We always avoid places where ants crawl. So when you see them crawling around your houseplant or its pot, the first thing that strikes you is to get rid of them immediately. There are many ways to remove them, depending on how severe the infestation is.
So, in this article we shall discuss do indoor plants attract ants and how do you get rid of ants in houseplants.
In general, indoor plants don’t attract any ants, but sometimes the plants get severe pest infestation that feeds on the sap and produces a sweet substance called honeydew which can attract ants. You can use a dishwashing soap solution or insecticidal soap to get rid of ants in indoor plants.
Nectar and honeydew are not the only reasons that attract ants. They reach the potted plants because they need shelter, and pots make a comfortable place for their stay.
There are other reasons too, like dry soil, old soil, they are exploring, or you might have left food for them.
If you are experiencing ant infestation on your indoor plants, read this article to know all the possible reasons and how you can deal with the issue.
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Why are there ants on the indoor plants?
Ants on the indoor plants can be due to a lot of things. It can be natural, or sometimes, we make some mistakes.
Knowing all the probable reasons is essential. It will be simpler to get rid of the problems if we know the exact reason. Let us discuss all the reasons one by one.
Potted plants are safe and comfortable for ants.
Instead of making nests outdoors in the ground, ants find it easy, comfortable, and safe to build nests in indoor potted plants. Potted plants are warm and act as the perfect shelter.
There is no tension about getting attacked by any outside factors, and the soil is also nutritious. They would also be able to protect themselves from winters by going underground.
The soil is dry and old.
Old and dry soil is the perfect living condition for ants. Sometimes the potting soil refuses to allow water into the soil or avoids absorbing water.
Another cause of dry soil is when you do not water your plant and keep it dry for a long time.
As the hydrophobic soil remains dry most of the time, it is ideal for the ants to live there. They won’t like moist soil and are always searching for dry areas to stay. Thus you see them on dry soil.
Ants love sugar
Plants release nectar to attract bees and butterflies for pollination. Nectar is a sweet liquid. When the ants start smelling them, they get attracted to this sweet substance and come to stay in the plants.
When your plants get infested by pests like mealybugs or aphids, they produce a sticky substance called honeydew. As honeydew is also a sweet sugary substance, when it remains on the plants, the ants feed on them.
Ants are great explorers.
Maybe ants are not nesting in your indoor plants. Ants are great explorers, and they are always searching for their food and shelter.
That is the reason you might see them loitering around your indoor plants, trying to look for food, and exploring new places for good shelter.
You left food for them near your indoor plants.
Most potting mixes consist of ingredients that do the work of fertilizers. And sometimes, we even add mulch to improve the soil’s quality. These work as food for the ants. So, we unknowingly invite ants for food to our indoor plants.
Not only is compost responsible for bringing ants, but you might also have left some food for them by mistake somewhere near your plant.
Ants drink water
If the outside temperature is hot and dry, ants will start looking for water.
If your potting soil is wet or overwatered, the ants will start getting into it for drinking water. They can smell water from quite a distance.
Two perspective ways to resolve the problem
There are two methods by which you can remove the ants. One is just to keep them away from reaching the plant, and another way is just to kill them by all means.
Using pesticides is an easy but inorganic way of getting rid of ants.
- Mix 1 tablespoon of chemical insect repellent in a spray bottle filled with water. However, the dosage strength depends upon the product you use and the level of infestation.
- Mix them very well.
- Keep a distance of about 12 inches, spray it to the plant.
- Make sure to ventilate the room after spraying.
However, this can be a bit toxic, causing nausea. The results of using chemical pesticides would be:
- Ants can sometimes be helpful. If bugs infest your plant, the ants will feed on them. So, using chemicals will completely kill them. Ants will be of no use then.
- Using chemical pesticides will result in polluted soil. It can cause soil degradation, leading to the less fertile soil.
- Pesticides consist of chemicals that can weaken plants. They can damage the plant’s immune system.
- As chemical pesticides consist of a lot of toxic chemicals, they can even intoxicate your room. You might be even breathing them through the air. It will give you a nauseating and vomiting feel. Not only for you or your children, but the pesticides can also be harmful to your pets.
