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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® Shoreline Defense®


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9 Responses

  1. Do you have product that kills milfoil
    Our can I up load a picture of what I have growth in my pond and send it to you?

    • Hi Tod – We do have products that treat milfoil. Here is a link to the weed id page for milfoil and the available products. If you would like to send us a picture for identification there are instructions for that as well under the Ask An Expert Section on the weed id page.

  2. Thx very much for the info … am assuming what you recommend (Shoreline Defense) is safe for fish & other pond critters. Mine is a liner pond but this shouldn’t make a difference, right?
    Many thx for all the great info!

    • Hi Janice – It is safe for the fish and other wildlife but it is non-selective so just be sure to only spray the plant that you want to control.

  3. Is there a good way to apply the herbicide other than spraying? I’d like to minimize overspray into the pond (which would also kill off the beneficial bacteria). I’m trying to think of a good tool to wipe it on the leaves, but haven;t come up with anything.

    • Hi John – I have seen wands and other wiping tools on the market but they don’t seem to cover as well. Shoreline Defense only works on weed above the surface of the pond and wouldn’t not kill the beneficial bacteria. Even algaecides will have minimal impact on the bacteria count on a large pond.

  4. >Once the plants have completely died and turned brown…….i find this ugly: they indeed turn a red brown with roundup. different from naturally decaying! but then, rather than decay underwater in fall winter, the stumps stay up forever, through the ice into the next growing season….. much easier simpler to prevent rhizomes with fluridone. granted everything else also goes on the fritz….so choose your enemy.

  5. i dump fluridone in my pond: the cattails and irises become variegated and stunted but are not ugly and return the following year smaller. much fewer seedpots!

    • Thank you for sharing your experience Fred. If you are treating with fluridone for other purposes as well then it may be helpful in the battle with emergent weeds however since it is not designed to kill them it is only a long shot.

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