How to Get Rid of Ants in Your Potted Plants

How to Get Rid of Ants in Your Potted Plants Naturally

No one feels happy seeing unwanted visitors even if they are harmless, and ants are no exception. Seeing ants moving about in your potted plants can be annoying, especially when a colony invades your indoor plant. All you want to do is to get those pesky insects off your plant.

The good news is that there are several ways you can get rid of this 6-legged invader using simple and natural remedies that are not harmless to our environment.

You could use streams of water from your watering house, citrus, cinnamon, and other natural materials to eliminate these ants. Come along, and we will show you how easy it is to naturally eliminate ants from your potted plants.

Are Ants That Harmful To My Potted Plants

For starters, let’s state that ants are not pests; you might beg to differ from this truth because you see them and feel that they constitute a nuisance. In reality, ants alone are not an issue. On the contrary, they are even beneficial to us and the environment.

Ants help decompose organic matter, releasing nutrients for plants to grow and develop. As the ants chew on the materials in the soil, they create more surface area for microorganisms to quickly convert these organic matter into nutrients.

Do you know that ants can be used to biologically control some pests like aphids in your garden? This is because ants are the predators of these tiny insects that attack plants and even cause diseases for them. This is why ants are not considered pests.

Ants are useful in improving the soil that we plant our crops and ornamental plants on, and this is so because as they move in the soil, they create pores where air enters and is trapped, and we know that both the plant and the useful microbes in the soil need oxygen to stay alive.

Some people complain that colonies of ants have attacked and destroyed the roots of their plants, especially plants like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and the like.

The truth is that ants are usually not directly responsible for the damage, but other opportunistic insects have a symbiotic relationship with insects.

Hence, ants are not as bad as many people believe them to be, even though they have feeding relationships with pests like aphids which are detrimental to the plant.

Aphids and water flies produce honeydews that attack plants, and ants tend to farm or “protect” these aphids from being exposed and destroyed.

Some ants, like the soldier ants, pack a lot of sting in their bite, while others can detour from the plant to other parts of your house, especially to your kitchen, where they look for things to munch on. Asides from these, ants are not as destructive as other insects in the Insecta family.

So, Why Are Ants Invading My Potted Plants

There are several reasons why ants will crawl into your potted plants; some are natural: that is what ants do, and others are due to the environment around your potted plant that they find inviting.

Ants love sweet things, and they can make literary smell sugary stuff from far and then make their way to it, and plants produce sugar substances which ants love.

When you combine the sweetness from your potted plant and the honeydew aphids there, too, you have a level of sweetness that plants find irresistible.

Secondly, ants live to collect a lot of organic matter that they send to their nest. Ants use this organic matter which can include leaves or parts of plants, to grow fungi that supply them with a rich source of food. So, if there is organic matter like dead leaves in your potted plant, then you are sure that ants might come visiting.

If you think we humans are the only explorers, you will have to think again. Ants are avid explorers who wander from place to place in search of food, water (in fact, they can smell water from a distance), or a place to build their nest, and if your potted plant looks’ promising,’ they will come around.

What Plants Are Ants Attracted To

These species of ants attract ants. So, if you’ve them in your garden, they can draw the ants to your plants.

While ants can invade any potted plant, there are, however, some species of plants that ants find irresistible; below are a few of them:

1. Peonies

Ants love peonies, and this is because the plant has a nectary which is a gland that produces water, sugar, and amino acids. These 3 substances ants need and love will always swarm any plant that produces them. Black and most especially are ants specie that usually in case peonies.

The irony is that many gardeners and homeowners plant many of these beautiful, fragrant flowering plants in their garden and containers, and unwittingly, they are calling ants for a party. So if you want an ant-free potted plant, don’t plant peonies.

2. Wild Parsnip

This is a weed that many people find very invasive and annoying; this is not unconnected to the fact that this weed can grow extremely large and get to a height of 5 feet. Perhaps it is the fact that this plant produces a sap that burns painfully when it touches your skin under sunlight.

While wild parsnip might not be a lovely plant for humans, ants can’t seem to get enough of it. This weed has nectaries that produce a large amount of sweet nectar for almost every kind of ant, including the Formica ants.

It is most unlikely that you will plant this type of weed on your potted plant, but if you have it around your home, they will attract ants and get them everywhere.

3. Desert Willow

Even though this plant has very attractive colors and is a favorite for many people, especially those who live in the Southwestern part of The US, they are not a plant to grow in a container near your home if you are wary of ants.

The nectar from the bulb of the desert Willow attracts some animals like hummingbirds, especially ants. The Forelius ants, common in desert climates, easily infect this flower. So if you hate ants in your potted plant that much, then keep this plant far from your home.

There are other plants you might not want to grow in your potted plant, not because ants love them, but because they are usually infested by aphids which ants love. Plants like Roses, clematis, small stonecrop, and penstemon. Wherever you have these plants, you will find aphids and, most definitely, ants.

How to Get Rid of Ants in Your Potted Plants Naturally

How to Get Rid of Ants in Your Potted Plants

There are many ways of getting rid of ants that infest your potted plants. Some of these means are outrightly outrageous, while others are more gentle and humane than others.

