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Hort in the Home Landscape

A blog devoted to sharing timely horticulture topics and answering the questions of gardeners and homeowners.
2014-05-27 19 51 19

Are Ants Really Required to Help Open Peony Buds?


As gardeners I'm sure many have heard the folk tale that ants are needed to help open up the buds on your peonies. I've always heard this as well, but logically, never believed that to be true. In my head I just always pictured muscled up ants prying open the peony buds. Not very likely.

Well after checking with various Extension sources, it's been confirmed. Ants are not necessary to the opening of peony buds. The Iowa State Extension Entomologist states in one of his publications that it is true that there is a special relationship between ants and peony buds. However, the relationship is the reverse of what the folk tale claims. The peonies don't need the ants, but the ants do take advantage of the peonies!

Peony buds have very small extrafloral nectaries (special glands that produce nectar) along the outside edges of the scales that cover the developing buds. Ants devour this mixture of sugar, water and amino acids in what may resemble a feeding frenzy. In exchange for the free nectar, the ants drive off pests that might nibble on the buds. But rest assured that the peony flowers would open normally and on time even without ants walking across the surface of the bud.

Want to get rid of the ants before bring the peonies inside to enjoy? Simply dunk the flower heads under water to help remove the ants.

Check out a couple of his other garden myths debunked here: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/newsrel/1999/may99/may9904.html



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