Peony Attract Ants – Debunking Gardening Myths

Close-up of a peony blossom with ants crawling, capturing nature's beauty.Are you tired of seeing ants around your gorgeous peonies and unsure why they’re attracted to the blooming flowers? Here’s an interesting fact: peonies emit sap that has higher sugar content than Coca-Cola, irresistibly drawing ants in.

This article will debunk gardening myths, particularly the relationship between peonies and ants, and arm you with useful strategies on dealing with these tiny garden dwellers. Dive in to learn more about these fascinating plant-insect interactions!

Key Takeaways

  • Peonies do not need ants to bloom, debunking the popular gardening myth.
  • Ants and peonies have a mutualistic relationship where both parties benefit from each other.
  • Natural methods like cinnamon, vinegar spray, citrus peels, diatomaceous earth, and peppermint oil can be used to repel ants from peonies.
  • Other gardening myths include the limited effectiveness of marigolds in repelling pests, soil amendments not permanently changing soil properties, and homemade remedies for garden pests.

The Myth: Peonies Need Ants to Bloom

A vibrant peony blossom surrounded by lush green foliage.Peonies needing ants to bloom is a popular gardening myth that has been passed down through generations.

Explanation of the myth

The myth surrounding peonies and ants is based on a longstanding belief in garden folklore. It’s often said that peonies need ants to bloom, painting a picture of the industrious little insects tickling the buds to coax them open.

This intriguing tale has been passed down through generations of gardeners, leading many to accept it as truth. It’s not uncommon for people to discover ants on freshly cut bouquets of peonies, thereby reinforcing this misconception that these insects play an integral role in the flower blooming process.

However, this correlation is more coincidental than causational and there exists no scientific evidence indicating peonies require ants for their blossoms. The Integrated Pest Management Department at the University of Missouri confirms that this claim is merely a gardening myth.

Common belief and reasoning

The common myth surrounding peonies and ants is deeply rooted in gardening folklore. Many gardeners firmly believe that peonies need ants to bloom, suggesting these tiny creatures “tickle” the buds, thus helping them open.

This belief likely stems from the frequent observation of ants crawling on peony buds just before they burst into bloom. Peonies are known to produce a sweet nectar full of sugars and acids which attract ants, leading many to conclude there’s an essential relationship between the two.

Some folks even speculate that ants help remove a sticky substance from the peony bud, thereby assisting it in opening up – facts that have been debunked by scientific research. Finally, since people often associate pollination with insects like bees and butterflies, they may mistakenly attribute similar roles to ants as vital for peony blooms.

The Truth: Ants and Peonies Have a Mutualistic Relationship

An ant on a peony petal, captured in vivid detail.Ants and peonies share a mutually beneficial relationship, known as biological mutualism.

How ants benefit from peonies

Ants thrive on peonies due to the sweet nectar that these flowers secrete. This nutritional substance serves as a food source for ants, helping them survive and prosper. An ant’s feast doesn’t stop with nectar alone – they also consume aphids and other harmful insects found on peonies, ensuring their colonies are well-fed.

In this unique case of biological mutualism, not only do ants benefit from the existence of peonies but they also contribute significantly to safeguarding them against potential threats or predators in return.

It’s an enduring myth that such interaction implies harm to your beloved plants or attracts more ants into your house. The truth is quite contrary, proving beneficial for both parties involved without causing any domino effect in attracting unwanted guests inside your abode – thereby debunking popular misconceptions about this fascinating garden dynamic.

How peonies benefit from ants

Peonies benefit from ants in several ways. Firstly, ants help to remove harmful insects from the flowers by actively preying on pests such as aphids and thrips. This natural pest control helps to keep peony plants healthy and free from infestations.

Additionally, ants are attracted to the nectar produced by peonies, which encourages them to visit the flowers frequently. As they move around the blooms searching for nectar, they inadvertently aid in the pollination process by transferring pollen between different flowers.

This helps to ensure successful fertilization and seed production for future plant generations. Thus, while it is a common belief that ants are necessary for peonies to bloom, their presence primarily benefits both parties through this mutually beneficial relationship rather than directly causing the flowers to open up.

How to Deal with Ants on Peonies

To repel ants naturally, sprinkle cinnamon or diatomaceous earth around the base of the peony plants.

Natural methods to repel ants

Peonies are beautiful flowers that can attract ants due to the sugary nectar they emit. If you’re concerned about ants on your peonies, here are some natural methods to repel them:

  1. Use cinnamon: Sprinkle cinnamon around the base of your peony plants or create a barrier around them using cinnamon sticks. Ants dislike the strong smell of cinnamon and will avoid crossing it.
  2. Vinegar spray: Mix equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle and spray it directly on the ants or around your peonies. The strong odor of vinegar repels ants and discourages them from coming near.
  3. Citrus peels: Place orange or lemon peels near your peonies or bury them in the soil around the plants. The citrus scent acts as a natural ant deterrent.
  4. Diatomaceous earth: Sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth around your peony plants. This powdery substance derived from fossilized algae contains microscopic sharp edges that cut through an ant’s exoskeleton, causing dehydration and death.
  5. Peppermint oil: Mix a few drops of peppermint essential oil with water in a spray bottle and mist it around your peonies. Ants dislike the strong scent of peppermint and will steer clear.

