Growing King Tut Grass – What You Need to Know

The tall stems adorned with reduced umbrella-like leaves make the King Tut Grass an elegant addition to any garden. Here is everyhting you need to know.

For King Tut grass, this work mainly involves keeping the plant moist or straight up just submerging it in shallow water. Also, remember the winters. Prolonged low temperatures aren’t exactly ideal for this plant, so you’ll have to either bring it inside or grow it as an annual.

There’s a lot to learn about the King Tut Grass (Cyperus papyrus) beyond just growing it, though, so let’s get into it.

Description

The plant is most noticeable for its tall stems, about 1 ½ inch thick at the base and growing to lengths of 5-8 feet in ideal conditions. Combined, the stems are about 4 feet wide.

Each of the stems is topped by a cluster of dense green stalks that bend downward with time as the plant matures. In summer, the mature stalks put out flower clusters and eventually numerous small dark brown nut-like fruits.

If you’re not so much into the huge size, there’s a miniaturized version of the plant called Cyperus papyrus Dwarf Form, that’s just as beautiful. With a maximum height of 24 inches, it’s ideal as a thriller or filler in small water gardens and is easy to keep indoors when the cold season sets in.

Origin and Habitat

While it’s popular today as an ornamental plant, the King Tut Grass will always have a special place in human civilization. In ancient Egypt, it provided the material for one of the first types of paper ever made.

It has a considerably wide distribution throughout the African continent and Mediterranean countries where it grows on lake margins and swamps.

King Tut Grass Uses

Aside from being used in ancient paper-making, King Tut Grass also provided material for boats, utensils, fuel, tampons, medicine, and sandals.

Today, while largely ornamental, the plant has other uses, namely:

  • Boat-making
  • Livestock feeds – mostly the young shoots
  • The rhizomes from which stems grow are eaten (both raw and cooked) in some parts of Africa.

Caring for King Tut Grass

You certainly want to grow a healthy and beautiful King Tut Grass plant. Here’s how you can achieve that.

Soil and Watering

King Tut Grass is always in water for the most part in its natural habitat, so this is something you should try to mimic. Wet boggy soil is your best bet in this case.

A bog and pond – along the edges, that is – are some two great places to consider. Containers with regular potting soil are also good but then you’ll have to make a few adjustments to keep the soil constantly wet. You can grab a pot without drainage holes to achieve this or you can just submerge the pot in a larger water-filled container.

Letting the King Tut Grass stay dry for any amount of time will result in crooked stems and even death. Plus, the soggy soils will ensure flowering all year round which is something you should certainly want.

Planting

The best chance of having a thriving papyrus plant is paying attention to the seasons. Spring is usually the best time of the year, and it’s always a good idea to start off your babies from young plants rather than seeds.

Light

King Tut Grass needs a good amount of sunlight to thrive, which is a given considering its natural habitat. A good amount here means some 6+ hours of exposure, although partial shade (4 hours minimum) is just as ideal.

This shouldn’t be a problem if you’re raising your plant outdoors. If you have to bring it inside for winter, be sure to keep your King Tut Grass in a sunroom or any brightly lit spot like a window or patio door.

Temperature and Humidity

Just as it does for light, King Tut Grass’ native habitat influences the temperature and humidity readings the plant can withstand – which is to say warm conditions are always the best. This will be in USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11. Outside of these areas, bringing your plant in is highly recommended (more on that in a few).

Pests and Diseases

King Tut Grass is generally hardy, so it doesn’t usually have a lot of problems as far as pests and diseases are concerned. So there’s little to worry about on this front.

That being said, keep an eye out for rust fungus which causes stem and foliage discoloration. Dealing with it is as simple as nipping off the dead parts as soon as they appear.

Fertilizer

Just like planting, it’s best to fertilize your plant in spring. And you don’t need too much of it – fertilizing once using a balanced fertilizer will go a long way in strengthening the plant’s stems.

In Winter

King Tut Grass tends to be quite vulnerable to extremely low temperatures which, as we’ve seen above, is thanks to their natural habitat being considerably warm. So growing your plant in a pot and bringing it inside as the temperatures dip is a pretty good idea.

Also, remember to keep it in a cool room, typically 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit with enough light.

Alternatively, you can just grow the plant as an annual. Allow the plant to turn brown and cut off the dead parts as spring sets in.

Pots

Pots with and without drainage holes are both ideal options for growing your King Tut Grass. Your choice will depend on how you want to grow your plant – in shallow waters or as a standalone.

Simply put, a pot with drainage holes is more ideal in shallow waters while a sealed pot works best if you want your plant on a patio or near a window.

Propagating King Tut Grass

You can propagate your King Tut Grass either by seed or division (vegetative). Seeds are a bit difficult to handle, though, so it’s just better to go with the second option as the cuttings pick up momentum faster.

To get your next set of plants, simply dig up the mature papyrus, divide the roots into 2-3 clumps, and replant them. Again, spring is the best time for this.

Final Thoughts

Growing King Tut Grass isn’t that much of a hassle. The two things you need to keep in mind are the soil (should always be moist) and winters (bring your plant indoors if you don’t want it to be an annual).

Getting these two right will bring out the beauty of one of the most revered and useful plants in ancient Egypt.

Also, don’t forget about light even when you bring your King Tut Grass inside. It can make all the difference between a sulky plant and one beaming with joy, eager to be seen.