How to Get Rid of Ants in Potted Plants: A Complete Guide

Having ants around your potted plants in larger numbers can cause many problems. Ants love and are attracted to honeydew that is made by insect pests such as aphids, whiteflies, and mealybugs. There are many methods that can be used to get rid of them and we will cover most of them in this article.

So, how to get rid of ants in potted plants? There are several ways to get rid of the ants in potted plants. The most simple one is changing the soil of the plant and adding some insecticide repellent for ants. A more effective way is to destroy the entire ant colony with ant baits. When changing the soil, be careful not to damage the root system of the plant.

Ant Exterminators

The is so much more know about potted plants and how to protect them from ants. For starters, are there some plants that are more attractive to ants, and are there some natural methods that you can use for ant control? We have provided answers to these questions and more in the following sections below.

But first, let’s talk in more detail about how to effectively get rid of ants in potted plants. We have prepared for you our guide with recommended products as well. Let’s begin!

How to Get Ants Out of Potted Plants: Instructions

Ants in Potted Plants

If you already had a problem with ants in or around your house you will know how annoying they can be if they are left unattended. Ants spread and multiply very fast and they can even have multiple colonies.

In order to get rid of them in potted plants, we recommend applying one of our methods or combining both of them. Our guide is a sure way to get rid of the entire colony, which means that you won’t have to worry about them for quite some time.

Method 1: Ant baits and Insecticide Dust

Try to identify the routes ants are using to get near your plants. When you find them, plant the ant baits next to them. You can use a liquid ant bait that is perfectly safe to use around your home.

TERRO T300B Liquid Ant Killer, 12 Bait Stations
  • Attracts & Kills – Kills common household ants including...
  • Kills the Ants You See & the Ones You Don't – As worker ants...
  • Works Fast – You should see a significant decrease in the...
  • Ready to Use – Place the bait stations, watch it attract ants,...
  • Use Throughout Your Home – Place stations near areas where...

Another option is insecticide dust which is also very efficient. Simply apply the dust around your potted plants and on the ant trails. The dust will take effect and keep the area protected for quite a while.

Delta Dust Multi Use Pest Control Insecticide Dust, 1 LB
  • Delta Dust Bed Bug Insecticide - 1 lb.
  • Yield: 1 lb. of Delta Dust covers about 2,000 sq.ft.
  • Target Pest: Ants, Bed Bugs, Boxelder Bugs, Cockroaches,...
  • Active Ingredient: Deltamethrin, 0.05%
  • Cannot ship to NY or CT.

Method 2: Ant Spray

For all those ants that somehow avoided the bait, you can use a natural insecticide in the form of a spray.

No products found.

It works instantly and it is meant to be used on ants that you see. After these two methods, your potted plants will be free of ants for quite some time.

Related: Best Natural Ant Sprays | Kids and Pet-Friendly Sprays

Method 3: Changing the Soil

If you really want to keep the plants healthy then consider also changing the soil.

Burpee Organic Premium Potting Mix, dirt
  • Burpee Organic Premium growing mix is enriched with Burpee plant...
  • Perfect for container and raised bed gardening, this growing mix...
  • Formulated with coconut coir, a sustainable and renewable...
  • Omri listed for Organic use
  • Enriched with Burpee plant food

This will also mechanically remove any ants that are currently residing on your plant. If you do this, be very careful and try not to damage the root system of your plant.

How to Get Rid of Ants in Outside Potted Plants

The use of ant baits has shown the best results when dealing with ants that infest potted plants that are located outside. This way you will get rid of them for good because the insecticide bait will destroy their entire colony.

The following ant killer bait is recommended for outside use:

Terro Outdoor Liquid Ant Bait

Terro 1806 Outdoor Liquid Ant Baits, 1.0 fl. oz. - 6 count
  • Kills the ants you see and the ants you don’t
  • Pre filled bait stations are ready to use
  • Contains sodium tetraborate decahydrate (Borax) (5.40%) and other...
  • Flexible placement: in the ground using the stakes or on decks,...
  • Patented station protects the bait from the elements, prevents it...

Ants in Potted Plants| Information

Why Are Ants in My Potted Plants?

Several reasons can be identified as a source of an ant infestation around your potted plants. We already mentioned some insects that produce honeydew which ants use for food, but there are a couple of other causes as well:

  • Old potting mix – old potting soil can’t absorb water as good as a fresh mix. When this happens you will end up with the dry soil full of cracks. These cracks are heaven for ants to inhabit. If you notice that the soil is not absorbing water then it is time to change it. Do it carefully as the roots are easily damaged.
  • Homemade Compost – Compost is almost always warm in the center and that is a great place for ants to live and hide in. When using compost first check it for ants and if you see any of them simply don’t use it.
  • Watering– excess water can be very attractive to ants during hot summer times.

Can Ants Kill Plants in Pots?

Can Ants Kill Plants in Pots

Ants can rarely be directly responsible for dead plants. Sometimes when there are too many ants in the soil they can disturb their root system and cause the plant to die out.

Their tunnels in the soil can sometimes be even beneficial but if the roots or young or fragile, they can easily be damaged. Also, ants can carry various soil bacterias that can damage the plant. 

Are Ants Bad or Good for Potted Plants?