Preventing ants from climbing on peonies

To prevent ants from climbing on peonies, there are a few natural methods you can try:

  1. Create a physical barrier: Surround the base of your peony plants with a sticky substance, such as Tanglefoot or petroleum jelly. This will make it difficult for ants to climb up onto the plant.
  2. Apply diatomaceous earth: Sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the base of your peonies. This natural powder is abrasive to ants and will deter them from climbing the plant.
  3. Use citrus peel: Place pieces of citrus peel, such as orange or lemon rinds, around the base of your peonies. The strong scent of citrus can repel ants and discourage them from approaching.
  4. Clean up debris: Keep the area around your peonies clean and free of fallen leaves, twigs, and other organic matter. Ants are attracted to decaying materials, so removing these can reduce their presence.

Debunking Other Gardening Myths

– Marigolds do not repel garden pests as effectively as commonly believed.

– Adding certain soil amendments does not always improve plant growth and health.

Homemade remedies for garden pests may have limited effectiveness.

Marigolds and garden pests

Marigolds have long been believed to repel pests from vegetable gardens. However, there is a lack of scientific evidence to support this claim. While it is true that some marigold species release chemicals from their roots that are toxic to certain insects, their effectiveness against garden pests like cabbage moths or carrot and onion pests has not been proven.

Additionally, the notion that marigolds can repel ants or other insects is also lacking evidence. It’s important to approach gardening myths with caution and rely on scientific research when making decisions about pest control in your garden.

Soil amendments and instincts

It is a common misconception that adding soil amendments will permanently change the nature of the soil. However, this is not true. Soil amendments can certainly improve the texture and fertility of the soil, but they do not fundamentally alter its properties.

It’s important to use your instincts when it comes to amending soil and understand the specific needs of your plants and soil conditions before making any amendments. Remember, knowing what your plants require and providing them with suitable conditions is key to successful gardening.

Homemade remedies for garden pests

  • Garlic spray: Create a mixture of crushed garlic and water, then spray it on your plants to repel pests like aphids and spider mites.
  • Neem oil: Mix neem oil with water and spray it on your plants to deter insects like whiteflies, mealybugs, and scale, as well as fungal diseases.
  • Soap and water solution: Combine liquid dish soap with water and spray it on your plants to kill aphids, thrips, and other soft-bodied insects.
  • Coffee grounds: Scatter used coffee grounds around your plants to repel slugs, snails, ants, and other pests. It also adds nutrients to the soil.
  • Cayenne pepper spray: Mix cayenne pepper with water and a few drops of dish soap, then spray it onto your plants to deter deer, rabbits, squirrels, and other pests.
  • Beer trap for slugs: Bury a container in the ground so that the rim is level with the soil surface. Fill the container with beer to attract slugs. They will crawl in and drown.
  • Companion planting: Planting certain flowers or herbs such as marigolds, chrysanthemums, basil, or mint can help repel pests naturally.
  • Vinegar solution: Mix equal parts vinegar and water to create a solution that can be sprayed directly on weeds or used as a general pest repellent in the garden.
  • Eggshells: Crushed eggshells can be sprinkled around plants to deter slugs due to their sharp edges.

These homemade remedies provide natural alternatives for controlling garden pests without resorting to harmful chemicals.


In conclusion, the myth that peonies need ants to bloom has been debunked. While ants and peonies have a mutualistic relationship, it is not necessary for the plant’s growth. However, if you still want to repel ants from your peonies, there are natural methods you can try.

Remember, gardening myths can often mislead us, so it’s important to do our research and rely on accurate information when tending to our plants.


1. Do peonies attract ants?

Contrary to popular belief, peonies do not actually attract ants. While ants are commonly seen on peony buds, they are attracted to the sweet nectar produced by the flower’s extrafloral nectaries rather than the flowers themselves.

2. Are ants harmful to peony plants?

Ants are generally not harmful to peony plants. In fact, some gardeners believe that the presence of ants can help protect against other pests such as aphids by warding them off or consuming their eggs.

3. How can I prevent ants from being attracted to my peonies?

To deter ants from climbing on your peony plants, you can create physical barriers using substances like Tanglefoot or petroleum jelly around the base of the stems. Additionally, removing any nearby sources of food and moisture for the ants may also discourage their presence.

4. What is the purpose of extrafloral nectaries in peonies?

Extrafloral nectaries in peony plants serve as a reward for certain ant species that provide protection against potential herbivores or competing organisms. These glands produce a sugary substance that attracts specific ant species which then guard against threats to the plant’s reproductive structures.

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