Horsetail Equisetum hyemale

☠ Toxic to humans
🐾 Toxic to pets
🌸 Not blooming
🍪 Not edible
‍🌱 Easy-care
rough horsetail


The common name for Equisetum hyemale is horsetail. This plant has a distinctive, reed-like appearance with hollow, jointed or segmented stems that are green and rough in texture. Each stem is encircled by a series of black and ash-gray bands, which are the sheaths surrounding each joint. The stems are unbranched and upright, conveying a sleek, simple aesthetic. Horsetail does not have typical leaves but instead, around the joints, it has small scale-like structures that form a toothed collar, contributing to its primitive and somewhat otherworldly look. At the tips of some stems, or on special fertile stems, you might find cone-like structures that contain spores. The overall impression of horsetail is one of an ancient plant, with its ancestry tracing back to the time of the dinosaurs, giving it a prehistoric dimension in its appeal.

Plant Info
Common Problems

About this plant

  • memoNames

    • Family


    • Synonyms

      Rough Horsetail, Scouring Rush, Dutch Rushes, Snake Grass, Pewterwort

    • Common names

      Equisetum hyemale var. affine, Equisetum hyemale var. robustius, Equisetum prealtum, Equisetum robustum, Hippochaete hyemalis, Hippochaete variegata.

  • skullToxicity

    • To humans

      Equisetum hyemale, commonly known as horsetail, has been reported to contain thiaminase, an enzyme that breaks down thiamine, also known as vitamin B1. Ingesting large amounts of horsetail can lead to thiamine deficiency in humans, which may result in symptoms such as weight loss, confusion, muscle weakness, and cardiovascular issues. Chronic exposure to thiamine-depleting substances can potentially lead to serious health consequences, including neurological problems such as beriberi or Wernicke's encephalopathy.

    • To pets

      In pets, Equisetum hyemale, or horsetail, possesses a similar risk due to its thiaminase content. Consumption can lead to a thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency in animals such as horses, cats, and dogs. Symptoms of horsetail poisoning in pets may include loss of appetite, lethargy, uncoordinated movements, seizures, and in severe cases, can cause irreversible damage to the nervous system or even death, particularly in animals that have ingested it over a prolonged period. Therefore, it is important to prevent pets from eating horsetail.

  • infoCharacteristics

    • Life cycle


    • Foliage type


    • Color of leaves


    • Height

      2-4 feet (0.6-1.2 meters)

    • Spread

      1-1.5 feet (0.3-0.45 meters)

    • Plant type


    • Hardiness zones


    • Native area

      Northern Hemisphere


  • money-bagGeneral Benefits

    • Ornamental Value: Equisetum hyemale, commonly known as rough horsetail, is often used in gardens and landscaping for its distinct, reed-like vertical stems and prehistoric appearance, adding unique aesthetic appeal.
    • Erosion Control: The extensive root system of rough horsetail helps to stabilize soil, making it useful for erosion control on riverbanks and in areas prone to soil loss.
    • Pond Filtration: When planted around ponds or water features, rough horsetail can help filter and clean the water by absorbing nutrients and providing a habitat for beneficial microorganisms.
    • Low Maintenance: Rough horsetail is a hardy plant that requires minimal care once established, making it a suitable choice for low-maintenance gardens.
    • Winter Interest: With its evergreen stems, rough horsetail provides visual interest in the garden even during the winter months.
    • Historical Interest: Known as a "living fossil," rough horsetail has a history that dates back over 300 million years, and planting it can add an element of prehistoric intrigue to a garden setting.
    • Wildlife Habitat: Though not a primary food source, rough horsetail provides cover for small wildlife, contributing to ecological diversity.

  • medicalMedical Properties

    • Diuretic: Equisetum hyemale has been traditionally used to increase urine flow.
    • Antioxidant: It may contain compounds with antioxidant effects.
    • Anti-inflammatory: Some people use this plant for its potential anti-inflammatory properties.
    • Astringent: The plant has astringent qualities and may be used for toning and tightening tissues.
    • Wound Healing: Historically, it has been applied to wounds to aid healing.
    • Improves Bone Health: The high silica content in the plant is believed to help strengthen bones and support bone healing.

  • windAir-purifying Qualities

    This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.

  • leavesOther Uses

    • Abrasive: Equisetum hyemale, commonly known as horsetail, has stems rich in silica and was traditionally used as a fine abrasive for polishing metal and wood.
    • Fine Sandpaper: Its rough texture allows it to be used as a natural replacement for fine grit sandpaper, particularly useful in delicate woodworking.
    • Thatching: The plant can be bundled together and used for thatching roofs in some traditional construction techniques.
    • Floral Arrangements: Horsetail's distinctive architectural form and evergreen nature make it a popular choice for inclusion in modern and minimalist floral designs.
    • Plant Supports: The strong, hollow stems of horsetail can be used as natural stakes to support other garden plants.
    • Dye: The plant can be boiled to produce a soft green dye for textiles.
    • Watchmakers: Historically, the plant’s stems were used by watchmakers for cleaning watch gears.
    • Ornamental Ponds: Horsetail can be planted around the edges of ornamental ponds to add a vertical element and provide habitat for wildlife.
    • Bioremediation: Equisetum hyemale is used in bioremediation to remove heavy metals, such as arsenic, from contaminated water.
    • Frost Indicator: Horsetail can serve as a natural indicator of the first frost, as it is one of the last plants to defoliate during the onset of cold weather.

