James Chip


Horsetail is an invasive plant that produces long lived resilient tubers , and has a tap root that runs deep in the soil. The root can go down as far as two meters, so I am told. They form large clumps of dense green shoots that can easily out compete other plants.

They spread fast underground via their root system, and in the early spring via spore heads that pop up.

They are often put in the same group as ferns, but are really their own family of plants called Equisetaceae of which horsetail (Equisetum) is the only living genus. It is basically a living fossil, with related plants going back as far as the Devonian.


I do not condone the use of weed killers, and they are fairly ineffective against horsetail anyway. They might well kill the plant above ground, but they wont kill the tubers or the roots, so even after a liberal coating they will grow back. The reality is that if you have any significant horsetail growth in your garden then trying to eradicate it is pointless.

There are only really two ways to try and control horsetail growth, and it is best to make peace with the fact it is there, keep it in check in places where it isn't wanted like vegetable patches, and maybe embrace it in other parts.

control through weeding

In early spring if you see the spore heads popping up just nip them off before they mature and spread spores everywhere. Then whenever you see a young horsetail plant pop up cut it off at the soil to stop it photosynthesizing and making food for the roots.

Don't bother trying to dig them up, the roots go too deep, and if you break bits off in the soil you just end up with more of them as the bits of remaining root can grow into new plants.

Eventually, if you keep on it, you will weaken the roots; and maybe after a few years be rid of them.

Do not put horsetail in the compost, you might end up spreading it everywhere.

control through planting

Horsetail need a lot of sun to make sugars to send to the roots, and it likes full sun. If you plant taller plants and shrubs that block the sun then they will eventually weaken it and the horsetail will get bored and move on.

Dense leafy shrubs and big ferns will do a good job of keeping the sun off, Just grow a bunch of stuff that can out compete it.

Grow a good dense cottage flower bed with lots of tall flowers that for pollinators, or maybe sow a bunch of vigorous native wild flowers to out compete them. If you just grow stuff that will shade them then they will eventually go away.


The fact is that horsetail is not all that ugly. Yes, it is annoying when it gets places you really don't want it, but that is gardening for you. I have been pulling up sweet pea plants for years, and there seems no end in sight to them either.

The fact is that if you keep weeding, grow what you want and just learn to live with it, you can live a pretty peaceful co-existence with it.


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