Ants in Potted Houseplants + How to Remove Them

Ants are attracted to the less humid environment controlled potted plants in homes. Potted houseplants grow in a controlled environment while indoors. Most homes have plants that do not require plenty of water to survive. These conditions provide a good habitat for ants to thrive in.

To get rid of ants in potted plants, combine 2 ounces of apple cider vinegar with 4 ounces of distilled water. Then sprinkle the solution on the leaves and stem twice a day. However, never use hot water, straight cider, or white vinegar directly on plants and the soil.

Before spraying anything on plants, check its effect on the soil PH and how it will affect the leaves. Potted houseplants are often nourished with compost from the yard which contains lots of insects. This makes it easier for ants to nest and form colonies at the base, right inside the pot. Bigger colonies are a potential threat to the plant’s survival and growth.

Ants in Potted Houseplants
Ants in Potted Houseplants

Can ants live in potted houseplants?

Potted houseplants provide a perfect environment for ants to nest and thrive comfortably. The moisture and air levels in the soil are sufficient due to the constant humidity regulations. Watering of the plants is on an interval basis to reduce over-watering. Ants can live in potted house plants due to the following reasons;

  1. Compost introduced to the soil for nutrient’s supplement may also encourage an infestation depending on its content.
  2. Potted plants are often lacking enough nitrogen, which forms the perfect condition for ants to thrive.
  3. Temperatures inside the pot are conducive and moderate for their survival
  4. Sugar excretions released to the soil by other insects like aphids


Ants living in potted houseplants increase the aeration of the soil. Aerated soil allows for ease in movement of air to the roots and direct penetration of manure. However, the benefits if dependent on the type of plants the ants are accessing.

Ants are attracted to sugar. They eat sugary roots to build on their energy levels. Accessing the roots might also cause an indirect impact on the plants’ growth and productivity. Exposure of the roots to room temperature might lead to poor growth of the plant.

Soil temperature has an effect on root growth. Room temperature is often affected by many factors including activities within the room. If the room becomes too hot for many days, the roots will also be experiencing the same change.

Very high temperatures will dry up the plant. As the ants make ways in and out of the soil in the pot, they disturb the roots by creating paths to reach their food. Soil disturbance negatively affects the growth of plants.

Causes of ants in houseplants

In most cases, ants are attracted to potted houseplants due to the insects that feed on the plants. Among the common insects that are found on potted houseplants, including aphids, armyworms, and mealy bugs.

These insects secrete sugary content. For ants, in potted plants, it is easier to access the sugary content without facing threats of natural elements. Ants in potted plant roots look for habitat at the base by burrowing into the loose particles.

Compared to the field where changes can be drastic, the temperature in homes is fair and does not change drastically. Forming nests in potted plants is also an easier way for ants to get access to rich sources of foods placed in the pots as manure.

How to get rid of ants in houseplants without killing them

Getting rid of ants in potted plants depends on the type of plant and the level of infestation. For a plant not largely infested, a simple home solution would be making an essential oil solution and spraying it on the plant, soil, and the pot.

Ants are easily repelled by strong odors, which essential oils such as thyme, lavender, yarrow, or citrus provide in plenty.

To make the solution, mix 50% of water with 2-3 drops of essential oil of your choice. Place the solution in a spray bottle and shake well. Then Spray it directly to the plant, soil, and around the pot. Repeat the procedure in an interval of 48 hours to make the pot repellent1. Changing the pot

Another simple home solution is re-potting the plant. Ants that burrow inside the soil are attracted to food in the soil. Despite the benefit of aerating the soil, the damage to the plant might be significant. As such, the best approach in addressing this condition is moving the plant to a new and sterile pot.

2. Watering regulation

A harmless solution to getting rid of ants in the soil without hurting them is increasing the water content in the soil. Ants cannot thrive in an environment where they are submerged in water.

Despite the wax on their body surface that helps them float on water, it also presents a danger for ants with possible damage to their skins. However, do not over-water the plants.

3. Vinegar

Vinegar and lemon juice are also strong alternatives that can help rid of ants in potted plants. They love sugary and sweet scents but are repelled by strong pungent smells. Vinegar produces a very strong smell that would disorient and kill ants.

Introducing vinegar near the plant in a saucer or a small tin would make it hard for ants to come near the plant. However, you have to dilute water with vinegar for ants since the acidic nature of vinegar may ruin the leaves if it is not neutralized.

4. Lemon

Similarly, lemon juice is strongly acidic and strong acidic odors repel ants that nest in the pot. Therefore, a combination of water and lemon juice could be sprayed near their nesting points source to repel them. Lemon extract can also be introduced in the pot to deter and make them leave. Here is what to do:

  1. Cut 2 lemons into pieces with the peels and blend them to form a juice
  2. Add 6 ounces of water into the solution
  3. Pour this into a spray bottle and shower the plant with the solution

5. Cinnamon sticks

Lastly, ants in a potted houseplant can also be removed using cinnamon sticks. A cinnamon stick provides a strong odor that works well towards discouraging ants from nesting in a pot’s soil. Here is how to use it;

  1. Purchase a cinnamon stick if there is none in the kitchen
  2. Place one or even two sticks in the soil and water the pot lightly to make the stick damp
  3. Depending on the number of sticks in the soil, the odor will be absorbed into the soil
  4. Remove and replace the sticks in an interval of 48 hours for effectiveness
  5. Place cinnamon powder on the circumference of the pot to repel other ants


  • Felix Odi

    Hi, I’m an experienced author and content creator with over 18 years of experience as a publisher. Growing up in rural areas of Bristol, FL, I developed an interest in pest control, fish farming, and poultry keeping. Farming is a main activity in the area, and pests are always part of our major setbacks. I had to learn how to get rid of them with simple DIYs.