Using natural ways of getting rid of ants is far better than inorganic ways.
- Take one essential oil – lavender, thyme, or yarrow.
- Fill a spray bottle with water. Add some drops of essential oil into the bottle. Let’s say, 5 drops of oil.
- Keep a distance of about 12 inches and spray it on the plants and soil.
- Also, spray the outer parts of the pot.
- You can either ventilate the room or keep the room closed. It is not toxic, so it won’t cause any harm. Moreover, the oil will add a pleasing smell to your room.
- Another excellent way is by using insectidal soap.
How to remove ants naturally?
As ants like food, especially sweets and organic matter, it is better to keep the plant and soil clean and avoid leaving food around your indoor plant.
Both chemical and natural ways are effective in getting rid of ants. First, it is better to go for the natural methods and then opt for the chemicals, provided the ants’ attack is heavier.
When you find that ants are wandering and entering your indoor plant soil, they might have some food or good shelter inside it. It can be pests as food, or the soil has become dry or old, ideal for their stay. They can even feed on the roots.
In such conditions, you will have to change the soil and repot the plant. You can also try sterilizing the soil with activated charcoal. Sprinkle a small amount of charcoal as a thin layer over the soil.
- Take out the plant from the pot and get rid of all the soil.
- As the ants were entering into the soil, be careful while taking it out.
- Choosing a location where ants are running in every direction won’t be a problem.
- After removing the plant, get rid of the old soil from the roots. Spray gently with water to remove the remaining ants and soil.
- Wash the pot and scrub it well. You can use sanitizer to disinfect it. Make sure it is now free from all sorts of ants.
- Dry the pot well and replant your plant with a fresh soil mix. Use insecticidal soap to kill all the remaining pests or ants.
- Keep the plant safe and healthy.
Your indoor plant and its soil might have become the nest for ants because of pest infestation.
Pests like aphids, mealybugs or scales, infect the plants to suck out all the sap. After feeding on the sap, they leave behind honeydew, which is their poop.
The ants further get attracted to this honeydew as it is sweet. This is the reason why ants are everywhere in the plant. However, the ants help in removing the pests as they also feed on the pests.
- To stop ants from arriving in your plant, you need to get rid of pests.
- For removing pests, use neem oil spray or dish wash soap spray.
- Clean the honeydew by spraying and wiping the leaves with a cloth soaked in alcohol or soapy water.
Soak the soil
If your plant is hydrophobic, it will be an ideal shelter for ants. To stop this, you will have to soak the plant in water.
For soaking, take a container filled with water. Add 3 tablespoons of insecticidal soap to one-quarter of water. Now pour this solution into the soil.
Make sure that the excess water draws out from the pot’s drainage holes. Leave it to soak for 30 minutes. After this, you can flush off the soil with normal water.
Before doing this, research the particular houseplant you own. Some plants do not like soaked soil for such a long time. This method will only work if your soil is dry and nested with ants.
If ants are coming to your potted plant in some other ways, soaking won’t work. You need to try some other methods.
There are a lot of natural things which the ants won’t enjoy at all. You can use them as deterrents to get rid of ants from your indoor plants.
- Citrus juices will work great for plants infested with ants. Try squeezing some oranges or lemons directly into the soil. However, the plants which do not like acidic soil much might not like lemons.
- One recommendation would be oranges. For that, you will have to simmer the orange peels in a bowl with one cup of water for 30 minutes. Then grind them to an even consistency. Cool it down and pour it on the soil, where you can see the nest.
- Cinnamon also works for ants. Using cinnamon oil will work well for getting rid of the ants. Oil helps in maintaining a good smell for a long time. So, along with getting rid of the ants, preventing them would also be easy. You can also keep cinnamon sticks in the soil. That would also help. You can try powder too, but that might not have effects like the oil or stick.
- Try peppermint for removing ants. Add 1 tablespoon of dish wash soap with 2 cups of water and add a few drops of peppermint oil. Drop this solution around the plant base. You will have to do this a lot of times until you get rid of all ants.