If you are off the school of thought that ants are very beneficial to the ecosystem and hence must not be killed, then you will probably adopt methods that will send the ants packing but not necessarily kill them. But if you have no qualms about killing ants, there are also many ways to do that.

But for us who are environmentally conscious, we recommend that the best way to get rid of ants in your potted plant is to use natural means, and there are lots of natural products that will accomplish this.

Let’s look at some natural remedies to an ant-in-my-potted-plant problem:

1. Prevent Ants From Getting Into The Potted Plant

Prevention has always been the best panacea against any problem. If you can devise a way of keeping ants from getting into your potted plant, you will not have the problem of getting rid of them.

Since you already know that ants have a sweet tooth, ensure you don’t have anything sweet close to the potted plant, or else they will invade the plant.

It is also a good idea not to plant any plants that ants or aphids love to keep ants from getting into your potted plants. Keeping the potted plant free of debris and other organic matter will ensure that ants do not have any reason to invade your plant.

2. Re-pot The Plant

This is a very easy and effective way of getting rid of ants in your pot. All you have to do is to put your plant in another pot and take care of the problem.

For you to notice ants in your potted plant means that there are things in your soil they love, so removing the soil completely and putting fresh ones will take care of the problem.

Before you change the pot of the plant, ensure that you check to see if there are any fungi or other pests in the soil. If there are, then sterilize the soil using organic activated charcoal; sprinkling the pit with a thin layer of charcoal will solve the problem. However, if you can, you should change the soil and use fresh ones.

3. Put Lemon Juice Or Vinegar In The Saucer Or On The Pot

If ants love sweet things, it goes without saying that they will have your things, which is true. To keep ants from getting into your potted plant, look for the point in your house where they enter from and drop some lemon juice there. 

The chemical substance from the lemon will confuse them and keep them from getting into the house or the plant. You can go a step further by dropping the lemon juice on the path they follow.

Your best bet is to do this very early in the morning before they wake up so that non if the ants will be trapped inside your house.

If, however, the ants have already found their way into the potted plant, squeeze a lemon and put the juice in a spray bottle, then spray it on the pot’s surface and the saucer.

You can spray the lemon juice inside the pit if the plant you have in the pot can tolerate acidic soul; if not, restrict the lemon juice to only the surface of the pot and saucer.

If your plant likes fairly alkaline soil (hyacinth and crocus, for example), spray it only on the outside of your pot. If you don’t have lemon, any string citrus smell will put them off (bergamot, for example), but not orange (they love it).

If you want to have a longer-lasting effect, use citrus essential oils. Just a few drops will last for days. If you don’t have lemon, you can use lime, vinegar bergamot, or other citrus fruit or peel; they will have the same effect. This excludes sweet orange; ants love it because it is sweet. If you want the effect of the citrus smell to lat, then use a few drops of citrus essential oil, and you will get better results.

4. Use Cinnamon To Repel Ants

Would it surprise you that despite the fact that cinnamon has a rich scent, ants utterly hate it and cannot stand it? So if you want to get rid of ants in your home and potted plant, use cinnamon which will keep the ants from your space and give a fragrant smell to your home.

You should buy some cinnamon sticks, put them on the potted plant’s soil, and leave it there; this will determine the ants from getting inside the pot. Some use cinnamon instead of cinnamon, but their effect is not as long-lasting as you get with a cinnamon stick.

5. Put Water In The Saucer

Ants don’t like being soaked in water, and when you put water in the saucer of the potted plants, the ants will fall inside, and since ants hate water, they will move away from the potted plant. However, you must ensure that the plant you have in the pot does not love dried soil like succulents, or else the water in the saucer might cause the root of the plants to rot.

For drought-living plants like thyme, succulents, and the likes, you will have to put a wider saucer under the pot saucer, which forms a ring, so that the water from the wider saucer does not get to the root of the plant. Then place the plant on a stone, brick, or any raised platform to further ensure that the plant stays dry.

6. Use Mint Or Other Such Essential Oil

In the same way that citrus smell repels ants, the smell of mint, yarrow, thyme, and lavender repel ants. Hence you can use the essential oil of any of these plants to keep ants away from your potted plant.

Not only does this essential oil work to drive ants away from your home, but so too does it drive mice away. All you need do is fill a spray bottle with water and a few drops of the oil, then use it to spray the plants from 30cm away.

Also, spray the pot’s soil and outside for maximum effect. This will give your home a good aroma, especially if you keep the window closed so that the aroma remains for long.

7. Plant Marigold For Ants

Some plants are repulsive to ants; geraniums and marigolds truly repel ants because they find it offensive; hence if you plant beautiful marigolds in your pot, you will never have to worry about ants in the plant pot.


While ants might not cause significant damage to us and our plants, many people gate to see crawling in their homes and, worse still, in their potted plants.

You can do so many things to eliminate these plants using just natural remedies like cinnamon, lemon juice, water, and the likes, and those tiny nuisances will leave your plant and home for good.

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We trust this article helped you learn how to get rid of ants in your potted plants naturally. You may also want to check out The Difference Between Soil Mites And Root Aphids.

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