Ants on Peonies

Peonies and Ants

Ants crawling on my peonies.

Mare-Anne Jarvela

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The peonies in my backyard always have ants crawling on the flower buds. Many people think ants are a pest on peonies. 

A popular myth that ants “tickle the buds” or “lick the sugar” to help them open is not really true.

Ants on peony buds are common and totally harmless. They are NOT needed to “open” flower buds.

They are attracted to the sugary droplets on the outside of flower buds (nectaries) or to the honeydew produced by scale insects (discussed below). The blossoms would open regardless of the ants’ presence.

The ants actually provide protection! They attack other bud-eating pests by stinging, biting, or spraying them with acid and tossing them off the plant. I suppose you could day that by protecting their food supply, the ants help my peonies bloom.

Where I live in New Hampshire, the pink, red, and old-fashioned white peonies are the focal points in my backyard. I treasure them in my garden, but I also fill my house with their beauty and fragrance.

Before I move the blooms indoors I carefully shake off the ants.

Read more about peonies on the Almanac’s Peony Plant Care page here.

Now, have you ever had ants in your mailbox?

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Ants on peonies

As a little girl, I always saw ants on my grandmother's peonies. She said they didn't cause any harm. Now that I have my own garden with peonies in honor of her, I fondly think of those long ago days when I see ants on my own peonies. They're just one of many different things I have growing that she also had in her yard. She loved gardening. If it hadn't been for her, those ants would have been gone long ago!

Well worth a few ants

I also have childhood memories of ants on peonies at grandma's house! I have been creating a perennial garden over the last 8 years and added my first peony last autumn. It was an impulse buy, a healthy looking specimen for $8 at my favorite nursery, with a solitary, ragged flower remaining after bloom. The only place I could fit it gets partial sun and I was concerned that might not be enough but the peony is vigorous and healthy. I had about 20 flowers this spring. I was expecting a few years before it got going but was very pleased that it gave me a great response right away. A little support for a few weeks as the blooms grew heavy, which can be removed after the flowers are gone. About half the flowers ended up in vases, most of them lasting almost a week. There were a few ants on the buds, hardly a concern. Most don't remain on the open flowers but as noted, just tap them off if necessary. The reddish shoots in early spring are exciting, grow fast, and the buds themselves are just as pretty as the opened flowers, in my opinion. The lush foliage after bloom looks stately and clean through autumn. Now I want a couple more, if I can find the space!

Peony and ants

I'm glad to hear the ants are beneficial as well. I've never done anything about them but always wondered how I could get rid of them. Before i bring them in the house I gently shake them as well, but then I dip them in a bucket of water. It's amazing how many little ants are left floating on the top!

blooming peonies

Peonies bloom earlier here than wherever you are. I remember as a child helping Mother and Grandmother gather the blooms to decorate graves on Memorial Day. Every year I long for a peony bush.

I am glad to hear how the

I am glad to hear how the ants contribute to the health of the peonies. I had thought about doing something to get rid of them, but I will leave them alone. Thanks for the information.

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