What does horsetail look like

How to Kill Giant Horsetail in Your Garden

I was told by the landscape professional who designed my yard that planting giant horsetail behind an expensive chemical barrier (BioBarrier) would prevent it from spreading in my garden. No problem.

This statement could not be further from the truth.

Giant Horsetail Is an Invasive Weed

Giant horsetail is horrible. Stay miles away from it. In fact, I would stay away from all varieties of horsetail. Horsetail grows in the wild but it’s also sold at almost every nursery. Avoid it at all costs, especially the giant kind which was recommended for our yard.

Don’t let people tell you that horsetail in a container will be okay. All it takes is for one stalk to break off and blow away without you noticing. That stalk can root in your yard and take over. It can spread underneath your driveway to the other side, and go deep under concrete fence footings to reach your neighbor’s house. I found it traveling under concrete at distances of up to 20 feet.

This will create a huge problem for you and potentially your neighbors. I would estimate that a handful of plants has cost thousands of dollars in trouble.

Weed Killers We’ve Tried

We tried a long list of chemicals. I hate applying anything that isn’t organic to our yard but we were left without a choice. These did not work:

  • Anything natural
  • RoundUp
  • Brush B Gon
  • Remuda

We also tried digging it up as well as suffocating it with a barrier. These tests remedies were performed over the course of a few years so rest assured that we did our due diligence.

How to Kill Horsetail

The local nursery who planted this invasive weed in our yard was also frantically trying to find a remedy. Finally, they started using a chemical called SedgeHammer to try to prevent the horsetail’s rapid spread and eventually kill it off.

A nursery staffer started coming by once a week to apply SedgeHammer as it lists Equisetum Arvense (horsetail) as something it can kill. Over the course of a month, I noticed growth slow down.

It’s completely unnerving because, supposedly, the SedgeHammer kills the horsetail stalk from underneath the dirt so the top stays green, and even grows a little bit.

The stalks will eventually shrivel up and die. Thicker giant horsetail stalks take longer to die. The new, skinny ones will totally die off with one application.

It was hard for me to measure the progress really since I swore that I would not go digging around to check if the roots were dead.

The nursery marked treated stalks with orange paint so that they could measure progress. I shut off the irrigation in the area where it was growing.

Our remedy took much longer than the two weeks the SedgeHammer website implies the product can control problems in.

In fact, it took months of regular applications. The following spring, I noticed new growth that we had to apply more SedgeHammer to.

A year later I spotted more new growth that was treated. To this day, every so often we’ll spot a sprig of giant horsetail but it’s nothing compared to what the problem used to be.

So, if you have horsetail, you may want to try SedgeHammer but be diligent about applying it frequently. Please do your research before you apply anything like this yourself to decide if it’s right for you because it is poison. It’s the only product that killed giant horsetail in our yard.

But do yourself a favor and avoid any kind of horsetail.

How have you killed horsetail in your yard?

How do I get rid of Equisetum?

Scouring rush and field horsetail are two species in the Equisetum genus. These are primitive plants that produce spores rather than seeds, but they spread primarily by underground rhizomes. Until recently these two weeds were found primarily in roadside ditches, but the reduction in tillage has allowed them to spread into crop fields.

Although I suspect neither weed is highly competitive with corn or soybean, over time they can get dense enough to interfere with production. Few herbicides used in crop production have any effect on the equisetums. Tillage can suppress the weeds, but it probably would take several years of intensive tillage to eradicate them from fields.

Most infestations of these weeds are due to a source population in adjacent non-crop areas. Controlling the equisetum in these areas probably is the most efficient method of removing them from crop fields, but unfortunately this is not an easy task either. Repeated mowing or tillage is one option, but it will take at least two years of disturbance to control/eradicate the weed.

