How To Kill Horsetail Weeds

Weeds around your property can be incredibly frustrating but there are some that are more difficult to get rid of than others. Horsetail weed is one of them and if you’ve got it growing on your property and have tried to kill it, you may have found that it comes back.

The problem with horsetail weed is that it’s really deep rooted and persistent. Some of the weed killing hacks you may read online just won’t be enough to get rid of this pesky weed but there are ways you can tackle it successfully. 

What Does Horsetail Weed Look Like?

Before we get started on how to kill horsetail weed, you need to make sure that that is what you’re dealing with. 

This weed is in the same family as ferns and so it grows well in low light and moist soil. More often than not, you’ll find that horsetail weed thrives in slightly more acidic soil or soil that is sand or clay based. 

These perennial weeds shoot right up and have leaves that look like needles. The stalk in the centre is quite thick and it’s this appearance that earns the weed its name. 

When the weeds are young, however, they look slightly different and could be mistaken for the end of a pine tree branch. However, upon closer inspection you will notice that the young shoots are brighter in colour than pine. 

How To Get Rid Of Horsetail Weeds

If you’re dealing with horsetail weeds then you need to be prepared to work hard to get rid of them. There’s a process involved and this must be followed to the letter if you want the greatest success. Here’s what you’ll need to do. 

Cutting The Weeds

One of the reasons that horsetail weeds can be so difficult to get rid of is that they have thick, waxy leaves that are really resistant. They tend not to absorb chemicals and act as a barrier which is why it’s really important to cut the weeds for maximum absorption of your chosen chemical. Cutting the plant will leave it with an open wound so the product can get in.

While it may be possible to kill the weed without cutting it first, it’ll take a lot longer and significantly more applications. So, save yourself the time and money in the long run and just cut them down. 

Using Chemicals

While I’m all for a natural approach to gardening and will limit my use of chemicals as much as possible, there are some things that leave me no choice. Killing horsetail weed is one of them and you just have to admit defeat and reach for the herbicides. 

A lot of people think of Roundup when it comes to weed removal and this is a good product. However, it’s not suitable for killing horsetail weeds since it is a glyphosate based product. You need to choose something that will attack the weed both above the ground and at its roots.

You should look for weed killers that contain 2 4-D and this will be clearly displayed on the packaging so you’ll be under no doubt. You can buy these products at most garden centres or DIY and home stores. Most experts will tell you that, if you use them properly, these weed killers are among some of the most effective at tackling stubborn weeds like the horsetail.

It’s also possible to use weed killers whose active ingredient is halosulfuron-methyl and this has been proven time and again to get rid of horsetail weed. It works so well because it doesn’t just tackle the plant on the surface but gets right down to the roots. 

However, you should keep in mind that these products can take up to 12 weeks to be effective and may require multiple applications. If you’re looking for a faster solution then I’d recommend trying a product that contains triclopyr. These products have a much quicker working time and will usually tackle the problem within three to six weeks.  

Preventing Horsetail Weeds

Once you have dealt with the horsetail weeds, you’re naturally going to want to avoid the problem recurring. These weeds love acidic soil that contains a lot of moisture and if there’s clay or sand in the soil, they thrive even more. 

One of the best ways to stop horsetail weeds from growing again is to discourage them. You’ll want to improve the soil so that it’s perfect for plant life but not so desirable for weeds. 

The first thing you’ll need to do is to make sure that the soil is well drained. If drainage is a problem then there are things you can do to improve it such as filling in low and boggy areas or digging trenches to divert excess water away. The less moist you can make the soil, the less chance there will be of horsetail weed growing in it.

You can also use dolomite lime which will reduce the acidity of the soil and create an environment that’s not favourable to these weeds. Additionally, altering the pH of the soil may be beneficial to the plants that you actually want to grow there so it’s something of a dual edged sword.

If you apply lime to the soil then you’ll need to wait two weeks and then add some fertiliser. You should never apply the two products together as they’ll simply cancel each other out. When the time comes, water the soil to disperse the lime and then use a slow-release fertiliser that is high in nitrogen. This will further alter the chemistry of the soil making it inhospitable to the needs of horsetail weeds. 

