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Keeping Cattails Under Control

Cattails can be a beautiful and beneficial addition to your pond under the right circumstances. However, if they get out of control, cattails can become a serious nuisance. Whether they are restricting access to your pond or lake, or choking out more favorable plant life, when cattails take over it is important to create a plan of action.

Cattails can be controlled either through manual removal or chemical removal. Either method can be used to eliminate the population, or simply to thin out problem areas.

Chemical Removal

Chemical removal is the most effective method of removal during the warmer seasons. Properly applying the right herbicide (such as Shore Klear) to a cattail stand effectively kills the stand. The best way to apply herbicides is often through the use of a backpack sprayer. Most herbicides are applied to the cattail leaves. It is important to note that some herbicides may require a second application, but results will be noticeable in the form of browning leaves and plant stems, and eventually the death of the plant.

Once the plants have been killed, it is important to follow up with manual removal. If the plant matter is left in the pond, it will decay which can cause a multitude of issues, including foul odors and unpleasant views, and can become a source of nutrients that fuels cattail regrowth.

Manual Removal

Although manual removal is less effective during the warmer months, it is the ideal solution for reducing the spread of cattails when done in the winter. Cattails reproduce both through rhizomes (underground stems that put out new shoots) and seed heads at the tops of the plants. Once the water has frozen over, the seed heads can be cut off at the surface using a weed cutter, weed whacker, or even a flat blade shovel. Although this does not completely stop the spread of the cattails, it drastically slows it down, so this is a great option for folks that are happy with their current cattail situation, but want to keep it from getting out of hand in the future.

During the summer months, another option is to simply cut the plants two to three inches below the water. This can drown the plants, but once again, this method is not as effective as using chemical removal.

Whatever route is taken, it is important to remember to remove the dead plant matter before it has a chance to decay. Decaying matter only invites future plant growth, and will overall sabotage efforts to create a clearer pond.

Harrietta Hills is a licensed herbicide applicator in the state of Michigan. Please feel free to give us a call at (231) 389-2635, or email us at for professional help to get rid of your cattail problem!