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Share to PinterestGrowing the Hardy, Carefree Horsetail
GardenOrnamental Plants

Growing the Hardy, Carefree Horsetail

By Sean Martin
Share to PinterestGrowing the Hardy, Carefree Horsetail

Look no further for a plant to rapidly fill in undesirable areas of your garden with minimal upkeep. Horsetail is a perennial, evergreen, non-flowering plant that will gladly spread anywhere you place it. A new gardener's dream, these hardy plants can be stuck in the ground and forgotten. Horsetails are not susceptible to pests or diseases, don't require tending, and sprout bright-green, thin leaves in the summer. The only potential downside to horsetail is how quickly it can spread, but fear not, there are many ways to keep them under control.


Planting horsetail

Share to PinterestHorsetail close-up
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Horsetail is very simple to plant, you can plant them anywhere, and they require no special nutrients. They can survive in hardiness zones 3 through 11 (depending on the variety) and don't mind a water-logged environment. They're the perfect option for areas of your garden where other plants won't survive, such as spots with poor drainage or low soil quality.


Sun and water

Share to PinterestHorsetails in sun
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Horsetails prefer a spot with some sun exposure. That being said, they're capable of growing in areas ranging from full sun to deep shade. These plants like to have their soil kept at least moderately wet, and they are essentially impossible to overwater since they can survive in multiple inches of standing water.


Soil and nutrients

Share to PinterestHorsetail tops
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Horsetail will grow in virtually any soil quality; they are often found in ditches, bogs, and swamps. They thrive in a slightly acidic soil, which can be achieved by mixing peat moss into your soil. Fertilizing horsetail is not necessary, but if you want to maximize your plant's growth, occasionally apply fertilizer for pond or bog plants.


Horsetail propagation

Share to PinterestSpreading Field Horsetail
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Horsetail is extremely easy to propagate. Dig up a few plants and transplant them elsewhere, and they will be spreading before you know it. Horsetail spreads by rhizomes and do so rather invasively; generally speaking, it is harder to control a horsetail plant's growth than it is to propagate it.


Potting the horsetail plant

Share to PinterestHorsetail in container
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Keeping your horsetail in a container is a good way of ensuring it doesn't extend beyond where you want it to be. Horsetail will fill any container size and grows well in rich potting soil. Despite being a drought-resistant plant, your horsetail will enjoy occasional watering. Simply water the potted plants every so often; that's all it will need — no fertilization or upkeep necessary.


Pests and diseases

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Yet another perk of the horsetail plant is that it is pest and disease-free. The rapid spread of the horsetail means it is much more commonly considered a pest itself than it is affected by them. However, they can also be considered a pest because they are poisonous to some animals, such as horses and cattle, so be mindful of this when planting your crop.


Containing horsetail plants

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Because horsetails are so easy to grow and spread, it is important to have a plan in mind to keep them where you want them.  Container planting is one good spread-limiting plan. This can be done in an above-ground container or one that you later bury in the ground — just make sure the container's edges remain slightly above the surrounding soil level. Planting your horsetail with a plastic barrier lining is another effective way to prevent unwanted spread.


Horsetail varieties

Share to PinterestField horsetail
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The biggest difference between horsetail varieties is their height. The tallest variety, Giant Horsetail, can grow beyond 10 feet. The most common, Equisetum Arvense, commonly called field horsetail, generally reaches around 8 inches in height but can get closer to two feet in favorable conditions.


More varieties

Share to PinterestVariegated horsetail
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Color is another way in which horsetail subspecies vary. Variegated horsetail, for example, has a distinct black and white coloring and reaches only about 18 inches. Water horsetail has hollow, slender stems and a deep emerald color. This variety can reach nearly four feet and have uniquely corrugated stems.


Harvesting and uses

Share to PinterestHarvested horsetail
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Although poisonous to some animals, horsetail is edible for humans. Young horsetail shoots can be picked and eaten like asparagus and more mature stems can be used to make tea. As horsetail matures, it develops silica in the stems; some people use these mature plants as scouring brushes for cleaning pots and pans.



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