How to Get Rid of Cattails

There’s nothing like the calm sunrise with a light mist hanging in the air as you sit on your deck or porch looking over your mirror-like pond, with just a few cattails at one end. Before you know it, though, the cattails have exploded and overrun your beautiful water feature.

How do you make them disappear? Here is a little history of cattails and some tips for managing them. To the British, they are known as Bulrush and Reedmace, to the Australians they are Cumbungi (not good grilled on the Barbie), and New Zealand refers to them as up. To Americans, they are cattail, punks, or corndog grass. Let’s look at four ways to manage your cattails.

Spray it, don’t say it!

Chemical management: Chemical management is probably the most commonly used method of removing cattails. It doesn’t require a lot of effort, which in our fast-paced lives means more time for other endeavors. However, the two main drawbacks to using chemicals are the effect on the pond or water feature and the cost. Now before you go spreading Napalm on your cattails, here are two things to seriously remember.

How to Get Rid of Cattails

First, be safe! Always make sure to read your chemical containers for instructions and warnings. Second, check with your local and state government since some conservation laws require permits for applying aquatic herbicides and pesticides.

Get out the Waders! Pulling by hand:

This is probably the most inexpensive way to get rid of cattails, pulling them by hand. If you have the time and need the exercise or enjoy getting wet in the great outdoors, this is the method for you. Remember, though; it is easier to pull these particularly persistent perennials when they are young. Be sure to reach down and remove them by the root; otherwise, they will return with a vengeance and wreak havoc on your newly cattail-ridden ecosystem.

Time to Cut the Cord – Mechanical management:

Now before you try to mow the cattails down with your riding mower, I certainly hope you do not attempt this. You should know that most mechanical means of managing cattails do not entirely remove them, and the efforts need to be repeated often.

When the cattails are about 6 inches tall, you can trim them with a gas-powered trimmer. Please note GAS powered since you should never use anything electric near water. That could seriously ruin your day. If you use hand trimmers, cut the stalks below the water’s surface.

Goats, Hippo’s, and Manatee’s, Biological management:

Unless your cattails are on a farm pond, chances are you don’t have a goat to stake out by the banks to munch on the many succulent seeded monopods growing from the cattail roots. And since Hippos are happily halfway around the world.

Manatees are on the endangered species list; there aren’t many reliable ways to get rid of cattails biologically. There is a fish called the grass carp that is often mentioned as a control method, but in reality, they do not eat cattails.

Whichever method you choose to use in removing your cattails, remember that in reality, some cattails can significantly improve the quality of your pond or other water feature by naturally filtering the water, keeps the banks from eroding, and provides food and shelter for the birds, frogs, and fish.