Monday, February 21, 2011

Peonies and Ants

How many have heard of the old wives tale about ants
being required in the opening of peony blooms?
Or that peonies will cause an infestation of ants?


When I was a child every old garden had peonies in them it seemed.
I  have always lived in or near this small town, you all know that town where they say if you blink when passing through it you will miss the whole town?
Well that is my small town.
I think everyone had peonies because they were a pass around plant and the women sharing their garden plants and roses was just the normal, economical and kind thing they did.
I remember both my grandma’s had them  growing along the fence that surrounded their vegetable gardens or by the front porches.

So Peonies are a sentimental flower to me just because they
a bring back memories of Grandma’s garden so it is only natural that I had to have at least one peony growing in my flower garden.


I also remember that  the peony buds were always full of these big black ants.So when the ants started getting on my peony buds I got curious and living in this great age of computers and Google I did a search about ants and peonies.
Little did I know that there was this idea that peonies had to have ants to open the blooms. Another claim was not to grow peonies because they cause an infestation of ants.
I had to chuckle about all of the stories that were flying around out there in cyber space about peonies.
So when in doubt you go to the source and
Peony grows should know all of the facts.


In this instance I went to the Heartland Peony Society website. Low and behold they have a fact sheet just on the
subject of Ants on Peonies.
On both subjects of needing ants to causing ant infestations
it seems they both may be an old wives tale.
The ants are attracted to a nectar that is produced by the blooms but the ants are not required to open the buds for the peonies to bloom. And in fact the ants are attracted to some peonies but not all peonies so they do have their favorite buds. And although the nectar attracts the ants to the buds they leave when the blooms are open and move on to other delicacies so you will not get infested with ants because of growing peonies.
But I kind of like the old wives tale and like to think that just maybe the peonies need the ants to open their blooms.
So just enjoy your big beautiful peony blooms and determine your own ideas or tales about them.
What can it hurt?


Pink Sorbet
I have enjoyed this pink Sorbet peony for many years now
and the ants come and they go.
I have planted a couple more peonies in the last year but they have not matured to give me blooms as yet so I am holding on to the hope that just maybe this spring…

Happy Gardening,


Carol............. said...

Your photos are absolutely gorgeous!

scottweberpdx said...

Ha...I think about that every year too...and even though I was pretty sure the Peonies didn't REALLY need the ants, I always get a chuckle thinking of the little ants helping out the Peonies, just the same :-)

cherry said...

I am eating Zesty Lemon Sorbet from Haagen - Dazs digging on your pink Sorbet peony Oh how I wish we cold grow Peonies down here.. Love your new blog header PRETTY..
hugs from Savannah, Cherry

Jeanne said...

We had an abundance of peony Festiva Maxima in the garden of my childhood home. I called them "ant bushes" and never knew the right name for them until much later. My sister rescued them when we sold the house and I am glad they are alive and well in her garden. I planted several peony as soon as I could at my new home. Love them!

Darla said...

They are beautiful flowers...I do not grow these but have heard the tales of the ants on them...

Becca's Dirt said...

I'm gonna have to get me some more peonies but this time I'm going to purchase somewhere besides walmart. Your peonies are so pretty. What a pretty and healthy plant. Hope you are having a good day.

Patsy said...

Your Peony is just lovely, my great Aunt had them when I was a kid so that got me started.That and the rose is my favorite but when I see your photo's I change my mind lot.

Jan AKA Wammy said...

Love your peonies! They remind me of my grandmother and once whem I picked some outof her garden and brought them in...she wasn't happy..."got those piss ant flowers out of here!"

Last year about this time we lost our neice Sarah Beth Napier after a five year battle with cancer. She would be 32 this year. A friend sent we a web site...there is a peony called Sarh Napier and it is pink...just like breast cancer awareness. I am going to plant tone this year in the yard to honor her.Go ot and read what she easy about her battle.

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Lona, peonies are also part of my childhood memories. My aunt grew them all around the perimeter of our small yard. I had a huge bouquet of them for my Eighth Grade Graduation photo. The peonies were beautiful, it was my bold striped dress that looked awful.


Anonymous said...

Hi Lona, I know that it is an old wives tale, but like you, I kind of like the idea that the peonies and the ants work together. Perhaps a general fondness for this old wives tale is the reason it continues to be spread around cyberspace.

Jess said...

Awk. They. Won't. Grow. Here. Makes me jealous. Freakin Peonies.

jezibels said...

On the rare occasion that I cut a peony to give to someone (Im one of those who believe a cut flower is a dead flower so I rarely bring arrangements indoors) I noticed the ants crawl off the flower as soon as they noticed its stem was cut, you can lay it down in the grass and all the ants will leave it.

Shirley said...

I grew up with peonies and love them still. I have and adore pink sorbet! I like the old wives' tale myself. Great post!

