How to Get Ants Out of Potted Plants

Written by lisa parris
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How to Get Ants Out of Potted Plants
Use lemon peel or petroleum jelly to keep ants out of plants. (ant image by Ekaterina Shvigert from

Potted plants are an attractive addition to homes, patios and yards. However, little can spoil the loveliness of a container garden faster than an invasion of ants. If you see one ant, it is typically followed by many more. Fortunately, there are several easy ways to get ants out of your plants.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Boric acid
  • Sweetened condensed milk
  • Large bowl
  • Saucer
  • Washing powder
  • Cinnamon
  • Garlic powder
  • Mint
  • Lemon peel
  • Liquid dish washing soap
  • Vegetable oil
  • Spray bottle
  • Petroleum jelly

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  1. 1

    Pour one cup of boric acid into a large bowl. Add enough sweetened condensed milk to make a thick paste. Scoop teaspoons of the boric acid mix out of the bowl and roll the paste into balls. Position the balls inside planters near the base of affected plants. Ants will be drawn to the sweet scent of the condensed milk and ingest the compound, eliminating the ant problem.

  2. 2

    Place the pot that holds your affected plant into a large saucer filled with a mixture of water and washing powder. This creates a mote, or barrier, ants cannot cross. To remove ants that are already on the plant, saturate a cotton swab with isopropyl alcohol and dab it directly onto the ants. The alcohol dries out the exoskeleton of the insect, causing them to die from dehydration.

  3. 3

    Sprinkle cinnamon or garlic powder around the base of the affected plant or scatter mint leaves or lemon peels on top of the potting soil. The scent of these substances naturally repels ants.

  4. 4

    Make your own insecticidal soap. Combine 2 tablespoons of mild, liquid dish washing soap, 1 tablespoon of garlic powder, 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and 1 quart of warm water. Mix well and transfer the solution to a spray bottle. Spray the plant thoroughly. As an added benefit, this soap also discourages aphids and mealy worms.

  5. 5

    Coat the edges of your planters and pots with a thick layer of petroleum jelly. For additional protection, add an extra layer to the stems of the affected plants. The jelly creates a protective barrier, discouraging would-be ant invaders.

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