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.
Image by Raksask Heng from Pixabay
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.
Image by Brigitte makes custom works from your photos, thanks a lot from Pixabay
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.
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
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.
Image by Alexandra ❤️A life without animals is not worth living❤️ from Pixabay
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.
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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.
First off, I want to say how much I love the garden summits, I have learned so much. Thank you for doing that. Second, I live in West Michigan and just discovered this spring that the weed I have been pulling in my front flower garden is horsetail. I’m near Lake Michigan and our soil is sandy and dry. However the horsetail grows very well here in dry sand. I am now harvesting it to make a High Calcium Tea from Rosemary Gladstar’s recipes. I dry in the dehydrator, cut, and store. I think it has a wonderful aroma once dried.
Marla, Thanks so much for sharing! Rosemary Gladstar is a wise woman!
Is making a tea the best way to use horsetail? Are there other ways to to use this plant for dental or other health needs?
I love Rosemary Gladstar too!
DOug Simons – the creator behind the Alternatives to Denstists video, suggests not making a tea of it though. Eating it powdered, or simply eating a raw section of it right from the plant is best. Hold it in your mouth and especailly on your teeth for optimum effect.
I’ve been amazed at how strong my teeth feel after consuming some horsetail for a few weeks. It’s really an awesome herb.
Oh! Thanks Marla on your kind words about the SUmmit. we are hosint another on in mid May “The Home Medicine Summit”. It will include presentations on growing food too – as food is your primal medicine. Stay tuned!
PPS: If you are a subscriber to the TGN Community Newsletter, I’ll be offering a specail pre-sale of the Summit at it’s best discount to TGN members. Watch the newsletter for that announcment. It’s coming in a few weeks. This upcoming Summit will be awesome!
I would LOVE to grow this in my garden. I’ve had my share of dental problems and complications over the years and this would be so nice to have. Any ideas on where I can purchase a start of it? I checked with a few local nurseries here in the Dallas area and no one seems to have it.
I located a lot of horsetail growing at the river and brought home some root. Planted it in sand, watered it, and in two short weeks it was sending up large numbers of shoots. Have been drying the shoots, grinding them, and eating a heaping teaspoon each day for two weeks. Some of my cavities are looking better and some need much more time to respond. Thank you VERY much for this valuable information.
Dawn in Colville, Washington
I live in Dallas as well and have been looking for this species of horsetail. Even online and in stores, no one is selling the Hymale species. Let me know if you have any luck!
I also have been unable to find horsetail hymale species for sale at local nurseries or online. Please advise if anyone has found a source to purchase the herb for growing at home. Thanks.
How does Equisetum Hyemale compare to Equisetum Arvense? Do they both work as well as the other?
I watched Doug Simon’s DVD called “Alternatives to Dentists” and he says that you need the hymale species. Avernase is available in abundance, so I contacted the grow network to ask, but no response. If you find something out, let me know!
Hi Lara & Priti,
The Arvense species is not the correct one.
Hmmm, if you can’t find the plant locally, check online.
Last year we offered the plant for sale and the logistics of that had some of the team almost quit thier jobs – it was a mess! But the plants are commonly available – keep looking 🙂
Wild horsetail grows like a weed along the sides of my driveway, which runs through a wet area. It is not as large as the plant described in the article, maybe growing 6-9″ tall, but I am wondering if it can be used for the same purposes. I am slowly trying to identify and find uses for the many varieties of native plants that grow around here. It is much easier and better than destroying them as weeds and replacing them with cultivated ones.
Echoing the posts above, Tammy, and Lora, where might we purchase starts? and how does hyemale compare to arvense? Thanks for the great post.
I bought 2 plants a couple of years ago at the Rainbow Gardens Nursery in San Antonio, Tx. I put them in pots in my aquaponic fish tank and they are now bursting the pots. If there is anyone in the San Antonio area that needs some, I would be willing to divide mine and share. For those of you in other areas, ask your local nursery if they could order some for you.