It’s also worth using a pre-emergent herbicide which you can apply at the beginning of spring. Not only will this prevent the growth of horsetail weeds but it’ll also stop other types of weed coming through. 

One of the most highly recommended products for this is Casoron. However, you need to make sure that you use it correctly for the best results. You’ll need to water the product into the soil which allows it to form a barrier that stops weeds from coming through. You should also be aware that this product will harm any plants in the soil so if there’s anything you wish to keep, it isn’t the right option. 

By doing all of these things, you’ll notice that the presence of horsetail weeds is massively reduced. But that doesn’t mean that you should walk away in the belief that it’ll never recur. The problem with horsetail weed is that it is so stubborn so I’d seriously recommend paying close attention as to whether there are signs of it returning. 

If you spot cone-ended shoots that are green/brown in colour then these are likely horsetail weeds. There are spores within these shoots that will quickly spread so you’ll need to treat them or pull them as soon as you spot them. Doing this will likely result in an end to the issue but it can take some time. 

Things Not To Do When Trying To Control Horsetail Weeds

If you search the internet for ways to kill weeds then you’ll be presented with a whole host of natural or alternative methods instead of using weed killers. In a lot of cases, these methods can be very effective but for horsetail weed, they’re just not going to do the trick. Let’s take a look at some of the things you should avoid. 


As I mentioned earlier, a lot of people automatically turn to Roundup for weed killing and while it’s effective in a lot of cases, it won’t do any good for stubborn horsetail weeds. Roundup is a topical herbicide whose active ingredient is glyphosate. This chemical is just not designed to kill horsetail weeds so you’ll be wasting your time and money even trying. 


Applying vinegar to horsetail weed will kill the shoots and leaves on the surface. However, it isn’t going to tackle the problem below the ground as it won’t get down to the roots. The rhizomes under the ground will keep thriving and you’ll find yourself having to tackle the leaves time and time again. 

It is possible to buy special vinegar designed for use in the garden which has a higher acetic acid content. However, these products are still not strong enough to get rid of horsetail weed for good. Again, they will deal with the shoots and leaves but won’t get down to the roots as the acid will be burned up in the soil.


A lot of people have success in killing things like dandelions using bleach but it isn’t good enough to get rid of horsetail weeds. The reason that bleach works well for some weeds is that it has a high pH that will burn the weeds. But it cannot get down to the roots which is what you need to do if you want to tackle horsetail weeds. 


You may have heard that WD40 is an effective weed killer but it isn’t safe to use in your garden. For starters, it’s not going to be effective at killing horsetail weed as again, it won’t penetrate the roots. On top of this, WD40 can be highly damaging to the soil, making it difficult for any plant life to thrive there. 

While you might be forgiven for thinking that a little rain will wash the product away, it’s been proven that WD40 can remain in the soil for many years to come. 

Ground Coverings

If you thought that putting a ground covering or even mulch over the top of horsetail weed would eradicate it, then think again. These weeds like being in environments with little light and low oxygen so covering them will actually make them thrive all the more. 

On top of this, you have to consider that, even if the ground covering were to alter the conditions to make them less favourable, horsetail weed is so stubborn and the roots can cover such a large area that it would likely spout up elsewhere. You’d only be making the problem worse.

Hand Pulling

Sometimes, hand pulling weeds can be very effective if you can get the roots out. But this won’t work with horsetail weeds since the roots are so deep. In some cases, they’ll get down as far as five feet and it simply isn’t possible to pull them out by hand. 


Horsetail weed can be a real pain to get rid of especially if you use methods other than strong weed killers. The roots of these weeds run deep and this means that you cannot just pull them out. Moreover, treating the portion of the plant that’s above the ground won’t get rid of them completely; you need to get to the root.

This means using strong weed killers that contain ingredients designed to tackle tough weeds. It’s also worth cutting the weeds first to expose a wound which allows the product to penetrate more deeply. 

Once you’ve successfully killed the horsetail weed, I’d recommend taking preventative measures to stop them from returning in the future.

Driveway Expert