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Rice Paper Plant

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Tuesday, November 27, 2018 - 7:00am

Host: Gary Bachman, Ornamental Horticulture Specialist


One of the easiest ways to add a tropical flair to any landscape is to use plants with large leaves today on southern Gardening.

Rice paper plant is a favorite of mine that is a native of southern China and Taiwan and is known botanically as Tetrapanax paperifera. An interesting note is this is the only plant in the genus.

It’s the foliage that really creates the tropical interest. Rice paper plant has huge leaves that can be up to 15 inches across. The leaves have five to eleven coarse lobes and the undersides have a dense white felt-like pubescence.

The fan-like leaves are attached by very long petioles towards the end of stems that grow very upright. This creates a visual fan-like or umbrella-like appearance.

The flowers are produced in the fall with conspicuous flower panicles that can be three feet long and more than three feet wide and are displayed above the foliage. The flower clusters are ball-shaped.

Rice paper plant left undisturbed will form thickets and readily spread by underground rhizomes. New plants will spring up at various points along these rhizomes, commonly up to 20 feet away.

The name refers to the use of the interior of the stem, called pith, to make a form of rice paper. The pith has a consistency and feel of Styrofoam.

In Mississippi rice paper plant will die back in the winter depending on the temperature. In light frosts the stem may die back a couple of feet. Extreme cold can cause dieback to the ground. Treat like many of our other perennial plants in regards to providing cold weather protection pertinent to your area.

I’m horticulturist Gary Bachman for Southern Gardening.

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