Deborah! That is so sweet of you – and totally the spirit of the Grow Network
I found it at Garden Works in Coquitlam, BC, just last week (May 2018). It was the only pay they had, though they said they would be getting more.
Dani, I found it at Garden Works in Coquitlam, BC, just last week (May 2018).
Hi Deborah, if you still have some to share, I would love some. Thank you!
Yes! I have been searching for Equisetum Hyemale TO GROW for months now and can not find a source of it in Canada (B.C.).
Can anyone help me here?
Dania I found it at Garden Works in Coquitlam (Vancouver area).
I really enjoyed this article thank you! I’m trying to reverse periodontal disease organically. Please explain how to use this plant, eg tea, chew n spit, swallow etc. Also what part of plant to use and how/when to harvest it. Any tips on getting rid of gum disease would be appreciated as well. My dentist suggested I rinse my mouth with diluted chlorine and told me that once you have it there is no cure. I’m sure there’s another way.
Marjory has been recommending a book by Doug Simons called Alternatives to Dentists. I am sure it will have some good information on reversing gum disease. My husband had gum disease and he started using a toothpaste called thieves aromabright toothpaste marketed by young living essential oils. Over a years time it has totally reversed his. I’m sure a lot would have to do with the severity of the disease as to how long it would take, but I would check out those two things.
Sonya. I recommend you do some research on ‘oil pulling’ using Coconut Oil; which has many great healing properties. Recent research is proving it to be very beneficial.
Here are a couple of starting points for you:
Dr. Bruce Fife is a lipids expert and an author that I respect highly.
I’m not sure why anyone with livestock would want it around, as it can be poisonous in large enough doses. While adults won’t eat it, young animals may.
I just bought some on EBay to plant. It arrived quickly and in great shape. I will be planting it tomorrow. Thank you for the timely article!!
Great info, thanks so much.
I was not sure how to grow it indoors.
Does anyone know a good source to buy it from, that will ship here to Minnesota? I was going to order it from Amazon, but I am not sure which seller to use.
Judith, Here is the link where I ordered mine and I see they still have some available. https://www.ebay.com/itm/10-Horsetail-Reed-Grass-Looks-Like-Mini-Bamboo-Equisetum-hyemale-Pond-Plant-/282418250676?hash=item41c17083b4
It’s growing fantastic outdoors here in Central TX. It likes lots of water and I bring it inside when the temps dip down below 40 at night. Unfortunately, the plants I got with The Alternative’s to Dentistry DVD did not survive.
Thank you for the link. I’ve looked off and on for years. The plant I got from TGN also did not survive.
Hi Joy, livestock that is getting enough nutriton and food will not over eat the horsetail. And in fact, I know my dogs and cats eat it – to strengthen thier teeth I assume 🙂 But Doug has observed wild animals (coyotes, bob cats, etc.) eating horsetail. Er, nibbling on it…
This is the variety I am familiar with around western Washington. https://www.pugetsound.edu/academics/academic-resources/slater-museum/exhibits/terrestrial-panel/common-horsetail/ (Equisetum arvense)
It resembles a bottle brush. The article by a local collage describes the native uses. I have only used it for scouring after cooking on a wood fire. It would be interesting to try drying it and maby use the powder as an abrasive additive to my baking soda/coconut oil dentifrice.
How is horsetail used to care for the teeth?
How do you have drainage holes in a non perforated pot? (Sincere question, not trying to be a smart alec.)
Hi Tyra’s, I think what they meant is you plant in the pot with drainage holes and place that pot into another that is not perforated. So it will hold water and you can lift out the plants and trim the little roots that are trying to escape.
Thanks, I was wondering the same thing.
How do you use the horse tail plant for dental care? The article said all about growing it but not what to do with it for your teeth.
Thank you for the information on how to grow Equisetum Hyemale.
