ant plant

valerie_miMay 8, 2007

Does anyone know how to propagate an ant plant. It is leggy if I pinch it back will it shoot more branchs? Can I root a cutting? Thanks for any help.


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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

What kind do you have? Perhaps you could post an image so that we can help you ID it.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 3:18PM
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Here are pics


    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 3:53PM
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Isnt that a desert rose??

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 7:00PM
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Nope I have several of those also. This I got from ebay HYDNOPHYTUM FORMICARIUM (Ant Plant)
Item number: 300061352283

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 7:13PM
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That sure looks a LOT like a Ficus to me! Either some kind of microcarpa (lots of those) or another type (there are hundreds).

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 5:27AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

She knows what kind of plant it is! Ant plants are totally cool! You guys need to look them up.

Valerie, I think of these plants as being epiphytic, and not really needing much of a soil system at all. What do you think?

I've only known them to be available as seedlings. I did a quick search on alternate propagation techniques for your Hydnophytum, but couldn't find anything.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 11:58AM
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Valerie, what a gorgeous little plant. I've never heard of this one; have never seen it before. But if I did find it, I would definitely buy it. Sorry I can't offer advice. I just wanted to tell you how charmed I am by it.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 12:25PM
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nanw_4wi(4/SW WI)

It's *funky-cool*!!
They can be propagated by seeds and cuttings
Cuttings should root relatively easily this time of year.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 1:47PM
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Wow!! I was starting to think I was'nt gonna get any help here. Great!
Nanw 4wi Do you know how to root a cutting?

Naturelover Type in Ant plant on Ebay. I bought a Monstera Variegata and he sent me the Ant plant for free.

rhizo Thank-you so much I thought I was going crazy. Does nobody know this plant? He had it growing in Bark. I let it get to dry the other day and it wilted. Well you see how fast the little guy recovered. I mixed the bark in with the soil I have no idea what i am doing with this so I hope I dont kill it. Seems to really be liking it. They grow on the sides of trees. I typed ant plant into google and really learned alot but nothing about propagation. I think if I just cut or pinch back it will promote growth but how to root I'm not sure.
Thank-you Valerie

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 2:58PM
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nanw_4wi(4/SW WI)

Valerie....since it's an epiphyte, you'll want to use pure perlite or soil mixed with *a lot* of perlite or orchid-mix type soil (the one I use includes bark, charcoal and some type of rock).
Place it in the mix in a bright place, and personally I wouldn't *water* it but just mist the area near the base of the plant lightly.
That works best for me when rooting epiphytes or succulents.
It would be much like propagating your Adeniums, and also, like the Adeniums, it will 'branch out' from where you've cut. (Giving it even more personality, IMHO!)

Try googling hydnophytum propagation or hydnophytum cuttings or something to that effect. I would guess someone, somewhere, has some info out there on it?!

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 3:54PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

We grew a bunch of them in one of our greenhouses at Va. Tech when I was there. Had some really biggies, as I recall. They were pretty much there for show, and I don't remember anyone attempting cuttings on them.

Fascinating plants.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 4:02PM
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Well when I get the nerve up to cut it i'll let you know. I'm not out to attract ants but does anyone know how well they do without ants? The grower I got mine from says his is as big as a basketball. If I don't cut it back it will keep getting leggie (I hate leggie plants) they tend to look sickly to me. I will do some more research.

Thank-s nanw 4wi I will try. I think the rock you talking about is lava rock. There was some in the medium that the plant came in. I never propagated my Adeniums I grow them from seed. I have heard on the plumeria forum that people propagate them in misting beds. I guess I will try to replicate a tree and get some red untreated bark and see what happens. Well I guess if all else fails I can get another one for 9.99 from chuck.
rhizo How big were those plants? Just curious. Well I have some googling to do.
Thanks Everyone,

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 6:11PM
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Nature, I recently saw an ant plant for sale at an online nursery, but can't recall which..LOL..I'll check around, see if I can find it for you..

Val, does this plant attract ants? Is that why it's called an ant plant? Does anyone know why this plant would attract ants, and the reason behind it? Thanks, Toni

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 6:45PM
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Well Toni, I found this on a yahoo search. Just a little recearch. This is all new to me also. If you want one I got mine on ebay his name is chuck. Just type in ant plant and I think they are 9.99 well worth it. great new plant to play with. I have had it a week now and it has new leaves already. Good Luck! I'll keep learning about this new freakie little plant.

Especially in tropical habitats, plants and ants have evolved tight evolutionary bonds whereby ants provide excellent protection for the plant from herbivorous (phytophagous) animals. Ants living on a plant viciously attack any animal, large or small, that touches the plant or otherwise might do it any harm. Ants can quickly kill insects and small invertebrates, but they can also be extremely irritating to larger vertebrates, causing the intruder to flee. Thus, one can see a powerful selective advantage for a plant to harbor ants, and why, in all likelihood, these coevolutionary relationships became established. In the tropical rain forest, many plants should be avoided by humans, because touching them will cause an attack by the plant-defending ants, and tropical biologists usually carry a mental list of these plants to avoid any confrontations.

Green Culture Singapore Articles

Writer: Andrew Tay  Photos: Ang Weijen Â

ÂAvailable online 29 Jan 2005 Â Updated on 8 Jan 06 Â

For growers of weird but wonderful plantlife, nothing beats the ant plants Hydnophytum formicarum and Myrmecodia tuberosa. Both of these unique plants have a tuber-like lower stem with chambers formed within which attract ants to colonise the structure. In this symbiotic or mutually beneficial relationship, ants get a multiplex while the ant plants, in return, get big brother protection from herbivores, as well as nutrients from ant debris.

Hydnophytum formicarium
Myrmecodia sp.

These species are epiphytic shrubs which grow perched on trees in rainforest and mangrove. H. formicarum has multiple stems with small leaves atop its globular, smooth tuber, while M. tuberosa usually has only a single stem produced from an elongated, spikey tuber with a tuft of long leaves at the tip. For H. formicarum, the tuber can grow up to 15 inches in diameter.

Both are native to Singapore. H. formicarum is a locally rare species restricted to our nature reserves. M. tuberosa may unfortunately already be locally extinct as it has not been recorded from any part of our island for a long time. Hopefully, it may still survive on the mainland in an off-limits military training area, or perhaps on an offshore island such as Pulau Tekong. But luckily, both species are quite widespread in South-east Asia.


Flowers (white) and fruits (red) of Hydnophytum sp.

Fortunately also, these plants are mostly self-fertile and produce many berry fruits. These berries turn red or orange when ripe, attracting fruit-eating birds which disperse the seeds. Hydnophytum's berry usually has two seeds while the fruit of Myrmecodia contains up to six seeds. In cultivation, these sprout quickly when sown on coconut husk and kept constantly moist. Seeds must be sown fresh as old, dried up seeds rarely germinate. As the seedling emerges, its lower stem, or hypocotyl, immediately swells. Three month-old young plants are really cute, with round, tubby tubers. Plants start producing holes in their tubers when a few months old. Care should be taken to make sure they get enough bright light as otherwise they elongate and go out of their desirable fat shape. Low light conditions will also encourage more leaf growth at the expense of a fatter tuber. My ant plants are grown along the common corridor of my apartment which faces slightly north-south, and I get some sun on my plants year-round.


I grow ant plants in a very open, well-drained mix of bark pieces plus a little chopped coconut husk in pots. For seedlings, the top dressing should be finer to help retain moisture. More mature plants prefer less potting mix which dry out faster between waterings, and they show it by producing profuse, healthy root growth.


I water every night or once every two days, and make sure my plants dry out slightly in between. Being epiphytic, ant plants are quite succulent and can tolerate dryness well. Like cactus, too wet for too long and they will rot away.


I believe in organic gardening and prefer not to use chemical pesticides and fertilisers. My plants get diluted organic fertiliser once every 2 or 3 weeks. I'm more careful feeding baby plants. They don't get fertilised till a few months old. Too much, too soon, they die. You can also use animal dung pellets, but extremely sparingly. In excessive amounts, plants will grow too fast and go out of shape on such high nitrogen diets. In the wild, ants cultivate these ant plants by building up debris around them which leaches nutrients. Trash produced by the ants also fertilise the plants. In fact, the chambers of ant plants grow specialised warts to absorb these nutrients.


With their spiny, warty tubers, ant plants look as if they are suffering from some skin disease. In cultivation, my plants are rarely attacked by the usual mealy bug or scale pests. Root mealy bug is sometimes found when I re-pot plants but I simply rinse them off under the tap. If I do get an infestation of pests, I swipe with a cotton bud dipped in a dilution of dish-washing liquid. Chemical pesticides are toxic to us as well as wildlife!


