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Keeping Cattails At Bay in and Around Your Pond – Pond & Lake Q & A


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 Shoreline Defense® & Treatment Booster™ PLUS Combo. Read the product labels for proper dosage rates, but to treat a 2,500-square-foot area of cattails, mix 8 ounces of Shoreline Defense® and 4 ounces of Treatment Booster™ PLUS with 2 gallon of water, pour into pond sprayer (like the The Pond Guy® 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 a 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 & 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?

15 Responses

  1. The cattails in my pond are taking over – they are more than 7 feet high. Is it better to chop them down halfway before spraying them? I would appreciate an answer from somebody. Thank you so so much!!!

    • No do not cut them before you treat. You want to treat with an aquatic herbicide like Avocet PLX which travels to the rhizome (root) of the cattail to kill it completely. These types of herbicides require the plant to be alive, active and growing so that it can absorb the chemical and deliver it to its root system. If you chop the plant before treating it will not process the herbicide as efficiently.

  2. Hi,
    I am very confused! We have a horrible cattail problem, filling up our 2 acre pond, and completely blocking what used to be a beautiful view. I have been reading your blog on this issue, and you say Avocet and Cide-Kick won’t harm fish or wildlife, yet on their website, it says BOTH that there are no water use restrictions, AND the manufacturer’s MSDN information – items 11- 14 – say that it is intensely toxic to both wild-life and humans. Which is correct?

    Our pond shares water with a larger, deeper pond that is stocked with fish, and we often have ducks nest here. We must be CERTAIN it can be used without harming fish and wildlife. Do the scary MSDN warnings apply only if it is not used correctly? We need to do something about the cattails, but we have to be sure it’s not harmful. Help!

    • Hi Lani,

      MSDS sheets are in referance to the concentrated chemicals. Once applied there should not be any issues. While there needs to be caution with their use most will not cause issues once applied. To put in in perspective (not a direct comparison however) regular tootpaste and mouth wash can also be toxic if ingested as well as many other household products.

  3. I’d like to rid our pond of cattails, but I see you can’t ship chemicals to New York. What’s a New Yorker to do to control cattails?

  4. Will the avocet and the cide kick be safe for pets ? our dog loves to swim in our pond and search for fish and frogs, and our cats and dogs often drink from the pond.


  5. Raymond,

    You are absolutely right and it needs to be called out more.

    What you can place the cabinet next to the power source and run Direct Burial Airline from the cabinet all the way to the shoreline and from there connect the Easy-Set Weighted Airline that comes with the system.

    Here is the link to a blog post about installing a system away from the pond. Installing a Pond Aeration System Away from the Pond

    In all honestly, and i’m sure your aware of this, but electric aerators are still, at this point, more efficient at aeration and circulation than windmills. So I would highly recommend an electric aeration system over a windmill.

    Let me know if I can be of anymore help.

  6. I am looking for a quality windmill (20-25 ft tall) that could be used to pump air into my pond. Do you have something like that or know where I could get one?


    • Bruce,

      Yes we do, the tallest we have is a 23′ windmill. The tower is 20′ and the windmill head adds 3 more to it once put together.

      Here is a link to the windmills.

      How big is your pond? Windmills usually are only good for ponds less than an acre in size. Also, if you are looking for aeration, there has to be constant wind or you won’t properly aerate it.

      One last question, how far away from power is your pond? Most don’t know this but some electric aerators like Airmax Aeration can be run up to 1000′ from the power source.

      • How can it be run 1000′ feet from source? I am 600′ from the source and have been looking for an alternative like this. Your site doesn’t mention anything about this opportunity.


  7. I would love to try this spray to rid my pond of cattails, but will it harm the fish?

    Thank You

    • Pam,

      Great question and no it will not harm your fish, unless maybe you through the bottle at them =) .

      Avocet and Cide-Kick have no water use restrictions and when used according to the label everything will be fine.

      Thanks for the question!

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