En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
1 rating

Saturday - May 22, 2010

From: McAllen, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests
Title: Plants ants avoid from McAllen TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Which native plants do ANTS avoid (are there?)? We have a big ant problem here. Thanks!


We are touched by the confidence in our correspondents that we can come up with native plants that repel deer, rabbits, dogs, cats, snakes and, now, ants. Deer and rabbits eat plants, and will eat just about anything that can't get away when times are hard and they are really hungry. Dogs and cats don't eat plants, normally, although puppies will mess with just about anything. The biggest problem from those animals is they often choose plants as a bathroom. Snakes and ants don't eat plants, but hang around them for shelter and a good place to pick up a bite to eat that is not a plant. 

Basically, ants are farmers, as you will learn in this University of California Integrated Pest Management Program Ants. This probably tells you more than you wanted to know about ants, but it does give good information, although not about plants that repel them. 

So, we moved on to this article from eHow Outdoor Plants That Repel Ants. Nice, but not native. Most of them are Meditteranean herbs. And, you know, there is nothing to keep an ant trail from moving over a few inches to go around a plant they don't wish to associate with.

Still searching, we found an article from Golden Harvest Organics Ant Controls, but it had no more information on plants.

Some time ago, we got some questions from people in pretty much the same part of the state that you are, inquiring about Cutter Ants. Here is our previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer Perennial Plants Resistant to Cutter Ants. If you have cutter ants, you may think they are eating the plant because they can denude a small tree virtually overnight. Actually, they are taking those leaves home to make fungus for everyone in the colony to eat. Yuck.

We think that our first reference probably has the best information for dealing with different kinds of ants. Although it is based on the problem in California, most of the ants they mention are also in Texas. You did not say if your problem was indoor or outdoor. Either way, you need to deal with what the ants are going for, and if you have Fire Ants, you already know they are going for bites of anybody that disturbs their chosen area of residence. We suggest you contact the Texas A&M AgriLIFE Extension Office for Hidalgo County  to see if they have any insights on controlling the little beasties. 


More Pests Questions

What flowers will ducks and swans not eat?
January 11, 2009 - I live by ducks and swans. They love eating my flowers. Any suggestions on what flowering plants they won't eat?
view the full question and answer

Dandelions in bluebonnets in Bastrop TX
May 31, 2012 - I have a 20'x60' front yard area where I planted bluebonnets. It has become horrifically inundated with dandelions. How do I eradicate the dandelions while preserving the bluebonnets ? Thanks ...
view the full question and answer

White spots on Hibiscus leaves
August 06, 2008 - My hibiscus trees have white spots or splotches on the leaves. What is it and what can I do to get rid of it? Also, the birds are eating my tomatoes faster than i can grow them. I've used the owl &...
view the full question and answer

Controlling scale insects on hollies
July 10, 2005 - I have a number of holly shrubs at the side of my house. Recently I noticed that they have tiny white spots on them. I looked at several native Texas gardening books, but can't find what I need to t...
view the full question and answer

Problems with Gregg's mistflower from Fredericksburg, TX
May 19, 2013 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants: Something is wilting the tops of my Gregg's mistflower, Conoclinium greggii. I cannot see bugs on the plant, so I am wondering if it's a disease. The problem is widespread to...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center