How to Remove Ants From Peony {or Any Flower!} Blooms

May 25, 2022

Why are there ants on your peony or flower buds? And how do you get rid of them?

How to cut and enjoy these beautiful flowers inside, and why you shouldn't get rid of those tiny ants while the plant is blooming!

It’s one of my favorite times of the year -- peony season. :) It’s a downright shame they only bloom for a week or so once a year!

I recently shared how to arrange grocery store flowers to make beautiful arrangements, but sometimes I want a bouquet made up of just one type of flower. Bonus points if it's as fluffy and pretty as the peony! 

I picked up our state flower and planted my first bush years back at our first home. I saw them blooming at the nursery and thought they were lovely, but I didn’t fall head over heals until they really started producing:

light pink fragrant peony

Now? I’m obsessed. If they bloomed all summer I’d have them everywhere, but for now I stick with hydrangeas for season-long flowers. :)

I'm pretty sure the variety above is the Hermione. The scent is heavy and absolutely intoxicating. I’ve never smelled a flower like it!

There are a TON of peony varieties, in pink, hot pink, white, red and coral colors. 

I wrote a post sharing everything you need to know about growing peonies years back that is very helpful. They are actually quite easy to grow. 

The trick is to plant them correctly from the start!

hot pink peony

Once open, the full blooms sometimes fall to the ground because they are so big and heavy. I love them!

Why are there so many ants on peonies? 

These little critters can be a nuisance if you want to bring your beautiful blooms inside, (more on that in a bit), but you WANT them while the plant is blooming!

Ants are beneficial insects and not harmful to your peony plants! 

Ants eat away at the nectar on the peony bud, and many say that this nibbling helps the unopened buds to bloom. I've always been told not to use any kind of insecticide near them for that reason. 

Some say that this is an old wives tale, but I choose to believe that the little critters are helping. ;) At the very least, they keep other insects from destroying the buds as they open up. (Ants are very territorial!)

After the peony blooms, you shouldn't see nearly as many ants, but you will still have some small insects like on any garden flower. 

How to remove ants off of cut peony and flower blooms from the yard.

These gorgeous blooms should be enjoyed! If you want to cut them to bring inside, I have a few tips. 

The easiest way to remove bugs is to hold your cut stems upside down and give them a good shake -- sometimes I lightly smack them against each other. This should remove a lot of the ants or insects. 

You can also give them a light rinse in a bucket of water or with the garden hose to remove them. 

But I go a little further to ensure there are no bugs inside my cut flowers:

getting bugs off of cut flowers

I give them a bath in some cool, soapy water. I went a little heavy on the soap in that pic above, you don’t need quite that much. But the soap will not harm the flower. 

Let them soak for a few minutes:

how to get insects out of cut flowers

At first the water will make them droop but don’t worry, they’ll bounce back and perk up after drying!

Before I put any cut flower in a vase I cut off any leaves that would be in the water -- leaving them can turn the water gross fast. I rinsed the flowers very lightly (they look so delicate but are strong!) and then lightly tapped them against the side of the sink to get most of the water out. 

After drying they will puff up like crazy again!:

bright pink peonies white vase

There are only about six peony blossoms in this vase and it’s crazy full:

large pink peony blooms

It’s always an internal struggle for me when my flowers bloom -- do I leave them outside and enjoy them there or bring them in? But of course I end up bringing them in so I can look at them all day. :)

If you are in the right zone (the further north the better) these are incredibly easy plants to grow. I do next to nothing every year. Here are a few more tips on the peony: 

  • There are two things peonies need -- full sun and a cold winter. They need the cold to create buds, so those of you far south will probably get a green bush and nothing more. 
  • At least in Midwest, the blooms typically open up between mid-May and early June. 
  • The blooms will look good on the plant for about a week after fully blooming. 
  • You can cut down the plant anytime after the blooms are gone, but I leave it throughout the summer and fall because it’s such a big, lush plant.

Peonies are one of my all time favorite flowers!:

pink peonies glass vase

Have you tried this little trick for removing bugs from cut flowers? Please feel free to share your tips!

Check out my tips for keeping cut flowers looking great way longer

tips for making flowers last longer

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  1. Gorgeous! Peonies are my favorite flower and the only flower I used at my wedding. I have a few bushes planted around my house and love watching them get ready to bloom!

  2. My grandmother's neighbor grew these in her backyard in rows like corn! I used to just go and lie down between the rows and close my eyes and smell! She always let me pick a few and invited me onto her porch to drink Tang! What a delicacy. That was in South Carolina, and her plants always bloomed beautifully, so perhaps they were a variety more adapted to that zone. We had a ton in our last house as well, I need to plant more!

