How to Grow and Care for Horsetail

Horsetail plant with tall green stems and white flower in between

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

In This Article

Horsetail, also called rough horsetail or scouring rush, is a non-flowering evergreen perennial grown where other plants fail. It has hollow vertical green stems with horizontal bands or joints similar to bamboo, but they're skinnier and taller like ornamental grass. Similar to ferns, horsetail reproduces through spores rather than seeds, as well as underground rhizomes. Horsetail is far from fussy when it comes to growing conditions and it appears impervious to diseases and pests. It grows fine in full sun or part shade, neutral or acidic soil, and though it thrives in humidity, horsetail tolerates any type of temperature.

Horsetail is usually planted in early spring, though it will survive planting at almost any time. This is an extremely fast-growing plant that achieves full height within a matter of weeks. Horsetail is toxic to grazing animals.

Common Name Horsetail, rough horsetail, scouring rush
Botanical Name Equisetum hyemale
Family Equisetaceae
Plant Type Evergreen perennial
Mature Size 2–5 ft.
Sun Exposure Full sun, partial shade
Soil Type Moist but well-drained
Soil pH Neutral to acidic
Hardiness Zones 4–9 (USDA)
Native Area North America, Europe
Toxicity Toxic to grazing animals

Horsetail Care

Here are the main care requirements for growing horsetail:

  • Plant horsetail in open areas where other plants can't thrive and it will quickly fill in space.
  • Contain horsetail, if desired, by installing plastic barriers in the soil or plant it in a deep pot buried in the ground.
  • Plant horsetail in wet conditions and even in standing water, such as water gardens or swampy areas.
  • Water horsetail daily if not planted in wet conditions, though the plant can handle some drought conditions.


Horsetail has aggressively spreading underground rhizomes and it can become highly invasive. It can become invasive anywhere, though populations are particularly high in the Pacific Northwest.

Horsetail plant with thin green stems closeup
The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy


Horsetail is extremely adaptable to various light levels, growing in every condition, from full sun to partial shade. That being said, it prefers filtered shade, such as that found on the forest floor beneath tall trees.


Horsetail thrives best in poor, sandy, gravely soil that is frequently wet. When growing horsetail in a container, consider adding gravel or sand to the potting mix to give it the texture the plant enjoys.


When it comes to soil moisture, horsetail prefers soil that is at least moderately wet. It can even grow in standing water up to a depth of about 4 inches. Thus, it's well-suited for rain gardens and other areas that may periodically flood. Because of this love of water and moist soil, horsetail should be watered frequently and never allowed to dry out. In warmer climates, this can even mean watering daily.

Temperature and Humidity

Horsetail plants prefer high humidity for several hours a day and thrive in a variety of temperatures. Winter care is not a concern, as the plant is hardy to USDA zones 4 to 9, though the bright green of the stems may fade during especially cold winters.


In general, horsetail plants do not like particularly rich or fertile soil, so fertilizing is not necessary.

Types of Horsetail

Although there are no direct cultivars of Equisetum hyemalis, there are several related species also known as horsetail. Some of the most popular options include:

  • Equisetum arvense: Commonly known as field horsetail or corn horsetail, this plant is generally categorized as a weed because it is every bit as aggressive as E. hyemale but lacks aesthetic qualities for landscaping. Field horsetail can grow up to 20 inches tall, but it's often stunted by the dryness of the earth in which it grows so that it reaches only about 8 inches tall or less. Many landscapes become overrun with field horsetail and it spreads even under the driest conditions.
  • Giant horsetail (E. giganteum): A Central- and South-American native, this plant is only hardy to zone 8. It can be grown in full sun or partial shade and can become 10 feet tall or more.
  • Variegated horsetail (E. variegatum): This shorter, hardier plant is native mainly to the wetlands of the northern U.S. and Canada. It's termed "variegated," because its black-and-white sheaths (on otherwise green stems) show up better than those on E. hyemalis.
Horsetail arvense
Hiromi Suzuki / Getty Images
Giant horsetail
Ed Reschke​ / Getty Images 


While horsetail isn't pruned in the traditional sense, the main challenge is keeping this plant under control or eradicating it where it is not wanted. Horsetail can extend its roots under sidewalks, garden walls, and driveways, so elimination requires carefully digging up and removing all root pieces, but even that may not always work.

It may also be possible to eradicate horsetail gradually by cutting the reed-like stems back to ground level as they appear. This can take several seasons before the plant surrenders and dies back completely. Finally, you can use a systemic herbicide containing triclopyr, which will kill horsetail. It may, however, take multiple applications before you completely eradicate the plant.

Propagating Horsetail

It's rare that a homeowner wants to propagate horsetail since containing or eradicating this fast-spreading plant is more often the challenge. However, if you do want to share plants, it is an easy matter to cut away portions of the rhizomatous root clumps and replant them wherever you want. Spring is the best time to perform this action.

  • Is horsetail easy to care for?

    Yes—horsetail is extremely easy to care for. In fact, it is so pervasive, you may actually have the reverse problem and experience issues with controlling the plant. To prevent horsetail from taking over your garden or other planted ground, it's advisable to use soil barriers or another form of containment.

  • What are alternatives to horsetail?

    For plants with a similar and somewhat wavy appearance like horsetail, try planting pampas grass or common cattails.

  • Can horsetail grow indoors?

    Growing horsetail indoors is not recommended, mostly due to the plant's quick-spreading nature and need for abundant and constant water.

Article Sources
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  1. Riet-Correa F, Medeiros R, Pfister J, Mendonça F. Toxic plants affecting the nervous system of ruminants and horses in BrazilPesquisa Veterinária Brasileira. 2017;37(12):1357-1368. doi:10.1590/s0100-736x2017001200001

  2. Riet-Correa F, Medeiros R, Pfister J, Mendonça F. Toxic plants affecting the nervous system of ruminants and horses in BrazilPesquisa Veterinária Brasileira. 2017;37(12):1357-1368. doi:10.1590/s0100-736x2017001200001

  3. Field Horsetail. Washington State University, College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resources Sciences.

  4. Equisetum: Biology and Management. Iowa State University Extension.