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Do Cattails actually die in the winter or can I do something to prevent them from coming back? | Pond & Lake Q&A


Do Cattails actually die in the winter or can I do something to prevent them from coming back?

Do Cattails actually die in the winter or can I do something to prevent them from coming back?

Brian – Holland, MI

As grandfather used to say, “never trust a sleeping cattail.” Actually, grandfather never said that. But he should have – because it’s true.

During the winter months, cattail foliage dies off. Leaves and stems turn brown and dry up when the weather gets cold, and optimistic pond keepers dare to imagine their backyard water features without the scourge of unwanted cattails. But deep beneath the pond, cattail roots are alive and well in their dormant state, saving up their energy to come back strong in the spring.

Fortunately, cattails aren’t invincible. Depending on the season, enterprising pond owners can take steps to eliminate cattails, leaving their backyard water features in great shape to host more desirable aquatic plants and fish.

When winter rolls around, and cattails have dried up, it’s worthwhile to cut the dead foliage and remove it. Our Pond Rake/Weed Cutter Combo is specifically designed to make this process quick and easy. While this won’t kill the cattails, it will lay the groundwork for a successful spring offensive.

In spring, summer and fall, when cattail foliage is thriving, it’s time to apply our Avocet PLX Aquatic Herbicide. This safe, powerful herbicide is applied directly to all above-water cattail foliage. Once applied, the herbicide attacks and kills the entire plant – including its root system. Once the plant is dead, you’ll want to resume the use of your Pond Rake/Weed Cutter Combo to remove the dead plants and prevent their potential to spread.

While Avocet PLX is effective on spring growth, it’s most effective during late summer and fall, when foliage is at its peak.

Pond Talk: Do you clear out dead cattails in the fall to get a jump start on spring maintenance?

Lake Rake Weed Cutter Combo

10 Responses

  1. What about the cattails that are growing out of the water? Will getting this product in the water kill all my fish in my 1/3 acre pond as it floats into it? If so, how do I delete those cattails?

  2. Hi Brian,
    Did you know Cattails are edible? We gathered a few today and are grinding the root stock to make flour from the starch. I heard that many pioneers used them for a significant food source. Anyway, just an interesting factoid. :-)

  3. Cattails are rough to eliminate completely. Especially for areas in need of restoration, it’s imperative to eliminate hybridized species of cattail in order to for native flora and fauna to flourish.

  4. we have found that cattails will completely die back if they are smashed completely so they are totally covered by water over the winter. This works in northern Iowa where ice covers the surface during the winter and may be necessary for this tratment to work.

  5. I don’t do any mowing at all on the south end of the pond, and just let whatever wants to grow there. The turtles and herons hang out there. There are lots of local geese and ducks that visit but they nest in a much, much larger pond north of here. Actually it is probably a lake. My pond is only about half an acre and there is too much going on to attract nesting birds.When it rains the otters run out into the street, jump into the curb inlet, slide down the culvert into the pond, then run up and do it again. It is like a water park. I think to attract nesting birds is not what you plant, but to let things grow, have lots of water and quiet areas where they can feel safe.

  6. We used your Whitcap this spring and our pond is looking beautiful. Cattails are all gone. However we would like to attract Mallard and Wood Ducks and understand they will not nest on our pond without a natura lplant growth for the babies to hide in. What can we plant that will attract Ducks?

    • Wood ducks nest in nest boxes or hollow trees tat can be as much as 1/4 mile from water, Mallards are upland nesters and would appreciate, more than anything else, a thick and tall stand of native grasses. If this stand is too small; foxes and racoons will easily find, catch, and kill all the nestlings or eggs. A point to note. Baby mallards are highly dependent on mosquitos as a majority of their early diet. Don’t poison them. The B T treatments are not toxic to the ducks but they will not stick around without a good population of mosqitos when the ducklings are small.

  7. Living here in the north where winters are long and the pond is covered with ice and snow for months I leave the cattails uncut. The contrast of the beige and brown spent cattails against the white snow makes for some dramatic images particularly when the sun is out and low. Tony in Rome, NY

  8. I have cattails on the south end of my pond and like having them. They have never been a problem and just hang out there,being cattails. I think that if you have good waterflow and a deep pond cattails shouldn’t be a problem. Shallow ponds with little water movement can be overtaken by cattails. This would show that you don’t have a pond at all but some type of slough.

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