Tetrapanax papyriferum
Common Name: rice-paper plant 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Araliaceae
Native Range: Taiwan
Zone: 8 to 10
Height: 4.00 to 12.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 8.00 feet
Bloom Time: September
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Flower: Showy
Fruit: Showy

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zone 8-10 where it is best grown in organically rich, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. Plants appreciate some part afternoon light shade in hot climates. Promptly remove root suckers to prevent colonial spread. Site in protected locations to prevent wind damage to the leaves. Plants may die to the ground in USDA Zone 8 in winter, but often sprout new growth in spring. In St. Louis, this plant may be grown in containers that are overwintered indoors.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Tetrapanax papyriferum, commonly called rice-paper plant, is a suckering, evergreen shrub or small tree of the Ginseng family. It is native to southern China and Taiwan. It typically grows 4-12’ tall, but may grow larger. White flowers, each with 4-5 petals, bloom in fall in large, loose, globose panicles to 3’ long. Flowers are followed by rounded fruit (black drupes) unless frost intervenes. Huge, deeply serrated, 5-14 lobed, gray green leaves (10-15” wide, but sometimes more) are hairy below. Rice paper is made from the pith of the stems. Rice paper was discovered in China during the Tsin Dynasty (265-420 AD). It has been used for a variety of applications including artificial flowers, trinkets and hairpins. In the 1800s it became a popular paper-like surface for water-based paintings. Rice paper today comes from Broussonetia papyrifera which is commonly known as paper mulberry.

Genus name comes from the Greek word tetra meaning four, plus Panax as the flowers are in fours and have some resemblance to the genus Panax.

Specific epithet means paper-bearing.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Contact with plant leaves causes skin rashes in some individuals.

Uses

Large decorative leaves have excellent ornamental value. Good container plant.