Why Are Ants On My Peonies

Melinda Warmund

Published: May 29, 2018

The “king of all flowers,” peonies, are currently giving Missouri a breathtaking display of blossom color. However, ants also appear as the peony plants begin to bloom. Ants on buds and blossoms can be a pain, but they don’t hurt anything (Figure 1). Ants leave peony flowers after bloom is through and go on to seek out another food source.

It is untrue that ants are necessary for peonies to bloom. Peonies and ants have a mutualistic relationship in which both of their activities are beneficial to the other species of organisms. Ants eat the nectar from peony blooms, and in return, the ants defend the flowers from other insects that consume flowers.

It is possible to find extrafloral nectaries outside of peony flower buds. These plant organs exude nectar, which serves as an ant food supply since it contains sugars (sucrose, glucose, and fructose), amino acids, lipids, and other organic substances. A scout ant leaves a pheromone or odor trail on her journey back to her colony after finding nectar on a peony. The scout informs other ants at the nest of the food supply. The recruited ants then return to the nectar-filled peony blossoms by following the olfactory trail.

The ants guard their food supply from other insects that come to dine on the flower buds while they are consuming the nectar. The odor trail is reinforced when each ant consumes peony nectar, continuing until all of the food has been consumed. This kind of insect behavior is an effective way for them to make use of a transient food source.

An insecticide need not be used because the presence of ants on the floral tissues of peonies is only transient. Holding the peonies upside down by the stem immediately below the flower, shake the ants off outside or gently rinse them off before arranging them when cutting peonies at full bloom for indoor use. Cut plant stems while flower buds are in the “marshmallow stage” to assure ant eradication, and wash any ants off with water before bringing them inside (Figure 2). Flower buds are currently closed but displaying some color. Squeezing flower buds between the forefinger and thumb will also feel velvety. When marshmallow-stage buds are taken indoors, full bloom usually happens within 8 to 48 hours of putting the stems in water. Cut stems containing flower buds can also be refrigerated for subsequent bloom production.

Thrips, a common insect that feeds on peony blooms, are not like ants. These tiny (1 to 2 mm long), thin insects use their mouthparts to penetrate flower petals and draw liquids from the plant tissues, resulting in flowers that are discolored or have blemishes. Heavy infestations that obliterate peony flowers are quite uncommon. See the most recent IPM article, “Plant Peonies in September,” for more details on cultivating peonies.

Why are my peonies covered in ants?

Ants enjoy peonies for the same reason that we do—they are delightful. You’ll observe sweet nectar droplets surrounding the bloom’s green exterior as the flower buds develop (called the sepal). Ants adore sugar, as we all are aware. It makes sense that they would be drawn to this sticky honey.

This frequent occurrence gave rise to the misconception that ants are necessary for peonies to blossom.

According to the hypothesis, in order for the buds to open, the sticky substance must be removed by the ants. However, this myth is wholly wrong. Peonies will bloom with or without a few ants’ assistance (it makes for a wholesome story though).

Are ants permitted on peonies?

Do ants actually aid in the blooming of peonies? Ants “tickle the buds to assist the flowers open,” according to myth about gardens. There is a beneficial relationship between peonies and ants, but it’s not what you may imagine. Here’s the story about peonies and antsplus, tips on how to bring peonies indoors without the ants.

We celebrate the breathtakingly gorgeous peony blossoms in the late spring. But those of us who have peonies in our gardens might also note the ants’ appearance, particularly in or near the base of the flower or on unopened buds.

Are Ants Harmful to Peonies?

Let’s answer this initial query first. No. Without a doubt. Avoid sweeping those ants under the rug or, even worse, using insecticide!

Ants are not only NOT dangerous, but they are also a prime illustration of biological mutualism. The ants guard the peony from aphids, thrips, and other harmful insect pests while the peonies supply nectar (food) for the ants.

Do Peonies Need Ants to Bloom?

The persistent misconception is that ants are necessary for peonies’ buds to open. You may have heard that for peonies to blossom, ants must “tickle the buds” or “lick the sugar.”

As with most mythology, this claim may have once had a glimmer of reality, but we haven’t yet seen proof of it. (We also appreciate that this legend keeps ants and peonies alive while letting nature run its course.)