Chlorsuluron (Telar) is one herbicide that has good activity on equisetums, and it is registered for use in sites such as roadsides. Chlorsulfuron is a sulfonylurea herbicide (Group 2), related to products such as Accent and Classic. Multiple applications would be needed for complete control. It is a persistent compound that is toxic to both corn and soybean, so caution must be taken to prevent overspray into production fields

Chlorsulfuron is recommended at 1 to 2.6 oz/A (75% dry formulation) for controlling equisetums. An 8 oz container is the smallest quantity I could find on the internet. This container would provide sufficient herbicide to treat approximately a mile of a 20 ft roadside twice at an intermediate rate.

Counties vary in regulations regarding managing weeds in road rights of ways; determine local rules before implementing control strategies in these areas.

So how do you get rid of equisetum? The answer is: ‘It ain’t easy.’ But then, managing a good weed never is.

Scouring rush (Equisetum hyemale)Field horsetail (Equisetum arvense)

How to kill Horsetail

Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) is common perennial plant that grows throughout the country. Quick to spread and difficult to kill, horsetail is one of the more annoying weeds to try and control in the garden. Even the smallest amount of horsetail can easily spread throughout your garden, as the roots spread far and wide while the plant reproduces using spores rather than seeds.

Traditional weeding methods such as mowing or slashing have little effect removing horsetail completely, as new stems develop from roots left behind, leaving many gardeners frustrated by their unwanted presence.

Problems with horsetail begin in spring when greenish brown shoots burst from the ground. These are tipped with small cones that produce spores that spread the plant even further, so it’s often a good idea to try and control them before they begin to spore.

However, as horsetail roots creep throughout the ground and are difficult to spot when working soil (mainly due to their brown colour), they usually spread much further than most people realise. Digging the roots up before the plant develops isn’t possible either, as the root systems go to depths of 1.5m – nobody is digging this deep in their garden to remove horsetail!

Once the stem has produced spores, horsetail develops small thin leaves throughout the plant, which last throughout spring and summer before dying off in late autumn. The roots remain intact though, so horsetail will reappear the next year and begin the cycle once more.

How to Get Rid of Horsetaill

While horsetail is very difficult to control it is possible to kill the weed before it develops into a larger problem.

Hoeing Before Spores Spread

Most importantly, you need to kill off the first stalks that produce spores to prevent them from reproducing and spreading further. Even though the stalks are likely to regrow, hoeing them out before they spore is an effective way to control their spread.

What Chemical Kills Horsetail

Horsetail leaves are surprisingly hardy, with the thin ‘tails’ covered in a waxy substance that makes certain contact weed killers virtually ineffective.

For instance, glyphosate is a contact herbicide that kills weeds by being absorbed into the plant through their leaves and foliage, yet the waxy horsetail leaves protect it against these types of weed killers. This may not be a bad thing however, as studies are revealing that glyphosate may be more harmful to people than we originally anticipated.

Neudorff Superfast and Long Lasting Weedkiller

Not all herbicides may be ineffective though! Neudorff Superfast and Long Lasting Weedkiller, made from pelargonic acid, maybe the best strong weed killer to better control the spread of horsetail. Pelargonic acid is naturally occurring in maleic acid hydrazide, which has been well-studied and used as growth regulators for vegetables like onions and potatoes since the 1950s.

To use this herbicide to kill horsetail, start by crushing the stems and leaves on the plant, which helps break up the waxy substance protecting it from contact killers. Doing so should make the herbicide easier to absorb.

This type of weed killer is easily available online and in garden centres and is completely safe after application. Pets and children can be around treated areas right after applying the herbicide, so it’s a safe option for anyone looking to remove horsetail from their garden.

Related: Are Coffee Grounds Good for the Garden


Kurtail herbicide, a glufosinate-ammonium, is another option for killing horsetail. It may take several weeks to completely kill the weed, as the roots are log extensive that they take longer to die off – typically in 2-3 weeks. This herbicide is best-used when the horsetail is growing as it requires the weed to be actively growing to take effect.