Having ants in your potted plants can sometimes point to bigger problems such as having other pests that ants are attracted to. These pests attract ants because they leave a honeydew trail that ants use as food.

When ants run into these insects and with their sheer numbers they will overcome them and as a result even kill them in the end. If you look at ants from this perspective, they can prove to be helpful in defending your plant.

Also, ants can help the root system of the plant by digging the tunnels in the soil and thus allowing better drainage and airflow. On the other side, an ant infestation can bring several types of plant diseases, so it is best to keep their numbers as low as possible.

Related: Ants in Garden: Are Ants Good for Plants in Your Garden?

Types of Ants in Soil of Potted Plants

The following ants love to infest potted plants:

  • Argentine ants
  • Odorous house ants
  • Pavement ants
  • Red imported fire ants
  • Southern fire ants
  • Thief ants

Related: How Many Types of Ants Are There: Ant Identification Chart

Types of Potted Plants That Are Attractive to Ants

Some types of plants are proven ant magnets and the common reason for that is the nectar they produce. Nectar is produced to attract pollinators to the plant, but because it contains sugar it can attract ants as well.

Common plants that attract ants are:

  • Peonies – this plant is one of the favorites when you want to bring a sweet-smelling plant into your yard. Ants are attracted to them because of the sweet nectar they produce.
  • Wild parsnip – this aggressive weed is found in the wet climate areas and it is almost always infested with ants. Again the reason for that is the nectar they produce and almost all kinds of ants will seek to infest it.
  • Desert willow – this attractive plant can be found in the southwestern parts of the United States. It commonly used when decorating the yard because of its attractive coloring and beautiful flowers. But like the plants above it produces the nectar that will lure the ants very quickly and in large numbers.

Ants in Potted Tomato Plants

For protecting tomatoes from ants you can combine some of these home remedies or simply use our above guide:

  • Peppermint, catnip, and pennyroyal are proven ant repellers. Planting them near your tomatoes can keep the ants away.
  • Place cucumber peels around your plant. Ants hate the smell of cucumber so they will keep away from the tomato.
  • If you notice the holes on tomato plant leaves, treat it against aphids and whiteflies. Once you get rid of them the number of ants should be lowered as well.
  • Make a garlic spray and use it directly on the plant and around it. Use the spray regularly because it will wear off quickly. Ants and other pests are repelled by garlic so it can be a universal help for many plants.

Ants in Potted Orchid Plants

Ants in Potted Orchid Plants

Orchid plants don’t attract ants but sometimes some insects that create honeydew will lure ants to them. If that happens you can try placing fly sticky tapes around the pot to keep ants and other insects physically away from the orchid.

If there is a larger infestation at hand you can also try diatomaceous earth. It will keep the ants away for some time. If that doesn’t show results then use our guide with ant baits in combination with replanting the orchid (changing the soil).

Carefully take the plant from the pot and remove as much soil as you can without hurting the plant. Place new soil in a different pot and plant the orchid in it. If you want to reuse the old pot clean it thoroughly.

Home Remedy for Ants in Potted Plants | Natural Methods

A lot of products regularly used in the home can be used to keep ants away from potted plants. These are the ones that show the best results:

  • Garlic Spray – mix oil, garlic, and water into a spray bottle and apply it directly to the plant and around it. This method requires regular reapplying.
  • Lemon Spray – make a spray that combines lemon juice and water. Ants hate the scent of lemons and will keep away from the area sprayed with it. You can use an orange spray instead of lemon for the same results.
  • Coffee Grounds – it will not only keep ants away from plants but it will also add some nutrients to the soil. Using coffee grounds has multiple pluses.
  • Peppermint – this plant will keep a lot of pests away from your plants so we highly recommend using it. We recommend getting a peppermint essential oil and making a natural repellent spray with it.
MAJESTIC PURE Peppermint Essential Oil, Therapeutic Grade, Pure and Natural Premium Quality Oil, 4 fl oz
  • 100% Pure and Natural: Majestic Pure Essential Oils are 100% pure...
  • Cool & Clear Mind: Experience what it feels like when you have a...
  • Aromatherapy way to a worry-free mind: A top choice by many for...
  • Diverse Uses: Mixing this Peppermint oil with a carrier oil can...
  • High Quality Essential Oil for Ultimate Care: Using the best of...


There are numerous ways to fight ants in potted plants, from insecticide baits and sprays to several natural products such as garlic and peppermint. Using insecticide will show faster and better results, but if you want to keep your garden organic then try using some of the homemade products that we mentioned.

If you are not sure what to do or you don’t have the experience, we will always recommend contacting professional pest exterminators. Once they arrive they can estimate the situation and the best way to handle the problem.

Either way, we hope we helped you to get rid of ants around your potted plants, because we know how dedication and time can go into them. For more pest-related content keep following our site. Best of luck!

List of Sources

Quish C., Ants and Plants, UConn Home & Garden Education Center

Gryder J., Do You Have Ants on Your Plants?, North Carolina Cooperative Extension

Turpin T., Ants in Your Plants, Purdue University

Rosumek FB, Silveira FA, de S Neves F, Ants on plants: a meta-analysis of the role of ants as plant biotic defenses, Federal University of Minas Gerais