Have you ever experienced a trail of ants, marching like tiny soldiers through your home? Ants are an extremely common house pest and can be hard to get rid of.
There are many things that attract ants to your homes, like sugary and sweet foods and substances. However, there are also plant species like peonies, roses, tropical house plants, fruit trees, stonecrop, and even specialty carnivorous plants that attract ants as well.
If you are having issues with ants in your garden boxes, pots, or even indoor plants, there are many actions you can take to eliminate the ants and the colony that always follows!
Read on to discover six common plants that may be attracting ants to your home and some alternatives you can plant instead.
What Attracts Ants In The First Place?
There are many things that may attract ants to your garden or indoor plant collection, and almost all of them have to do with sugary sweet scents and flavors.
Ants will primarily enter your space seeking a food source to bring back to the colony.
Ants will be attracted to any food left out in your home, including sugary soft drink spills, candy, or sugar. A good first step to avoid attracting ants to your home is to keep a clean space, wipe down counters and pantries, and clean spills as they occur.
Ants Are Attracted To Honeydew From Other Pests
Certain outdoor pest insects produce a sweet, sticky residue called honeydew, which sticks to the leaves and flowers of many plants.
This honeydew in turn attracts ants, who feed on the sugary substance.
Leaky Faucets Attract Thirsty Ants
Finally, leaky faucets and hoses might attract thirsty ants who are seeking a water source.
No matter what might be drawing in the ants, they leave behind a scent trail as a guide for other ants in the colony to follow their path to food or water.
Some Plants Need Ants!
While ants don’t often feed directly on plants, there are certain plants that purposely attract ants.
In a study by the Smithsonian for the scientific journal Adansonia, scientists theorize that attracting ants could actually be a helpful defense against herbivores such as caterpillars and other leaf-eating insects.
The paper suggests that certain plants, especially tropical varieties and even common ones like peonies secrete a sweet scent that attracts ants. The ants will then act as protectors, predating on whatever insects or pests are feeding on the plant.
Many of these tropical plants are common indoor plants, so this could be one reason why you are seeing ants in your home.
Aphids And Other Pest Insects Attract Ants
One of the most common attractants for ants is not actually the plants themselves, but the pest insects that feed on the plants.
Pests like aphids, whiteflies, scales, and mealybugs feed on the plant sap and they excrete a sweet, sugary substance called honeydew. This sticky material covers the plant that they are feeding on, leaving it shiny and sticky.
As we said earlier, honeydew is what attracts ants. If you suspect that the ants are following other pests to your plants, it’s a good idea to take steps to eliminate the pests causing the honeydew, as they can cause other issues like mold and fungi.
For more information on how to get rid of pests that cause honeydew, commonly caused by whiteflies, head on over to our article for a full list of scents that will deter these pests!
Neem Oil Can Be An Effective Remedy To Get Rid Of Unwanted Pests
Neem oil is a great product that will protect your plants from a variety of pest insects, including those that produce honeydew.
Simply spray the plant with Bonide Captain Jack’s Neem Oil thoroughly to get rid of existing pests and prevent new ones from coming.
You can likely imagine that plants that attract aphids and other pest insects will also attract ants. These plants mostly include flowering plants such as roses and sunflowers but can also include tropical houseplants.
Will Ants Damage Your Plants?
You may be wondering whether ants are more of a nuisance or if they will in fact damage your plants. Although ants don’t often directly feed on the foliage or flowers of your plants, they can still do some damage.
Ants can damage your plants by feeding on the sweet sap they secrete or by eating the honeydew coating the foliage. While they aren’t directly eating the plants, the process will still create small rips and tears on the leaves.
These tears can expose the plant to disease, infection, or even other pests and insects besides being unsightly.
Six Types Of Plants That Attract Ants
Now that you know the basics of what attracts ants in the first place and the damage they can do to your plants, let’s get to it!
Today, we’re reviewing six common outdoor and indoor plants that may be attracting ants.
Whether the plant directly attracts ants on its own, or if its because the plant is harboring aphids and other honeydew-producing pests – we’ve got all the deets!
