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Do I need to cut the cattails before I spray them? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: Do I need to cut the cattails before I spray them?

Q: Do I need to cut the cattails before I spray them?

Charlene- Brandon, VT

A: Slashing through cattails would certainly be cathartic, wouldn’t it? Well, we don’t recommend it – at least not yet. The best way to rid your pond or lake of those nuisance plants is to use a systemic herbicide with a surfactant, like Shoreline Defense® and Treatment Booster™ PLUS. Apply the mixture on the plant’s leaves with a sprayer. The herbicide then kills the entire plant, rhizome and all.

Destroying that rhizome is critical to controlling cattails. Along with cottony seeds that explode from their brown, conical flowers, cattails propagate via their rhizomes, or root systems, which produce shoots in the fall that sprout in the spring. When you stop their underground spread, you can manage their footprint in your pond or lake.

If you’re new at removing cattails from your pond, here are some tips to make it hassle free.

  1. Treat the cattails between late July and first frost, when the plant is actively growing.
  2. Use a tank sprayer, like the Specialty Pond Sprayer, to apply the herbicide to the leaves that are growing above the pond or lake’s surface. Make sure they’re at least 12 to 18 inches out of the water.
  3. Completely wet the foliage for maximum results when rain is not in the forecast for 24 hours.
  4. Once the plants have completely died and turned brown, you can get out your Weed Cutter and slash through those dead stalks. Aim for the base of the plants, which will allow for easier removal with your Pond & Beach Rake.

Cattails aren’t all bad. Besides adding to the aesthetic value of your landscape, they also make a good home for a variety of birds, insects, amphibians and underwater inhabitants. Consider leaving a few of the cattails around for those critters – but keep the plant carefully controlled with Shoreline Defense®.

Pond Talk: Various parts of the cattail are edible, including its rhizome, young shoots and green flower spike. Would you ever consider harvesting and eating your cattails?

Treats Shoreline Weeds & Cattails - Pond Logic(r) Shoreline Defense (r)

13 Responses

  1. Btw. Our pond is about 200 ft in diameter. I just read one of the comments below that using the cattail killer on larger ponds is not recommend, can you tell me why that is. Just trying to understand all of this. We have lily pads, will that damage them? Thank you!

    • Oops. I think I misread the comment below regarding pond size and not using the cat tail killer. I read it as not using it on larger ponds. But can you clarify if the cat tail killer is safe w fish, frogs ect. Thank you again

  2. Hi!! So happy to have found this blog and website for pond info. We are new to owning a pond and thrilled to see a spray kill for the cattails. My question is is it safe if there are fish in the pond ? Also we have a brownish red flat leafy plant that also seems to be taking over I know it’s hard wo knowing exactly what I’m speaking of but just wondering if you had any thoughts on what it might be. THANK YOU

    • Just found that that the leafy plant is an American pond weed

    • Hi Leslie – The Shoreline Defense is safe for fish, frogs, etc. You would apply the product directly to the plant floating on the pond surface or standing above it. You may be able treat some of the American Pondweed floating on the surface but UltraPondweed Defense® or Hydrothol 191 may be a better option for those plants.

      • Question on cattails. We have quite a few throughout our pond. How ever we have noticed in the last 3-4 weeks bunches of them in different areas are turning yellow and dying. Is this a natural phase? The ones dying are one’s furthest from shore. We’ve had lots of rain here but wouldn’t think that would effect it since they do live in a pond. Any thoughts?

      • Hi Leslie – Typically the cattails won’t die on their own until the fall when the season starts to change. Have you applied any other chemicals to the water? Even if they were not targeting the cattails it may have affected a few of them.

      • No we haven’t done or applied anything to the pond, just throw in the occasional fish food. We moved in last summer and spent much time w/the house so I don’t know if this happened last summer as well or if this is new.

      • If temperatures are warm and there was a lot of rainfall its possible they may just be less than thriving for the moment. Chances are they won’t completely die off if the root systems are still alive. Good Luck with your new house and hopefully you can get to the pond soon!

  3. We have a large pond and the cattails took over, over the last few years. We started using this last year with great results and have continued this year. We have gained A LOT of beach and shoreline back. Kind of a slow process but worth it.

  4. I have a 12,000 gal pond with waterlilies. Won’t the spraying that you describe be dangerous to them?

    • hi Mike – This article is aimed at our Pond & Lake (1/4 acre+) customers. We do not recommend using Shoreline Defense in your size pond. If you have cattails that are getting out of control, you will need to manually them from the pond.

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