Horsetail growing season is quite long though, so anytime between the start of March and end of September should suffice. The plant should therefore be allowed to grow to heights of around 20cm, as Kurtail works as foliar application, meaning it needs leaves to work.

Wait until the stem, leaves, and roots are completely dead before digging out the horsetail, otherwise the leftover root clippings will survive and shoot out new growth. Also, if you plan on using the dead horsetail for compost make sure to dry or drown them.

The product is designed for professional use so it won’t be as widely available as standard weed killers. Websites such as eBay do have regular listings of this herbicide however, so it should be easy enough to source it online.

It does degrade after contact with soil so the treated area can be worked with shortly after application. Sandy and peat soils may require longer before working though, so wait around 3 days for the herbicide to degrade in these types of soils.

Organic Control

Those seeking a non-herbicide method to control horsetail do have an option – although it may take a lot of weeding to get you the best results!

This process requires decent soil conditions (not overly wet) for forking out the soil to make dealing with shoots much simpler. With less soil, shoots are easy to remove, so cut off an inch below the soil surface each time they begin to shoot.

Because you’re limiting the growth of the plant, the root becomes deprived of food. Let it grow above 3-inches and the horsetail starts storing food at the roots once more, so never allow the shoots to reach above 3-inches!

Of course, this is merely a form of weed control as you probably won’t manage to remove all traces throughout the root systems. You do significantly reduce how much it spreads however!

Our lawn care tips article cover many of the most commonly asked gardening questions.

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What is horsetail?

Horsetail is a perennial plant that grows in areas of North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Also known as puzzle plant and scouring rush. It’s also called puzzle plant because all varieties of horsetail have hollow jointed stems that are easily pulled apart. It’s also called scouring rush because in the olden days horsetail used to be used to scour pots, pans, tin and pewter. Knights of old were also said to shine their armor with horsetail. Native Americans used it in their woodworking to create a silky finish and there are still woodworkers today that use it.

There are several varieties of horsetail and the scouring rush variety can live up to 100 years old!

Horsetail is a fascinating plant with a history as old as time. Anciently the horsetail was the most dominant group of plants on the planet and is the descendent of the Equisetum (Latin for “horse”) species that grew millions of years ago during the Paleozoic era. Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth horsetail was a large as pine trees!

What does horsetail look like?

“The leaves of horsetails are arranged in whorls fused into nodal sheaths. The stems are green and photosynthetic, and are distinctive in being hollow, jointed and ridged (with sometimes 3 but usually 6-40 ridges). There may or may not be whorls of branches at the nodes” (Wikipedia). Most species of horsetail grow between one and five feet tall but a species known as giant horsetail can get up to 26 feet.

What is horsetail used for?

Horsetail contains more than 35% silica, a compound that is used to strengthen connective tissues such as skin, hair, nails, bones (including broken bones, fractures and osteoporosis), teeth, cartilage, ligaments, arteries and mucus membranes. Horsetail is one of the highest silica-containing plants on earth. You can find silica capsules in health food stores that are made from horsetail. It’s also found in many commercial herbal hair care products and cosmetics (like anti-wrinkle cream) because of its high silica and mineral content.

Horsetail also contains quercetin, a natural anti-inflammatory that can stabilize mast cells when they become inflamed during allergic reactions.

It’s been traditionally used to help flush uric acid from the body

Horsetail has also been used to treat bronchitis and tuberculosis. People with asthma have also benefited from drinking daily horsetail tea, commonly combined with mullein leaf. The horsetail reduces inflammation and strengthens the lung tissue while mullein helps make the lung air sacks more pliable and removes congestion.

Horsetail is also used to improve kidney and bladder health. For example, it can help increase resistance to urinary tract infections.

Horsetail has been used to treat a variety of skin disorders. Some people have even claimed to experience new hair growth and thicker hair from using horsetail.

Where does horsetail grow?

Horsetail especially loves moist, marshy areas but it can also be found in fields, forests, gravely soil, on slopes and even in the cracks of cement sidewalks.

