Pond & Lake Q & A
Q: The cattails in my pond are out of control. How do I control them without disturbing the wildlife? - Richard of Minnesota
A: One of the most common of all aquatic plants, cattails can proliferate if left unchecked. Growing from 3 to 10 feet tall in dense colonies around the margins of ponds and lakes, the plants’ strap-like foliage emerges from large, creeping rhizomes in the muddy bottom in the spring. Soon, the cattail’s foliage and spikes, or the plant’s brown cylindrical flower, grow, eventually spreading its seeds and propagating new plants throughout the lake.
Though they can be a pest, a small controlled area of cattails will provide an ideal habitat for amphibians, insects, birds and fish, as well as helping to prevent erosion. But too many of these plants can create an unappealing look and begin to transform a healthy lake or pond into marshland, and eventually dry land.
Controlling cattails is a simple three-step process: You’ll need to spray a herbicide, cut the cattails down and remove them.
1. Spray: The most common way to control cattails is to apply an EPA-registered herbicide and surfactant product, like the Avocet & Cide-Kick Combo. Read the product labels for proper dosage rates, but to treat a 2,500-square-foot area of cattails, mix 8 ounces of Avocet and 4 ounces of Cide-Kick with 2 gallon of water, pour into pond sprayer (like the Airmax Pond Sprayer) and apply onto the water surface where the cattails are growing. Allow the mixture to absorb into the plant and the root system, the most difficult part of the plant to kill, for one to two weeks.
2. Cut: Once the herbicide has had a chance to soak into the cattail’s root system, the plant will turn brown and become limp. At this point, use an aquatic weed cutter to cut at the base of the plants, allowing for easier removal. If you can control your pond’s or lake’s water line, you can also cut the cattails 2 to 3 inches below the water surface to cut off the plant’s supply of oxygen and drown the plant.
3. Remove: Use a pond and beach rake to remove the cut cattails. You can compost them, burn them or dispose of them at your local green waste disposal site.
To completely eradicate cattails in a pond, this process may need to be repeated several times. Once you have the plants under control, they can make a nice addition to your landscape and encourage wildlife to call your pond or lake home.
POND TALK: How do you control cattails in your pond?