Last Updated on February 5, 2021 by Anne Thynne
Just by existing, cattails actively ruin the graceful view of your backyard that you wanted to boost by making a pond. In that sense, they’re a pest for you.
While it does have it’s benefits here and there, like halting runoff or feed for fishes; but accelerating eutrophication, attracting undesired wildlife, blocking critical pond structures make it unwanted.
I’m not going to beat around the bush; if you see cattails in your pond, you gotta kill it. You can use natural ways like hand pulling, cutting them with shears, adding salt, etc., or use an aquatic herbicide, depending on the magnitude.
Any approach is okay, as long as they’re exterminated. I’ll show you how to kill cattails in a pond in some easy ways. Just stay with me, alright?
Table of Contents
An up-close look at cattails
Cattails are semi-aquatic plants from the Typha genus that has 30 species. They have exponential growth in marshes, lakes, and ponds. It’s not like they’re toxic or anything, on the contrary, they provide food and shelter for the wildlife habitat.
The issue is that they reproduce like crazy, by scattering their seeds in the wind or growing from a rhizome. So they can pretty much colonize an entire wetland, dominating other plant species. This is a problem for your pond as it will out-compete your desired pond plants.
The narrow-leaf cattail is significantly troublesome in the Midwest regions of the United States.
5 easy methods to kill cattails in a pond
There are plenty of ways to get rid of cattails. Some are natural, while others demand that you acquire and use special items like chemicals and herbicides.
My goal here is to get rid of the cattails and maintain the health of the ecosystem as well.
That’s why I want to explore the natural ways of dealing with cattails first. Let’s get the show on the road.
1. Hand pulling
Yes, This is the most natural method out of them all! It might be foreseeable, but it gets the job done swiftly. Get a pair of gloves and pull them out of the ground.
Make sure you pull out the rhizomes too! They look like white roots. While this is child’s play compared to applying chemicals, you still need to pay a bit of attention.
You have to slowly pull it out so that the plant doesn’t break because it could sprout back from any leftover rhizomes you have missed.
This could be a tiresome and lengthy process, depending on how many cattails you have in your pond.
As for the cattails you’ve pulled out, you can make compost out of them and use it for your garden [if you don’t have one, I suggest you make one, they make ponds stand out even more].
In the past, native Americans used to eat rhizomes by mashing them up after boiling, like potatoes. You could try that too; it’s pretty rich in nutrients!
So this way, you quickly get rid of the cattails and get free lunch. I like the sound of that, honestly.
If you want a natural way that is a bit faster than hand pulling, then you need to cut them directly below water. For this, you’d need shears or a trimmer. A gas-powered weed whacker is fine too, but those do it cleanly, so there is no reason to bother yourself with it.
The best time to cut cattails is around July. It is not a good idea to cut during springtime because it’d instead stimulate them as they have stored energy for growth at that time.
This is why people don’t cut them during May because these pests just resprout again.
Anyway, if you keep cutting when it’d be mid or late summer, you have the best chances. Repeat this process, and you’ll see fewer cattails every year.
But a downside to cutting is that it only reduces their growth; it is not a permanent fix.
If you have a pile of cattails and grow pretty fast, I suggest doing both cutting and pulling. This blocks their spread momentarily, and you get enough time to uproot them; a permanent fix!
3. Changing salt levels
A while ago, there were a few studies regarding cattails that resulted in an essential piece of information- in the growing season, ten ppt [parts per thousand] is sufficient to kill cattails.
The Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Natural Resources were the ones behind the study. So, we can trust that information since it is coming from a reliable body. Why not give it a try?
You can add a salt block to increase the salinity of the pond. You could also use a solution of salt and wait until the cattails have died before neutralizing it.
If your pond is near a saltwater source, then you’re in luck because you will be able to increase the salinity by just flooding the pond with saltwater.
Sadly, there is a significant drawback to this. The inhabitants in your pond- mainly fish and plants can’t tolerate a high concentration of salinity.
I’d recommend this only if you don’t have freshwater fish or plants in your pond.
All of the previous methods consider one factor- that the cattail population is enough for one person to handle it. But what if there is too much of it?
