Ants in Your Succulents? What to Do
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.
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.)
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.
Move 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.
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 snout-nosed weevil is a half-inch-long black beetle with a downward-curving proboscis that enables it to pierce an agave’s core, where it lays its eggs. Grubs hatch, consume the agave’s heart, then burrow into the soil to pupate.
Your Autumn Succulent Checklist
This autumn succulent checklist will help you keep your prized plants snug and healthy during the fall and winter months.
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.
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.
Thanks for the heads up about ants. I thought they were just nesting there, in my succulent pots, and didn’t know they were actually eating the core! I will try Dr. Bronner’s soap and would like to add that in the house I use Murphy’s Oil Soap in the spray bottle (it’s diluted from the concentrate). I spray it in the corners of the kitchen and all around the trash can. Ants hate it. It kills them on contact. They won’t step in it. If you spray their access hole they won’t come in that way anymore. But don’t put it on floors where you walk. It is very slippery! I have also used Terro, which is borax based, which is toxic in large doses, and it worked. But before it was even used up the dispenser filled up with dead ants and their buddies started cruising the kitchen again. They can become insensitive, immune, avoid it, or in some way it stops working. I spray aphids with rubbing alcohol. It kills them, but the ants just walk away and live to farm another day. Stronger and more effective, is Windex. Yes, like in My Big Fat Greek Wedding! It works! It might kill the ants, and it for sure kills the aphids, and as I understand it, it doesn’t harm the plants and in fact has nutrients that benefit them.
Hi Lynne — Sometimes it seems like ants are cells that make up a giant brain determined to invade and conquer, LOL. I know a succulent nursery owner who uses Windex on mealy bugs, maybe aphids too. I didn’t know about the nutrients…surprising bonus! Thanks for a great comment.
Hi, question for you on the Diatomaceous Earth …is it ok to put it directly in the soil of a pot? Will watering it with it on top harm the plant itself or roots?
Also the same question with cinnamon, is that effective and can that be put directly into the soil in a pot? Thank you!
As far as I know, neither silica nor cinnamon—being harmless natural substances—won’t have any impact on plants or their roots, wet or dry.
This is a lifesaver I live in South Florida and so it’s always raining I’m always fighting root rot and all the pest theme to gang up on me. The cinnamon works but I never knew if the oil was harmful. I’m going to try the Windex as well. I finally have my arsenal,so perfect! thank you thank you thank you.
Hi Desirea — I’m glad you found it helpful! Thanks for letting me know. Now…go get ’em!