Tetrapanax papyrifer - Araliaceae


Single or multi-stemmed small tree that is mainly grown for its spectacular foliage - a must have in the subtropical garden and hardier than its look might suggest.


EN: Chinese rice-paper Plant, D: Reispapierbaum, FR: Aralie à Papier de Chine, ESP: Planta Papel Arroz, ZH: 蓪草

Young leaves unfolding.
A spectatcular, large shrub or small tree, suckering and thicket-forming, sparsely branched with stout shoots covered in brown dust when young, originally evergreen but may loose leaves over the frosty period (please see hardiness below), huge exotic leaves (at least 70cm across) which are deeply lobed and forked, held by stout petioles which are also covered in a dusty tomentum, the dust does not harm but may cause sneezing, petiole base is clasping the stem, flower buds appear at the very top of each shoot in late summer, however, sometimes fail to open when an early, cold autumn arrives, otherwise bearing numerous umbels of small creamy, white flowers.

Introduced to cultivation in 1850.

Height: up to 10m (up to 35ft)

Suckers can be easily pulled out where not desired. Their root system is fleshy and loose making it very easy to control numbers of plants. Larger specimen can be cut in late spring at any height and they will usually sprout again from there. Annual pruning will stimulate a bushier habit. Mulch in spring to feed the plant and promote lush growth.

Terminal flower buds open to creamy white flowers
in autumn if the frost does not get them first.

Young suckers can be easily dug up and moved or potted on into deep pots, best to do that in late spring. Water well during dry spells until it shows good growth. Seeds are difficult to obtain. Some people take root cuttings, although not always successful. Cut roots into 6cm long sections, plant more than you need as some will not make it. Keep young plants well protected in winter.

Meaning of plant name:
TETRAPANAX: four-partite-Panax (four part floral structure)

PAPYRIFER: paper-bearing (the stems are hollow, the pith has been used to make paper)

Origin: Taiwan

Annual pruning will keep this plant bushier but not small for long.

Growing conditions:
Thrives in full sun and nutritious well-drained soils, but will also grow well in partial shade on sandy, loamy or clay soils. Will not tolerate boggy conditions. Acid to mildly alkaline soils, no chalk. Plant in sheltered spot as strong winds shred the leaves as well as might snap the stems.

Hardiness: H4 - Hardy throughout most of the UK (-10 to -5°C) Harsh frosts will cut the plant to the ground, if roots are undamaged it will regrow from the base. Prolonged frosts will eventually kill it.

Pests and Diseases: generally no problems

Other useful information:

Tetrapanax papyrifer hit by frost. As long as roots are healthy this will regrow.

Harsh frost will cut the plants to the ground. They usually reshoot from the base in spring.

T. papyrifer will grow on alkaline soils, but the foliage will be spoilt with chlorosis, a sign of struggle.

A must-have plant for the subtropical-jungle-look!

Tetrapanax papyrifer is mainly grown for its spectacular leaves.

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