How to Grow Southern Cattail

Southern Cattails are aquatic or marsh plants with long, narrow leaves, image by Photo by Noreen Girao


Southern cattail is a familiar sight in marshes and wetlands where it spreads rapidly and grows to a height of 9 to 10 feet tall. The leaves are yellowish-green and the 6 to 10-inch flower spikes range from yellow to orangish-brown. According to the USDA Plant Guide, "all parts of southern cattail are edible when gathered at the appropriate stage of growth." Grow cattails from seed, container seedlings or bare rootstock.

Growing From Seed

Step 1

Locate a mature stand of Southern Cattails. A perennial wetland plant, it also grows in streams, ponds and freshwater marshes.

Step 2

Use hand clippers to cut a seed head off several inches below the head.

Step 3

Place the seed head in a paper or burlap bag.

Step 4

Broadcast seeds in a weed-free, moist seedbed. Roll or rake the seeds to a depth of ¼ to ½ inch deep.

Step 5

If planting in pots, use 1 inch by 1 inch cells. Sow seeds 1/4 inch deep and keep soil moist. Seedlings are ready for transplant in 100 to 120 days.

Live Plant Collection

Step 1

Obtain permission to cut plugs from a stand of mature Southern Cattails, if necessary.

Step 2

Dig down approximately 6 inches and remove a cattail stem, also called a plug.

Step 3

Clip leaves and stems back to less than 12 inches to encourage root production and limit moisture loss. Wrap in burlap and keep plugs moist during transport.

Step 4

Plant plugs approximately 3 feet apart in late fall so that the roots can become established before winter dormancy occurs.

Caring for Southern Cattails

Step 1

Grow cattails in a sunny, open area for best results.

Step 2

Fertilize cattails to increase seed production.

Step 3

Mow or cut mature cattails if they begin to spread into undesirable areas.

Things You'll Need

  • Hand clipper
  • Paper or burlap bag
  • 1-inch by 1-inch nursery pots
  • Water


  • USDA Plant Database: Southern Cattail
  • Cattails
  • Cattails
Keywords: growing southern cattail, cattail plugs, grow cattails

About this Author

Moira Clune is a freelance writer who since 1991 has been writing sales and promotional materials for her own and other small businesses. In addition, she has published articles on VetInfo and various other websites. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Hartwick College.

Photo by: Photo by Noreen Girao