The Q&A Archives: Eradicating Horsetail

Question: I would like to know how to eradicate horsetail. It has taken over one of my flower beds and is threatening another. I fear this plant threatens to take over all of Southern California. I visited the Mendocino Botanical Gardens in Northern California last weekend where it is a huge problem. Any advice you can offer would be appreciated.

Answer: Horsetail (equisetum) is one of those plants that's extremely difficult to eradicate. The aerial stems can be killed, but the underground roots are tuberous, carry a lot of stored carbohydrates, and travel for great distances. Horsetail prefers moist soil so if you can dry the area up, the plants will die out. I've had really good luck in eradicating horsetails by consistently cutting them off at ground level, as soon as they emerge. Start by whacking all the stems back, then watch daily for new shoots. Cut them down as soon as they pop up. The roots will use up stored energy to produce new shoots. By keeping the shoots cut down, the roots will eventually use up all their stored energy and will die out. If you allow even one shoot to grow longer than 2-3 inches, it will begin the process of photosynthesis (conversion of sunlight to energy) and replenish the roots with enough energy to produce additional stems.

Best wishes with your eradication project!

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