Grow Your Own Toilet Paper Initiative!

Robin Greenfield sitting on a compost toilet, surrounded by people for the
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Grow Your Own Toilet Paper!

We are elated to have launched the Grow Your Own Toilet Paper Initiative with a mission to support thousands of people in switching to homegrown toilet paper! We provide cuttings of the Toilet Paper Plant (Plectranthus barbatus/blue spur flower/boldo) or seeds of mullein in the mail which you can plant at home and have your own supply of TP growing freely and abundantly.

When I moved to Orlando, Florida, in 2018, I planted two cuttings of the Toilet Paper Plant that a friend gave me and within one year I had a TP bush abundant enough to support a family of five, plus cuttings to share with hundreds of friends each year so they could grow their own TP, too!

By making a suggested donation of $20 to our initiative, we will send you 3 cuttings of Plectranthus barbatus, plus instructions to be successful in growing your own TP! For a suggested donation of $10-$20 we provide seeds of mullein, the TP plant of regions with freezes.

We are currently on pause from mailing plants. We plan to mail again in spring 2024.
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Free cuttings update: We do not currently have the resources to provide cuttings for free. Our supplies are limited. We hope in the future to have our nursery and sourcing established to be able to provide cuttings to all who request them, regardless of donation. Feel free to check back in Fall or Winter 2023 or if you have the ability to, feel free to make a suggested donation and submit your request.

Why Grow Your Own Toilet Paper:

-It’s one of the easiest to grow plants that we’ve worked with. Great for beginners or even as a first plant!
-It can be grown in the ground or in pots.
-This plant thrives! Even if you aren’t ready to make the switch to your homegrown TP, you can plant this now so you have it in case there’s a pandemic with a TP shortage. But let’s be real, we don’t need to wait for that. These leaves are the Charmin of the Garden!
-According to one study, the average US household of 2.6 people uses 409 regular rolls of TP per year. You can reduce that to ZERO! Plus save all that storage space in your closet and gas guzzling trips to the store!
-According to one study, many US Americans spend $11,000 on toilet paper in their lifetime. For a donation of $20, you can receive the TP plant from us to never have to spend a penny on toilet paper again. Imagine what you can do with those thousands of dollars. Growing your own TP is like printing your own money!

Why Blue Spur Flower for TP?

-The leaves are as soft as can be. Softer than many toilet papers on the market.
-The leaves are strong and durable. Your fingers will not break through when wiping.
-The leaves often grow about the same size as a store-bought piece of toilet paper.
-On dewy mornings, these furry leaves hold onto moisture. So the TP plant doubles as a wet wipe!
-It is in the mint family (Lamiaceae), so it smells minty!
-It produces a beautiful purple flower that is enjoyable even if you never wipe your butt with the leaves.
-The flowers attract hummingbirds!
-The leaves are used in Brazilian culture as a tea for upset stomach. (Not after using it as TP, of course.)
-The leaves can be harvested and placed by your toilet and they last! I have harvested leaves up to three weeks before using them and they retained their softness, durability and strength. I have taken them camping and stored them in a bag for over a week.

Leaves of Blue Spur Flower with a compost toilet

Mullein, the Toilet Paper Plant of the North!

-Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) has been used as toilet paper by many people for hundreds of years!
-Large, soft, fuzzy leaves.
-Grows well in USDA zones 3-9. This covers most of the United States, except the tropics. This is the plant for all states where winter brings freezes.
-Grows quite easily from seed.
-Once established it is a prolific self-seeding plant, meaning your toilet paper supply will multiply.
-Mullein is also an herbal medicine that millions of people work with.
-Thrives in full sun. Drought tolerant. Does best in dry soils.
See growing instructions here.