When the small tan-colored horsetail shoot first emerges from the soil, it can be picked and eaten raw. But as it continues to grow it becomes fibrous and at that point is used for medicinal purposes only and should not be consumed raw.

When should you harvest horsetail?

Harvest horsetail when the leaves are bright green and are turned either upward (preferable) or outward. Towards the end of the season the leaves will droop more and the horsetail will lose its potency. Early through late Spring is the best time to forage horsetail.

Use a clean pair of scissors and simply snip the horsetail a few inches from the base, or less if it’s a very young, short horsetail.

We’ve been taking our kids out on some foraging adventures, equipped with our Pacific Northwest Foraging book. (Check out our other recent adventure foraging edible fiddleheads). Our kids had a blast finding and harvesting the horsetail (what kids wouldn’t with a name like that?) They call them “horsey tails” 🙂

How do you store horsetail?

Horsetail contains large amounts of water so the key is getting it adequately dried for storing it. You can use a food dehydrator set to the lowest temperature setting or you can bundle the horsetail up, tie the bundles, and hang them upside down in a cool, dark place with adequate circulation until they’re dried. At that point they’ll come apart pretty easily in your hands (hence the name “puzzle plant” and you can also chop them up and then store them in a dark place in airtight containers, preferably glass. Dried horsetail will keep for a year.

It’s best to wash the horsetail first to rinse off dirt particles. Then you can let it dry for a little while in the sun before hanging it up to dry.

Bundle the horsetail up – don’t bundle too many together or there won’t be adequate air circulation for them to dry – and tie the bundles with string.

You can hang them directly to the ceiling or, as I’ve done here, tie them to a coat hanger, allowing adequate space between them, and then hang them from the ceiling, preferably in a dark place with air circulation.

The horsetail is dry and the hollow stems no longer contain moisture when you break them between your fingers. Depending on the temperature of the room and the airflow, it will take a least a week, maybe two to three.

How do you use horsetail?

You make face and hair tonics or rinses to improve the health of your skin and hair. Ingesting it in the form of a tea will do the same thing plus provide many other health benefits such as the ones mentioned above.

To make a strong infusion you use a good handful of chopped dried horsetail per 2-3 cups of water. Pour the hot water over the herbs and let the tea steep for at least 15 minutes or up to several hours. This tea can also be used as a skin tonic.

Horsetail has a mild grass-like flavor and combines really well with other herbs for a pleasant-tasting tea. Combine it with any other herb of your choice.

To make a hair rinse steep a generous cup of dried horsetail in about 6 cups of hot water for up to several hours. Let it cool completely and then pour it over your hair over a large bowl. Then collect what’s in the bowl and rinse again a few more times. With horsetail’s high silica content, your hair will be silky and shiny.

**It’s important to note that, as with most herbs, they are only effective if consumed on a regular basis over a long period of time, at least 3 months of consistent use.

Horsetail has been used for centuries for its variety of benefits and you don’t have to pay a penny for it: It’s easy to find, harvest and use.

Disclosure: To ensure safety and selection of the correct plant, refer to diagrams and descriptions from a reputable plant identification guide.


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Horsetail creates strong structure and foundation. Touch its leaves and you will feel the rocky texture of silica and other minerals. Horsetails’ masterful roots can dig as deep as 150 feet into bedrock where they dissolve minerals and draw them into their cells. When we drink horsetail leaf tea we are absorbing these minerals and utilizing them to build strong bones, hair, skin and nails. Horsetail also regenerates soil health through depositing minerals onto surface soil.

Other Names: puzzle plant, scouring rush, Equisetum spp.

Identifying Horsetail: The ancient horsetail family was once the dominant group of plants on our planet, with some varieties growing as large as pine trees. In modern times most varieties only grow a few feet tall, although a stand of horsetail reaching 20 feet was discovered in Australia several years ago! There are currently about 20 species worldwide and they are found on all continents except Antarctica. All varieties have hollow, jointed stems that can be easily pulled apart – hence the name puzzle plant.