  3. I have a neighbor (I live in Ohio) that has a ton of beautiful bushes and every year I say I'm going to plant some, too. And every year I don't get around to it. My new mission in life is to find the perfect spot in my yard for some peonies!

  4. So, SO pretty! I just wish they lasted longer once they were cut. A friend of mine has six bushes, but only three bloomed this year, so I didn't get any from her garden. Luckily, Trader Joe's had them so I treated myself to a bouquet. Definitely my favorite!

  5. I love peonies! If they aren't produce many flowers you might want to raise them up in the ground if they are too deep you will get little or no flowers. I will have to try the soap trick for the ants.

  6. Wish I'd know that about the ants. My sister cut some and put them in my car and I had ants all over the place. lol But it was worth it because they are beautiful and the smell heavenly.

  7. At my nephews wedding last June, all the brides and bridesmaids bouquets were peonies. The reception tables all had beautiful arrangements of peonies! I t was gorgeous, and smelled Heavenly!

  8. Beautiful! They actually do quite well here in Atlanta, especially this year after our crazy cold winter. It is a shame they only bloom once however. Mine were huge this year. We had transplanted them last year, so I was not expecting much. Apparently they love their new location!!

  9. I am in CT, and I have 3 plants that came with the house (we have been here since 2001). I have a big light pink one that is just starting to open, but my other 2 plants have no buds this year. No idea why!

  10. Beautiful! I'm thinking about planting hydrangeas this year but I really love these peonies :)

  11. They look beautiful! I've heard the same trick about putting hydrangea heads in water to help them perk up too, but I've yet to try it. I have the same white pitcher filled with white/green hydrangeas right now on my counter...and am anxiously waiting for blooms on my tiny little peony plant. I planted a bare root/tuber (whatever it is) last spring, so it'll be a while before I get nice blooms on it. :-(

  12. Peonies are so gorgeous! Thanks to Instagram I've become obsessed with the idea of growing peonies in my own backyard!

  13. They are gorgeous and I absolutely love Peonies. I planted two plants three years ago. One bloomed last year. I think I got one small flower. Neither bloomed this year but I think it's my soil. We have Missouri clay. Not good! and I didn't amend it when I planted them because truly I didn't know anything about gardening at the time. I have started to fertilize now so maybe they will bloom next year. Crossing my fingers.

  14. I have a hot pink peony that is over 25 years old. It was started by my sister-in-law's mother many years ago and replanted in my mother's garden. Later, I dug into it and brought some home as an offshoot of my mother's favorite plant. Even though it has been hacked into many times, it still survives. Cindy took some home, and last spring Maureen took some and actually had a bloom this spring. Val took some from my garden to plant in Maryland as a remembrance of her grandmother. My friend Nancy also took some, so in spite of all the hacking done on this same plant, and it continues to live and bloom. I also have some dark maroon peonies which I took from Grandma B's garden, not quite as fragrant, but very beautiful. Last year someone actually stole some of the roots and I was fearful for the life of the plant; BUT I'm happy to say it survived and produced 7 lovely blooms this year. Each spring I take the appropriate colors to the cemetery to put on their graves so they have yearly pleasure with flowers from their plants, but sadly I wasn't able to do that this year because of too many other problems. Maybe next year? I love peonies, too!!!

  15. I too am in love with these flowers! Funny thing is I had never seen in one real life until about three years when we moved. One spring we were cleaning out a very neglected flower bed at our new house and saw this stick of leaves growing. I was going to tell my husband to just dig it up and throw it into the compost pile but I forgot. Thankfully it didn't get pulled up because later that spring it bloomed some people peonies! Fell in love with the flowers instantly!

  16. Peonies are so beautiful!! esp that shade of pink. I love it :D

  17. Beautiful! Especially Love the last pic:)

  18. I also love peonies. We have about five different colored bushes but we didn't get to see them bloom. We were gone the month of May and they had already dropped their petals once we got back. I wish we could have seen them. I'm going to check to see if there are some late bloomers.

  19. Your flowers are gorgeous!! Love them! Need to get some in different colors off that list.

  20. Your Peonies are so pretty. I didn't know you could wash them like that. I have two plants, one in the ground and I just bought a new one that I need to put in the ground today (if the rain would stop). I have had a few ants on mine, but someone once told me the ants help them open. I am not sure if that is really true or not.

  21. They don't grow here in TX, but I love them so much. Thanks for the tip!
    -Shan from

  22. Your peonies are beautiful. Absolutely do not remove ants from peony buds. They really do help them open. They eat the sticky stuff that is on the buds and the sticky stuff would prevent them from opening. My peonies have always bloomed on Memorial Day week but this year they are over a week late in Central Iowa.

