How do weeds like Cattails and Phragmites survive the winter?
Bryce – Grand Rapids, MN
Your gamefish and frogs aren’t the only ones hiding from the cold winter weather. Even your emergent weeds have developed a defense mechanism to survive over the winter. Being perennial plants, they may appear to die when the weather cools down but they are really just buying time until the spring thaw when they will return in all of their glory. Whether or not this is good news depends on how you feel about the presence of these particular plants in your pond.
Plants like Cattails tend to disperse their seeds as fall approaches. As the weather continues to cool the leaves and the stalk of the plant wilt and die only to decompose and become fertilizer for the roots, or rhizomes, of the plant come spring. While the exposed areas of the plant are dying off, the roots of the plant begin pulling in nutrients to store before going into dormancy for the winter. As these roots can be considered the heart of the plant, cutting down Cattail and Phragmite reeds will not discourage new plant growth in the spring.
If you like having Cattails or Phragmites around your pond then nothing is needed to help them through the winter as they are naturally prepared to make a comeback. If you are not a fan of these emergent plants you can make it harder for them to grow back by physically removing the plant roots or by using pond care products to remove their food source and kill the plants including the roots. Applying aquatic herbicides like Avocet PLX while Cattails and Phragmites are still active is infinitely easier than trying to pull their extensive root system from the pond. Avocet PLX is absorbed by the plant and carried to its roots effectively killing the entire weed. Since you don’t want to encourage new growth you will want to remove any potential “fertilizers” in the form of plant decay and muck. Once dead cut and drag any dead reeds and leaves away from the pond and burn or compost them. Using a Rake and Weed Cutter will make short work of these shoreline cleanups and give you the advantage for next season.
Pond Talk: How do your emergent plants react to the cold winter weather?