Getting Rid of Ants in Outdoor Potted Plants

Trying to safely get rid of ants in your outdoor potted plants can be frustrating. This is a guide about getting rid of ants in outdoor potted plants.

September 4, 2008 Flag
2 found this helpful


What is the best way to keep fire ants from setting up shop in outdoor potted plants? After recently transplanting two ornamentals, I noticed ants in the newly placed potting soil. I utilized Sevin Dust water hose treatment, but this was without success.

Hardiness Zone: 9a

Jo from Louisiana


Hi Jo,

One of the best products I have found for keeping ants out of my flower pots (and my house) is diatomaceous earth (DE). Just sprinkle a tiny bit around the base of your pots or on the ants' "runs". It won't hurt your plants if you also want to spread a little on the topsoil.


I like DE because it is organic and it is safe. It contains nothing more than the powdered skeletal remains of tiny algae-like plants called diatoms (and maybe some water). DE is considered a mineral-based pesticide. It is made of up magnesium, silicon, calcium, sodium, iron, and several trace minerals. You can find it at garden centers, feed stores, and some health food stores, or order it online. DE is usually sold in 1-2 lb bags and has the look and feel of ground up chalk. I'm not exactly clear whether ants ingest it, or just perish as a result of coming into contact with it, but either way, it dries them up within about 30 minutes of exposure. The only caution about using diatomaceous earth is that you should not continuously breath any of the dust. Once you open the bag, you may want to store it in an additional bag to help contain the dust. I've used DE both indoors and out. I also have pets and have never had any problems, but like any pesticide, I restrict their contact with it. Always read and follow the label directions carefully.


Another organic method I've read about is scattering worm casings 1 inch thick across the topsoil of potted plants. Apparently, fire ants (and whiteflies) in particular don't care for this. I have not tried this method personally, but I like the sound of it. You are feeding your plants, while keeping troublesome bugs at bay. If you try it, let me know how it works. You can order worm casings online, get them from worm composters, or find them where organic garden products are sold.

Good luck!


Comment On This PostWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes
June 24, 20080 found this helpful

When I lived in Louisiana, I used raw grits on red ants. I am not sure why they kill the ants, I've heard the ants "explode", but it did work. Non-toxic & cheap - worth a try.

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June 24, 20080 found this helpful

Grits are corn. Ants do love corn but they don't eat it. Their larvae do. Adult ants don't eat solid food. Their larvae have big strong jaws that pulverise food before digestion. Adult ants don't.

Messing with fire ant colony makes two thinsg happen: one, they attack the messer . . . two, they move the queen, brood of babies and whole colony elsewhere and rebuild.

SEE: ... y/non-chemical/97-01pg4/97-01pg4.htm

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June 25, 20080 found this helpful

I use epsom salts mixed with ground up orange peel that have been left in a jar overnight so the orange oil can soak into the epsom salts. Sprinkle it around any place you see ants and in ant mounds and they will move away quick. Here is the website I first found this on.

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June 26, 20080 found this helpful

Would you consider planting mint in the pots? I planted mint in my garden at our old house to keep the ants out. Worked like a charm. But be careful, mint can and will take over your garden so it's best to plant mint in a pot.

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June 27, 20080 found this helpful

My sister-in-law had a big ant bed in her potted plants and my father-in-law told her to use boric acid, it worked very well. The plants started growing like they were fed plant food.

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September 4, 20080 found this helpful

I was recently in North Carolina where there were fire ant mounds everywhere. When I asked the person I was visiting how they rid the yard of the ants she told me something that may be helpful to you as well. Should you find any ant mounds in the yard, pour grits in and on the mound. When the grits get wet, it swells up and kills the ants. (or so I am told) Let me know if you try this and let me know if it works. I'm just interested.

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September 4, 20080 found this helpful

One of the best things to keep fire ants away, is to sprinkle their mounds with sugar substitute.This product is a neuro-posion and was orginally made as a fire ant killer. REALLY!

The workers carry the poison back to the queen and it kills her.

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April 25, 2011 Flag
1 found this helpful

I have a large pot outside with several kinds of plants in it, I just discovered it is full of small black ants. When I moved the pot, the ant "holes" were all under where the pot has been sitting for quiet awhile. Does anyone know how to get rid of these little devils without killing my plants or having to dump the entire pot? Thanks, any help would be appreciated.

Hardiness Zone: 8a

By Harden from NC

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April 26, 20111 found this helpful

Sprinkle in a little cinnamon.

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April 27, 20111 found this helpful

I have had good luck with cinnamon. Just sprinkle it on top of the soil and they should leave.

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September 10, 20160 found this helpful

first I lifted up my plant and was grossed out. I've been spraying with HOT SHOT ant spray, so I soaked the ground with ivory and water then dawn with water and finally cinnamon. The cinnamon seemed to do it.

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September 15, 20160 found this helpful

I wouldn't use cinnamon on the soil. I tried that and it killed my plant.

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August 17, 2012 Flag
0 found this helpful

How do I get rid of ants in the soil of my outside plants on my patio?

By Brenda C from Clinton, NC

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August 20, 20120 found this helpful

I place my plants in a large saucer or tub containing about an inch of soapy water, then flood the potting soil with a soapy-water solution (a little Dawn dishsoap in water). The soapy water will kill the ants, which can't get away because of the water in the saucer/tub. When the ants climb up the pot or up the plant, I spray the soapy water on them. But don't do this in sunlight because it can burn the plants. After the ants are dead, I spray clean water on the plants to remove the soapy water. I've never had a plant die, and I put all my plants out in early spring, each year. Sometimes, I'll water my plants with soapy water just to make sure they don't contain any ants before bringing them in. It's a cheap solution to an aggrevating problem.

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Anonymous Flag
November 19, 20150 found this helpful

hi susan my name is lanell I have red ants in my plant outside and im not sure how they got there but I just read your answer to my question but I have a question how long does this that for the plant to completely get out and how offend to I spray the plant thank you

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