We have 3 common varieties in Western Washington. Scouring rush (E. Hyemele) has no leaves, only small scales at its joints. It can live to be over 100 years old. Common or field horsetail (E. arvense) grows 1-2 feet tall and has very narrow leaves appearing in a whorl at the top of its jointed stems. Giant horsetail (E. telmatiea) can grow to a whopping 6 feet tall. Central stalks are much wider and you may see water in each node. In early spring fertile shoots of both common and giant horsetail appear. These tan-colored single stems lack chlorophyll and are almost luminescent. Cone-like tips produce pollen that is mint-green colored. Sterile green plants appear later.

Where it grows: Many species prefer marshy areas, but horsetail can grow in the most unlikely places including waste areas, fields, open slopes, packed gravely soil and even through cement in sidewalks. Horsetail often emerges in places where topsoil is removed or disturbed – a remarkable expression of nature taking care of herself.

Eating horsetail Fertile Shoots

Horsetail has two spring offerings: the tan-colored fertile shoots that appear early in the season are edible. Later, the green stalks of horsetail appear as a separate plant. These can be used as medicine, but are not eaten.

Young fertile shoots are considered a delicacy among many Coast Salish People. Pinch off stem close to the ground, peel off the brown papery sheaf around each node, and then pull off the top cone. The tender growth between the nodes is eaten fresh and is traditionally dipped in oil. It can also be cut up and added to soups or sautés.

Each node of the stem stores water, especially in giant horsetail. You can cut the top off each node and drink the delicious liquid inside – Nature’s original mineral water. One friend from Makah explained how he takes a narrow stick, inserts it in the top, and pushes down through each node, leaving the bottom one intact. With this technique he can drink all the water in the stalk at once.

When and How to Harvest Horsetail Green Stalks:

Spring green tops are gathered when the leaves are still vibrant green and pointing upward or outward – usually between March and July. As the plants age, leaves begin to droop and turn army-green. Silica crystals in the leaves become more developed and less water-soluble – and therefore, less useful for human consumption.

Horsetail is tricky to dry because it contains a lot of water. Dried plants should look green – not brown or silvery. Bundling them and hanging them in a place with good airflow works well. Once they are completely dry, they pull apart easily like puzzle pieces. Then, you can rub them between your hands to make them smaller. The stems can be cut in to small pieces with scissors. Dried horsetail lasts about a year, or as long as it retains its color and smell.

Horsetail Medicine:

Horsetail is a tonic remedy that strengthens tissues of the body including the lungs, sinuses and kidneys. The tea is high in quercetin, an anti-inflammatory compound that stabilizes mast cells that become easily inflamed during allergic reactions. Horsetail is an excellent daily tea for people with asthma, especially when mixed with mullein leaf. It strengthens lung tissue and prevents inflammation, while mullein helps to remove congestion and increase pliability of lung air sacks. Horsetail has also been used for treating bronchitis and tuberculosis.

In Mexico the plant is highly regarded as a tonic to improve both the structure and function of the kidneys and the bladder. Frequent consumption of horsetail tea during an acute urinary tract infection may decrease discomfort and burning sensations. It is a safe tonic for chronic urinary conditions, and can help increase resistance to infection.

Horsetail contains more than 35% silica – a compound that helps to strengthen connective tissue including bones, cartilage, skin, hair, nails, mucus membranes, and arteries. Silica capsules derived directly from horsetail are available in health food stores. I have known several menopausal women with hair loss that noticed an increase in hair growth from taking the capsules. One friend sent horsetail to her uncle to help strengthen his kidneys. Several months later he called her and asked what magic remedy she had been giving him… his receding hairline was filling in with new hair growth! Homeopathic Silicea from horsetail is also used to rebuild strong connective tissue.