Growing the TP Plant

-The plant is low maintenance to grow. It doesn’t require highly fertile soil, needs minimal water (can handle long dry periods) and we’ve never seen any insect damage except a few bites here or there. In fact, we’ve seen the TP plant thriving after over three years of complete neglect.
-The plant starts by cutting. We provide cuttings of the plant to get started, which are simply a 6″-12″ cutting of one of the branches. These cuttings can then be planted in a small pot to be nurtured for a few weeks to a couple months when it has roots and leaves. Then it can be transplanted in the ground or to a larger pot.
-It grows well both in the ground and in pots. We recommend at least a five-gallon pot.
-We have seen two 8″ cuttings grow into a 10′ x 6′ Toilet Paper patch in four years’ time, while being heavily used for both toilet paper and propagation.
-Proper pruning will create a bushy plant that produces ample toilet paper for at least one person. We will provide clear growing and pruning recommendations soon.
-Once established, you can easily take cuttings from your own Toilet Paper plant to provide cuttings to help others grow their own TP, too! Plant people know that plants create abundance, so we have plenty to share with our communities!
-See growing instructions and care guide here

How to Use the TP Plant

-Simply wipe your butt and then have a plan for where you are going to put the used leaves.
-Our favorite plan is to use them with a compost toilet. Simply drop the leaves into any compost or dry toilet.
-If you have a flush toilet you can place a small bucket next to your toilet to place your used leaves.
-Then take them outside and compost them. (Follow our guide to composting humanure below). This is a common practice throughout many regions of the world where the flush toilet systems need more gentle care.
-We have not experimented with flushing them and our recommendation is to not flush them.

 

What We Provide

Blue Spur Flower: For a suggested donation of $20-$40 (sliding scale) we provide you with 3 cuttings. This plant is one of the hardiest plants that we work with in Florida. With a propagation rate consistently above 70% and usually above 90%, 3 cuttings is basically a guarantee that at least one, but most likely 2 or 3 cuttings will be viable to turn into a bountiful TP plant.

Mullein: For a suggested donation of $10-$20 (sliding scale) we provide you with a seed pack of mullein. Mullein is very easy to grow from seeds and self-seeds to get established on your land.

Instructions to grow your own toilet paper from the cuttings.

Note, we do not sell plants. We are a non-profit providing resources to be of service to Earth, humanity and our plant and animal relatives. The funds raised from this initiative support our food sovereignty initiatives.
Learn more about Regeneration, Equity and Justice

Claimers:

We are not making any disclaimers, we are making claimers, as inspired by our foraging friend Sam Thayer. We share the following information as plant lovers in service to Earth, humanity and our plant and animal relatives:

**Some people have reported a rash from using Plectranthus barbatus on their butt. At the same time many, many thousands of people use it for toilet paper. If you are sensitive to plants, we suggest rubbing it on your wrist to see if you have a reaction first. The rashes we heard of were minor discomforts that lasted for short periods of time. We will do more research on this, however, it is not of concern to us in comparison to the benefits of this plant.

**We have read that Plectranthus barbatus can be invasive, however we have never seen it to be invasive in Florida or heard of it being invasive in Florida. It would not become invasive in any regions with freezes as it dies during freezes. We do not think that Plectranthus barbatus would be invasive anywhere that we provide the plant to on Turtle Island (the United States).

**We love working with native plants and we also love working with plants that are non-native, too. It is our responsibility to foster mutually-beneficial relationships with our plant relatives. We feel comfortable and confident working with Plectranthus barbatus on Turtle Island, knowing that it is not native to this land.

**The Toilet Paper plant is just one of many ways to practice safe and healthy hygiene. We have shared 10 Alternatives to Toilet Paper here. Many cultures around the world use water instead of wiping their butts. This can be in the form of a bidet, a kettle, a hose, a sprayer or simply a bucket of water. This can be a sustainable and hygienic means. however, we are advocates of not pooping in clean water or any water. We are deep advocates of composting our poop. Leaves are an excellent match for a compost toilet. Compost toilets are kept relatively dry and adding water to them is not ideal. There are many scenarios where water is very limited or completely unavailable for using on the butt. The Toilet Paper plant is a great match for this. We believe the solutions to our problems as a humanity are diverse and that critical thinking and diverse thinking are key to solving our environmental crises.  You can learn more about this via: How to Compost Human Poop – Humanure Resources

See Robin’s Compost Toilet Setup with the Toilet Paper Plant:

 

Get to Know the Toilet Paper Plant:

What is the name of The Toilet Paper Plant?

As with most plants, it has many names. The most common name that I am familiar with in Florida is Blue Spur Flower. We have Brazilian friends who call it Boldo or boldo gaúcho. The Latin name is Plectranthus barbatus or Coleus barbatus. In Kenya, it is sometimes called Kikuyu toilet paper. We have been told that it is grown and used in Ayurvedic medicine in the country of India.