Why Ants Are Attracted to Peonies

Simply put, the sugary drops (nectar) that are present at the base of the green sepals that encircle a peony bud are what attract ants. Due to the presence of amino acids, lipids, and other organic substances in addition to sugars, this is an excellent food source for ants.

The peonies ARE NOT being eaten by the ants. A scout ant leaves a pheromone or odor trail on her journey back to her colony after finding nectar on a peony. The scout informs other ants at the nest of the food supply. The recruited ants then return to the nectar-filled peony blossoms by following the olfactory trail.

In return, the ants offer some defense for the plant! The ants attack other bud-eating pests while they are consuming the nectar by stinging, biting, or acid-spraying them before tossing them off the plant in order to preserve their food source.

The ants are also transient. The ants will leave the peony flower once it has bloomed and move on to look for other food sources.

Again, even if there are ants present (for example, if you live on a rooftop), the peony blossoms would still open.

How to Get Rid of Ants on Peonies Before Bringing Indoors

While we appreciate our garden’s pink, crimson, and traditional white peonies, we also like bringing their beauty and smell inside. But how can we prevent bringing ants inside as well?

There are several approaches:

  • When the dew is still thick and most of the ants are not yet present, cut the peony early in the morning. Turn the peonies upside down while holding them by the stem just below the flower (to prevent their heads from breaking off). Give the stems directly above the flowers a few solid taps. This aids in removing insects and spiders. Apply the correct amount of force for the stem.
  • Watch the ants emerge after dipping each peony bloom in a large dish of chilly water outside. They won’t be able to crawl out if the dish is overfilled. To avoid picking up more ants, gently shake/tap the water off the flower and place the stem in a prepared vase. The water in the dish can then be returned to nature, along with the ants.

Cutting the peony flowers before the buds fully open is yet another technique used by expert growers. To get the peony’s buds to open indoors, you must clip it while they are at the “marshmallow stage” (see photo above).

Does coffee brew deter ants?

If you drink coffee like I do, you probably produce a rather large number of coffee grounds each week. These murky, soggy grounds might not have served any purpose, but you were aware that the trash can was the best place to dispose of them. But reconsider! There are many useful applications for used coffee grounds that you might not even be aware of! The nicest part about it is that coffee grinds are free and completely natural. Find out 12 organic ways to reuse used coffee grounds from your coffee maker:

Remove odor from hands By massaging a handful of used coffee grounds on your palms and then rinsing them with warm water, you can get rid of the smell of cooking.

Create compost. Copper, magnesium, potassium, and phosporous are abundant in coffee grinds. Simply scatter new grounds next to your garden plants and in planters. Ask for free discarded coffee grounds at your neighborhood coffee shop if you’re a serious gardener! You won’t notice a difference in the pH of your soil unless you’re adding inches of coffee grounds to your garden. Coffee grounds, which can be used to wake you up in the morning, can contain up to 2% nitrogen.

Banish ants Caffeine makes ants particularly vulnerable. Because they lose their smell traces, the worker ants become confused by this safe material. If you scatter coffee grounds near the ants, they will take it home and eat it. After a few weeks, this strategy starts to work, and you’ll start to see less ants around.

making soap A few simple, affordable materials can be used to manufacture coffee ground soap, which exfoliates and deodorizes skin while smelling unfeminine. Follow Pop Sugar’s excellent tutorial.

Keep cats away Orange peels and discarded coffee grounds scattered around plants may deter cats and their wrath from entering your yard.

Avoid slugs Cover the soil in your garden with used coffee grounds to build olfactory barriers and prevent slug invasions. Coffee grounds and freshly brewed coffee both contain about 0.05 percent caffeine, which means they won’t kill slugs but may serve as a minor deterrent.

Feed your garden’s earthworms. Worms are fantastic for the garden, and they really enjoy coffee grounds. Give them plenty to eat, and they will be grateful.

eliminate refrigerator odor Because refrigerators are notorious for holding onto bad smells, put a bowl of fresh, unused coffee grinds inside and let it lie for a day or two. The coffee will eliminate the smells, leaving your refrigerator smelling clean.

