Red Ants!

September 9, 2011

One of my favourite fall perennials is fall asters. I have, over time, separated and replanted mine, so I have about six of them, in different gardens. Late this summer I noticed that just one of them was looking very dry. I didn't think all that much of it, and just started giving it extra water. It seemed that the next time I looked, the plant was completely brown and crispy. See the photo below:

I checked closely and noticed the mulch was all dug up around the bottom of the plant and the soil seemed really sandy.  The sandy soil was full of red ants!  The only thing I can think of is that the sand was from below the soil, and something to do with the brick retaining wall.  There is no sand to be seen anywhere else.  

I did some 'google research' for humane ways to get rid of red ants. There are many ways, but I decided on the 'pour boiling water on the ant hill' approach. I also decided to pull up the fall aster and disgard it. I hope that was the right thing to do. The ants seem to be gone. 

This is what the healthy plant, about six feet away, looked like at the time. It should be in full bloom shortly, so I'll post a photo of it again soon.

If anyone has had a similar problem, advice, or a comment about this, I would love to hear it!

Happy Gardening, everyone.


  1. Doesn't that just make you sick. I've seen this before. They destroy the roots. I also have yellow jackets that bore in my dirt and what they discard looks just like that soil, but it is nothing more here than my clay. Once I pat it down I can tell what it is but it's interesting that it looks so different when separated by each tiny morsel of dirt. Look forward to your upcoming photos.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  2. Hi Diane
    The ants have been bad this year - lots of hills in the unilock walkway to the front door. We use the same approach, seems mean but they have become a real nuisance.
    And, I lost one of the newer echinacea selections because they were in the roots too - it turned brown and toppled over.

  3. Glad to see you back on the blog Diane! Sorry for your Asters. I love critters of all kind and will tolerate a fair bit of damage, but destroying perfectly good late-season interest is unacceptable! Hope these problems cease.

  4. Hi Diane, we don't have red ants, but have been inundated with little black sugar ants this year, it's crazy!
    BTW...YOU are my September giveaway winner!! So, email me your address and I'll mail out your earrings to you :) Cheers, Jenni

  5. I didn't realise that ants could do so much damage, I have found patches of them in my garden but, they haven't caused any damage to the plants.

  6. Dear Diane, We seem to have more ants than ever this year, but not red ants thank goodness. My husband uses the boiling water method, too. I want to say how much I enjoyed your 'progression' pictures in the sidebar. You have done an amazing job. P.x

  7. How upset you must have been. Another great reason to divide plants, as it is not so disappointing to lose a plant if you can replace it! Thanks for sharing the info on the red ants! Happy Gardening! Mindy

  8. Hi Diane, I have a similar problem both out front and in the back garden. I have tried ant traps to no avail. Like you have found red ants have done in several plants and a couple of shrubs. I may try boiling water at the back. In the front garden the plants are not dead yet, so this extermination method will not work. I love asters and look forward to seeing your pictures of them in bloom. Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

  9. I'm going to be on the lookout for ants after reading this! I recently have identified an aster (my only one) after forgetting exactly where I'd planted it. (I fell in love with the blue flower and wanted one...then thought it was lost until I noticed the bloom). Hope it doesn't fall prey to the ants. I don't have 5 to fall back on!

  10. WHAT??? I have never heard of this! How nasty! I have seen an increase of ants in our yard, but I don't think we've ever lost anything because of them. So sorry you have to deal with that!
    (I just noticed I wasn't following you, I am now your newest follower! I hope you will follow me!)

  11. An ants nest at the root of a plant will often kill it. It may not be sand. Ants bring up soil that looks like sand because they have made it that way. Part of the work they do. Not sure if they digest it first.

  12. I didn't realize that ants could actually do damage like that to a garden!


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