While it’s not impossible, it’s certainly difficult to get rid of horsetail plants (Equisetum hyemale and Equisetum arvense) in your garden. Here, we’ll share two techniques you can attempt to help you deal with this resilient plant.
|Common horsetail names
|scouring rush, snake grass, or horse pipes
|It is a non-flowering plant
|Size when mature
|1-6 feet wide, 2-6 feet tall
|Does well in full sun or partial shade
|Well draining soil that is moist
|(Most of the northern hemisphere) Eurasia and North America
Gardeners who have experience with horsetails understand how this ancient plant has survived for close to 350 million years.
Today, horsetail, also known as ‘scouring rush’, is grown as a perennial in USDA zones 3 through 11. It is a fast-growing plant that can reach up to 4 feet tall and 6 feet wide.
Horsetail Equisetum arvense or Equisetum hyemale can function as:
- A modern-looking landscape accent plant.
- A disastrous plant that could be considered an invasive species as it is an aggressive plant that is extremely difficult to get rid of.
Horsetail is a true survivor. Drastic measures are needed to eradicate it if it takes over your garden or field. With that in mind, we will cover the scouring rush from both perspectives.
What is the Plant Horsetail Good For?
There are over 25 species of horsetail plant. This includes annual and perennial types. Some species of scouring rush have a vertical, grass-like form that resembles horse tails (hence the name). Other species are fern-shaped or fan-shaped.
When it comes to horsetail reeds, Equisetum hyemale and Equisetum arvense are the species you see grown in landscapes. These tall, grass-like reeds have bright green, jointed bamboo-like stems.
A horsetail reed has an exotic, vertical stem that may seem tropical.
Horsetail Equisetum arvense can liven up your garden. Its aesthetic appeal is not lost in the home landscape as seen below.
The beautiful stems make a striking statement when planted en masse. Especially near a pond or water feature. They can also be used as a groundcover or vegetative screen.
The plants grow near wet sites, bog gardens, bush and wetlands throughout the world although they don’t have to be limited to wetlands and ponds. They can be used on entryways in containers or pots arranged to mimic a border or short fence.
In between the pots of scouring rush, ornamental grass or variegated grass can be grown to show contrast and create an aesthetic effect. The textures, sizes, and shapes can blend in very well if the landscape is maintained.
To curb its uncanny ability to spread everywhere, you can plant it in a large container housed in a concrete patio. This takes away the plant’s ability to spread into the rest of your garden whilst maintaining a modern look.
How Do You Get Rid of Horsetail in My Garden?
All forms of horsetail plant grow best in poor, sandy, or gravelly soil. Some species need moisture and water while others are quite tolerant of drought.
Horsetail is often categorized as a weed because of how aggressively it spreads. You need to know which horsetail species to have in your garden:
- Equisetum hyemale has aesthetic qualities you might find pleasing.
- It’s Equisetum arvense to watch out for. It has a bushy look and grows to be eight inches tall, sometimes less. Its common name is field horsetail.
Horsetail is especially unwelcome in livestock pastures. This is because they are toxic to sheep and cattle if they eat the stems.
Horsetail plants spread through both spores and underground rhizomes. They have a wide-spreading root system. This can be quite bothersome because even after you cut down the scouring rush, it easily grows back.
If you want to get rid of horsetail, prepare for battle and try one of the following methods.
Your only organic method of control is to cut all the stems back to ground level. In early spring, look for the spore-bearing stalks and cut them using gardening shears. Dispose of them in a plastic bag immediately once you’re done.
As you do so you can improve the soil to make it drier, richer, and more alkaline.
Horsetail is quite resilient and it may take several seasons to eradicate all the stems this way. Worry not, you still have another option.
You can remove Equisetum arvense or other common horsetail varieties by using a systemic herbicide.
Spray the horsetail Equisetum with a herbicide containing triclopyr, specifically designed to treat horsetail plants.
Apply the herbicide on a windless day to avoid drift and herbicide injury to other plants in your garden. Make sure to follow the package directions carefully.
Start improving the soil once the horsetail (Equisetum) has died back. To do so, amend the soil with manure or compost to improve its fertility, texture, and drainage. You can also plant the area with grass or perennials.
Horsetail prefers sandy soil and poor growing conditions and may not grow in fertile soil. One option is to lay down landscaping fabric and mulch your garden. Do this only after you have cleared your garden of all the spore-bearing stalks.
How Do You Take Care of a Horsetail Plant?
The challenge in dealing with horsetails is in containing them. Make sure to thin the stems out annually to control the rapid and invasive spread of horsetail stems.
If you want to grow horsetail put plastic barriers in the soil or plant them in a deep pot. You can then bury the pot in the ground.
Horsetail is not a fussy plant. When it comes to fertilizer it is often unnecessary. They do not need fertile or rich soil. If your horsetail plant is struggling, you can use slow-release plant food to boost its growth.
The plant grows best with high humidity and hot sun. You don’t need to worry about scouring rush in the winter, they can still grow fine with drier air and less light. The noticeable difference is that the dark green stems fade. This goes back to normal once the weather changes.
To get the most out of your horsetail plant, do the following:
- Plant horsetail reeds in part sun or full sun.
- Ensure the soil is somewhat acidic and not overly rich.
- Water the plants frequently to keep the soil consistently moist.
- Leave a space of about 12 inches between them if you want to install multiple.
If you have a rain garden and like horsetails go for it! The plants are tolerant of dry conditions as well as wet ones. It can grow in boggy areas, on stream banks or in up to 4 inches of water.
What a nice way to accentuate your garden’s borders!
Besides field horsetail, you can grow giant horsetail or variegated horsetail.
Learn More About Horsetail and Gardening
What’s your experience with common horsetail? Does it bring out your inner wild plant enthusiast or simply annoy you? Leave a comment below!
Don’t stop there, however, if you’re a gardening enthusiast. The Gardening Channel provides all the knowledge you need to become an expert. Read articles on various plants, fruits, and vegetables. Here are just some of the many articles that may interest you: