Ants on Peonies: Are ants harmful to Peonies? How to keep ants off Peonies?

Ants on Peonies: Are ants harmful to Peonies? How to remove them?

Ants on Peonies are a popular phenomenon when planting and growing them. In the plant kingdom, Peonies and ants are considered as mutualism, in which both parties benefit from the relationship. The Peonies provide a food source and other compounds the ants need. In exchange, the ants protect the plant from other pests that could harm it. So, if you want to understand more about this relationship, let’s read this article from Garden How.

The relationship between Peonies and ants

Peonies and ants


Peonies and ants have a mutualistic relationship in which two organisms of different species benefit from each other’s activity. Peony flowers feed ants, who in turn protect the blossoms from other floral-feeding insects.

Ants like Peonies for the same reason that humans do: they’re delicious. You’ll notice sugary nectar droplets around the green outer part of the flower as the flower buds form (called the sepal). Ants, as we all know, adore sugar. It’s easy to see why they’re drawn to this sticky nectar.

Extrafloral nectaries can be found inside of Peony flower buds. These plant organs secrete nectar, which includes of sugars (sucrose, glucose, and fructose), amino acids, lipids, and other organic compounds. When a scout ant discovers nectar on a Peony, she leaves behind a pheromone or odor trail on her way back to her nest. The scout alerts other ants to the food source at the nest. Then the ants follow the odor trail back to the nectar on the Peony flowers.

While the ants are feeding on the nectar, they protect their food source against other insects that come to feed on the flower buds. The odor trail is reinforced as each ant feeds on the Peony nectar. This type of insect behavior is a good way to make use of a temporary food source.

Are ants harmful to Peonies?

Gardeners are accustomed to removing any pests that may interfere with a productive season. Fortunately, ants do not harm Peonies. Ants consume only the nectar produced by Peonies, not the flower itself. The ants will stay as long as there is nectar. They will vanish once they have eaten everything, leaving the Peony alone.

You don’t need to use insecticide because they are not harmful and only stay on the flowers for a short period of time. It will also harm the mutual relationship between these two plants, which is one of nature’s great wonders. While ants are present, they help to protect the plant from insects that would otherwise harm it.

How to remove ants on Peonies

It is not necessary to remove ants from Peonies. They leave as soon as they have collected all of the nectar secreted by the flower. However, if you really want to keep ants away from your Peony bush, you can do the following:

Remove ants on Peonies with water

Spray the Peony bushes with a strong stream of water to temporarily eliminate the appearance of an ant infestation. This will kill the ants on the bushes, but it will not prevent future ants from landing on your Peonies.

Remove ants on Peonies with insecticide

Remove ants on Peonies with insecticide
Remove ants on Peonies with insecticide

You can find an insecticidal soap spray and ensure the manufacturer specifies that it is effective against ants. Apply the insecticide as directed by the manufacturer, usually 2-3 times per week for two weeks.

Generally, you should not apply this method if you are committed to organic gardening or do not want to harm the beneficial insects that help plants pollinate.

Treat your Peony bushes with a natural ant repellant

In a spray bottle, combine 2 to 3 tablespoons (30 to 44 ml) peppermint oil with 1 US quart (0.95 l) water to make a natural deterrent. To keep ants at bay, spray the mixture on the stems of the Peonies and around the bushes. You can also substitute 2 to 3 tablespoons (30 to 44 ml) cayenne pepper or minced garlic for the peppermint oil. Spray your Peony bushes with a solution made from one of these and one US quart (0.95 l) of water. Alternatively, make a 1 part apple cider vinegar, 1 part water solution.

Treat your Peony bushes with a natural ant repellant
Natural ant repellant – 1 part apple cider vinegar, 1 part water

Using a homemade ant trap, keep the ants from climbing the plant’s stem

If you want to keep the ants away from the Peonies at all times, you can make a simple ant trap out of paper and petroleum jelly. Cut a 6 inch (15 cm) wide circle out of a piece of paper. Cut a straight line from the outside edge of the circle to the center, and then cut out a small circle in the center of the paper circle. Apply petroleum jelly to one side of the paper circle. Then, with the plant’s stem in the center of the circle, wrap the circle around the stem of your Peony plant.

Another way to keep ants away from your Peonies is to plant ant-repellant plants nearby. Geraniums, mint, garlic, and calendula are some common plants that repel ants.

How to remove ants on Peonies before bringing them indoors

If you want to use your Peonies as cut flowers, here’s how to keep ants away.

Cut Peonies at the stage “marshmallow”

When the buds have reached the “marshmallow stage,” cut and rinse the Peonies.

Peony buds that have some petals showing and are soft when squeezed gently, like a marshmallow, are ready to cut. Rinse the buds in cold water to remove any ants before bringing them inside. Place the stems in a vase to allow the flowers to bloom.

Add a few drops of dish soap to the water to make the ant removal even more effective. A mild soapy solution will not harm the flowers.

Shake fully bloomed Peonies gently

When bringing a fully bloomed Peony inside, hold it upside down and gently shake it once or twice. Look for any ants left in the petals and flick them away with your fingers.

Using honey, borax, and cinnamon

Make an ant trap by combining 1 tablespoon (15 ml) honey, 1 tablespoon (15 ml) hot water, and 1 tablespoon (26 g) borax. Place the mixture on a flat surface, such as a piece of paper or a notecard, near the flowers. The ants will be drawn to the honey but will perish if they consume the borax.

This solution is not suitable for families with children or pets because it is poisonous if consumed.

Furthermore, you can cut the Peonies early in the morning, when they have less nectar on them and ants are less likely to visit them. By the way, this is also the best time to buy fresh flowers; coming from a cool night, they will last longer and you will be able to enjoy them for an entire day to begin with!


Do Peonies need ants to bloom?

Peonies do not require ants to bloom. Ants feed on the flowers in exchange for protection while they feed on the nectar secreted by the flower. That’s all ants can do. Defend against floral-feeding insects. As a result, don’t be alarmed if you don’t see any ants on your Peonies… You will still receive an abundance of beautiful and colorful flowers!

What other insects eat Peonies?

Peonies are popular because of their large, showy flowers, which come in a variety of colors and shapes. Peonies are generally troubled by only a few types of insect pests. Most of these insects are simply annoyances. And you can easily control them. In addition to ants, severe infestations can result in stunted plant growth, bud failure, and root damage.

Scale insects can harm Peony plants. They have small gray-brown shells and are about 1/8 of an inch long. In late summer, these insects can appear on plant leaves and stalks. To feed, they suck plant fluids. Small infestations are usually not a problem, but heavy infestations can pose a health risk to the plant.

Peony thrips are small insects about 1/16 inch long that look like flies. They have long, tube-like bodies and feathery wings. Peony thrips cause damage to Peony leaves, buds, and flowers by sucking plant fluids. These insects are small enough to enter and feed on buds. This can cause the buds to close.

Bulb mites attack Peonies as well. These pearly white arachnids are approximately 1/32 inch long. They feed on Peony roots, especially damaged ones, turning the flesh reddish brown. As a result of the injury, the roots can become soft and rot.


In this article, Garden How provided information related to ants and Peonies, including the relationship and how to remove ants on Peonies. You don’t mind if there are a lot of ants on your Peonies because they aren’t dangerous to the plants. You can apply methods that we recommended above to protect your plants. Good luck!

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