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#131: Bug Talk: Ants on Peonies with Lisa & Rhonda

by | May 3, 2022

Ants on peonies…did you know they are beneficial? Ants patrol the blooms for the sweet nectar and inadvertently protect the nectar and the blooms from pests in their greediness!

Why do we find ants on peonies? Because of all the sweet nectar they produce! Peonies have extrafloral nectaries (EFN) – they exude nectar from other parts of the plant beyond the inside of the flower. Ants feed on this nectar, which becomes more plentiful closer to blooming.

Ants are not garden pests, they are hard workers with lots of garden duties! Ants are predators of garden pests, they aerate the soil, and perform cleanup of decomposing debris. Rhonda encourages you to observe ants in your garden to see what they’re doing, as different types of ants have different jobs. Lisa and Rhonda briefly discuss the differences between native and non-native insects, and how humans affect the spread of non-natives.

Lisa talks about peony harvesting on her farm and shares some great peony tips from Dave Dowling:

  • Peony buds can be held in a cooler at 34 degrees for at least a couple of weeks. To store them in water in a cooler, harvest blooms at the “marshmallow stage.”
  • Quality and quantity of blooms for next year depend on water intake in July/August of this year, so make sure your peonies get enough water in summer, irrigating if needed.
  • Leave as much stem and foliage on the plants as possible so that plants continue to gather energy through the season. Lisa only cuts up to 24” stems no matter how tall her peonies are.

Links & Mentions:

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The Field and Garden Podcast is produced by Lisa Mason Ziegler, award-wining author of Vegetables Love Flowers and Cool Flowers, owner of The Gardener’s WorkshopFlower Farming School Online, and the publisher of Farmer-Florist School Online and Florist School Online. Watch Lisa’s Story and connect with Lisa on social!