Ant Plant Care Guide (Hydnophytum)

Strange and unusual: the ant plant is a houseplant like no other. While it may be small, the ant plant is a unique beauty that will be the conversation starter in your home.

These plants are surprisingly easy to care for; read on for further information about this peculiar plant as well as an in-depth general care guide on how to care for an ant plant.

Background

ANT PLANT CARE

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The ant plant is a common name for species of plants that belong to the genus Hydnophytum. Native to southeast Asia, these plants are an incredibly unusual and fascinating plant species.

Hydnophytum plants earn their nickname the “ant plant” from their symbiotic relationship with ants. Ants burrow within the bulbous stem of the hydnophytum, where they receive shelter and protection from predators and the elements.

In return, the hydnophytum is protected from other pests and the waste left behind by ants provides nourishment for the plant. Don’t worry – keeping this plant in your home will not result in an army of ants, this relationship takes place in the wild.

Ant plants are rather small plant, only reaching a height around 5” to 7”. Despite their small height, their peculiar appearance make up for it.

You may want to keep your ant plant on a high shelf or a secure area. These plants are known to be toxic to both humans and animals. It is highly advised to exercise caution when keeping this plant around children or animals.

Here we have some non toxic plants that are safe to keep around little ones and furry friends!

Ant Plant Care

aant plant

Sun & Light

The ideal light condition for the ant plant is bright, indirect light. These plants are also tolerable in a low light environment, though bright light is ideal for optimal growth.

Soil Type

Keep in mind that the ant plant is an epiphytic plant; they require a soil that has chunky material that allow for drainage and maximum airflow between the roots.

Many plant owners prefer to plant their hydnophytum in potting mix tailored to orchids. Both orchids and ant plants are epiphytic and have the same soil requirements, making orchid soil interchangeable with the ant plant.

Water

The ant plant enjoys semi-moist conditions; it is important to keep your plant hydrated while also avoiding over-saturating the roots with water.

A good method of ensuring you are giving your plant the correct amount of moisture is to wait until the top few inches of soil has dried up before rehydrating your plant.

Fertilizer

Ant plants require moderate feedings during the spring and summer. Do not fertilize your ant plant during the fall and winter when your plant is dormant; the excess salts in the fertilizer can cause the soil to acidify to deadly levels.

Apply a diluted fertilizer with a balanced NPK ratio; this should be done once a month.

Temperature & Humidity

Being from southeast Asia, ant plants are partial to warm, humid climates. The ideal temperature range for your indoor ant plant is between 65° to 80° F.

As for humidity, a level that is above 50% is ideal, though the ant plant is capable of withstanding drier climates.

Pruning & Maintenance

Because ant plants tend to be so slow growing, not much pruning is required when owning one. However, if you do come across any dead or damaged leaves while gardening, it is always a good idea to prune them in order to encourage newer, healthier growth.

Choosing a Container & Repotting

Ant plants are incredibly small plants, most specimens do not reach taller than 7” in height. For this reason, they require small pots.

However, the most important aspect of selecting a pot for your ant plant is drainage. These plants require a pot that has multiple drainage holes that can easily expel excess moisture.

Ant plants are very slow growing and small, so their pots do not require resizing. However, because ant plants live in chunky aroid soil, it would be beneficial to change out the soil every year.

Over time, the aroid materials slowly break down and the soil becomes less draining, which can lead to the higher chance of trapped moisture.

How to Propagate Ant Plants

base of an ant plant

The ant plant can only be reproduced via seeds. Luckily, it is possible for a mature household ant plant to produce seeds that plant owners can collect for propagation. In addition, many online retailers sell ant plant seeds as well.

Follow these steps to grow an ant plant from seed:

  1. Fill a bowl of sphagnum peat moss and soak it in water. You should put enough water in the bowl to cover the peat moss. Allow this to soak for a few minutes while you continue to prepare the seeds.
  2. In most cases, ant plant seeds will come in a small oval-shaped pod. Gently open up this pod to reveal the actual seed within. Do be cautious of the size of the ant plant seed, it is extremely small and can easily be lost. I recommend doing this over a plate so that you can easily collect any dropped seeds.
  3. Remove the moistened peat moss and wring out the residual moisture. Fill a plastic cup with multiple drainage holes with the hydrated peat moss.
  4. Gently place the seeds onto the peat moss; the seeds’ small size requires shallow depth.
  5. To increase the rate of germination, ant plants need bright light, warm & humid conditions, and consistent moisture. You may opt to place a clear plastic bag over the cups in order to increase the humidity and create a greenhouse effect.
  6. It can take a while for the seeds to germinate- some varieties require at least 6 weeks before you notice sprouts. When the seedlings reach at least 1-2 inches tall, it will benefit them to be transplanted in an aroid soil.

Check out these perfect propagation stations we recommend.

Common Pests

ant plant

In the wild, the ant plant relies on its symbiotic relationship with ants to protect it from pests. In your home, you will have to be your plant’s protector from common household pests such as mealybugs.

While pests can be a nuisance to find in your home, they can easily be dealt with using simple solutions. Mealybugs in particular leave behind a sticky residue that has a cotton-like appearance; this can be cleaned by wiping your the affected area with rubbing alcohol.

For most pest problems, spritzing neem oil onto your plant a few times is a natural approach to eliminating pests.

Common Diseases

Like many epiphytic plants that prefer well-draining conditions, the ant plant is susceptible to root rot. Root rot is caused by an excess of moisture, which develops into fungus and breaks down the root system of your plants.

Epiphytic plants heavily rely on aerated roots, and are very sensitive to waterlogged soil. Signs of root rot commonly include wilting, discolored leaves.

While root rot can be extremely deadly, with quick action, it can be remedied. Follow these steps:

  1. Gently remove your plant from its pot and inspect the roots. Healthy roots are off-white and firm in color, whereas rotted roots are dark and soft.
  2. Using your pruning shears cut away any roots that are rotted.
  3. When all the rot is cleared away, repot your plant in the appropriate soil in a pot with ample drainage.
  4. Keeping the soil lightly moist for the next couple of weeks is key in avoiding any transplant shock.

Where to Buy

Ant Plant FAQ

Are ant plants rare?

Yes, ant plants are considered to be an extremely rare houseplant. They are slow growers and cannot be propagated by stem cuttings like most other plants; they only reproduce by seed. As a result, it is difficult to mass-produce ant plants for the public.
They are not often available at most garden nurseries. If you are in the market for an ant plant, your best bet would be locating niche rare plant breeders. You may also find luck in purchasing ant plant seeds; while growing from seed does take a long time due to the slow growing nature of the ant plant, it is rather straightforward.

Why is it called Ant Plant?

The name “ant” is derived from the Ancient Greek hydnon “tuber”, and phyton “plant”, after their appearance with their swollen succulent stems. The species grow in tree branches and on trunks. Like the related genus Myrmecodia, these interesting plants are known as ant plants or ant-house plants.

If I buy an ant plant, does that mean ants will be attracted to it?

Not at all. The relationship between ants and the hydnophytum only exists in their native habitat of Indonesia, where they rely on one another for survival. You can safely own an ant plant and keep it in your home without worrying about an army of ants marching in.

In Conclusion

As you can see, ant plants are a superb plant to keep inside your home. Despite being very rare, they are low-maintenance and require simple care. If you are lucky enough to come across an ant plant, do not hesitate to snatch it up! You certainly won’t regret it.

Looking to discover how to care for more unique plants? Check these out!

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