Ants of all kinds are a deep frustration to anyone who has them. Carpenter ants, Red ants, Crazy ants, field ants. The list goes on because there are millions of species of ants around the world. The most common ants to infest potted plants are black garden ants and, strangely, fire ants. The danger of fire ants is clear, they bite and their bits hurts a great deal. So when you watering your plant or pulling away dead leaves you are very likely to get bitten. The black garden ants, also known as the common ant does not bite humans.
Now an important thing to understand about ants that live in potted plants is they are not interested in the plant at all. They do not eat plant material. What they are interested in is a sweet honeydew like excretion given off by the insects that are damaging your plants, aphids and mealybugs are a good example. The ants will eat this extraction from the soil and then kill off insects that could harm the aphids or mealybugs to ensure they have a good supply of food. In this process, they are allowing damage to happen to your plants. Both the common ant and the fire ant do this. The fire ants are better at it with their painful bite and their ability to work in total unison to take down a larger insect makes them a serious infestation and a major danger for your house plants. The fire ants are some of the most common ants to use the plant for hiding. They will make nests in the soil and use the plant as a way to get food from the aphids while staying out of sight from the plant owner. So you will need to inspect carefully and make sure to wear gardening gloves and if you find them, brush them off quickly, you do not want a fire ant bite.
Once you know you have ants in your house plants you can be sure that all your plants will soon die because the ants are killing off any predators that could kill aphids or mealybugs. They will do this forever, spreading to every plant in your home. If you have a lot of plants this can become a full infestation of not just the plants but also your home as convoys of ants will be travelling from one house plant to another, protecting the bugs that are killing your plants. How do you deal with this? How do you get rid of ants in your house plants? You can do it easily using simple home remedies or domestic pesticides.
An effective domestic insecticide for ants in interior potted plants is Permethrin. You spray it over the soil and the ant and likely every other insect will die. This is a more severe treatment and can harm delicate plants. You can also set up ant bait stations containing a bait made of Boric Acid. This is a chemical you can also buy in a hardware store or grocery store in the form of a soap called Borox. Another option is silica powder called diatomaceous earth. You can buy food-safe diatomaceous earth from the grocery store. It will not harm the plants at all but will kill all pests that try to infest them. You can go so far as to replant all your plants with a mix of diatomaceous earth in the soil itself. Or sprinkle it over the soil. Make sure it does not go so deep as to be able to cut the small roots of the plant. If you want a purely home remedy you can mix soap and water with peppermint oil. This will chase the ants away and may even kill some from the oil’s strong smell. Make sure to shake the bottle well with every spray as the oil will separate.