- Another homemade repellent we would like to recommend is by mixing some essential oils. Add 5 drops of peppermint oil, 10 drops of tea tree oil, and 10 drops of eucalyptus oil to one cup of lukewarm water in a spray bottle. Shake well and spray on the leaves and pot.
Many other natural ingredients can be used as a repellent against ants for indoor plants:
- Black pepper
- Tea leaves
- Coffee grounds
- Chilli powder
Making a good mixture of any of the above ingredients will help eliminate ants from the houseplant. Do research their preparation methods first. Also, gather information about your plant’s tolerance for these natural materials.
This is another acidic medium to get rid of ants. Pour one liter of white vinegar into the potting soil, especially where there is an ant nest. They will start leaving after some time straightaway.
But, be careful while using this method. As vinegar is an acidic medium, plants that enjoy neutral soil, less acidic or alkaline soil, won’t survive if used.
This is an effective and harmless way to get rid of ants from indoor plants. Diatomaceous is a white, rock-like powder prepared from the fossils of tiny sea organisms.
It kills the ants by soaking their fats and oils, dehydrating them completely. Sprinkle some diatomaceous earth over the soil surface. Most gardeners prefer using this because it is pretty effective and chemical-free.
You can also use bait to kill the ants. This is not much effective but can be helpful, especially if the ants are large in number.
Keep bait around the pot of your indoor plants and leave it. The ants will arrive and eat them and will die either in their nest or somewhere near your pot where they used to wander.
Homemade Dawn soap spray
Dawn soap is also helpful in removing ants. Mix 2 tablespoons of the soap with one gallon of warm water. Spray the mixture to the affected areas in the plants and areas where you suspect ants’ nests.
Keep it for some time, allow it to dry, and then wash with water. The mixture must come in contact with the ants to get rid of them.
Prevention is always better than cure. It is not possible to stop the ants from reaching the plants always. If the situation is made attractive to them, they will come for food or shelter.
So, to keep them from approaching your indoor plant, try some preventive measures. Some quick steps are:
- Do not allow the soil of indoor plants to remain dry for a long time.
- Repot your plant with new soil after every 1-2 years.
- Keep watching for ants and pests. Whenever you find any signs of them, treat them in the first place.
Some other effective ways to stop ants from reaching the plant are:
Use pot feet
Do not keep your potted plant directly on the ground or deck. Try using feet to keep the pot above the ground or deck level. This will give the bottom of the pot some airflow which can stop ants from going up to reach the pots.
Water in saucer
This method is done just like the essential oil method. But you will have first to know whether your plant will like standing over a saucer filled with water or not. Plants like succulents will not like this and end up having root rot. So first research your plant and then use it.
For using this method, fill a wide saucer with water and place your potted plant over it by forming a ring. You can put some stones over the saucer and place the pot over the stones too.
This will keep the roots dry, but make sure your plant requires high humidity as this stone saucer process can increase your plant’s humidity. Plants like thyme, orchids, or sago palms will be okay with the process.
Water in the saucer will keep the ants away as they hate swimming.
Ants do not like Marigolds. If you have Marigold plants growing in pots, keep them near your other indoor plants. It will keep the ants away from reaching the plants.
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It is the sugary substance present in the plants due to which the ants are more attracted. The nectar released by plants or the honeydew secreted by pests invites the ants.
It is essential to get rid of the ants as soon as possible because they will eat up your whole plant if the infestation increases.
However, ants are helpful for only one thing, which is killing pests. They not only feed on the honeydew, but they will also feed on the pests present.
Your plant might get rid of pest infestation. But, additionally, instead, they will the infested with ants.
So, it is better to remove the pests from your plant, keep the plants clean and take preventive measures to stop ants from reaching your plant.
Different reasons lie behind ant infestation. So better to know the actual reason and take steps according to that. Keep your plant safe and healthy after curing them.
Ref: Common insect pests and diseases, The Pennsylvania State University, Mississippi State University, Clemson University Cooperative Extension, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California, University of Minnesota.