Interesting Facts

  • bedFeng Shui

    The plant horsetail is not used in Feng Shui practice.

  • aquariusZodiac Sign Compitability

    The plant horsetail is not used in astrology practice.

  • spiralPlant Symbolism

    • Resilience: Equisetum hyemale, commonly known as Rough horsetail, is known for its resilience. It can grow in very harsh environments, symbolizing the ability to overcome challenges and adversity.
    • Antiquity: Belonging to a genus that is among the oldest plants still living today, Rough horsetail symbolizes ancient times and a connection to the past.
    • Purity: Traditionally, horsetails have been used for cleaning, because of their scouring properties due to high silica content. Thus, they symbolize cleansing and purity.
    • Healing: Medicinally, Rough horsetail has been used to treat various ailments, symbolizing healing and the power of nature to restore health.
    • Growth: The plant’s fast-spreading nature and ability to dominate its habitat symbolize abundant growth and sometimes unchecked expansion.

Keep soil moist
2500 - 10000 Lux
Every year
Spring to summer
Not needed
  • water dropWater

    The Horsetail plant, commonly known as Equisetum hyemale, thrives in consistently moist soil. It is best to water this plant thoroughly, ensuring that the soil is saturated but not waterlogged. Depending on the climate and the season, watering might be required once or twice a week, with a total of about one to two gallons per week. During hotter, drier months, keep a closer eye on soil moisture levels as the plant may need more frequent watering. It's important not to let the soil dry out completely, as Equisetum hyemale enjoys damp conditions.

  • sunLight

    Horsetail plant prefers bright, indirect sunlight but can also tolerate partial shade. The ideal spot for Equisetum hyemale is in an area that receives dappled sunlight throughout the day. Avoid placing it in full, direct sunlight for extended periods, as this can cause the fronds to burn or turn brown.

  • thermometerTemperature

    Horsetail plants are hardy and can withstand a wide temperature range. Equisetum hyemale can survive in temperatures as low as 20°F and as high as 95°F. However, the ideal temperature for this plant is between 65°F and 75°F. Ensure the plant is not exposed to extreme temperatures for prolonged periods.

  • scissorsPruning

    Horsetail plants benefit from occasional pruning to remove dead or damaged stems and to maintain its tidy appearance. Pruning Equisetum hyemale is best done in the early spring before new growth begins. Trimming back the stems once a year is often sufficient. The best time for pruning is when you first notice new shoots emerging from the ground.

  • broomCleaning

    As needed

  • bambooSoil

    Horsetail (Equisetum hyemale) thrives in a moist, well-draining soil mix rich in organic matter with a pH of 6.0 to 7.5. An ideal soil mix can be made with equal parts peat moss, sand, and garden loam to ensure adequate moisture while preventing waterlogging.

  • plantRepotting

    Horsetail plants usually don't require frequent repotting and can be repotted every 2-3 years or when they outgrow their current container.

  • water dropsHumidity & Misting

    Horsetail plants prefer high humidity levels, ideally around 60% to 80%, to mimic their natural, damp habitat conditions.

  • pinSuitable locations

    • Indoor

      Keep horsetail in bright, indirect light with high humidity.

    • Outdoor

      Plant horsetail in damp, shady areas with rich soil.

    • Hardiness zone

      Horsetail is suitable for USDA zones 3-11.

  • circleLife cycle

    Equisetum hyemale, commonly known as the rough horsetail, begins its life cycle as a spore released from cone-like structures at the tips of mature stems. The spores germinate to form a small, green, heart-shaped gametophyte that houses both male and female reproductive organs. After fertilization occurs in presence of water, the resulting zygote develops into a new sporophyte plant, which emerges as a non-photosynthetic shoot and eventually grows into a mature, photosynthetic stem. The stems of rough horsetail are hollow, jointed, and evergreen, with whorls of branches that resemble the horsetails of the prehistoric era. As the stems age, they accumulate high silica content, which gives them a rough texture. Rough horsetail reproduces both vegetatively through underground rhizomes that give rise to new shoots, and sexually through the spores, allowing the cycle to continue.

  • sproutPropogation

    • Propogation time

      Spring to summer

    • The most popular method of propagation for Equisetum hyemale, commonly known as horsetail, is by division of the rhizomes. The best time to propagate horsetail through division is in spring, just as new growth begins to appear. Gardeners should dig up a clump of the plant and carefully separate the rhizome into pieces, ensuring that each piece has at least one growth node or bud. These segments can then be replanted in moist, well-draining soil at a depth of around 2 inches (approximately 5 centimeters), spaced approximately a foot (30 centimeters) apart. The divisions should be kept uniformly moist until they establish in their new location, which typically occurs within a few weeks. This method is efficient and reliable for expanding horsetail collections or creating new plantings.