I’m very interested and wanted to try this herb.
Please, direction on how to use it.
Highly invasive. No, I will not be growing this anywhere near my yard. However, I enjoy seeing it in our local parks.
I have heard that horsetail tea is good for urinal tract infections. Is this so?
I purchased the “Alternative to Dentists Shipped Edition” and received several Equisetum Hyemale with it. Thanks for the wonderful items and plants. However, the Equisetum Hyemale I received were yellow and dry. Should I be able to revive them by planting to the moist potting mix? If so, how long should I wait for them to become alive/green again? Right now I planted them into one of my aquaponic systems.
Oh, sorry for the question. I found the answer during the listening of the Q&A Replay 🙂
Where is the Q&A replay? I planted mine and it was green but after 3 days, it is starting to turn brown.
This can be found under the video in the Alternative to Dentists section under you Dashboard (View My Dashboard) on the website. Please email email@example.com if you need additional assistance with this.
I also received dried out horsetail. Not sure there’s any hope for it.
Remember that it’s the roots that are important, not the stalks. You want to be sure the roots are kept warm and wet. If they did not survive, definitely look to Etsy, Amazon, or eBay for sources. Also, check with your local nursery as Spring is the best time to purchase these plants! 🙂
I grew up in the Seattle area and horsetails were quite common but I don’t know if it is the same variety.
Now I live in Texas and will have to give the plant a little more attention as things are a tad dryer here than Seattle.
We did learn that horsetails were great for scrubbing pots in the Boy Scouts due to the high silicon content.
How do you tell the difference between the varieties?
I ordered your dental kit before the hurricane hit. Received the DVD and mirror, comb thingy. But haven’t gotten the equisetum hyemale. Please get back with me.
Hi Connie! My apologies for the delay. I show you should have received the plant (10/18). If you haven’t, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will happily handle this for you! 🙂
I received your horse tail roots last Saturday and plant them according to your instruction here, but the stems have been very dry and one of them came off from the root and the other two look like it will come off soon. Will the stem grow back out or they are dead? Thanks.
Hi Rachel, please know that this is very normal. The plant arrives in a semi-dormant state and it’s really more the root you are concerned about than the stalks at this point. It takes about 3-4 weeks for the roots to establish and new growth to begin. In addition, the horsetail plant is actually a dry and abrasive plant by nature, so don’t be alarmed by the feel of it. 🙂 If you do feel the plant has died, send me an email at email@example.com and I will happily replace it for you. 🙂
My horsetail bare roots came completely dried out dead. I planted just in case but they’re dead. Had they been shipped with a wet paper towel and wrapped in plastic I think they would have been fine, but they arrived shipped in paper. I’d love to get some to grow.
Hi Heather, thank you so much for reaching out. The plant arrives in a semi-dormant state and it’s really more the root you are concerned about than the stalks at this point. These are drought hardy plants despite their love for water, which is why we felt we could be successful in shipping them the way that we did. It takes about 3-4 weeks for the roots to establish and new growth to begin once planted in wet soil. In addition, the horsetail plant is actually a dry and abrasive plant by nature, so don’t be alarmed by the feel (or look) of it. 🙂 If you do feel the plant has died, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will happily replace it for you. 🙂
Very exciting news. My Equisetum hyemale plant is sprouting! One question…. How many days, weeks, months, etc before I can start harvesting? Or do I base it by size of stalk?
Marjory… You recommended a book Pain Free for TEETH GRINDERS – I bought the book but can’t find one thing
about Grinding Teeth ! Where is it – Please ?
Several forms of horsetail also grow quite well in the high desert areas of Idaho where I used to live. It grows SO well that (as with other herbs) people treat it as a weed. Coniferous forests and sandy/rocky soils are great for several types of horsetail.
After watching the Alternatives to Dentists DVD, I was strolling through the local plant nursery and saw a plant that looked suspiciously like horsetail. Looking at the tag, I saw that not only was it horse tale, but it was the exact species recommended in the DVD! What a blessing!
