scape top

The inflorescence is non-ornamental.  The scapes tend to grow so long that they flop over and take root, so they may require support.  

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  No serious issues.

More information on Cyperus.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Water Garden Water Wheel
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Gracilis'
    Dwarf form - 2'
  • 'Nana'
    Dwarf form - 2-4'
  • 'Variegatus'
    Variegated leaves
'Gracilis', 'Nana', 'Variegatus'
Tags:
#evergreen#water garden#houseplant#frost tender#sedge#showy leaves#pond margins#terrarium#tender perennials#pond garden#self-seeding#grass-like#arrangements#fantz#humidity tolerant#wet soils tolerant#dry soils intolerant#container plant#showy#aquatic#tender
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Gracilis'
    Dwarf form - 2'
  • 'Nana'
    Dwarf form - 2-4'
  • 'Variegatus'
    Variegated leaves
'Gracilis', 'Nana', 'Variegatus'
Tags:
#evergreen#water garden#houseplant#frost tender#sedge#showy leaves#pond margins#terrarium#tender perennials#pond garden#self-seeding#grass-like#arrangements#fantz#humidity tolerant#wet soils tolerant#dry soils intolerant#container plant#showy#aquatic#tender
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Cyperus
    Species:
    alternifolius
    Family:
    Cyperaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Houseplants, containers, cools and ponds, arrangements
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Africa and the Arabian Peninsula
    Play Value:
    Buffer
    Easy to Grow
    Dimensions:
    Height: 1 ft. 6 in. - 4 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 2 ft. 0 in. - 3 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Ornamental Grasses and Sedges
    Perennial
    Water Plant
    Habit/Form:
    Clumping
    Erect
    Multi-stemmed
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Frequent Standing Water
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    8b, 8a, 9b, 9a, 10b, 10a, 11b, 11a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruits are small, brown, and resemble a nut.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Green
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Head
    Spike
    Umbel
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Flat, leaf-like bract produced at top of stem. A compound umbel of spikelets, subtended by leafy bracts. Spikelets brown, 1/4".
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Rough
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Good Cut
    Good Dried
    Showy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Linear
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    Leafless stem topped with spiral of dark green leaves. Bracts 11-25, linear, leaflike, green, 1/4" wide, crowded at top of scape.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Form:
    Straight
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    The stems (scapes) are erect, dark green, crowded. Typically, multi-stemmed.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Houseplants
    Pond
    Landscape Theme:
    Cutting Garden
    Rain Garden
    Water Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Border
    Specimen
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Humidity
    Wet Soil