Horsetail Removal

Not sure how to deal with Horsetail? As the UK’s leading invasive plant removal company, we’re here to help with advice and provide a complete treatment & removal package tailored to your needs

Close up on Horsetail

What is Horsetail?

Horsetail is one of the oldest plants on planet Earth and it spreads in two distinct ways. First, it produces spores in the early to late spring which can then be dispersed in the wind. Second, more locally, its root system is an ever-expanding network of rhizomes. With the Common Horsetail what you can’t see is how pervasive this growth is.

Horsetail plants are often confused with Marestail. The two are completely different. Marestail is an aquatic plant and, while it may superficially resemble Horsetail, there are major differences. The biggest one is that Marestail is a flowering plant whereas Horsetail is not.

What does it look like?

Horsetail is usually described as having fir-tree-like shoots, but its appearance does change slightly over the seasons. In spring, when new growth begins, the stems will develop a cone of spores at the top which makes it look very distinctive. Once the spores are released, the stems turn from a brown colour to green.

Close up on Horsestail reeds growing on a commercial site
Horsestail damage shown as it grows through concrete

Horsetail damage

Like Japanese knotweed, common Horsetail has a root system that is comprised of rhizomes. These can spread out quite quickly but also grow deep in the ground if not treated quickly. While about half of the rhizomes are near the surface, many could be up to 2 metres underground. Unfortunately, if even a small part of a rhizome survives it can start to grow again which means removing those deep-set elements is essential if you want to prevent further growth.

Not only that, but the rhizomes are also fibrous and very thin and therefore difficult to remove without causing further damage. Horsetail is strong enough to break through materials like paving and tarmac. Early signs of Horsetail damage can be as small as a crack in the path. It does not have a reputation for directly damaging foundations like some tree roots can. Unlike the extensive root systems of large trees, Horsetail’s roots are generally not strong or deep enough to cause significant physical damage to building foundations.


But that does not mean it should be ignored. To prevent potential issues, it’s essential to manage horsetail growth as well as maintaining proper drainage, fixing leaks, and ensuring good soil grading away from the building to protect your foundations.

The Horsetail plant above ground also forms dense clusters that smother other plant life and can have a severe impact on local ecosystems. When Field Horsetail infests waste ground and construction sites it can be difficult to get rid of as well as costly.

Can horsetail cause damage to properties?

Yes, horsetail has the potential to inflict damage to properties, mainly to hard landscaping features such as paving, patios and tarmac. It is not strong enough to damage foundations or other robust structures, choosing instead to creep beneath them looking for places to emerge.

Around 50% of the rhizome is found in the top 25cm of soil, however horsetail can penetrate deep into the ground and has been known to send rhizome up to a 2m depth in the right conditions.

The main cause damage caused by horsetail is when new shoots push up from below ground – just like bamboo and knotweed. The new growth easily penetrates subbase and tarmac, causing surface damage, which is further exacerbated by freeze-thaw action in the winter months when the horsetail dies back.

The intrusion of horsetail rhizomes into drainage systems further compounds the potential for damage. Its rhizomes can infiltrate drainage pipes through cracks and loose joints causing blockages and disruptions to the flow of water. This interference not only compromises the efficiency of drainage systems but also increases the likelihood of water-related issues, such as flooding and water damage to the property.

Legal implications

While Common Horsetail is considered by many to be an invasive and damaging plant, as a native species it is not included in Section 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It is therefore not against the law to have it on your property.

Some local councils do have rules and regulations concerning Horsetail sightings and who you should notify, but this is mostly focused on public areas such as parks, roads and paths.

If you do have Horsetail on your property and it spreads to a neighbour’s garden and then causes damage, you may be liable if they decide to take you to court. Even without the threat of legal action, if you spot common Horsetail in your garden you should attempt to get rid of it as soon as possible.

Use our extensive guide to identify Horsetail

What does Horsetail look like?

Prevent costly damage to your property

How to get rid of Horsetail?

Most homeowners and some businesses will attempt DIY solutions first – that’s understandable as it saves money. You can start by digging up the soil where you see the external signs of Horsetail growth and hopefully remove as much of the rhizome network as you can. You can also use herbicides to try and kill off any growth underground that you were not able to get to. Unfortunately, this is not that effective and what you may well find is that, after a short break, you begin to see new growth.

Your option then might be to control the growth by regularly checking the garden for new growth and continually digging up and adding herbicide. Over several years this might lead to a complete removal of the Horsetail plant, but it is by no means certain.

It’s also important if you are controlling growth, to keep your eyes open during spring for the return of the spore cones and to remove these as soon as you spot them. You should make sure that you dispose of any waste belonging to the Horsetail plant with a licenced garden waste business in your area.

Due to the plant’s aggressive nature, the best option is to get a professional removal company, experienced in dealing with invasive species to remove the Horsetail. They will first assess the size of the problem and provide you with a plan going forward. This can depend not just on the size of the infestation but on its location.

If it’s a domestic garden, for example, full excavation might not be possible to remove all the rhizomes deep in the ground because of pipework and other infrastructure. In this case, the team might suggest partial excavation in order to remove as much as possible followed by specialist herbicides to kill off the remaining Horsetail rhizomes.

In areas like construction sites and wasteland, Horsetail infestations can take over large areas very quickly and the only viable option is to dig out the ground and remove it completely using heavy machinery.

With over 25 years’ experience in the industry, Environet is the UK’s leading invasive plant removal company. During this time, we’ve dealt with some of the UK’s most common non-native invasive plants including Japanese knotweed, Bamboo, Giant hogweed and, of course, Horsetail.

We specialise in helping both homeowners and developers across the UK, as well as organisations such as councils and housing associations.

Whether you need to identify a potentially invasive plant or need professional removal, contact the team at Environet today.

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We have robust systems in place for Environmental and Health & Safety management. Risk assessments are carried out for every aspect of our business to identify situations where harm could be caused. We have an ethos of continuous improvement to eliminate or reduce the risks with detailed working procedures, on-going training and monitoring.

All our staff have health and safety and emergency first aid training. We are also accredited by CHAS and Constructionline and are members of the Property Care Association (PCA).


Our team of experts is available between 9am and 5:30pm, Monday to Friday to answer your enquiries and advise you on the next steps

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