Cut flowers Gardening Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

Cut Flower Peonies Without Ants

20160701APeonies (Paeonia spp.) make excellent cut flowers, but many gardeners are reluctant to use them for fear of bringing ants into the house. And indeed, ants are often found on peony flowers, attracted by the nectar they produce.

So What?

My first thought in this situation is: so what?

So what if you bring a few ants in with your peonies? They are harmless and, cut off from their nest, will die fairly quickly. Ants that you bring into the house by accident have only one thought: to get back to their nest. And you brought them in so quickly they won’t have any idea where to find it.

There is no need to fear the ants will decide to live in your home or build a nest there. Remember that the ones you see on flowers are sterile workers: they can’t reproduce. Only a queen ant can start a new colony… and queen ants simply don’t hang around on flowers.

20160701CNor will the ants you accidentally bring in head for your kitchen in search of your food. They just want to go home and find their mummy. Sniff!

To Prevent Ants from Entering

If despite all the above, you are so afraid of ants that you can’t bear to see one in the house, here’s how to make sure you don’t bring any in with your cut flower peonies.

Give the bud a a good shake to remove ants.

Harvest the flower in bud at an advanced stage, when you see the color of the petals and it feels like a marshmallow when you lightly squeeze it. At this point, the bud is mature enough to open after it is cut, but ants have no mass of open petals among which to hide.

Now, while you are still in the garden, shake the stem harshly to knock the ants off or run a damp cloth over the bud and stem to remove them. You could also spray the bud with soapy water: soap is poisonous to ants.

And there you go! A “problem” that is easily fixed!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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