Ants in the potted plants look threatening to the plants.
They crawl on the plants’ stems and leaves, and it seems like they’re feeding onto something.
So, are ants in potted plants good or bad?
Why do ants infest potted plants? Is there any solution to it?
Let’s find it out.
Are Ants Good Or Bad For Potted Plants?
The answer is ants are harmless to potted plants. Yet, they don’t bring any massive benefits to potted plants either.
But ants can harm seedlings and tiny plants.
It’s because ants dig tunnels underneath the soil, which may damage the roots of the seedlings with tender roots.
The tunnels that ants create underneath the soil brings one benefit to mature plants. The roots of these plants can penetrate the soil deeper.
The tunnels aerate the soil. Better aerated soil helps the plants absorb the hidden nutrients fast.
Do Ants Eat Plant Roots?
Plant roots are not part of ants’ diets. Hence, most species of ants don’t eat plant roots.
The presence of ants in the soil is for two reasons – the soil is dry, and the soil lacks organic matter (humus).
That’s why most species of ants are rarely a danger to your garden plants and potted plants.
Only two species of ants, the leafcutter ants and fire ants can kill plants.
Other ants can build their colonies, as mud mounds, on grass lawns that kill the grass underneath and around the anthills.
But ants can displace the soil around the plant’s roots when building their nests.
The displacement of the soil exposes certain parts of the plant’s roots. That dries up the roots, which can make the plants wilt over.
Why There Are Ants In Potted Plants?
There are three significant reasons for ants in potted plants –
- The soil of potted plants is dry.
- Honeydew from other pests in the plants.
- Insect larvae are present in the soil.
Ants build their colonies or nests underneath soil layers. And when the yard or garden gets too wet for them, they’ll leave their colonies and look for dry soil.
So, ants will move into the potted plants if the soil in the pot is dry.
It’s a regular sighting in cactus pots in the garden, which don’t need much watering. Ants will move onto the cactus pot and build their nests in the dry soil.
You’ll find out how to get rid of ants’ in the potted plants. For now, let’s deep dive into the second reason, which is honeydew.
Many gardens and yards have bugs like aphids, chinch worms, and mealybugs. These bugs produce honeydew, which is sweet. Ants eat the sweet honeydew.
So, the presence of honeydew on plants in pots will attract ants.
The ants will also eat the plant pests which produce honeydew. So, in a way, these ants are beneficial for your garden too.
The soil in potted plants, and compost piles, attracts fruit flies and fungus gnats, especially when the soil is damp.
These flies lay eggs in the damp soil. The larvae from the eggs, which the ants eat, also attract ants.
That’s also one of the reasons why potted indoor plants attract ants.
The artificial light from your attracts the fungus gnats, which attract indoor potted plants’ damp soil.
The larvae of these tiny black flies in the house in the soil of potted plants attract the ants.
Ants In Potting Soil Bag
Ants in potting soil bags needed a special mention because many people don’t know about it.
Ants in potting soil bags needed a special mention because it’s also one of the ways that ants can get inside potted plants.
There are pests like ants and maggots in many cheap soil bags available.
And when you pour the soil on the pot containing ants, you introduce ants in the potted plants.
The best way to avoid this situation is by using pasteurized soil. You can either buy it or make regular soil pasteurized soil in your home.
All you’ve to do is, put the potting soil in a pot.
Seal the pot with aluminum foil and heat it in an oven at 80 degrees F for 30 minutes.
Once you heat it, let it cool off before you pour the soil into the pot.
That’s it. That’s an easy way to pasteurize the soil. Pasteurizing the soil also unlocks its nutrients. It’s healthy for your potted plants.
How To Get Rid Of Ants In Potted Plants?
Ants aren’t harmful to potted plants. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get rid of them.
If you don’t, ants can build nests in your yard or garden, which can lead to a sudden ant infestation in your home.
And if your indoor potted plants have ants, then your home is at risk of ant infestation if you don’t get rid of them.
Here’s how to get rid of ants in potted plants in seven easy steps.
Step#1 – Get Rid Of Pests In The Pot
If there are honeydew-making pests like aphids and mealybugs, get rid of them.
You can easily do it by spraying a mixture of dish soap and water (or a combination of equal parts of white vinegar and water) on the plants.
Caution: Many blogs recommend spraying a mixture of white vinegar with water on the plants and soil. Vinegar is acidic, and it changes the soil’s pH levels, which severely damages the plants’ growth. So, don’t overuse vinegar to get rid of the plant pests.
