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Peonies and Ants

Peonies requiring ants to bloom is a myth! Peonies and ants have a symbiotic relationship where insect and plant benefit from their interactions.

Why Do Peonies Attract Ants?

Ants are attracted to herbaceous peonies because peony buds produce nectar, a sticky, clear sap.

The nectar is a food source for ants because it provides sugars, lipids, glucose, fructose, and amino acids.

When you see ants on peony bushes, they’re eating the nectar, not the flower buds or blooms.

Once the scout ant finds the nectar of the peony and eats it, the ant releases a pheromone odor trail back to the nest. When the scout ant arrives back at the nest, it alerts the other ants of the food source. Then, the recruited ants follow the pheromone trail back to the peony.

After the ants have eaten the nectar, they will move on to another food source.

peony buds with nectar that attracts ants

Are Ants Bad for Peonies?

Ants are not bad for peonies. Ants do not harm peonies. They are actually helpful to peony plants.

Ants protect peonies from pests, such as thrips and aphids.

The peony provides ants with food and ants provide peonies with protection from pests. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.

Two ants crawling around on a pink peony bud

Do Peonies Need Ants to Bloom?

Peonies do not need ants to bloom. Peony flowers will open with or without ants feasting on the nectar peonies produce.


How to Get Rid of Ants on Peonies

There’s no reason to eliminate ants as they eat the nectar produced by the peony buds.

Remember, they’re helping the plant, not harming it. Please do not use insecticides or other interventions to kill or deter ants.

dark pink peony buds

How to Remove Ants From Peonies Before Bringing Indoors

By the time peonies are in full bloom, most of the ants will have moved on to another food source, but some still linger around.

There are a couple things you can do to remove the stragglers so you don’t bring them into your home.

Using Water to Remove Ants from Bloomed Peonies

  1. Fill a large bowl or bucket with cold water and take it outside.
  2. Cut the peony stem from the bush.
  3. Hold the peony by the stem and submerge the bloom into the water upside down and hold it there for 10-15 seconds. The ants will float out of the petals.
  4. Remove the peony from the water and gently shake it to remove the excess water.
  5. Place the cut stems in a vase with water. Be sure to keep cut flowers that have been dunked away from flowers that haven’t.
  6. If you wish, dump out the water and ants by the peony bushes.
profile of a sarah bernhardt pink peony flower

Cut Peonies at the Marshmallow Stage

To be certain you’ve removed the ants, cut peonies when the buds are at the marshmallow stage.

The marshmallow stage is when the buds are soft when gently squeezed between the thumb and forefinger.

Rinse the buds with water before bringing them indoors to be sure all ants have been removed.

white peony marshmallow buds

Cut Peonies In the Early Morning Hours

Ants are active during the day, so cut peonies in the early morning hours before ants arrive to feast on the nectar.

Use the water removal method to be sure all the ants are off the blooms before bringing them indoors.

The truth about ants on peonies

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