Horsetail Tea

Horsetail has a mild vegetable broth-like flavor. Prepare a strong infusion with a large handful of herb per two to three cups of water. Steep 15 minutes to several hours. Drink 2-3 cups a day on a regular basis.

Horsetail combines well with other herbs. A popular tea at the Northwest Indian Treatment Center is our Healthy Skin, Hair, Bones, and Nails Tea. It contains equal parts horsetail, red clover, stinging nettles, and peppermint. One heaping tablespoon of this mixture is steeped in a cup of boiled water for 15 minutes to several hours. Delicious!

Horsetail is used cosmetically as a hair wash and a skin tonic. Silica in the plant binds to hair or skin proteins and serves as a protector and strengthener. The tea can be applied topically for recovering from sunburn or for poor quality skin with premature aging.

Hair Rinse

Boil 6-8 cups of water in a pot. Turn off heat, then add about a cup of dried horsetail to the hot water. Let it cool to a warm temperature and then strain into a second pot or large bowl. Compost the horsetail and bring the tea and the original pot to a sink or the bathtub. Bend over and place the empty pot under your head. Pour the tea over your hair. If it is long, you can let it sit in the tea in the bowl beneath you. Switch containers and pour the tea over your head several more times, then towel dry hair. This rinse makes your hair feel silky and look shiny.


Horsetail green stalks should not be eaten raw. They contain thiaminase, an enzyme that destroys thiamine or vitamin B1 stores in the body. This is especially problematic for grazing horses that seem to love it. Cooking or drying the plant destroys this enzyme.

Be careful not to gather horsetail in areas where water drains from agriculture or industry. Inorganic nitrogen compounds are absorbed into the plant and create less toxic alkaloids from them including nicotine and acanatine, which are harmful to the body.

Other Uses

Scouring rush refers to the silica-rich stems that pioneers used as wilderness pot scrubbers. Knights were said to shine their armors with horsetail. It is superior to the finest grades of steel wool and has been used by Native American woodworkers to produce a smooth finish. I know some contemporary woodworkers who still use it – and the results are amazing. It makes wood glassy, yet retains a soft texture.

Memories of horsetail radiate throughout my childhood. I remember walking through patches of giant horsetail and giggling as the tiny leaves tickled my skin. It felt like a brush passing over my whole body. Stalks transformed into animal tails and soft downy material for nests. Horsetail also felt fossil-like – a relic of ancient times when wholly mammoths wandered the riverside and humans discovered plant technologies. I peeked over their stalks into the wetland to search for Paleolithic birds. It was thrilling have a living experience of ancient history.

This product has now been discontinued * as of 31st January 2019 is not permitted to be sold in the UK. View our brand new alternative product Diamond

Pearl is a soluble concentrate formulation containing 150 g/l (13.52% w/w) glufosinate-ammonium. It is a fast acting desiccant herbicide used for controlling many grasses & broadleaved weeds, including troublesome weeds such as Horse-tail. Pearl can be used around the following areas; Fence lines, Natural surfaces not intended to bear vegetation, Permeable surfaces overlaying soils, Hard surfaces & Managed amenity turf for line-marking preparation.

Although Pearl is mainly a contact herbicide, there is also some translaminar movement within the plant (moving around the leaf). This makes it a safer alternative to glyphosate when spraying near wanted vegetation. Stems of trees & shrubs are largely un-affected by a treatment of Pearl™, although care should be taken as some speckling may occur. Effects of Pearl™ can be seen within 48 hours making it an ideal total herbicide choice.

