Each late spring to early summer the perennial peony (Paeonia) sports a stunning flower display. The blossoms often measure a full 8 inches across and are available in shades of white, pink, red, salmon and yellow. Most are exceptionally fragrant. Prior to the plant's flower production, most gardeners will notice that the stems, foliage and buds of the flowers begin to swarm with ants. Often the ants congregate in large quantities around the flower buds and the base of the buds.
Many gardeners worry that the ants on the peony will harm the flowers, stems or foliage. The ants are not attracted to the plant itself but to the sugar droplets that occur on the buds and flowers. These nectar secretions are consumed by the ants with gusto and the plant itself is ignored. The buds produce the substance at their base in the greatest quantity. The flowers produce a far smaller amount of the sweet substance.
Numerous myths have persisted that the ants on a peony are required for flower production. This is a falsehood. The ants neither harm nor benefit the plants or the flowers.
Ants On Cut Flowers
The blossoms of the peony are highly regarded as a cut flower. When clipping the peony flower buds and flower heads, simply dip the flower head or flower bud in cold water and swish it around to dislodge the ants. The ants will be removed from the flower bud and flower head so they will not crawl all over the house.
Removing all but one bud on the flowering stem of a peony will lessen the ant infestation since the ants are attracted to the nectar the buds produce. Once the bud opens into a flower, the nectar production is dramatically reduced so the ants will move on to another location in search of food.
Ants pose no serious danger to a healthy peony plant, but there is a small chance that the ant can carry fungal spores when traversing on the peony. The incidences of this occurring are quite low, according to the American Peony Society. Ants are not really a pest to the peony and should simply be overlooked since they do not detract from the plant's natural beauty.