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How to Keep Ants Off My Peonies

By Sylvia Cochran ; Updated September 21, 2017

Gardeners welcome peonies as heralding the arrival of May. Old-fashioned green thumbs may remember picking these perennials in childhood, or admiring the blooms and amount of color that peonies and irises lend to a garden. A sometimes unfortunate side effect of peonies is the presence of ants. Budding peonies leak a sticky substance that is sweet to the taste. This nectar attracts ants, which feed on it. Learning how to keep ants off your peonies may be easy, if you focus on lessening the attraction between flora and fauna.

Remove Buds

Identify the healthiest bud on the peony. Choose the biggest, hale-looking bud. Keep an eye out for sickly or brown exterior petals

Use a sharp knife and remove all but the chosen bud from a peony’s stem. Gardeners who want to cultivate spectacular blooms employ this technique to grow a more impressive flower than would be possible if the other buds were allowed to complete with it.

Dispose of the buds by throwing them in the garbage or placing them in a compost pile. Removing the buds removes a source of the nectar that attracts ants.

Use Coffee Grounds

Collect used coffee grounds over the course of a week or two.

Surround budding peonies with moist coffee grounds. Ants avoid climbing over the coffee grounds, as long as they are moist.

Squirt the coffee grounds with a water from a spray bottle to keep them moist. Depending on the weather in your area, you may need to moisten the coffee grounds several times a day.

Control Aphids

Locate aphids on your peonies. Aphids puncture peony stalks and leaves for their sap and void a sugary substance that attracts ants. The ants ingest the substance the aphids shed.

Spray your peonies with a water from a garden hose. Wash off the underside of the leaves, where aphids tend to hide, as well as the top.

Mix 1 teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap in a spray bottle filled with water to make a pest control spray for bad infestations. Spray the peonies, including the underside of the leaves.


Things You Will Need

  • Sharp knife
  • Coffee grounds
  • Garden hose
  • Water
  • Dish soap
  • Spray bottle


  • Don't spray your peonies with insecticides for the sake of ant control. The ants do not harm the plants and only present a short-term problem. Insecticides hurt beneficial insects you want in your garden, such as aphid-eating ladybugs.
  • Once the buds no longer secrete the sweet nectar, they cease to interest the ants. The ant infestation on your peonies---assuming no aphid population that continues to attract ants---is only temporary.

About the Author


Based in the Los Angeles area, Sylvia Cochran is a seasoned freelance writer focusing on home and garden, travel and parenting articles. Her work has appeared in "Families Online Magazine" and assorted print and Internet publications.