Pearl is available exclusively to Agrigem and is also available in a larger pack size as Pearl 5L. Pearl is an alternative brand to third party brands such as Whippet, Harvest®, Finale® 150 & Kurtail Gold®

Recommended Dilution Rates for Pearl
Rate Per Hectare Dilution Per Litre Weeds Controlled
5 Litres 11ml per litre of water Annual grasses, annual & perennial broad-leaved weeds

On large or tough weeds two treatments may be needed, the first to kill the top growth, and the second to kill the stems or any lower leaves, the interval between treatments is usually within 14 days. For best results, we would also recommend the use of a water conditioner & herbicide enhancer which is called Activate-g

Recommended Period of Use
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
= Optimum time for application

Our Recommendation

– If you want to control grass around trees, then try a graminicide called Falcon

– For best results use with a fine-medium nozzle, this ensures good coverage over weeds.

– Mix in with Blue Dye to ensure no areas are missed

– Required Safety Equipment – Gloves, Face Shield & Coveralls

Horsetail Plants: How To Get Rid Of Horsetail Weeds

Getting rid of horsetail weed can be a nightmare once it’s become established in the landscape. So what are horsetail weeds? Keep reading to learn more about how to get rid of horsetail weed in gardens.

What are Horsetail Weeds?

The horsetail weed family (Equisetum spp.), closely related to the fern family, contains over 30 ancient species of plants. At one time, horsetail was the dominant plant on the earth and was said to have grown to a very large size. Today, there are two forms of this perennial plant.

One is known as “scouring rush,” and has no leaves but instead has hollow and jointed stems. At one point in time, this plant was not considered obnoxious and was actually used extensively. Early settlers used the stems of this horsetail plant to clean pots and pans. English cabinetmakers used the stems to polish wood.

The second type of horsetail plant has many slender, green, jointed branches around jointed and hollow stems. Its appearance resembles a horse’s tail and is sometimes called a “mare’s tail.” This horsetail was also used by ancient civilizations to stop bleeding and heal wounds.

Horsetail is a perennial, flowerless weed that can be very toxic to animals, especially horses, if eaten in large amounts. Horsetail spreads by spores that are carried by the wind. Horsetail can be found in ditches, around ponds, along roadsides, in fields and even sometimes in the garden.

How to Get Rid of Horsetail

Although horsetail is commonly found in ditches, along roads, by ponds or even in fields, it can also find its way to your garden area. Getting rid of horsetail weed in gardens and other areas of the landscape is no easy task. Horsetail weed in gardens can be a major problem because this plant has a tremendous root system with rhizomes.

There is no specific horsetail weed killer and many chemical options are just not very effective. In small areas, it may be possible to dig the plant up by the roots. It is imperative that all roots are removed, or the weed will reappear.

Another option for control involves smothering the plant with a large sheet of plastic. Leave the plastic on for at least one garden season. The weeds under the plastic should die.

The best method to keep this weed from taking over your garden is to practice prevention. Improve areas in your landscape that don’t drain well and keep tilling around horsetail to a minimal, as this will only spread the spores.

Download our updated bulletins for control with Roundup ProVantage and Roundup ProBio.

Control of Horsetail (Equisetum species) with Roundup Pro Biactive

Horsetails are a family of weeds not to be confused with Mare’s tail, (Hippurus vulgaris), which is an aquatic plant of an entirely different species. E.Arvense, (Common Horsetail or Field Horsetail) is the most widely seen but there is also Marsh Horsetail, (E. palustre) and Wood Horsetail, (E. sylvaticum). The Horsetail family consists of a single genus of a lower order of plants which has survived since the Carboniferous age when the coal measures were laid down and can be seen fossilised in ancient rocks.

Growth Habit

It is a perennial with creeping, rhizomatous stems, which can penetrate 2 metres into the soil. Much of the spread of the plant is vegetative by these rhizomes, but a sexual fruiting stem carrying a sporulating fruiting body emerges in the spring to about 25cm in height. It is brownish white and hollow terminating in a cone-like structure bearing sporangia on their scales. The spores are ripe in April when the sporangia burst, liberating their spores before dying down. Barren, pale green, jointed stems then emerge to 30 – 60cm in height and bare slender, simple branches in place of leaves in whorls of up to 12. It is these stems which are increasingly seen as a problem in waste ground, non-cropped areas, gardens and fallow land.