  23. One of my ALL time favorite flowers. They are full bloom in our zone in April...I had 5-6 outside my daughter's nursery...her birthday is in the smell reminds me of my beautiful baby girl (now 16!) I do not grow them in my yard now but my neighbor has 5-6 HUGE plants and I "steal" cuttings every year...the fragrance of these flowers is amazing! The ants...cut the flowers after all the dew has dried and then just shake the little boogers right off! As you mentioned, cut ALL the leaves off that will be in the water. I cut the tips of my stems (about 1/4") and change the water ever day to keep them fresh!

  24. And yes Michelle...they have to have the you don't want to spray the actual bush for ants!

  25. As some others already mentioned, be sure not to treat peonies for ants while outside developing buds. It is a favorite memory of ours (that actually just came up in conversation this weekend) about how my grandma screamed at my grandpa for spraying her precious peonies for ants. they didn't open that year, and she was so furious! Oh how our husbands try to "help."

  26. If you want to enjoy those beautiful blooms later in the summer, simply cut the flowers JUST as they are beginning to open, dip the cut stem in melted wax (to seal the cut steam) and keep in a fridge. When you want to arrange the flower in a bouquet, you simply take the stem out of the fridge, cut the stem, and place in room temp water. These will keep for WEEKS in the fridge! This is a trick i learned from a florist I worked for. She used peonies for bridal bouquets late in July that she picked in June!

  27. Dear Sarah,
    I sent you an email a week ago, but I'm assuming it went to spam. I was hoping it would reach you, because you would have seen just what an inspiration you are to me. I spoke of redoing my kitchen after following your blog since last July. Over the past year I've been tweaking things here and there in my kitchen and the final result is amazing. I have you to thank for your amazing blog, the best step-by-step instructions, and most of all for simply being such an inspiration. Before this make over, I would pass my kitchen so quick in order to avoid seeing it. Now, it's my favorite part of our home. I can't stop looking at how beautiful it has turned out. Again, thank you so much.

  28. It's not much of a "trick"; I cut them as long as I can (leaving other unopened buds) just when they're starting to open about 1/8th of fullness. Put the entire bloom and short stem (they're nearly always just a few inches stem length) into a cold bucket of water, put a screen cut about 1" smaller than bucket diameter and put it over the flowers, forcing them down under the water. Let set for 5 minutes or so in the shade, first thing in the morning (about 6 a.m., before it gets hot and the sun comes around). That gets rid of any ants, but if you pick the flowers when they're just starting to pop, there should not be too many ants. Another trick is to fool the ants away from the peonies for a little while by leaving a thin trail of sugar away from the plant out into your lawn (away from the house!) Back to the bucket of cold water -- after 5 minutes, take the bucket out to the lawn, run the hose in it to over flow and flush out any remaining ants that haven't managed to escape to safety. Remove screen, shake flowers and place into a short vase filled with cold water and a little flower preservative. My peonies cut that way last about a week before going peaked looking. Such wonderful perfume! Mine are double-ruffled pinks -- I've no idea of the botanical name for them, they're just lush and full. My plants took a couple of years once planted before they started producing flower buds. But they're very hardy, survived last winter, one of the worst I've experienced in many years, with unending streaks of 20 to 30 below zero temps for about 8 weeks. The plant that gets the most direct sunlight for the longest time is the most prolific bloomer. One plant in a shadier area of the garden (dappled shade), has only managed to set a few blooms each year. But I don't have a good place to transplant it! A third plant, a remnant that was accidentally left behind when I transplanted plant 2 to an area I thought it would do better in (I was wrong), also gets a lot of sun and produces quite well. I was surprised all get out when it popped up the following spring, despite being overshadowed by my aggressive day lilies. It's gotten bigger each year since, despite the day lilies.

  29. When my first plant had buds I too was disturbed by all the ants on my plant. I used ant spray to remove them thinking they would eat my blooms up. My buds never opened! Shortly after I was telling a of mine about this and she said to never do that because the ants eat off that sticky glossy layer so they can bloom fully. I never did it again. And like the others posted you can remove them pretty easily to bring them indoors. I have a special love for the peonies. My mother always grew them and they always bloomed at the time we had our play day at school.
    Every year she would make corsages from the blooms for my teacher and those of my other 6 siblings. The teachers were so happy to have a grateful parent do such a nice thing for them. They do smell wonderful and are so beautiful. What woman wouldn't want to wear one? I was always so proud of my mom's thoughtfulness. I think of her lovingly every year when they bloom.


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