Great Gardens Blog

Peonies and Ants…What’s going on there?

It’s hard to think of peony blossoms without also thinking about ants…

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When we get up close in the garden or cut flowers to bring indoors to display, that’s often what we see or find… loads of ants!

It’s often thought that peonies need ants in order to bloom, but the relationship is actually just mutually beneficial; the ants feed on the nectar of the peony blossoms and while they’re there, they protect the blossoms by deterring other pests from would feed on the flower itself!

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The ants are only there for a short time and are harmless, so insecticides are overkill and we discourage their use when unnecessary. This choice helps protect pollinator species, like bees and butterflies, and is better for groundwater, birds, and amphibians as well!

To keep the ants outdoors where they belong,  hold them by the stem and shake the fully blooming flowers upside down to shake them off, or cut them when they are at the “marshmallow stage” and they are easy to find and remove! At this stage, the flowers are closed, but showing a little color and are soft when gently squeezed with the thumb and forefinger.

When you cut them at the latter stage and place the stems in water, the blooms will evolve over the course of a few hours to a couple of days! In fact, you can even refrigerate them–ant free– to slow their bloom time down and prolong your enjoyment of your peony blooms for a few weeks!

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