How to Grow Cattails?

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By Ashley Hanson

Updated: Jun 06, 2024

8 min read

how to grow cattails
Photo: Nebraska

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    Cattails thrive in various settings like lakes, swamps, or contained water bodies. Referred to as water sausages, these typha latifolia plants, while often viewed as weeds, offer numerous benefits. They attract birds with their seeds and nesting materials, and they are a magnet for small fish, serving as a vital component of the ecosystem.

    Moreover, cattails hold significant cultural value, historically utilized by Native American communities for various purposes, including food, medicine, and crafts. From a practical standpoint, they find applications in industries like solvent production. Whether adorning water gardens or utilized for interior design, cattails present a timeless, hassle-free option.

    To cultivate them successfully, ensuring moist soil, ample sunlight, and a clay-loam substrate is crucial. Some have even experimented with unconventional methods like greywater systems or container gardening. Regardless of the approach, growing cattails requires attention to soil quality and periodic maintenance to grow and share the love for these strong plants.

    Keep Them Company

    Considering the vigorous spread of cattails, it is advisable to allocate ample space for their growth. To complement them, opt for other plants suited to moist, marshy conditions. Good options, less spread than cattails, include yellow flag iris and blue flag iris, both boasting vibrant spring blooms and lush blue-green leaves. Sweet Flag is another tall plant with light green stems emitting a spicy scent when crushed. Cattails feature foliage striped in green and white.

    Meeting Cattails Needs for Healthy Growth

    Cattails require minimal attention
    Photo: @bushcraftology

    Cattails require minimal attention, but it is essential to ensure they receive proper care for optimal growth.


    Before planting, confirm they will get enough sunlight. Ideally, they need at least eight hours of full sun daily. While they can endure partial shade, complete shade is not suitable. Ensure surrounding trees do not block sunlight if planting near water features.


    Cattails thrive in consistent moisture, especially when near ponds or lakes. They don't require fertilization due to their rapid growth. Some prefer growing them in containers to control their spread, requiring specific care.


    When transplanting, use a minimum one-gallon pot with moist soil. Submerge potted cattails in water for optimal root growth. Trim dead leaves and flower heads regularly to prevent seed germination and fertilize with water plant fertilizer as needed.

    Diverse Variety of Cattails

    Various types of cattails exhibit subtle differences in appearance and care requirements. Some popular varieties include the Dwarf cattail, known for its shorter stature; the Hybrid cattail with a unique flower structure; the Narrow-leaf cattail, often reaching six feet in height; the towering Southern cattail, boasting golden stems; and the Broadleaf cattail, characterized by its deeply colored flowers and reaching up to eight feet in height.

    Are These Edible?

    Cattail plants are not harmful; they are actually edible and favored by foragers and survivalists. They have been recognized among the top edible wild plants. They have been a source of starch since ancient times, with their pollen being used in baked goods for added protein. Green flowers, before ripening, can be cooked similarly to corn, fried, pickled, added to soups, and more. Young cattail shoots, also known as Cossack asparagus, and the roots are also edible, but it is crucial to clean them thoroughly before eating to remove any pond or marsh remains.

    Controlling Cattails’ Growth

    Cattails thrive in fertile, damp soil under direct sunlight or partial shade, tolerating wet conditions and shallow water depths of up to a foot. Requiring minimal upkeep, they can be harvested in early spring, allowing the remains to decompose naturally.

    Cattails Growth
    Photo: @friendsofvalledeoro

    Cattails are vigorous spreaders, expanding via underground roots and potentially self-seeding. Their extensive roots make eradication difficult once established, posing a threat to other aquatic flora. To manage their growth, consider planting them in containers or tubs submerged to control their spreading tendencies.

    Repotting the Potted Cattails

    Cultivating potted cattails offers a manageable approach to restraining their growth, especially for those hesitant about frequent herbicide use. While they demand more watering and care compared to cattails planted in the ground, they remain relatively easy to maintain. Not having to deal with their root expansion in the ground simplifies their upkeep further.

    Frequency and Procedure

    Repotting cattails is typically necessary only once every three years. To accomplish this, extract the plant from its container and divide the rhizome roots into several segments.

    Expansion and Distribution

    These segments can then be replanted to expand your water garden, given as gifts, or sold. Each cattail section should be placed in its 1-gallon pot.

    The importance of Loam Soil

    For optimal growth, cattails thrive in loam soil, which consists of equal parts sand and silt with some clay, promoting water retention, a crucial factor for cattail health. Loam soil blends are available commercially or can be tailored to personal preferences by incorporating organic materials like peat moss, manure, or dried yard waste.

    Effective Mosquito Prevention for Container Cattail

    Cattails Cultivation
    Photo: @the_salt_of_the_urth


    If you opt to cultivate cattails in a container, simply fill it with water. Despite the moist environment, you don't need to tolerate mosquitoes.


    Take control of your cattail garden by using a safe mosquito prevention product that effectively eliminates mosquito larvae for up to thirty days without harming humans, pets, or wildlife. They can even be used in water sources where animals drink.


    The mosquito prevention products utilize natural soil bacteria and are approved. While they effectively target mosquito larvae, they are harmless to beneficial insects like dragonflies and are easily available in the market.

    Versatile Uses and Benefits of Cattails

    They can be incorporated into dishes such as roasted vegetables or bread, providing a unique dining experience. Growing your own cattails ensures they are free from contaminants, offering a safe and sustainable food option. Moreover, cattails have a rich history of medicinal uses, including plaster and antiseptic treatments derived from their leaves.


    Cattails are remarkable in nature as each component serves various species, including humans, with potential benefits. These enduring plants, reaching heights of nearly ten feet, possess strong rhizomatous roots, elongated flat leaves, and cylindrical brown flowers, offering both height and texture to aquatic landscapes, thriving in environments with a consistent water source.

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