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How to Get Rid of Cattails


After looking at the above picture, given how beautiful it looks, you wouldn’t think it, but cattails are actually quite the menace to aquatic shorelines. Despite how artistic the picture makes them look, growing wayward and carefree, cattails are essentially categorized as weeds and for good reason. Just ask anyone who’s ever had to get rid of endless cattails in and around their pond.

If you are one of those people, worry not, we’re here to give you a couple of fool proof tips and tricks on how to get kill, cut and completely eliminate cattails – for good.

But first, here’s a little something about the cattails themselves and what they really are.

About Cattails

Typha latifolia commonly known as Cattails is a wetland native plant that grows unchecked in any and all marshland, pond or small water body. With a unique spongy, strap type of leaves with a flowering spike, the cattails can reach heights anywhere between four to 9 feet easily.  To the layman’s eye, the cattail can be described as a plant with leaves resembling a sword and flower-heads which look like medium brown corndogs.

The cattails, also commonly called bulrushes can spread rapidly and widely beneath the surface of the muddy ground of the marshland shoreline. They are the first step of the conversion of large water bodies eventually into dry land.

In some places cattails are actually considered quite beneficial. They provide a wildlife habitat for the fish, the plants act as a landing point for many birds, are a home to a number of insects and amphibians. They’re also a great source of food and cover for both birds and fish, providing them the perfect hiding place from larger predators. If it wasn’t yet clear, they contribute considerably to a number of different food chains that exist in private water bodies.

That’s not all though, the cattails do much to prevent the pond shores from being eroded. The cattails intercept the force of both the waves and the wind, breaking their trajectory. They also help trap silt and sediment.  

However, while there are considerable benefits and uses of having cattails around – they can quickly become a nuisance that can make life very difficult for beach and pond owners.

Cattails are very aggressive plants in that they spread thickly and rapidly. Under the right conditions – with plenty of air, sunshine and water, cattails can spread far and wide due to their pollinated flowers blown across the waters. Cattails also spread equally well through their roots. When left unchecked, they can grow into a network of tightly wound, impenetrable strands that can quickly take over the open water.

While cattails do much for natural erosion control, the thick sediment traps cause the extension of the shallow water, creating putrid marshland for undesirable insects.

How to Get Rid of Cattails Permanently

If you wish to preserve your pond or small water body on your private property and prevent it from becoming a smelly marshland, you definitely have to consider either curtailing the growth of the cattails, or eliminate them altogether. Here’s how:

  • Cutting/Trimming The Tail Heads

Usually it’s recommended that you hand-pull the cattails out of the pond shoreline when they’re young – exactly like you would pull the weeds from your backyard. However, if the cattails have grown to their full heights, their roots are so strong and intertwined that it’s nearly impossible to just pull them out.

Cattails should be cut or trimmed below the water level at least two or three times a year to deplete them of their food source. However, proper cutting, such that will eventually lead to their demise needs to be carefully planned in a timely manner. Trimming the cattails in early summer will only promote their growth as they will continue to receive plenty of sunshine, water and air during the summer months. Planning the cutting right before the end of the summer and beginning of the winter ensures that they are unable to store adequate food for the winters and are unable to grow due to lack of favorable weather conditions. Be sure to use either a hand cutter, a gas powered trimmer or any other safe cutting tool. Avoid the use of electrical power tools near the water.

  • Flooding

Flooding is a very effective way to completely eliminate cattails form a pond or water body. A majority of the self-created ponds are fit with water regulators and filters that allow owners to control the water levels at any time during the year. Utilize the water control devices and flood the pond with water raising the base level well above the cattail heads effectively cutting off their oxygen supply. Because flooding the pond can result in spillways, be careful when using this technique.

  • Herbicide Sprays

Herbicides though effective can actually harm other aquatic life quite significantly if not used in a controlled manner. If you do have to resort to using chemical herbicides to rid of the cattails for good, it is highly recommended that you only buy the herbicides that are labelled specifically for use against cattails which we carry here at Solutions Pest & Lawn

Glycophosate, and non-ionic surfactants used in combination with Aquatic AB Adjuvant are the most effective of herbicide combination. When using herbicides though be careful about allowing adequate absorption time to effectively eliminate the cattails. It usually takes up to a few weeks for the herbicides to be properly absorbed in the roots systems of the cattails. Cutting too soon will probably mean that there are some roots left alive which will eventually regrow.

However, leaving the dead cattails for too long without removing the weed and debris will allow the cattails to decompose and turn into fertilizing muck that will aid in the next season’s growth of cattails.

Our top herbicide recommendations for cattail control are Diquat Dibromide Aquatic Herbicide, Glyphosate 5.4 Aquatic Herbicide and Clipper Aquatic Herbicide Flumioxazin

  • Salting It Up

Adding appropriate quantities and raising the level of water salinity can actually kill the cattails quite effectively that’s because this plant does not have the ability to process salt. A salt content of ten parts per thousand is quite effective to kill the cattails in ponds and swamps. You can add salt blocks to the cattails and check the salinity levels with a salinity test kit. It takes approximately two months for the salt to effectively choke the cattails after which they need to be cut and removed properly.


If cattails are an eyesore or getting the way of recreational activity, the tips and product recommendations above should be enough to eliminate them from the equation. For more helpful DIY advice, call the experts here at 800-479-6583, email us at askapro@solutionsstores.com or start up a live chat. We’ll be happy to hear from you.

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