1. Peonies Attract Ants
Ants have a particular affinity for peonies, often colonizing the newly budding flowers.
There is actually a unique mutualistic relationship between peonies and ants, where both species benefit from each other.
Peonies secrete nectar from external organs outside of the flowering bud. Kind of gross, but that’s nature!
The ants will feed on the nectar produced from these nectaries and in turn, the ants protect the peonies from other herbivorous pest insects by predating on them.
While this relationship is fascinating to learn about, this does present an issue for the gardener – you’re going to attract ants to your home!
Plant Peonies Away From Your Home
Peonies planted too close to the home or even cut flowers kept in vases may actually attract ants to the home, so planting them far away is going to be your best-case scenario for both you and the plant!
Ants have very sensitive senses of smell and when they find peonies, they are likely to catch a whiff of more attractive food sources in your home and find their way into any crack or crevice they can find, leaving a scent trail for the rest of the colony to follow.
If you do want to plant peonies, try to plant them further from the home, away from any doors and windows, or try adding some deterrent plants closer to the home. More on this later!
2. Roses And Other Flowers Attract Aphids Which Attract Ants
There are many flowering plants that attract many pest insects which produce honeydew.
The primary varieties of these plants are roses, sunflowers, dahlias, and other commonly beloved garden plants.
In fact, we have an entire article about exactly which flowers attract aphids, that you should take a look at if you’re having a lot of ant problems!
Just as we discussed, these pests produce honeydew, which is a primary food source for ants. Avoid planting these flowers too close to your house, keep them further out in the yard.
Make Sure To Examine Your Flowers Carefully
Another helpful tip is to examine cut flowers carefully for signs of honeydew residue. This substance will appear as a shiny sheen on the leaves and will be sticky to the touch.
Think twice about bringing infested flowers into the home, as they may attract ants or even be harboring more pests, which could transfer to other indoor plants you may have, exacerbating the problem.
3. Ants Love Sweet Secretions From Tropical Plants
That same Smithsonian study hypothesizes a similar mutualistic relationship between ants and certain tropical trees, in which the plants themselves contain a sweet, syrupy sap that ants feed on.
Tropical trees such as palms, monsteras, pothos, fiddle leaf figs, and others have become increasingly popular as houseplants because they grow well in stable, warm, humid conditions that can be replicated in most homes.
By attracting ants, the tropical plants protect themselves from the thousands of herbivorous insects that populate the tropics.
4. Ants Are Attracted To Fruit Trees
Another plant that you may have in your home or garden that is attracting ants is fruit trees.
Fruit trees such as apples or pears will do quite the opposite, attracting ants to feed on the tasty fruit that falls from the trees.
However, Citrus trees can actually repel ants, and you can use citrus oil-based sprays such as Orange Guard to repel and deter ants and other pests.
Make Sure To Clean Up Fallen Fruit
To protect your home from an ant invasion, try to keep your yard tidy and free of fallen fruit that rots on the ground and attracts ants from miles away.
Additionally, as with other trees due to the risks of damage to your home’s foundation from roots, plant fruit trees far from the home, where ants may find cracks and crevices to enter.
If you have ants on your fruit trees, you can introduce certain ant predators to help naturally remove them from the area!
5. Carnivorous Plants Are Evolved to Attract Ants For Food
Maybe this variety of plants seems out of place on this list, but carnivorous plants like pitcher plants have become an increasingly common indoor plant for plant enthusiasts around the world.
These plants are beautiful and fascinating, secreting an attractive and sweet-smelling substance into the base of the pitcher-shaped flowers it grows. This substance attracts all sorts of pesky insects such as ants, flies, and gnats.
These plants are attracting insects purposefully, luring them into the pitcher flowers where the plant actually digests the insect, giving it its distinction as a carnivorous plant.
Carnivorous Plants May Cause More Problems Than It’s Worth
While in theory, this seems like a great way to eliminate household pests, the goal of the plant is to attract more insects to feed on, not to get rid of them entirely.
For this reason, carnivorous plants may be attracting more ants to your home than you would like.
If you own carnivorous plants, take other steps to mitigate the ant populations in the first place. Your plants won’t be any worse off, as they will attract other household pests such as fruit flies and fungus gnats, and don’t need the ants to survive.
6. Stonecrop Attracts Ants For Pollination
The final plant on this list is a popular groundcover in many areas because it is tolerant of both drought and abundant rain.
Stonecrop is a type of succulent that easily propagates and spreads from broken-off segments.
These properties make it an ideal groundcover and many people grow it over rock retaining walls or in dry, clay garden beds.
The Stonecrop Plant actually Needs Ants For Pollination
Stonecrop is unique in that it requires ants for pollination.
When it blooms, the sweet, sticky nectar attracts ants, who then move the pollen between flowers.
This plant makes a great, low-maintenance groundcover, but be careful when planting it too close to the base of your home or doorway.
Instead, keep at least a couple of feet of space between the home and the stonecrop to prevent ants from finding their way inside.
What Should You Do If You Already Have Ants?
Now that you know the six most common plants that are attracting ants to your home, you may be wondering what you can do to eliminate them and repel more from coming around.
Read on to learn some tips for getting rid of ants and five plants you can plant to actually repel ants from your home.
If you have a lot of ants and are not sure how to tackle this problem, we always recommend contacting a local professional to assist you.
Seal Any Holes In Windows And Screens
The first step to getting rid of ants in your home is to seal any cracks and crevices they are entering from.
Ants find their way around by leaving scent trails that are closely followed by the rest of the colony.
We have all seen a line of ants marching along in a single file, so you likely have a good idea about how they move.
Ants Use Pipes And Wires Strategically In Your Home
What you may not know is that ants have a preference for wires and pipes which they use to create a straight path from point A to point B.
Another benefit for ants to follow pipes and wires is that there is a higher likelihood that there may be a crack in the caulking that holds these structures in place on the outside of your home.
These are common entry points that ants will take advantage of to get inside.
Other common places are through holes in window screens and screen doors, most likely in the kitchen where they have a straight shot to your cabinets.
Make sure to seal all of the cracks to ensure that once you eliminate the existing ants, others won’t be able to follow in their path.
Use Repellent Essential Oils
Another effective way to eliminate ants from your indoor and outdoor plants is to use strong-smelling herbal essential oils and sprays.
Ants hate the smell of strong herbs such as peppermint, rosemary, orange, and thyme.
Spray these oils such as Mighty Mint Insect and Pest Control Spray and spray around the base of your plant pots, doorways, window sills, and any other place where ants may be used to enter your home.
Ants lay down scent trails so that they and their colonies can follow the same path to food and water, and these strong-smelling sprays disrupt these trails.
Not only do these scents disrupt the scent trails, but the odors actually deter the ants from the area altogether.
You can view our list of scents that ants hate for more info on this!
Clean Up Ant Trails
The one good thing about ant trails is that they make it very easy to identify where they are coming from and where they are going.
Ants don’t carry around a map and compass, but rather use their noses to identify the paths they take toward food and water, so one effective way to disrupt their paths is simply to clean them up.
Use soapy water and a vacuum, mop, or even a sponge with soapy water to clear up the scent trails. Make sure to do a thorough cleaning at the entry points as well.
Move Attractive Plants Out Of The Entryway
Now that you know which plants are attracting ants in the first place, empower yourself with this knowledge and move the offending plants out of your entryway or porch.
Keeping attractive plants near your home will only lead them right through your front door.
Plant those enticing flowers and plants further out into your yard, and replace them with plants that will actually repel ants from your home.
Read on to learn about five amazing plants that will deter ants.
5 Alternative Plants That Repel Ants
Of the many plants that repel ants, many of them are beautiful and fragrant additions to any garden.
Many of them are also delicious herbs that would be perfect to use in your own recipes at home!
Fragrant Herbs Like Lavender, Rosemary, and Thyme Deter Ants
All of those herbs that are broken down into repellent essential oils are actually just as effective in their plant form. They are effective due to their strong fragrance that is unpleasant to ants and disrupts their scent trails.
Herbs such as lavender, rosemary, and thyme among others will not only repel ants but are also fragrant and beautiful to look at. These plants are best grown outside but could be started indoors in a well-lit window.
You may eventually need to move them outdoors where they will thrive in well-draining soil with plenty of sun and water.
Keep these plants near entryways and windows where they will repel ants from finding their way in.
Here’s our full list of houseplants that repel ants if you’d like to do a bit more research there.
Repel Ants By Planting Varieties of Mint
Mint is one of the most effective plants for deterring ants and other pests that may be plaguing your home.
These strong-smelling mint plants grow well in pots or really any other medium.
The one drawback of mint is how prolific it is. The trailing ground cover sprouts up from the roots and can easily crowd out other plants.
Unless you are okay with mint taking over your entire garden, keep the plants contained in pots or planter boxes.
Because of its hardiness, mint can even be grown on a windowsill indoors in a well-lit window.
Marigolds Deter Ants And Other Pests
If you prefer flowers over herbs, marigolds are a perfect option to deter ants and many other pests from the home.
Marigolds not only repel ants, but rodents, insects, and other pests.
Marigolds are vibrant yellow or orange and grow well in small pots and flower boxes, making them a perfect addition to your porch or entryway.
Marigolds do require a warmer climate, so make sure to bring them indoors over winter so they won’t be in danger of frost.
Chrysanthemums Are Another Flower that Repels Ants
Chrysanthemums are another beautiful flower that repels ants as well as mosquitos, fleas, ticks, and many other pest insects.
Pyrethrins are natural pesticides produced by chrysanthemums as natural pesticides that are toxic to insects and are actually used as an ingredient in traditional pesticides.
Chrysanthemums are best grown outdoors and are less tolerant to small pots indoors, requiring plenty of light and space to grow.
Ants Hate Garlic
Vampires aren’t the only pests that are repelled by garlic. The fragrant plant is incredibly effective at repelling ants due to its strong smell and acidic flavor.
Garlic can be grown indoors in spacious pots with plenty of depth to house the bulbs, which is where the majority of the growth occurs, with grass-like foliage that protrudes above the soil.
Make sure you harvest the garlic as the foliage begins to wilt and brown, replacing the bulbs with new ones to grow all year. You can even grow garlic from kitchen scraps.
If a head of garlic has been sitting on your counter for long enough, it will put out a green shoot. Plant the garlic head with the shoot sticking out of the soil and then simply water and wait for your garlic to multiply under the soil!
Ant infestations can be troublesome, getting into your pantry and even causing damage to your indoor and outdoor plants.
Luckily, there are many plants you can avoid or keep far from your walls and windows to prevent ants from finding their way in.
Try to avoid:
- Roses and other aphid-attracting flowers
- Tropical plants and their sweet sap
- Fruit trees such as apples and pears
- Carnivorous plants
- Stonecrop and other succulents
If you do choose to plant anything on this list, take some basic steps to deter ants from your home, including sealing off any holes in your walls or windows, cleaning up ant trails, and using peppermint or herbal essential oils.
Additionally, intersperse some plants that will deter ants from your home including strong-smelling herbs and mint, marigolds, chrysanthemums, and garlic. Following these steps should keep your home ant-free!
Robert L. Metcalf & Marcos Kogan (1987) Plant volatiles as insect attractants, Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences. 5:3, 251-301.
Janet Lanza, Edward L. Vargo, Sandeep Pulim, Yu Zong Chang (1993) Preferences of the Fire Ants Solenopsis invicta and S. geminata (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) for Amino Acid and Sugar Components of Extrafloral Nectars. Environmental Entomology. 22:2, 411–417
Junker, R., Chung, A.Y.C. & Blüthgen, N. (2007) Interaction between flowers, ants and pollinators: additional evidence for floral repellence against ants. Ecol Res. 22, 665–670.
Robert R. Junker and Nico Blüthgen (2008) Floral scents repel potentially nectar-thieving ants. Evol Ecol Res. 10, 295-308.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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