How to Grow Floating Bur-Reed

Prickly-looking flowers give bur-reed its name and attract birds. image by USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database/


"Floating bur-reed" (also known as burreed and bur reed), is an emergent aquatic plant --- that is, the plant is rooted in soil but lives in water. The plant keeps its flowers above the waterline, while long, ribbon-like leaves float on the water's surface. Floating bur-reed is a perennial, so it does not die off after one or two growing seasons, and each plant produces both male and female flowers. This flowering habit is part of the plant's reproductive strategy. Grow floating bur-reed from seed and, after it's established, propagate it by division, separating the parent plant into two or more plants.

Propagation: Seed

Step 1

Sow ripe seeds in pots of rich soil in your greenhouse. Ripe seeds are fresh; they haven't been dried.

Step 2

Put the pots within larger pots, adding one to two centimeters (a scant half-inch to three-quarters of an inch) of water to the larger pot. The seed pots will be standing in a bath.

Step 3

Moisten the soil. It should not dry out.

Step 4

Replant seedlings into separate pots when they are large enough to do so. You should be able to easily work with the plants.

Step 5

Put the individual pots into water baths again.

Step 6

Begin increasing the water bath level as the plants grow, eventually ending up with a level that is even with the inside pot's rim.

Step 7

Transplant the bur-reeds to shallow water in summer at a depth that will allow their leaves to float. Choose an unshaded to only partly shaded location.

Propagation: Division

Step 1

Divide plants in spring or autumn, making sure new plants have leaves of their own.

Step 2

Plant large-sized divisions directly into their permanent place in the landscape.

Step 3

Pot small divisions and shelter in a cold frame until they are ready to be permanently planted during the summer.

Things You'll Need

  • Floating bur-reed seeds
  • Pots for planting the seeds
  • Rich clay, loam or sandy soil of a type that matches the soil in the plant's eventual location
  • Greenhouse
  • Pots without drainage holes to contain the seed pots
  • Water location: pond, lake, marsh or bog
  • Cold frame


  • USDA Plant Guide; Floating Bur-Reed; B. L. Robins; June 2002
  • Plants for a Future
  • General Types of Pond Plants

Who Can Help

  • Growing in a Cold Frame
  • Division
  • Shoreland Restoration
Keywords: floating bur-reed, floating burreed, floating bu-reed, bur reed, burreed

About this Author

Sophie Johnson is a freelance writer and editor of both print and film media. A freelancer for more than 20 years, Johnson has had the opportunity to cover topics ranging from construction to music to celebrity interviews.

Photo by: USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database/