Tetrapanax rex – Learn, Buy, Grow this fabulous plant

Tetrapanax rex also called tetrapanax papyrifer ‘rex’ or rice-paper tree is the only species in the tetrapanax genus. This is a large evergreen perennial shrub native to Taiwan but now cultivated across Southeast Asia and other tropical regions. It is a large herbaceous shrub with unbranched stems that bear a rosette of huge deeply-lobed green leaves that are carried on petioles 40-60cm high. 

Tetrapanax - bottom middle

Tetrapanax – bottom middle

It is a fast-growing plant that grows an average of 3 feet annually and attains a height of 9 feet to 22 feet at maturity. It blooms tiny white 4-6 petalled flowers followed by small berries. It is used to produce some traditional Chinese medications.

Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘rex’ is most commonly requested, but to be honest it’s pretty difficult spotting the difference between them, as the ordinary non Rex will still have massive leaves!

Tetrapanax rex plants for sale in the UK are usually marked as tetrapanax rex but I wouldn’t guarantee this is correct unless buying this plant from a specialist who actually knows the difference!

It is sometimes considered an invasive plant because sprouts from the underground root system spread extensively if left unchecked.

Growing And Caring For Tetrapanax

Propagation Methods For Tetrapanax Papyrifer ‘Rex’

Propagation of tetrapanax papyrifer can be done by the seed or from the shoot produced by the underground root system. 

Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Rex’ propagation from seed: Tetrpanax seeds are best planted immediately after harvest because they do not store well. Starting a tetrapanax in containers indoors allows for an early start in the growing season and results in more mature specimens that can then be replanted outside. Plant your seeds in fertile and fast-draining soil like loamy or sandy soil at a depth equal to the length of the seeds. Water thoroughly till it germinates and continue to water the plant to keep the soil moist. 

Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Rex’ propagation from side shoots / pups : As mentioned earlier, tetrapanax produces pups from the root system. These shoots can be cut off from the parent plant and then replanted to form a new tetrapanax plant. To do this, use a shovel to expose the root system of both the parent plant and sucker then select a sprouting sucker with established leaves above ground and severe it from the parent plant at the roots. This creates a separate specimen with a root system, stem, and leaves. 

Tetrapanax plug plants: Tetrapanax is generally not commonly bought as a plug plant, as it’s generally sold as at least a year old plant (so it has established roots)

Caring For Tetrapanax payrifer ‘Rex’

Tetrapanax papyrifer 'Rex Chinese rice-paper plant

Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Rex Chinese rice-paper plant

Soil: The ideal soil type to grow a healthy tetrpanax rex shrub is rich, moist, and well-drained soil. It should be slightly acidic, alkaline or neutral. Soil types like loamy soil, chalk, or sand soil are great options.

Water: It requires average watering and the topsoil should be kept moist but not soggy.

Light: Tetrpanax is not picky when it comes to light but full exposure to sunlight is the best option.

Pruning: Pruning is not required but can be done to remove dead or damaged leaves and also to take out the sprouts to prevent the spread of tetrapanax rex.

Pests and diseases: Rice-paper tree is generally peat and disease-free. 


How do you grow tetrapanax from seed?

To grow a healthy tetrapanax plant from seed, ensure that the soil is fertile and rich in organic nutrients – well-draining soil like loamy soil is ideal. Plant your seeds at an equal depth to the length of the seed and water regularly until it germinates. Thereafter, water consistently to keep the soil moist but not soggy.

How do you propagate tetrapanax?

Tetarpanax can be propagated from seed or from the suckers that spread out from the root system. To propagate tetrapanax from the suckers, simply cut and replant these suckers. 

Can I grow tetrapanax in a pot?

Tetrapanx needs a lot of space to grow so it is best planted in the ground rather than as a potted plant.

How big does tetrapanax papyrifer grow?

Tetrapanax is a large, fast-growing perennial shrub reaching heights of up to 12 feet and spreads 5 – 8 feet.

How fast do tetrapanax papyrifer grow?

Tetrapanax papyrifer is a fast-growing shrub that grows at least 3 feet annually.

How do you grow tetrapanax containers?

Fill a plant pot or any large enough container with loamy or sandy soil that is organically rich and well-draining. Dig up a hole in the middle and plant the shoot or seed. Water regularly till the plant germinated. Starting a tetrapanax plant in a container ensures that the specimen is mature for transplant outside.

How do you prune tetrapanax?

Tetrapanax plants do not require pruning but if you must, prune by cutting away the dead or damaged leaves. 

Is tetrapanax a tree?

Contrary to its common name; a rice-paper tree, tetrapanax is not a tree but rather a woody shrub.

Should a tetrapanax plant lose its leaves in the winter?

Tetrapanax is an evergreen hardy plant native to temperate regions so in colder climates, it is loses its leaves in autumn.

What do I feed tetrapanax rex?

Tetrapanax rex is a hardy perennial shrub that stays evergreen through the season. It doesn’t need much attention or feeding and can survive well on its own once provided with the right cultivating environment in terms of soil and light.


Last Modified: April 26, 2023