Answers to Your Questions: Invasive Horsetail


I had my landscaping redone this month, including some excavation and construction work. I’m discovering that horsetail is growing under my porches and through some of the plantings I’ve kept. I’ve read some information about how to eradicate this undesirable plant. I can’t find a reassuring answer. Do you have any?


No. Horsetail is one of those sneaky weeds that grows from a buried rhizome and wanders all over plantings. Even mulch won’t stop it, because while it prevents horsetail spores from germinating, thus preventing new infestations, it doesn’t stop the horsetail that’s already there, because it simply passes through the mulch. Horsetail is often protected by preserving certain plantings, as its rhizomes mix with the roots of preserved plants and happily invade new plantings.

There’s no need to talk about herbicides. Horsetail has never been easy to control with these toxic products.

But how do you get rid of horsetail without pesticides? Where there are no plantations, horsetail can be eliminated by covering the soil with a thick opaque fabric and leaving it in place for a full season. Without light, the plant cannot survive.

Photo: Valeria Vechterova

Where there are plants, it’s more difficult. The worst thing to do is to hoe or rototill, as this breaks the rhizome into several pieces, each of which will give rise to a new plant. Even pulling the plant out by hand can increase the number of plants rather than reduce it, as the action can break the rhizome into several pieces. This method can only be useful if it is carried out with care to avoid breaking rhizomes, although this is difficult and often impractical.

The Easiest Way

The easiest solution is to cut each plant at its base, without pulling it out. When new stems emerge, cut them back again. And so on, all summer long… and perhaps the following summer! As you cut each stem as it emerges, the plant is now unable to absorb enough light to ensure its survival, and will die.

Larry Hodgson published thousands of articles and 65 books over the course of his career, in both French and English. His son, Mathieu, has made it his mission to make his father’s writings accessible to the public. This article was originally published in Le Soleil newspaper.

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, laidbackgardener.blog will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

3 comments on “Answers to Your Questions: Invasive Horsetail

  1. Brace yourself – I love horsetails because they remind me of when the dinosaurs lived on earth. I live in a busy city but when admiring horsetails I can say that I am looking at the same plant a dinosaur knew. These plants add green in early spring to bare soil. Horsetails demonstrate the tenacity of growth, adaptation and survival over an unthinkable number of years. It seems as if they can survive forever and to me it gives hope for the future. When a child, this was the first plant I learned to identify.

    • Mathieu Hodgson

      I love horsetails too! Thanks for sharing!

  2. OH! This is the WORST! Scouring rush grows wild, and that is fine in the WILD. A so-called ornamental cultivar was trendy years ago, particularly for those weird planter boxes on city sidewalks. Now that many of the boxes are gone, the rhizomes remain in the expansions joints of the sidewalks below!

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