Where does it grow?

This plant grows well in hardiness zones 8-10 or 9-11. Learn your hardiness zone here. Within Turtle Island (the United States) this includes all of Florida, many regions of California, southern portions of South Carolina and Georgia,  the Gulf Coast of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, southern Texas and some southern portions of Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada.

Growing this plant in zones 7 and below is an experiment at this point. A deep freeze will kill this plant. It can tolerate frosts. However, It can be grown in a pot and brought indoors for freezes. It could also be grown outdoors and small plants started through the summer could be potted to grow indoors each winter, to return to the garden at the right time in the spring.  We are happy to offer the plant to anyone regardless of growing zone, as long as you are aware that this is the case. We will be collecting data this year and doing research on growing in zone 7 and below to find the boundaries of where the plant has had success. These reportings will be updated on the website. “Will re-sprout after a frost freezes top growth and seems root hardy to 20 to 25 °F but evergreen only in near frostless conditions.” (Source)

Our personal experience with growing the TP plant is Central Florida, including the regions of Orlando, Tampa, Sebastian and Cape Coral.

We are still learning about cultural relationships with this plant globally. “Plectranthus barbatus is considered native to a huge range from Pakistan, India, Nepal and Ceylon south through Arabia, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, East Africa, South Tropical Africa and naturalized into southern Africa.” (Source) Many Brazilian people have shared that there is a common relationship with the plant there and it is called Boldo or boldo gaúcho. It is used as an herbal tea in Brazilian culture.  The plant is grown and used in Ayurvedic medicine in the country of India. In Kenya it is sometimes called Kikuyu toilet paper and used as toilet paper.

Learn more about the plant.

If you want to dive deeper to get to know the TP plant, you can read more Useful Tropical Plants, SM Growers, The Spruce and wikipedia.

Is this the same as Cuban oregano? Many people think this is Plectranthus amboinicus, which we commonly call Cuban oregano in Florida. As you can see from the name Plectranthus, they are in the same genus. They do look similar, but we do not recommend Cuban oregano as an ideal source for toilet paper as it is quite brittle and the leaves are much smaller. Broken cuban oregano leaves may also sting the butt. Come to think of it, I’ve never used  Cuban oregano for toilet paper. I’m going to give it a try as soon as I visit a friend with the plant!

Can the Toilet Paper plant be grown from seed? The plant does not produce seeds. The Toilet Paper Plant can only be grown from cuttings.

What are some other Toilet Paper plants?

Lambs ear, Cottonwood tree, Large Leaf Aster, Thimbleberry

Resources:

How to Plant and Care for the Toilet Paper Plant

How to Compost – Composting Guide for Beginners

How to Compost Human Poop – Humanure Resources

10 FREE Alternatives to Toilet Paper

Gratitude to our Community

We honor the people of Africa who are the original stewards of Plectranthus barbatus. They have been in a reciprocal relationship with this plant for thousands of years, working with it as a medicinal and utilitarian plant. Hundreds of cultures have held relationship with this plant and many still do today. We give gratitude to these cultures, as this plant would not be here today without their stewardship. They lived in harmony with Earth and all of our plant and animal relatives, long before dominator cultures and colonialism came to destroy this harmony. Many of these humans hold strong to their relationships to our plant relatives. We believe this act of resistance and love is of the utmost importance to our future as a global community. We are currently writing a more extensive honoring of the people’s relationship to this plant and will publish it here soon. Read more: Honoring the People’s Relationships with The Toilet Paper Plant

We give gratitude to our community in Florida:

Amal Jennings for helping to develop this program alongside Robin.
James Garlanger for establishing a Toilet Paper plant Nursery.
Tyler Zender for first introducing Robin to this plant.
Emer Olivarez, Phi Ranglin, Liz Virgo and Sue Mannon for the foundational support in launching the initiative.
Lisa Ray for being the host and then stewarding my original Plectranthus barbatus plant since 2018.
The Florida Permaculture community, especially Orlando Permaculture, for nurturing a community of people reconnecting to Earth through growing and stewarding our plant relatives.

Robin Greenfield sitting barefoot on a compost toilet, with a toilet paper plant and a stack of toilet paper. Robin Greenfield sitting on a compost toilet, surrounded by a group of people holding the toilet paper plant.

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