Gardening Ideas Plant Problems Garden Pests Do Peonies Attract Ants? Wait before breaking out the insecticide. By Grace Haynes Grace Haynes Grace is a former Associate Homes Editor for Southern Living. She covered a variety of topics for print and digital, from design and flower arranging to cottage gardens and pets. Before moving to the Homes team, she joined Southern Living as a copy editor. Off the clock, find her strolling through neighborhoods around the South to admire the houses and snapping photos of colorful front doors. Southern Living's editorial guidelines Updated on March 11, 2023 Fact checked by Jennifer Hawk Fact checked by Jennifer Hawk Jennifer Hawk is a former English professor with 24 years of experience guiding even the most reluctant through the labyrinths of writing, rhetoric, and research. brand's fact checking process Share Tweet Pin Email Planting in partial shade could cause peonies to become leggy and require staking to support their blooms. Photo: Alison Miksch Peonies are a popular pick for Southern gardeners. The bright, billowy blooms are showstoppers in cut arrangements, and these sought-after beauties can even be grown in backyards. While blossoming peonies are welcomed into garden beds in spring, the swarms of ants that flock to the flowers are not. Wait before breaking out the insecticide—it's not a bad thing. Ants don't harm peonies; the insects actually help protect them. The myth that peonies rely on ants to bloom is false, but the two do have a mutually beneficial relationship, according to the University of Missouri. Peony buds secrete a sweet, sugary nectar that attracts ants. When one ant finds a nectar-rich bud, she releases a pheromone back to the rest of the colony, and an army of ants quickly traces the scent back to the food source. How does this help the peonies? In order to protect their valuable source of food, the ants drive off other insects looking to feed off the peonies. Once the nectar is gone, the ants will leave the bloom in search of more food, so there's no need to use insecticide to get rid of them. WATCH: Hey Y'all - Home Tour / DIY Window Box Planters For cut arrangements, snip peonies that are just beginning to open (they will have a longer lifespan in a vase). Be sure ants aren't coming indoors with the flowers. Submerge the heads of the cut peonies in a bucket of water to wash off any ants. To grow peonies at home, plant in autumn for spring blooms. These flowers can be difficult to cultivate in Southern backyards, because they need colder winters and often take two or three years to produce their signature wow-worthy blooms. But you're in luck: Peonies are easy to find at local flower shops and grocery stores to use in bouquets and cut arrangements. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources Southern Living is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources to support the facts in our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy. Warmund M. Ants on Peony Flowers: An Example of Biological Mutualism. University of Missouri Division of Plant Sciences Integrated Pest Management.