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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Like Ants On Peonies

Years ago before I started gardening and before I'd ever heard of Peonies, I was working in the lab one day when one of the girls from the second shift came in with the biggest, gaudiest, most beautiful bouquet of flowers I'd ever seen.

When I asked her what kind of flowers they were she said "they are peee knees!" in her very thick accent. "They are growing all along the side of my house" she bragged. She put the flowers in a vase with water and left them on the lab counter.

After she walked away I was admiring them up close (fondling them, really) and as I grabbed one of the flower heads, several ants crawled on my hand freaking me out, causing me to scream like a girl and swing my hands around violently trying to shake the ants off me.

I ran to tell my coworker that the blooms were covered in ants (I was sure she wanted to know right away!) but she was not alarmed or surprised in the least. "Oh yes, ants love Peonies" she dismissed. "So you brought a bunch of flowers into the lab knowing they were infested with ants" I asked? "They are just ants! They won't hurt you!" Man, was she annoyed with me.

I've never grown Peonies but when I bought these a couple of years ago at the Chicagoland Flower and Garden Show, all I could think about was ants. So, I did what any scaredy-cat gardener would do. I planted them way back by the garage as far away from the house as possible, where ants are welcomed to hang out. These are my first Peony buds, ever.

I did a little research and it turns out that the Peony buds release a sweet tasting nectar that ants love to eat. Supposedly, the ants leave once they bloom and the nectar is gone. But, speaking from experience, that's a bunch of crap! So, in anticipation of my wanting to cut some of these flowers to bring in my house, what is your favorite technique for getting rid of the ants on Peony blooms?

pictured above: Paeonia Festiva Maxima and Paeonia Sarah Bernhardt

Click here for more interesting information about ants on Peonies


  1. Like Ants on Peonies instead of White on Rice. LMAO.

  2. I had peonies growing up and remember the ants! :) But I still want some for my own garden - just planted our first one this spring - no blooms yet...but hopefully next year! :)

  3. I didn't know we weren't supposed to like ants! Here are mine:

    (some people believe the ants "lick" the buds which facilitates the flower opening, but I've read that this is hooey!)

    I guess if you're phobic about ants, just don't look. They don't harm the bud, or any other plants. As insect life in the garden goes, they're among the most benign.

    (though ant infestations should be investigated because they sometimes hang out around aphids, who also make a sticky-sweet nectar)

    Anyway, enjoy your first peony blooms ever this season!

  4. Love your photos! I've added your blog to a gardening tips lens at Squidoo. It's a great fit.

  5. If you don't like the ants, you can use a small amount of dishwasher soap and mix it in a bucket of water. then give your peony a nice shower. It won' get rid of the ants permanently, but it'll chase them away for a while.

    If you are cutting the flowers to take inside the house. have a bucket of warm water, and dunk the peony in it to remove those little buggers.

  6. I just cut them while they're still buds, before the ants crawl on them. They bloom nicely as cut flowers.

  7. Seeing real live peonies has been quite a treat since we've been in Chicago. They don't grow in NorCal (maybe the foothills).

    But you guys have the biggest ants ever here! So I can understand the screaming-like-a-girl reaction.

  8. Love those peonies ... sounds like a fun time was had by all at SF!

  9. I've never seen ants on them after they bloom. I'd rinse them off with a squirt from the hose and let them air dry just to be safe.

    I've always loved them!


  10. I just shake them off and don't worry about a few ants.

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