Getting rid of ants require small steps in regular frequency. While insecticides are the easiest and strongest solution in repelling ants, they can hurt you and the plant. Below are other safe methods in protecting your plants from ants.
Everyone knows that having plants, especially indoors, require extra upkeep. However, persistent ants in your potted plants can rob you of the joy in having one.
They can easily invade your plant and surrounding areas in minutes without you noticing it.
While most people just leave them be, however, if you are reading this article, you are finding ways to keep ants from infesting your potted plants.
The methods listed below will not guarantee total extermination of ant colonies in your home but will keep your plants ant-free.
Why Are Ants In My Plants, Pots, And Soil?
Ants move in numbers and live as colonies. Aside from getting food, ants are in your plants because they are living in it. They see it as beneficial for their survival, just like any creature.
The natural crevices in the soil, constant source of food, right amount of moisture, and immobility (people do not move their plants every time) are what makes a plant a good living space for ants.
How To Avoid Ant Infestation?
There is a reason why ants are a symbol of working smart and hard. Ants have at least 5 times more odor receptors than other insects that is why they can smell anything even from a distance and with obstructions.
The best way to avoid ant infestation is to keep your house clean. Food crumbs should be wiped clean and spilled flavored drinks should not be left to dry. The sugar in it will still attract the ants.
For plants, you can do all these and still some ants in your plants from time to time. This is natural in any household. As said earlier, ant control requires extra maintenance from you.
You can always get rid of ants in your plants by terminating its source. Just put either flour, lemon rinds, pepper, and other spices in the place where they aggregate.
Ants can also transfer diseases like E. Coli, Salmonella, and Shigella which. Since ants eat anything whether it is raw or dirty, they could transfer bacteria and other harmful substances to our food.
How To Get Rid of Ants in Potted Plants
Ants are everywhere and seems to reproduce at an exponential rate. How are you going to stop them? You do not have time to keep sweeping or wiping them off of your plant. So, here are the 5 best ways to get rid of ants in potted plants.
Put them on top of a plate with water
If you have the space for it, putting your potted plants on top of a plate with water is a foolproof solution. However, no part of your plant should make contact to anything so that the ants cannot access the plant.
Any plant you will put into a plate should also not be moved around a lot. It is tiring to constantly change the water or wipe it dry when the water spills off the plate.
So, if your plant is used for decorations and is regularly being moved for design purposes, putting it onto a plate can be a hassle.
We recommend using metal or plastic plates (or even small trays) for this to avoid breaking any glassware.
Also, pots have holes at the bottom for water and air flow. Expect the water to be a bit muddy after several days.
Use insecticide (but sparingly)
Yes, insecticides are easy to buy and use. They can also harm your plant and generally affect its health. After all, they are made of strong chemicals made to kill pests.
It is a low-maintenance solution. Just spray it around and you will see zero ants for weeks. However, be prepared for some effects that may happen.
A common one is getting an allergic reaction to it. You or someone in the house can get into contact with the insecticide via touch or inhalation.
Either way, it is usually just a mild reaction but will be more severe with infants and kids.
Mainly, your plants will be affected. A 2011 study entitled “Effects of insecticides on plant-growth-promoting activities of phosphate solubilizing rhizobacterium Klebsiella sp. strain PS19” found that insecticides negatively affected the rhizobacteria in the plant.
Rhizobacteria is a good bacteria that aids in plant growth.
Some homeowners soak clay pots in diluted insecticide since clay pots are porous and can absorb liquid.
Use cinnamon to get rid of ants in plants
Ants have a strong sense of smell. You can keep them away by putting strong-smelling substances like cinnamon in trails and the pot itself.
According to Hunker, there is no scientific evidence on cinnamon grounds being effective as an ant repellent. Rather, it is cinnamon oil that works.
The reason for this is cinnamon in oil form spreads the smell better than in powder form. Also, aside from ants, cinnamon oil also acts as a natural insecticide according to a 2014 study by the Faculty of Applied Sciences at the University of Technology in Perlis, Malaysia.
Spread Diatomaceous Earth on the soil
The term may be new to you so we will explain. Diatomaceous Earth, also called D.E. or diatomite, is basically a rock that is used in making explosives to filtering water to repelling pests.
This substance absorbs the water out of the body of any insect who touch it. The result is the insect dying after a minute. You can also put a separate open container with D.E. mixed with an attractant besides your plants to bait all the ants.
Make sure you get food-grade D.E. since they are safer to use with zero to minimal health effects. According to the National Pesticide Information Center, D.E. would not harm animals like dogs or cats.
D.E. is said to be less effective when the soil is wet since water dilutes it. You can always wait for the soil to dry before putting.
Nowadays, D.E. is increasingly being used more instead of Borax powder in pest control in grains and crops or killings mites in beds.
Spray citrus or homemade ant repellent
If there are only small amounts of ants in your ants, you might want to consider using a milder repellent than insecticides.
Not that this has a neutral effect to your plants and anyone who touch it, it will also make your house smell good.
You will need…
- A cup of lukewarm water
- 5 ounces of peppermint extract (this could be pure oil or something diluted already)
- 10 drops of tea tree oil
- 10 drops of eucalyptus oil
Mix all these and put into a spray bottle. Spray on the leaves and the pot itself (clay pots absorb liquids so the repellent would not just run off). Observe and see how long it lasts. Add the extracts or decrease the water accordingly.
Vinegar is also a good natural ant and animal repellent. Its pungent smell scares cats, dogs, pests, and rodents. You can put drops of vinegar in places in closed areas with lots of ants (you do not want the vinegar smell spreading in your house).
When it comes to pest control, nothing beats being clean. Being clean does not beat ants completely. You need to do more sometimes.
We always recommend to go for safe and neutral methods that do not pose a risk to the plant and the residents in your house. If you are going with insecticides, make sure you use it sparingly.
Know that ants too have an important role in our ecosystem. Do not hate them but control them from infesting your plants.
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she attended University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture. She has supplemented her formal education by working on various organic farms, including spending a semester abroad in India.
Growing and/or raising just about anything gets her excited. She is especially passionate about environmental justice and low-tech, sustainable ways to better run small-scale farms and homesteads. Lindsey started Urban Organic Yield to discuss gardening tips and tactics.