Plant fertilization Pour the diluted coffee from your mug directly into your potted plants. For acid-loving plants like roses, azaleas, rhododendrons, evergreens, hydrangeas, and camellias, use coffee grounds as mulch.

Scrub Coffee grounds are excellent for cleaning appliances like refrigerators and ranges since they are mildly abrasive. Use them on their own or in combination with a soft sponge and a little dish soap.

sparkling stainless steel sinks Coffee grounds are somewhat abrasive, as was already said, and work rather well on stainless steel surfaces. Clean the sides and bottom of your kitchen sink to bring it back to life. In order to assist keep the trap and pipes clean, you can also frequently pour a dose into the sink drain.

sanitize the fireplace Sprinkle wet used coffee grinds into your fireplace before cleaning it. They will provide weight to the ash, removing the difficult-to-clean smoke-flavored dust clouds.

How can you ensure that peonies bloom all summer long?

Gardeners simply can’t get enough of peonies’ enormous, sultry flowers, which are a mainstay of perennial borders. It’s understandable why we would wish to prolong the blooming season of these exquisite charmers if they also had a nice, seductive aroma.

Peonies are incredibly resilient to pests, have a long lifespan, and need little maintenance to produce vibrant flowers. The only issue peony farmers have is that they wish they had more time to enjoy those magnificent flowers. Let’s look at several ways to prolong peony blooming in your garden.

Peonies can bloom for over a century, almost by magic. Every plant will produce several flowers, and each bloom lasts for about 7 to 10 days. Planting kinds of peonies that bloom at various times during the about 6-week period of proficient flowering is the easy trick to extending peony blooming in your garden. Since different varieties bloom at various periods of the year, we have neatly categorized them as early, early-mid, mid, and late season. So now that you have mastered prolonging the peony blooming season, let’s take a closer look at each type.

How do I get rid of ants on the buds of my flowers?

You should be aware that ants are among the oldest living things on the planet if you’ve decided they don’t belong in your garden. In reality, they coexisted with dinosaurs.

In addition, there are more than 10,000 different species of ants worldwide. (And those are only the ones we are aware of. Therefore, various ants could not react to treatments in the same way.

Having said that, here are six techniques gardeners use to get rid of ants:

  • Eliminate aphids and other insects that feed on tree sap. Ants won’t be able to gather honeydew if this happens.
  • Spread fake sweetener in the vicinity of the ants.
  • According to reports, this kills ants (which might make you reconsider adding the stuff to your coffee).
  • Around your plants, scatter ground cinnamon or cayenne pepper. Ants may be repelled but not harmed by this.
  • By routes and nests, scatter food-grade diatomaceous earth. This tiny powder, which is derived from ancient diatoms, dehydrates ants, slugs, and cockroaches. But people can use it without any risk. (Note: To be successful, it must stay dry and may take a few weeks to eliminate ants.)
  • Set up a poison trap with sugar and borax (or boric acid). Numerous do-it-yourself pest poison formulas based on borax and boric acid can be found online with a fast search. Although borax and boric acid are natural substances, they are harmful to both humans and animals, so handle them with caution.
  • the anthill with boiling water. Naturally, this method only works if you are aware of the location of the ant colony. Also keep in mind that ants construct their homes to endure flooding and rain. Therefore, it can take numerous attempts to kill the queen (and wipe out the colony).

How are peony cared for outside?

These enormous plants, which bloom lavishly in May and June, are a must-have for every garden. Herbaceous peonies are true perennials that can live for about fifty years and are more stunning with age. Peonies are simple to grow and will provide you with armfuls of cut flowers as well as a magnificent landscape display. They are excellent specimen plants, get along well with other perennials in the yard, and work well as path or driveway borders. There are kinds that bloom early, mid, and late and some of them have scented blooms to lengthen the flowering season. Zones 3 to 8 are suitable for growing peonies; in the South, Alabama is where they will bloom, but Zone 8’s cooler regions seem to be their limit. For the best results, southern gardeners should select early-flowering singles.

