Equisetum hyemale (rough horsetail) is rich in silica and has long been used for dental health. Here’s the skinny on growing horsetail at home.
Growing Horsetail (Equisetum Hyemale) at Home
Equisetum hyemale is commonly called rough horsetail or scouring rush. However, Equisetum is not a rush, fern, or reed. This horsetail is a non-flowering, rush-like perennial that is native to Europe, North America, and Asia. It is very easy to grow and is considered invasive in most places.
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Rough horsetail is a single surviving genus that dates back 350 million years. Its name comes from the Latin word equus, meaning “a horse,” and seta, meaning “a bristle.” It grows in wet woods, moist hillsides, and the edges of lakes, rivers, and ponds.
In addition, the stems are high in silica and were used by early Americans for polishing pots and pans.1)http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=c670
Identifying Rough Horsetail
This species has rigid, rough, hollow stems that are jointed, segmented, and dark green, resembling bamboo. The stems are about a 1/2 inch in diameter at the base.
Photosynthesis happens in the stems of Equisetum hyemale. Fertile stems bear fruiting heads about 1 inch long. These are similar to pine cones in appearance and contain many spores.
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Tiny, scale-like leaves attached to the stem fuse into an ash-gray sheath, which is 1/4 inch long. The leaves end in a fringe of teeth marks at each stem node (joint). During the growing season, these teeth shed.
Finally, if you live in an area that is frost free, the evergreen stems of rough horsetail are especially pretty in winter.
Growing Equisetum Hyemale Outdoors
This ancient plant spreads by rhizomes (an underground stem that acts like a root). Although it is commonly called horsetail or winter scouring rush, there are several varieties. This particular species is one that has been used for centuries for tooth and gum care.
We have a very limited supply of Equisetum hyemale (in a hard-to-find, easy-to-take powder form) available in our store here. This Equisetum hyemale was hand-wildcrafted by Doug Simons himself in the most pristine natural habitats, far from any chemical residues or toxins. This herb is common and even prolific in much of North America, Europe, and Asia, but because of where it grows, it’s incredibly hard to find a source that’s clean enough for internal use as Doug recommends in Alternatives to Dentists. This is a rare opportunity to get the highest quality Equisetum hyemale that can be found anywhere.
Growing horsetail makes for a great addition to the edges of backyard ponds and water features. The reeds thrive where soils are moist, but the plant remains above water. Depending on where you live, it can be invasive. This species of horsetail multiplies in a “thicket.”
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The reeds may stay green where frost is not a concern. They are typically grown only as a potted plant because they spread quickly via underground rhizomes. Equisetum hyemale grows to a height of 2 to 4 feet.
Equisetum hyemale tolerates a wide range of moist soils. It will even grow in up to 4 inches of standing water. A large colony of reeds typically forms in the wild.
Rough horsetail prefers a slightly acidic soil with a clay-loam-sand mix. It particularly likes wet sites. It is perfect for a bog garden, containers, or water gardens.
This is a very aggressive plant that needs to be restrained by a pot. When growing horsetail, it can be challenging to remove because the rhizomes spread wide and deep. Any small section of rhizome left behind will sprout a new plant. Even in water gardens, it is best to plant it in pots, or it will choke out other plants.
Grow Equisetum hyemale in full sun, partial sun, or partial shade depending on your particular climate.
This species of horsetail grows well in Zones 4 through 9.
Indoors or outside, be sure to cut off any rhizomes growing out of the pot. This will keep the horsetail from spreading into the pond or surrounding soil.
Place the pot so the rim is above the water surface. Near the edge of a pond or water feature is perfect.
Prune the dead stems after they turn brown in winter. Provide some winter interest by leaving the stems in place until new stems emerge.
Water rough horsetail twice a week or more so the soil stays moist (almost wet). Pots sitting in water need less watering. Water pond plants only if the potting soil surface looks dry.
Equisetum hyemale does not have any serious insect or disease problems. The only problem is its very aggressive, spreading nature.
Actively growing horsetail benefits from a fertilizer made for pond or bog plants during its abundant spring and summer seasons (or every two months otherwise). Follow the recommended applications on the fertilizer bag.
Growing Equisetum Hyemale Indoors
Although it’s a bog plant, growing horsetail reed is possible indoors. This low-maintenance grower does best in moist soil and with lots of light. A sunny window is a perfect spot.
Equisetum hyemale does well in pots on your patio too. Just plant it in a non-perforated, 1-gallon pot with drainage holes. Lift the pot once a month to examine the drainage holes. Cut back any rhizomes that are trying to escape.
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Use a potting soil that works best for bog and water garden plants. Set the pot in water that is no more than 4 inches deep.
What Do You Think?
Do you grow Equisetum hyemale? If so, let us know how you use rough horsetail for improved health or simply to liven up your landscape. Make your mark in the comments below.
This is an updated version of an article that was originally published on April 21, 2019. The author may not currently be available to respond to comments; however, we encourage our Community members to chime in to share their experiences and answer questions!
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Marjory Wildcraft is the founder of The Grow Network, which is a community of people focused on modern self-sufficient living. She has been featured by National Geographic as an expert in off-grid living, she hosted the Mother Earth News Online Homesteading Summit, and she is listed in Who’s Who in America for having inspired hundreds of thousands of backyard gardens. Marjory was the focus of an article that won Reuter’s Food Sustainability Media Award, and she recently authored The Grow System: The Essential Guide to Modern Self-Sufficient Living—From Growing Food to Making Medicine.