How to Remove Ants From Peonies

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Herbaceous garden peonies (Paeonia lactiflora) are perennials that thrive in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 8, producing large, showy blooms in late spring. Their buds secrete a sweet, sticky sap, which attracts ants. Ants consume only the sap and do no harm to peony buds. Neither are ants necessary for the buds to open.

Ants Are Beneficial

  • Most ants help the gardener by consuming pest insects and weed seeds. On peony buds, ants defend their food source -- the sticky sap -- from other insects, thereby protecting the peony blooms. Ants also improve soil with their underground nests.

Removing Ants From Flowers

  • To prevent ants from coming indoors with peonies you’ve cut to display, turn the heads upside-down and let them sit in a pail of cold water for about 30 minutes to wash off the ants. Shake the flowers gently to remove water before arranging.

Removing Ants From Buds

  • Peonies in the “marshmallow” stage -- when the buds are soft to the touch and showing color -- can be cut and washed with a strong stream of water from the hose to dislodge ants. Or simply wipe the ants off the buds. Then, bring the peonies indoors to open.

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