How To Get Rid of Ants in Potted Plants and Gardens

How To Get Rid of Ants in Potted Plants and Gardens

Anyone growing plants outdoors has dealt with ants and knows what pests they can be. Surprisingly there are some situations that they are beneficial to your garden and plants but overall most people want them gone because they can harm people, pets and plants more often than not. These solutions are some of the best all natural methods on how to get rid of ants in potted plants and gardens.

Ants in Potted plants

I am always looking for natural ways, natural ingredients and natural methods to improve the beauty and health of my house plants without having to use poisonous or hazardous materials. I have kids, pets and eat from my garden so choosing eco-friendly and safe products is really important to me.

Although ants do not typically kill outdoor plants as a food source, they can destroy budding flowers and harm loved ones. For someone who has worked diligently to make sure that the plant has beautiful blooms in the springtime, this act of sabotage is unacceptable. Thankfully, there is an easy way to nip the ant problem in the bud without using harmful chemicals and only natural deterrents.

What is the best way to get rid of ants in potted plants?

Diatomaceous Earth

The best and most natural solution for getting rid of ants in potted plants in diatomaceous earth. It is well-known and well-researched natural solution for getting rid of ants in plant pots and gardens.

Diatomaceous Earth to get rid of ants in potted plants

How to use diatomaceous earth to get rid of ants?

  1. Sprinkle a small handful of diatomaceous earth on the old potting soil of the flowerpot.
  2. Sprinkle a small handful of diatomaceous earth on the ground around the perimeter of the flower pot and fresh soil.
  3. Repeat Steps 1 and 2 for each flowerpot and pot plants with dry soil.
  4. Wash your hands thoroughly after applying the diatomaceous earth.
  5. Spread diatomaceous earth after heavy rain and windstorms or once per month for the best results.

Tips & Warnings Of Natural Solutions

Diatomaceous earth is composed of the fossilized shells of tiny creatures that lived in oceans and lakes, making it an all-natural product that is safe for consumption. It is even used to kill intestinal worms and parasites in both humans and animals.

Although this substance is non-toxic, you should consider using gloves, a face mask, and safety goggles if you are going to cover a large area. The particles look and act like tiny shards of glass, which is what helps to kill the ants. However, it might irritate your eyes and lungs if you handle too much of it.

Other Products That Keep Ants Out Of Potted Plants

Ants can be beneficial insects for your garden plants, by helping to clean up debris and refuse like fallen fruit and dead insects but, in great numbers, they can become pests in your container garden. A combination of physical and chemical controls can help repel and kill ants that are trying to get into your pots.

Ant Repellents

Peppermint oil spray to deter and kill ants. This is a great solution for how to get rid of ants in potted plants.

Can be one of the most effective ways to keep ants out of unwanted areas. Ant-repellent powders are effective at keeping ants at bay when dusted onto the exterior of the plant pots, as well as the ground surrounding the pot. Such products can be obtained from a garden store. Boric acid is chemical well known for its ability to repel ants but isn’t considered natural if that’s something you’re looking for.

For a natural ant repellent opt for food-grade diatomaceous earth powder for the ant colony (like it is described above), available from most health food stores. Diatomaceous earth is effective against all type of colony of ants and many other insect pests.

Another natural ant repellant is peppermint oil. You can buy a product pre-made or make your own with peppermint essential oil and water.

Cinnamon is another natural ant repellant. I have personally used cinnamon in both my home and yard with great results. You can make an essential oil spray to use like the peppermint oil or just sprinkle ground cinnamon around the perimeter of the flower pot to keep ants away. The biggest con for using cinnamon and peppermint oil is the need to reapply more often than chemical options.

Ant Baits

Ant bait are a great way to get rid of garden ants and can eradicate an entire ant nest, killing it off before its inhabitants invade your potted plants. The University of California recommends baits over insecticide sprays, saying the former (baits) are more effective.

Potent ant poisons and chemical pesticides come formulated with chemicals like fipronil, hydramethylnon, and arsenic trioxide which of course you want to avoid if your looking for natural solutions.

To use the ant bait you simply set it out near your potted plants by the product’s labeled guidelines, since toxicity and range of efficacy vary by product.

Two of my favorite more natural ant baits are Harris and Maggies Farm which use borax as their active ingredient.

A Tray Is A Good Idea

A simple kitchen tray with a lip can be an effective means of warding off ants. The tray should be large enough to accommodate the base of the plant pot, and should also have a 1/2-inch or higher lip.

Put the pot in the tray and add water up to the tray’s rim. This essentially creates a watery moat that the ants can’t cross. If your plant pot has drainage holes on the bottom, water is absorbed through the holes and has the positive side effect of watering your plant.

Insecticide Soap Is An Effective Ant Killer

Standard over-the-counter insecticide soap, available at garden stores, can help eliminate ants that are already present in a potted plant. Because the ants will often set up a colony in the pot itself, control methods must target both the pot surface and its contents.

The University of California recommends filling a plastic bucket with soapy water of insecticidal soap at a rate of 2 tbsp. of soap per quart of fresh water. Gardeners can then submerge the entire plant pot into the soap solution, sinking it to a depth where the water covers the surface of the soil inside the pot. Soaking the pot in this manner for 20 minutes will kill all of the ants.

Ants are nuisance insects that you don’t want inside your home. Although ants do not harm potted plants, they are farmers that collect other insects, such as aphids and scales, and bring them to many types of indoor potted plants. Once there, the insects eat the plant, which can cause health problems. The ants eat the insects’ secretion, a sticky sweet substance called honeydew. You can choose pesticides or organic remedies to control an ant invasion.

Ant Stakes For Any Ant Species

Commercial pesticides are readily available that you can use inside your home to control large numbers of ants that appear on your plants. Easy-to-use ant stakes contain a poison that worker ants carry back to the queen in their colony, which causes her death and destroys the colony. Some brands of ant stakes remain effective for up to three months when you use them indoors.

Barrier Treatments

Sticky substances are effective in keeping ants off your plants. Some barrier products contain toxic pesticides, while others are considered organic. You use a pest barrier by spreading a layer of it around the trunk or base of your plant, or the lip of the pot. You can even cover an area on the outside of your house with it if your ant infestation is severe. When ants try to walk over the sticky barrier, their feet become trapped and they cannot escape.


You can prevent ants and ant nests from entering your home by making sure all of your window screens are in good repair. If you have any holes or breaks in your floor or siding, seal them with silicon caulk. Always clean up all food, including scraps in your kitchen sink strainers.

Seal your garbage tightly, or better yet, compost it. Store foods that ants like to eat in tightly sealed glass jars or plastic zipper bags—appealing foods include sugar and foods containing sugar, pet food, cereals, and grains.

Also, keep tree branches and all other plants pruned back from your house. Another simple cure is to move your affected houseplant outdoors and flood it by submerging it in a bucket of water—ants will quickly vacate the flooded soil.


Corn meal can serve as natural repellents to ants if you sprinkle it around the border of your house. Ants will eat it, get thirsty, and then swell up and explode. Boric acid is effective against ants. Mix 1 tbsp. of 99 percent pure boric acid with 1/3 cup of mint/apple jelly. Dribble a few drops along ant trails and in areas where you have seen ants. The jelly attracts the ants and the boric acid kills them.

If you are looking for other pest control solutions for your indoor and outdoor plants be sure to check out my article on Neem oil, a complete natural and effective pest control solution.