That’s awesome, Scott!! You will have to keep us posted on your growing success! 🙂
That’s awesome, Scott! Now that spring is here, I’ll have to take a stroll through some local plant nurseries in my area to see if the same thing happens to me. Wish me luck!
I was able to buy a horse tail plant (hyemale) at the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs, PA. Our cat flosses her teeth with it which is much better than the Apple power cords (a known problem). I use it as a tea (dried) as well as just chewing on it when my teeth feel like they have a coat of fur. I also brush/massage my gums with licorice root which has some incredible properties. I highly recommend buying the Alternatives to Dentists DVD. We also found a Nutridentist to remove our mercury fillings safely. Thanks to Marjory for getting us started on an alternative path!
Linda, thanks so much for commenting! The plant is quite amazing.
For those looking to purchase the plant, Amazon, eBay, and Etsy are all great sources. During the Spring months, many nurseries offer it too as it’s a great pond plant!
Marjory, thanks for this treatment. I am working with a source here in Oklahoma and have a spot picked out to grow this in the side-yard next to the house. My plan is to plant it in a deep, rectangular pond container that will catch rainwater runoff from a nearby gutter downspout to retain water and also to keep it from escaping containment. Will post an update when I get it done. Have a great day!
I found Horsetail (Equisetum Hyemale) on Etsy from Froggy Farms (https://www.etsy.com/listing/540433963/10-horsetail-reed-grass-looks-like-mini?ref=shop_home_active_3)
Only $9.99 for more than 10 rooted stalks. The owner included good instructions and threw in at least 5 additional plants 🙂 Plants looks wonderful so I’m planting them in a pot as he instructed with water and a plastic lining in pot to hold the moisture. I bought Doug’s Alternative Dentistry and loved it! Found some powdered horsetail on Mountain Rose but not as green as Doug suggests so I’m happy to start growing my own. Since I live in Zone 3, I’ll have to bring the pot inside during winter which is fine. I’m on Day 5 of taking the powdered horsetail in a heaping teaspoon in water and stirring. Tastes like grass. I swish it around my mouth before swallowing because I have an abscess and loose teeth as well as a cavity or 2.
The main thing I notice so far is an increase in sleepiness during the day. Not sure what that is about. Also the abscess is still there, but the blister in my mouth is not as large. Several dentists have ruined my teeth and jaw alignment and I’ll never be able to get my original teeth back, but I refuse to get the recommended root canal and all the other garbage the dentist is touting. I grilled him hard on the root canal procedure and ingredients they use to pack the canal. They clean it out with Bleach! Yes…household bleach! Not good! Cancelled any future cleaning too. I’ll keep you all updated 😀
For those who want to grow their own supply, here is my experience so far:
I bought my plant online at Trio Nursery, Santa Barbara in September 2017. I received a healthy plant with about 15 two feet long reeds in the mail. Now, in June 2018, I had about 25 reeds, between 3 and 4 feet long. I pulled six reeds (a quarter), with a total weight of 67 grams. I dried them out in the sun for a day, ended up with about 8.5 grams dry material, which I put into a coffee grinder. I got 6 teaspoons of powder, about 1 week’s supply. The plant is in a container with a diameter of 18 inches, and an estimated capacity of 100 reeds. I expect to reach this full growth 2 years after receiving the plant from the nursery.
I hope this quantitative information gives newbies a realistic picture of what it takes to grow your own supply.
Hi, i would love to grow Horsetail but unfortunately its prohibited in Australia. No one sells the plant and if seen it has to be reported so it can be eradicated. Not happy about that. I would only have a small plant in a pot indoors. So Im still looking for a growing in Australia. Knotweed is another plant reported as a prohibited plant. Again not happy.
If anyone in Alabama wants a start, I have one that is trying to outgrow its pot.