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

I'd heard the same thing about ants and peonies too, but never saw ants on mine. I had to move my biggest peony this winter and am sad that it probably will be awhile before it blooms. But I did plant 'Sorbet' a couple of years ago and am looking forward to some blooms as pretty as yours. I saw some bright red new growth coming up today on it.

Rebecca @ In The Garden said...

Gorgeous pictures, peonies are a sentimenal favorite of mine too. My grandmother had rows of pink peonies and tomatoes growing together. I have planted many over the past few years, and am waiting rather impatiently for them to mature and bloom profusely.

The Redneck Rosarian said...

Great post. Have always heard the same thing about peonies needing ants to open..... Yours are gorgeous!

Anonymous said...

Peonies are my favorite flower. I think it is because they are so fleeting up here.I love the form color, and even the ants are kinda fun to watch. I have three planted and have dug them up and sent them off to live in new gardens many times. I always have to wait a bit for the mother plant to recoup, but it is always worth it for these long living plants to have offspring all over Niagara.

My neighbors peonies have been in for 106 years, and no one ever moved, fertilized or split them. They are gorgeous and so full of flowers with absolutely no care what so ever.

VW said...

I remember my grandma bringing buckets full of peonies, lilac blooms and forget-me-nots that us little kids would put on graves during Memorial Day weekend - sweet memories. Like you, I have a few that haven't bloomed yet. I read that you're supposed to cut off the buds the first year so the plant will grow stronger, but I won't have the self-control to do that!

Anonymous said...

Ah, I love your peonies...they are one of my favorites, too.

T Opdycke said...

The blowsy peony never fails to attract my attention. I planted three Sarah Bernhardt peonies after reading and seeing the photos in a book about Tasha Tudor's gardens. I loved those beautiful blooms, a sweet pink, so pretty.

I'd heard the tale about peonies needding ants, but never if it was true or not. Now I know. I kind of liked thinking of the two living things in a sort of symbiotic relationship.

Hope the sun is shining on your spot in Ohio.

Joe Todd said...

Lona love the Peonies but this Ohio weather is something else. The Header on my blog is a photo taken last Sat. on the Cemetery Ridge trail at Clear Creek near the barn. I think there is some nesting going on LOL. Sun is on it's way I hope

CanadianGardenJoy said...

Lona girl I did research too because I really don't believe a lot of the old sayings ... I knew nectar had to be the bait for the ants and that the ants would leave when there was no more of it to be had ;-) but it is fun to look things up like that.
I love your peony ! It is perfectly PINK !
I have the single flower type called Flame .. very red petals with yellow/orange "flame-like" coloration in petals .. it doesn't need staking which was a huge factor for me .. I do have it in a square tomato cage though , to make doubly sure ? LOL
I have to have one of everything ?
Joy ;-)

Anonymous said...

Makes me hungry for spring!

Corner Gardener Sue said...

Hi Lona,
I enjoyed your peony photos and information. I was shocked to find out the ants don't help the blooms open! The 3 peonies I have were my mother-in-law's when she lived here. I am so ready to see the next round of blooms!

Stephanie said...

Interesting fact about ants and peonies! I just saw ants on my newly opened Hibiscus red shield flower and an orchid flower spike. They are probably looking for nectar like yours. Btw, Lona, you have a pretty peony! I look forward to seeing your other peonies soon.

Karen said...

Lona, I always grew up hearing those two tales too, and it's nice to see them cleared up. I had a friend whose husband wouldn't let her grow peonies because they would 'attract' ants. How silly! I have two varieties of peonies growing here that came from my grandmother's family and I love them so much. One is a very dark maroon...I always wondered what the variety was, and the other is very much like the pretty pink one of yours. So many memories with these flowers (and I'm going to build a peony lamp next, as soon as I'm done wrestling with the rose bush!)

Anonymous said...

'Pink Sorbet' is beautiful! I hope you get some blooms this year Lona. That's the hardest thing about planting peonies for me ~ the long wait for blooms.

I have ants on my peonies and have heard that wives tale too. Unlike you, I never googled it tho so hats off to you for checking it out. I've also noticed yellow jackets on the peony buds so that makes sense now ~ they're attracted to the nectar too.

Janet said...

I am glad to read those 'rules' dispelled. I can't wait for my peonies to start blooming. Have ordered a few more...for my family name garden...Charlie's White and Rachel which is a red one!

Annelie said...

Lona, Love your pink peonies!
When I first started gardening, I too thought that something was wrong with my flowers - that they were being infested and in trouble.
Googled ants and peonies and found what you just told us. Whew!


sweetbay said...

I never believed in the old wives' tales about ants and peonies, but I've always thought 'Pink Sorbet' was fabulous. It looks beautiful in your garden!