Step#2 – Water The Soil In The Pot
Dry soil in plant pots attracts ants. If you haven’t watered the soil for a few days, then do it. But don’t flood the pot with water.
Step#3 – Change The Potted Soil With Pasteurized Soil
Over time, the garden’s soil and potted plants lose their vitality.
The soil becomes stale, and it doesn’t soak water like fresh soil will do.
So, you must change the soil of potted plants.
One sign of soil becoming stale is when the color of the soil turns pale.
Replace the soil with fresh soil. Or use pasteurized soil.
If you don’t, ants will nest underneath the soil’s layer. They’ll dig into the soil, especially around the plants’ roots, causing the soil’s layer around the roots to deplete.
That will make the roots of the plants visible.
If the plants are seedling, it’ll cause girdling, leading to whittling off seedlings.
So, in both cases, it’s always wise to change the entire soil in the pot.
Step#4 – Use Ant Spray On The Soil And On The Plants
To kill the foraging ants on the plants in the pots, spray a plant-safe ant spray on the ants.
Ensure that the spray makes contact with ants for maximum effect.
Step#5 – Keep Ant Baits Near The Plant Pots
Ant baits or sticky ant traps will trap the ants that will try to sneak inside the plant pots.
There are many types of ant baits available. There are toxic ones that also kill the ants on top of trapping it.
And there are pheromone ant baits that emit a smell that attracts ants into the trap.
If you’ve got pets and kids in your home, then use non-toxic or pheromone-based ant baits.
4 Natural Ways To Get Rid Of Ants In Potted Plants
If you don’t want to use insecticide spray, here are some natural ways to eliminate ants in potted plants.
- Sprinkle cinnamon powder on the soil. Ants hate the smell of cinnamon.
- Use coffee grounds on the potting soil. It repels ants.
- Put 3-5 drops of citrus or peppermint essential oils in a bottle of water. Mix it well and spray it on the plants and the soil. The smell of both oils repels ants.
- Scatter diatomaceous earth in the pot. It kills the ants, and it’s safe for plants.
Plants That Attract Ants
These species of ants attract ants. So, if you’ve them in your garden, they can draw the ants to your plants.
- Wild Parsnip
- Desert Willow
- Small Stonecrop
The sweet nectar of peonies, wild parsnip, and desert willow attract ants.
Whereas clematis, roses, small stonecrop, and penstemon attract aphids. Ants eat aphids, and the honeydew the aphids make also attracts ants.
White Ants In Potted Plants
Termites are the tiny white ant-like bugs that you might see at times in the potted plants.
Termites will feed on the soils’ nutrients and kill the plants by damaging their roots.
And, unlike ants, termites don’t infest potted plants when the soil is dry. Moist soil attracts termites when the weather is dry, and sources of moisture dry up.
So, if there are termites in the potted plants inside your home, then hire a pest controller to do a termite inspection.
Termites cause severe and expensive damage to your home. And they can even wholly wreck your home if you don’t get rid of them.
If there are termites in the potted plants in your yard, then your yard has hidden termites.
These termites will make their way into the plant pot from underground through its bottom.
The water from the soil of potted plants leak through the bottom of the plant pots play a significant role in attracting termites to the potted plants, especially at the peak of the summer.
To get rid of termites in indoor potted plants, change the soil. You can also use a plant-safe termite killer sprays.
But the spray might not penetrate the soil to contact the termites. So, it’ll be best to change the soil and safely dispose of it with termites.
If there are termites in potted plants in your yard, then you’ll need a thorough treatment for termites in the yard.
That includes replacing mulch beds with mulch that repel termites.
And, most importantly, getting rid of termite-infested wood in your yard.
It’s only a matter of time before termites in the yard will invade your home. So, if you see termites in potted plants in your yard or garden, then act fast to get rid of them.
In general, ants in the potted plants are good. But for seedlings in pots and soil beds, ants can cause damage.
Ants in potted plants and soil beds aerate the soil by making tunnels inside the ground.
That makes the roots of the plants access more nutrients from the soil.
But ants can cause damage to the seedlings while they’re digging tunnels inside the soil. While doing it, they can cause damage to the seedlings’ roots.
But ants don’t bring any risk to mature plants.
However, two species of ants kill plants.
We’re Mark and Jim. We were serial pest killers for almost all of our lives. Through this blog we spread pest murdering tips to people like you who want to keep their homes pest free.