Light/Watering: Herbaceous peonies should be grown in full sun, with the exception of the hottest regions of the West and the South, where afternoon shadow is preferred and will prolong the life of the blossoms on the plant. It is advised to give plants an inch of water per week during the growing season.

pH and Fertilizer: An organically rich, well-drained soil is ideal. Add a few handfuls of calcitic lime while planting if your soil is quite acidic. In the North, place the roots with the eyes (the pink or white buds at the top of the roots) pointing up, while in the South, place the roots with the eyes pointing down. (Note: Plants may not blossom if the eyes are positioned deeper than is suggested. Mulch should not be applied over the crowns due to this.) It’s normal for plants to take a few years to establish themselves and blossom profusely, so don’t be startled if there are few or no flowers the first spring after planting. No extra fertilizing is required; peonies react nicely to an annual sidedressing of one inch of aged manure or compost. To stop their blossoms from falling into the dirt after a thunderstorm, many Peonies, especially the double-flowered kinds, must be staked. As soon as fresh growth starts to appear in the early spring, install the supports.

Pests and diseases: Herbaceous peonies are rarely bothered by insect pests, but a fungus called botrytis can be a concern, particularly during extremely rainy seasons. Peony stems either wilt or fall over as a result of developing cankers, becoming black at the base, or both. The leaves may have patches of black or brown color, and the buds may turn brown and not open. These issues can be avoided or resolved in the garden with proper culture and cleanliness. Don’t crowd the plants because they require proper drainage and air circulation. At the first sign of disease, remove any infected foliage. Deadhead regularly, removing all flower parts and petals from the garden. After a deadly frost in the fall, remove all foliage that is just below the soil and remove it together with any other debris from the area; do not compost. Add a thin layer of sand around the plants and crowns if botrytis was present in the spring before, and then spray newly developing shoots with Bordeaux mix or lime sulfur as directed on the label. Fungal spores overwinter at the base of the plants, where they are then sprayed onto the young shoots by spring rains. Sand-covering the soil and clearing away any waste and outdated vegetation can help avoid reinfection.

There may also be phytophthora, a different blight that is difficult to distinguish from other blights. If you think your plant may have phytophthora, bring a sample to your local USDA Cooperative Extension Service agent or a specialist. Because this disease usually kills the plant, affected plants should be dug up, killed, and the soil restored before new plants are planted.

In the summer, powdery mildew can affect peonies. Despite covering the leaves in varied degrees, the white, powdery mildew fungus appears to have little impact on the plant’s vitality. By planting in full sun and ensuring enough airflow around the plants, this can be prevented or at least lessened.

Peonies are attractive with many other perennials and bloom with roses and clematis; just make sure to provide space around the plants for air circulation. Peonies with white flowers are captivating against an evergreen backdrop. The scarlet stems of developing Herbaceous Peonies are beautifully contrasted with spring-flowering bulbs like Crocus vernus or Scilla siberica.

Reflowering: Deadheading is helpful since many kinds produce a number of side buds that will blossom after the terminal bloom flowers. Cut the stem beneath the previous bloom when each flower has completed blooming, but leave the foliage uncut. Remove the side buds as they form and just leave the terminal bud if you want flowers that are exhibition-size.

Generally speaking, Herbaceous Peonies do not require division, and some people dislike it. However, before replanting an established plant, you must divide it if you must transfer it. Do this in the fall, after the foliage has totally withered away. The young plants typically take a few years to flower, and each division ought to have three to five eyes.

End-of-Season Care: To prevent pests from overwintering, Herbaceous Peonies’ foliage should be pruned back in the fall and removed from the area. After the ground freezes, mulch new plants with salt marsh hay or evergreen boughs.

If spring rains don’t do it for you, water crops thoroughly in the early spring. Apply aged manure or compost on the sides of plants. If there was botrytis blight the season before, spray young shoots with Bordeaux mix or lime sulphur and cover the ground around the plant with a thin (quarter-inch) layer of sand. Place stakes or other supports right away.

Mid-Spring: Keep an eye out for botrytis blight symptoms and treat accordingly, removing any affected tissue as away. Train while plants are growing through plant supports. If you want flowers that are exhibition-size, remove the side buds.

Late Spring: Deadhead peonies diligently, cleaning the garden of any petals or blossoms that have fallen.

Fall: Trim Herbaceous Peony stems to the soil’s surface and remove them from the area. If required, dig and divide plants right away. After the ground freezes, mulch newly planted areas with evergreen boughs or salt marsh hay.