Cattails (Typha) – The Complete Guide

From June to August, cattails boast powerful, cylindrical flowers surrounded by tightly erect, lance-shaped leaves. At the same time, cattails act as natural water filters and ensure clear water in the pond.

Depending on where you live, cattails may have a different name. They are also known as bulrush, punks, reed, reedmace, and several other names.

Those who know how to cultivate cattails will enjoy their aquatic plants for many years.

Planting Cattails Properly

The planting season of cattails extends from spring to fall. To prevent the vigorous ornamental plant from conquering your water world, we recommend using separate planting baskets.

Fill these with a fine silty mixture of humus and sand to insert the rhizome. To prevent the substrate from being washed away or rooted out by curious fish, spread a thin layer of pebbles over it.

Then place the cattail on the marshy bank to a depth of 24 inches (60 cm) of water.

Care Tips

To properly care for cattails, the maintenance program includes the following measures:

  • Regularly cut out wilted leaves so they do not float in the water.
  • Cut inflorescences for use as dry decorations in summer, in time before full bloom.
  • Apply a special fertilizer for aquatic plants in case of deficiency symptoms.
  • Before the first frost, loosely tie the culms with sisal.

In early spring, cut back cattails close to the ground to allow fresh leaves to sprout unimpeded.

Which Location is Suitable for Cattails?

Cattails feel at home at the sunny edge of standing or gently flowing water. They tolerate semi-shaded locations but detract from the beauty of the impressive floral rollers.

You can lace common cattails/broadleaf cattails (Typha latifolia) or narrowleaf cattails/lesser bulrush (Typha angustifolia) on a marshy bank or at a water depth of 8 to 24 inches (20 to 60 cm).

The miniature cattail/dwarf bulrush (Typha minima) should not be placed deeper than 16 inches (40 cm) in the water.

What Soil Does the Cattail Need?

To bring out the best in a cattail, it is important to have a balanced combination of soil and water quality.

The ornamental plant spreads its mighty rhizomes preferably in nutrient-rich, humic, slightly acidic soil, which is washed by water with a medium or soft degree of hardness.

When is Flowering Time for Cattails?

The flowering period of cattails extends from July to August. After a mild winter, the miniature cattail/dwarf bulrush in a sunny location unfurls its eye-popping fruiting bulbs as early as June and lasts well into August.

Pruning Cattails Properly

Do not cut back a cattail until early spring to make room for fresh sprouts. Throughout the winter, this aquatic plant will grace an otherwise empty pond with its tightly erect leaves and decorative brown inflorescences.

If amateur gardeners want to pass the low-work wintertime with private floriculture, cut off the striking cobs in summer in good time before they fully bloom.

Dried over a period of 2 weeks in an airy place, they are indispensable as part of creative floral arrangements or magnificent dry arrangements.

Fertilizing Cattails Properly

Considering its considerable urge to spread, you should give the cattail supplemental nutrient feeding only in exceptional cases.

Fertilization is only necessary when deficiency symptoms such as stunted flower bulbs or yellowed leaves become visible.

There are special preparations available in liquid form or in the form of sticks that you can administer precisely to the affected aquatic plant.


The starchy, fleshy rhizomes are at the top of the menu for voracious voles. Therefore, additionally line the planting basket with a close-meshed wire mesh to keep the pests at a distance.

Wintering Cattails

While winter calm spreads in the pond, cattails remain active. Because the aquatic plant thrives as both hardy and evergreen, it plays an important role in maintaining gas exchange in the water during the cold season.

Therefore, do not cut back cattails until the end of winter. In the fall, tie the culms loosely together to prevent dried leaves from floating around in the water.

Propagating Cattails

Once a cattail colonizes a pond or stream, you can save yourself the financial expense of purchasing more specimens.

These methods of propagation are available:

  • Division of the root ball in spring.
  • Cutting off rhizome cuttings in order to plant them in marshy soil at a new location.
  • Harvesting seeds in the fall to directly sow the cold seedlings at the pond’s edge.

Alternatively, fill a watertight seed tray with silt soil to insert the seeds 1 inch (2-3 cm) deep. Filled with lime-free water to a height of 0.5 inches (1-2 cm), place the container on a half-shaded, warm windowsill at around 68 °F (20 °C).

Then the seeds receive a cold stimulus for 4-6 weeks on the winter balcony or in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator, but the water should not freeze through.

After that, germination begins in a warm window place. Prick out the young cattails with 2 pairs of leaves. In the case of seedlings propagated cattails, the bulb will take 2 to 3 years until the first flowering.


Another amazing attribute of cattails is long forgotten. Their massive rhizomes are rich in natural starch.

As archaeological evidence has shown, people were processing the rhizomes into flour more than 30,000 years ago. If you would plant cattails on one acre of marshland, you could harvest the solid amount of 4 tn. sh. of flour.

To spice up your private water world with cattails, have a look at the following 3 species:

  • Broadleaf cattail (Typha latifolia): A majestic cattail with 80 inches (200 cm) growth height and a whopping 40 inches (100 cm) width. The broadleaf cattail or common bulrush keeps the water clean.
  • Narrowleaf cattail (Typha angustifolia): The more delicate counterpart with a slender silhouette and leaves half as broad. The narrowleaf cattail or lesser bulrush has a growing height of 60 inches (150 cm).
  • Miniature cattail (Typha minima): Thanks to its graceful stature with a height of 24 inches (60 cm) and a width of 16 inches (40 cm), the miniature cattail or dwarf bulrush is the ideal species for small ponds.

All three species not only stage an opulent appearance but also act as effective water purifiers. As heavy feeders, cattails filter nutrients from the water and deprive troublesome algae of their livelihood.

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Daniel Popovic, Owner: (Registered business address: Germany), would like to process personal data with external services. This is not necessary for using the website, but allows me to interact even more closely with them. If desired, please make a choice: