Ants in Containers with Houseplants: What to Do

Getting rid of ants in your houseplants can be extremely frustrating, especially as they can return just when you think you’ve seen the last of them. But fear not, as there are numerous ways that you can act to protect your plants, so we’ve listed a few handy ideas and tips below.

Hopefully, you’ll be able to bring your ant problem under control, enabling your blooms to thrive and you to enjoy an ant-free home!

What you need to know…

Despite being an annoyance, ants rarely attack houseplants outright. They are in fact looking for other bugs, such as mealybugs, aphids, and scales. These bugs do kill houseplants. But why do ants like them? The simple answer is that they’re big fans of honeydew, nutritious and sweet excrement produced by these insects.

Despite safeguarding plants against these pests, they’re also a sign that your blooms and shrubs are suffering from additional problems, many of which could get worse if left unattended. Ants, therefore, represent a warning sign and their presence should tell you of a need to take action.

Getting rid of ants in houseplants

The easiest and most effective way to get rid of ants in houseplants is to use a mixture of baiting and insecticidal soap. First things first, invest in a little ant bait and position it along trails leading away from your houseplants. But why should you do this?

Because it’s likely the ants in question have a bigger nest away from the plant. They will mistake bait for food, which should enable you to kill the entire colony and prevent any ant problems going forward.

Another tip involves placing the shrub or plant outside, then submerging it in water. The water level should reach slightly above the soil’s surface. Add between one and two tablespoons of insecticidal soap to 1-quart water and allow your plant to rest in this mixture for a total of 20 minutes.

This will result in eradicating any remaining ants residing in the soil. Finally, brush off any ants you can see on the plant itself and remove it from the solution, allowing them to drain thoroughly.

Alternative options for tackling ants

If you aren’t a fan of chemicals, fear not, as there are numerous natural solutions you can opt for too, all of which promise to deter ants. One solution is to use Citrus.

For best results, using the rind of citrus fruit, squeeze it over your plant, allowing the juice to cover the plant in a fine layer of juice. This will help you to repel ants and other unwanted insects.

Looking for something that is still natural yet more heavy-duty in style? Using six oranges, boil the rinds for fifteen minutes in water. Once boiled, blend the water and rinds in a food processor, before pouring the mixture around your plants.

Another option involves creating your own soap solution using one teaspoon of washing-up liquid and one pint of warm water. Once blended, spray it directly onto your plant, as well as around your houseplant.

Soaps with hints of peppermint oil are extremely effective, as are spices including cloves, cinnamon, chili powder, dried mint tea leaves, and coffee grounds. All can be scattered around the bottom of the plant to discourage ants.

Essential oils are another easy and effective way to deter ants from your houseplants. The likes of yarrow, thyme, and lavender are all popular options. To use, simply combine a few drops in a spray bottle full of water then spray the pot, plant, and soil.

How to keep ants out of houseplants

It’s imperative to place your plants in a clean environment, away from spillages and crumbs, as both can attract ants. Even if ants come into your house in search of food initially, it’s likely they’ll discover your plants once they’re – something you’ll want to avoid!

Other reasons ants are attracted to your plants

There are several reasons why you may have ants on your house plants; some are due to natural causes, and others, down to you, where you live, the season, and your home itself. Understanding why they’ve chosen to pay you and your plants a visit can help when it comes to getting rid of them.

Ants have a sweet tooth: ants, like many of us, enjoy sugary food. They have a heightened sense of smell when it comes to sugar, and can even smell it from some distance. They need this sugar to give them energy so if your home is full of it, it could quickly become a hot spot for ants.

Plants create sugary substances: when plants bloom, they often attract small insects such as aphids, which produce sweet excretions. Ants go crazy for these sweet scents, so watch when your houseplants bloom as that is the prime time for the creatures to visit.

Ants love rubbish: ants collect organic matter from plant pots, found in the soil, and carry it to their nests. They sometimes use this organic matter to grow edible fungi.

Ants drink water: just like the majority of animals (and us), ants necessitate water to survive. What’s more, they can smell liquid from an impressive distance away. If you’ve just watered your houseplants, it’s likely you’ll find a few unexpected guests surrounding them, especially if it’s extremely dry or humid outside and there is little water to be found.

Ants are explorers: even if you don’t have crumbs lying around the house, you can still have ants. These little guys are great explorers and your plant pots may just end up being the next spot on their go-to list. If you can, try to place houseplants away from doors and windows so the distance is that little bit greater.

Now you know how to get rid of unwanted ants, you can sit back and enjoy the many perks of your houseplants, from basking in their rich greenery to benefitting from their air-purifying properties.


Lily Calyx is our in-house flower whisperer, an expert on all things botanical and an enthusiastic orchids collector. She loves discussing the insights of the secret world of flowers, shares her gardening tips and hacks and moons over the latest additions to Serenata Flowers flower range. Ask Lily anything about flowers and we can guarantee she will have the answer.

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