How to Kill Horsetail Weeds

Last Updated on June 15, 2023 by Grow with Bovees

Often dubbed as mare’s tail, Horsetail weed is an invasive, deep-rooted perennial weed that has the ability to spread very quickly to form a dense layer of foliage.

What are Horsetail Weeds?

It features fast-growing rhizomes (underground stems) and can be easily identified by its upright fir tree-like shoots that usually appear in the summer.

Horsetail weed can become a big problem in your lawn when its creeping rhizomes grow underground roots up to seven feet deep.

This perennial, flowerless weed may not stem from your yard, but often invades borders, and enters gardens by spreading underground through your neighbors’ land or property.

The horsetail weed family contains over 30 species of ancient plants, and apart from taking over your lawn or garden overnight is also extremely harmful to livestock including horses, if ingested in large amounts.

Apart from your lawn or garden, horsetail thrives in ditches, around ponds, in fields, and along roadsides.

How to Get Rid of Horsetail Weeds?

Getting rid of horsetail weed from your lawn or garden is a daunting task, to say the least!

What’s worse is that there’s no specific horsetail weed killer available, and most of the chemical options in the market aren’t really effective at killing horsetail.

Hand pulling horsetail weed with a regular weed removal tool requires a fair bit of effort, but you can always fork out new horsetail shoots growing near the surface. However, as horsetail grows so deep, the deeper roots of horsetail will require a lot of excavation.

But remember, by pulling horsetail, you are only getting rid of the exposed portion and maybe part of the roots, but not the entire weed that’s growing deep below.

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The one thing you can do to control horsetail weeds is cut them using a grass whip or weedeater, and also remember to mow your lawn regularly.

Mowing your lawn regularly is a great way to control the growth of new shoots, and will keep the horse tail growth down, but not get rid of the problem.

Before giving you the solutions to kill horsetail weed, it’s worth mentioning that the horsetail plant is really persistent, just like purslane weeds are, so may take up to two years or more to eradicate the problem.

Apply Dolomite Lime to Kill Horsetail

Dolomite is a type of limestone that provides valuable nutrients to plants, and even though it’s not one of the most effective weed killers, spreading dolomite lime across your lawn can help discourage horsetail plants and other weeds.

You can buy dolomite lime for lawns online or at your local hardware store or garden center. Apply it generously to get rid of horsetail at the rate recommended on the package.

Killing horsetail with dolomitic lime typically requires an application rate of 2 pounds per 100 square feet for both acidic soil and clay soils.

But before getting started with this solution to kill horsetail weed and not your other desirable plants, you should improve soil conditions by filling any depressions in the soil that may retain water to improve drainage, and here’s why!

Horsetail tend to thrive in poorly drained areas with acidic soils, so improving soil conditions will make the soil less suitable for horsetail.

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It’s also recommended that you remove any mulch from the soil, and make sure to put it in the trash to avoid spreading horsetail to other parts of your lawn.

Since you’re adding dolomite to your existing lawn, scatter the required amount of lime over the surface of the soil.

Next, use a shovel or rake to work the dolomitic lime into the top layer of the soil, after which you can water the soil thoroughly.

Wait at least two weeks before applying fertilizer, but don’t do it at the same time you’re adding lime, as they will cancel themselves out, so both the lime and fertilizer treatment will be ineffective.

In terms of fertilizer, you can either apply synthetic fertilizer, organic fish emulsion fertilizer, or compost, aged manure to the top two-inch layers of the soil.

You will probably have to repeat the process of applying lime and compost or fertilizer to your soil every one or two years to eventually kill horsetail.

Using Acetic Acid to Kill Horsetail Weed

Since applying weed killer or herbicides generally fails to kill horsetail weed, you can use repeated applications of a horticultural vinegar-based herbicide to kill Equisetum arvense aka horsetail weed.

Expert gardeners suggest that Ecoclear or Weed B Gone are effective weed killers for killing horsetail weed. You may have to reapply these herbicides when you notice horsetail growing again in your lawn.

Cutting Off Nutrients

Horse’s tail thrives in areas that receive low-oxygen and low-light, so a temporary way to get rid of this commonly found weed is by preventing its leaves from being exposed to the sun.

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Adding to this, horsetail weed roots grow deep into the ground, and establish large root networks, so they will eventually make their way through uncovered areas to sprout.

So, even though you may get temporary relief from horsetail for maybe a season by laying a tarp over the effected areas, new growth will crop up the season after.

Dig and Sift Method

The dig and sift method to get rid of horsetail growing in your lawn won’t be effective on a large scale, but will work well for smaller infested areas.

Start by digging up all the horsetail plants in the area, and put the rhizomes in the trash. Next, empty the bed of topsoil up to 1 foot, and run it through a soil sifter before putting it back.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of the method you employ to kill horsetail weeds, getting completely rid of them does take time.

In fact, you can leave horsetails weeds in your lawn and not get rid of them even during the growing season, because horsetail weeds aren’t a heavy feeder, and won’t really steal minerals from your plants.

Horsetail features sparse foliage, that lets the sunlight through, so your other plants will receive their fair share of the sun.

You can try a strong herbicide such as glyphosate to get rid of this weed, but we don’t recommend this solution as it may cause damage to your favorable plants and grass.

On a brighter note, horsetail can actually be an appealing addition to your lawn with its beautiful feathery foliage that provides an attractive misty look for your landscape.