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Ants running amok in our skimmia japonica pot! To repot or to not repot now?!?

We have recently discovered ants have got into the bottom of our potted japonica and with every day, more compost is spilling out from the bottom. It’s May so can/should we repot now? Don’t want to cause it any damage from doing nothing or something in haste. Any advice on next steps would be most appreciated. 


  • Kitty 2Kitty 2 Posts: 5,150
    Ants like dry soil. Do you water it often? A good soaking should move them on.

    The plant would need repotting if it's pot bound. Are there roots coming out of the drainage holes? Maybe lift the plant out to check, if it's all root and very little soil it's time to repot... or even better plant it in the ground. 
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Posts: 11,999
    I've got ants and/or woodlice in most of my pots and you can't really keep them out I find. As Kitty says, a good watering will help. If you don't mind using insecticides, ant power or the gel around the pots might reduce the numbers somewhat.  I use old J Clothes laid over the holes in the bottom of the pots, with a layer of grit over that and then the compost to try and keep beasties out.
    North East Somerset - Clay soil over limestone
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,358
    You can repot anything, at any time, unless everything's frozen. 
    A good soaking every couple of days should shift them anyway, and you'd do that before repotting anyway.
    Make sure it isn't allowed to get dried out completely though - it can't have been very damp if the ants moved in  :)
    Skimmias are tough anyway, unlikely to do any harm to a healthy one. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Thank you so much for replying Kitty 2. It’s the first time on any gardening forum for me! 
    In the spring/summer months we water and feed it regularly. The soil is fairly damp. The ant problem started when we moved the pot so we could paint a fence panel.
     I will certainly take a look at the bottom along with the root/soil ratio later on. Must admit that we have been hesitant to plant it in the ground as unfortunately we have horrible clay soil which is forever wet even after trying various solutions to improve its drainage. Saying that, the likes of peony, verbena, montbretia and hydrangea have coped ok so maybe we need to be less hesitant about planting it in the ground? Any thoughts on that would be most appreciated. Regards, Jane
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,358
    They grow like weeds up here @Jane.huddson - in our wet, cold clay  ;)
    The only problem with them is if it's too alkaline, as with many other shrubs - rhodos, camellias etc. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...

  • Thank you Fairygirl and Lizzie27 also for your fab replies. Your assurances and top tips have been welcomed by this very novice ‘google it’ gardener who is trying to they say every day is a skool day! So we aren’t the only household with ant and clay challenges. Have been blasting our pesky ants with warm soapy water, powder etc but they seem to be everywhere like you say Lizzie. We even have them under paving slabs which are now subsiding! 

    Will certainly give all the ideas you three kind people have given me a go. Thank you, Jane.
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,358
    The biggest problem with them is that, like your pic, they can remove a lot of the soil around the plant roots, which is when the plant gets affected. 
    It looks very healthy though, so it's worth taking it out [if you can!] and ensuring it has adequate soil for it to thrive  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Thank you for this. Reassuring to hear it looks healthy so J-cloths, water, new compost and weak muscles at the ready! 🤣
  • Kitty 2Kitty 2 Posts: 5,150
    Hi again @Jane.huddson , and welcome to the forum. 🌻
    I was a bit of a 'google it' gardener before I found the forum too. You are definitely not alone in gardening on clay, you've found me and @Fairygirl for starters and there's lots of others on here too.

    That's a good looking plant in a nice big pot you have, but I can see what a mess the ants are making with their excavations. I hope a good soaking does the job.👍

    Snap @Lizzie27. Except I'm cheap and use sheets of kitchen paper for the bottom of my pots. 😁
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