Rinse ants out of rootball

Late summer into fall, Argentine ants like to nest in the root balls of potted plants. Haworthias, aloes (especially dwarf varieties), gasterias and gasteraloes are highly vulnerable. Ants overwinter in the soil and consume the plant's juicy core. Leaves eventually fall off and the plant dies.

Ant-infested succulent

Ants push soil up from below.

The first line of defense is to create a barrier around your pots using ant powder or diatomaceous earth. The latter, available at garden centers and online, is the best "green" solution. (Go to my Useful Tools page for more about it.)

Rinse ants out of rootball

Rinse ants out of the rootball. Click to see the video. 

If an infestation is well underway---ants swarm when you water the pot or tap it on a hard surface---unpot the plant and wash the roots until pests are gone (you may want to wear gloves). Btw, I tried soaking plant and pot in a bucket of water, but ants will burrow, cling, float and manage to survive.

Before replanting in fresh soil, place a square of fine-mesh screen in the pot to keep ants from re-entering the drain hole. A roll isn't expensive and you can share it with gardening friends.

Pot in a moat of waterMove the plant to a different location and/or surround it with a moat (ants can't swim). Add water to a bowl or other shallow container and, to keep the drain hole above water, set the pot atop rocks or gravel. Be vigilant until the weather cools in October.

Mealy bugs on aloe

Ants "farm" other pests for their sweet secretions. The best preventative is good air circulation. Aphids attack new growth, and mealy bugs (shown below) nestle under leaves and in leaf axils. Spray with isopropyl alcohol (70%). Isolate plants you've treated, and trash any that are badly infested. Indoor plants are especially susceptible. If you find pests on one plant, be sure to check its neighbors.

More info on this site 

Agave Snout Weevil Prevention and Treatment

Agave experts, growers, and pest management specialists advise drenching the soil around healthy agaves with a systemic insecticide containing imidacloprid.* Untreated agaves are at high risk of infestation. If treated early enough, an infested agave may survive.  The agave snout-nosed weevil is a half-inch-long black beetle with a downward-curving proboscis that enables it to pierce an agave’s…

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Ants on a gasteria

Your Autumn Succulent Checklist

This autumn succulent checklist will help you keep your prized plants snug and healthy during the fall and winter months.

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2 Comments

  1. Jacquelyn de Graaf on September 29, 2020 at 12:49 pm

    Ants…they want our house and entire garden! We were losing the kitchen until I took out a bottle of “dr. Brommer’s Peppermint soap’. I laid a line in pure soap around the entrance to the counter and just let it sit there. The ants eventually try to cross it, get stuck, their friends join in, and ….you can either leave it there [husband will let it sit for weeks] or wipe it up, and start a new line. Eventually, that batch will stop.

    The same ants in the garden, when you find the nest, I pour diluted peppermint soap over the entire nest. It’s non toxic and effective.
    It’s a big yard, but neither one of us will quit. I am buying the soap by the gallon-size now. Just started this technique this year.

    I think I have also had luck using corn gluten at my parents house. Ants eat it and their hour-glass waistlines can not handle the swelling corn grain. The entire yard used to wiggle. It has been about 10 years since the house became mine, but I am just now starting to think about using the corn gluten again. I am going to try corn glulen at my “home” garden, but not in kitchen. Let me know if you try it.

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on October 1, 2020 at 3:13 pm

      Hi Jacquelyn — Your sense of humor is delightful. The whole yard wiggles, LOL. I’ll try Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap. Here’s a bit of trivia for you: Dr. Bronner (who clearly was eccentric, but on to something) was from my home town of Escondido, CA. He and my dad knew each other.

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