When you’re facing such an opponent, the above-mentioned methods will take a lot of time to be completed. You will need something more extreme.
One such extravagant way is to completely drain up your pond and let it freeze when the winter hits. In winter, the exposed rhizomes will get frozen and die.
For this to happen, you’d have to relocate the inhabitants into a different pond or restock it from scratch after winter is gone. For hardy fish like koi or goldfish, you could just allocate them to a tank with a filtration system till you’re done.
But that’s not gonna be easy for a heavily stocked pond. You could try to drain your pond until the water level is the same as the cattails; then, you would just have to take them out manually.
I wish that were all it took, but no, you still have the seeds in the soil that will cause you problems anyway.
This is why I think it’d be best if you relocate the inhabitants and kill these troublesome things by freezing them.
5. Chemical application
As I said before, you’ll be at a disadvantage if there are too many cattails in your large pond because the natural methods will take a lot of time to deal with them.
However, there is one other way that is more efficient, but it is a bit tricky. By adding herbicide, you can kill off a large population of cattails smoothly.
There are plenty of herbicides available in the market, so you won’t have much problem getting your hands on one. But you have to make sure that you use it only on large ponds.
Commonly, you’ll find herbicides that you have to spray over [contact] what you want to kill or liquids that your plants absorb [systemic].
Systemic herbicides are slower, but will efficiently kill the plant as it absorbs the chemical totally, allowing thorough extermination. So it is a surefire way to get rid of cattails permanently.
Ensure that the chemical you are using is referred to as aquatic because these are made for aquatic plants. Anything else could end up being risky.
Also, in some states, using non-aquatic herbicide in an aquatic zone is considered illegal. And, you need a special permit from the Department of Environmental Quality to use these. Finally, you must always keep an eye on the dosage or be prepared to say goodbye to your pond.
See what I meant by tricky? You must always be careful when you’re using it because it is a double-edged sword.
These were the 5 methods to kill cattails in a pond that I believe are pretty easy to apply by yourself. With some little determination and dedication, you can do it all by yourself!
Can herbicides kill plants and fish?
If you don’t pay attention. Fatality is in the cards, without a doubt. A chemical that can kill a thing, is lethal in more than one way. Few problems unplanned herbicide applications can cause you are:
- Death of plants and fish
- Affecting sterility
- Congenital disabilities in fish
- Toxicity in the pond [if the non-aquatic herbicide is used
Any one of these is extremely problematic for you. This is why I feel using a herbicide should be the last course of action. Don’t use it unless it is your last resort.
Removing dead cattails
If you’ve applied chemicals to kill cattails, you need to wait for them to get wilted and turn brown. That will indicate the herbicide has reached the entirety of the plant.
Cutting them any earlier would be wrong because the rhizome would just sprout it back. So you have to be patient and let it kill thoroughly.
When they’re dead, you gotta remove them entirely, not leaving a single trace. Otherwise, they’d decompose and turn into sludge that will make way for weeds.
Using a weed cutter or rake is an easy way to get rid of the dead cattails.
Preventing the growth of cattails
I gave you a few options to get rid of cattails, but what if you want to keep them to increase the visual appeal and variety of your backyard? Don’t worry; I have a solution for that too.
If you fall into this category, all you have to do is restrict their growth to not go out of hand.
To do this, you need to prevent rhizomes from spreading. Clay or ceramic pots work wonders in this case. But don’t think that your job is done just by placing these.
Cattails could still use seed dispersal to reproduce, so you’ll have to cut off their heads before they do that. An excellent way to find out the right time is when you see their heads being brown.
There is still some work to be done. After cutting their heads, you need to dispose of them. Cattails seed can still be viable for 100 years, so you need to throw them far from fertile soil.
If you follow these persistently, you’ll see them less and less every year.
Keep the cattails in check!
It is your choice whether you want to thoroughly wipe them out or kill off just enough to reduce their massive overgrowth to a point where they’re not a nuisance to you.
Either way, you have to know how to kill cattails in a pond effectively so that they don’t bother you. This article will definitely come in handy for that.