The stems contain large amounts of silica, it has also been called Scouring rush and was said to be used by milkmaids to clean milk pales. Most species of Equisetum are poisonous to livestock by virtue of alkaloids and the enzyme Thiaminase, which destroys Vitamin B1 and causes animals to suffer from Vitamin B1 deficiency. Horsetails are usually avoided by grazing livestock, but should never be fed to livestock in hay or silage.

Control Methods

Drainage in wet areas, liming where necessary and repeated cutting of the vegetative shoots can all contribute to controlling the weed. In practice frequent cutting would take years to exhaust the rhizomes. Cutting of the spore-bearing shoots before sporulation also helps minimise new plants.

MCPA and 2,4-D give control of aerial shoots but re-growth from rhizomes occurs the following year. Asulam also gives some control. Sowing intervals need to be carefully observed with these herbicides.

Some residual herbicides like sodium chlorate and dichlobenil give control of Equisetum but cropping is restricted or excluded after their use. Their application can be useful in areas of ingression to create a sterile barrier between adjacent contaminated ground and pastures.

Control with Roundup Pro Biactive

Thick layers of silica and wax make the cuticle very difficult to penetrate with herbicides and the needle-like ‘leaves’ present a very small area for interception of spray. This physical barrier, combined with a large area of underground storage organs, mean this weed is usually classed as resistant or only moderately susceptible to glyphosate.

To maximise control in areas where an alternative residual weed control is not possible or where re-cropping of the area is planned it may be necessary to use a non-residual, environmentally acceptable herbicide and the following will optimise control with Roundup Pro Biactive:

Foliar Spray

  • Use a Biactive formulation of Roundup with its superior wetters and consider adding up to 2% Mixture B NF or Ethoxylated Tallow Amine wetter.
  • Wait until the vegetative shoots have reached maximum height (60cm), usually July.
  • Bruise the stems lightly immediately before treatment. This will break the waxy layer and allow much better penetration of the glyphosate. To achieve this small areas can be brushed with a stiff broom, field areas are best with a Cambridge roller. The bruising must not be severe enough to break off the stems.
  • Apply the highest rate of Roundup Pro Biactive recommended.


  • A weedwiper could also be used and the effect of wiping itself can help in the bruising process.
  • On small areas or where the weed is encroaching amongst other desirable plants the use of a weed wiping glove, (like the Croptex™ Glove), can also prove a very successful method of bruising and application at the same time.

Stem Injection

  • Where the infestation is in a position where spraying is not practical or to eliminate the last few stems after previous spray treatments a stem injection method can be adopted. Although it is labour intensive there may be situations where it is justified.
  • It is legal under the general chemical thinning recommendation on the forestry approval to inject Roundup Pro Biactive into each hollow stem using an injection tool, or alternatively the stem could be cut at the first segment above the crown and the herbicide introduced using a spot gun or a medical syringe with no needle.
  • Cut stems should be removed from grazing areas before stock are returned.

All Methods

Monitor and re-treat sites as necessary over a period of 3 years.

Dose Rates, Timings and Water Volumes

Method Dose Rate of Roundup Pro Biactive Dose Rate of Roundup ProBiactive450 Application Advice
Foliar Spray 10l/ha in 100-200l water, in a knapsack 50ml per litre water 8l/ha in 100-200l water, in a knapsack 40ml per litre water Add 2% Mixture B NF or ETA Wetter, use droplets on the finer side of medium, spray to just before run-off
Weed wiper 1 part Roundup Pro Biactive in 2 parts water 1 part Roundup ProBiactive450 in 3 parts water The effect of weed wiping can help the bruising process
Stem Injection Inject 10ml per stem of a 20% solution of Roundup Pro Biactive and water Inject 8ml per stem of a 20% solution of Roundup ProBiactive450 and water Inject into each hollow stem

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