I love to see other 'more welcomed' wildlife visiting my plants. My house gecko makes a home in the holes of my larger ant plants. Flowerpeckers and sunbirds visit them to sip nectar from the flowers and pick off the juicy berries. My highrise garden attracts all kinds of glittering gem-like jumping spiders. Occasionally, I get a baby mantid, or a lime-green shield bug. Once I observed a caterpillar (moth perhaps) nibble and make its cocoon on one of my ant plants, but the damage was restricted to a couple of leaves only. My house ants colonise the ant plants as they mature. Most people think it crazy to grow ant plant condominiums, but so far I've not had any serious ant problems in my apartment. It all boils down to not leaving cookie crumbs in your bed, that's all.


In Singapore, ant plants are not commercially available but via exchange only from specialist plant growers. The ant plants brought into Singapore for cultivation usually originate from Thailand's Chatuchak weekend market. This market offers a form of Hydnophytum which is similar to the Singapore species. Another kind of Hydnophytum grown here has succulent leaves and so can tolerate more dryness. It is quite ornamental, producing profuse bright red berries. This is the easiest to grow here as it seems to like windy sunny HDB corridor conditions. Our Singapore species is a bit more temperamental, having adapted to its cool, misty rainforest habitat. In the forests of Peninsular Malaysia, one may come across M. tuberosa. In shady locations, its main stem and tuber is elongated and can dangle down to a length of 3 feet. In an exposed perch, the plant is more a spiny, ridged globe with tufts of leaves. Sometimes, seedlings may be seen growing piggyback on a big plant.


Apart from Hydnophytum and Myrmecodia, the 3 other genera within this group of ant plants are Anthorrhiza (Papua New Guinea), Myrmephytum (PNG, Philippines) and Squamellaria, which is endemic to the Fiji islands. These 3 genera are not, or rare, in cultivation. Some European and American nurseries commercially offer a few species of the first 2 genera. I look forward to the time when more species are propagated and made available to enthusiasts.


Seedings of Hydnophytum formicarium.

Ant plants are easy to grow from seed, and therefore plants should not be collected from the wild. Plants of wild origin should also not be purchased from shops or nurseries as this will encourage further collection, to the point of endangering the species' status in the wild.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 7:09PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Hi Valerie,

It's really nice looking. Well, I for one have never seen or heard of this plant's name as given (it could certainly happen, I'm no expert, just a long-time grower).

Personally, I'm w/ Lucy on this, I immediately thought Ficus microcarpa or F. retusa, having bought & enjoyed a couple of plants that looked exactly like this (unfortunately lost after a year or 2).

I'm not so sure it's leggy, I think maybe that's its natural form: if it were a Ficus I'd have thought let it go for a bit more & then maybe prune it down a bit above the lower growth to encourage more bushiness. I'm thinking that pot (while lovely & charming) is too wide for that plant (if it were mine, I'd pot smaller).

Valerie, is that research all by the author you provided?

When you get the nerve to cut that back, pls. post if it bleeds a white sap (would sort of confirm Lucy & my feeling that it's a Ficus).

A very nice plant, hope it does well for you!

    Bookmark   May 10, 2007 at 11:08AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

These plants DON'T attract ants, lol! They are simply one of the plants that have evolved to be a host for ants, in a symbiotic relationship between ant and plant.

The plant develops hollow chambers in that enlarged base as it matures. Specific species of ants have evolved to take up residence there, like a condo. The ants have a terrific home and the plants have lots of protection.

If you were to place an ant plant outside for the summer, you would still not attract ants, unless you live in the same native location that the particular genus and species of 'ant plant' is from. It's a VERY specific relationship.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2007 at 12:29PM
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Nature, okay, told you I'd check around to see if I could find the Ant Plant.
They sell it at To be honest, I stopped ordering from this nursery..the reason being they send small plants..many ppl have complained about the size, especially considering the cost.
Another place they sell it is They normally ship good size plants, but I've never ordered an ant plant, lol..There's always Ebay like Val suggested..Toni

    Bookmark   May 10, 2007 at 2:03PM
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Toni, thank you! I really appreciate it. I've spent some time on Google gathering some information about this unique plant. I've never heard of it, of course, but then I don't know all the plants - even after so many years of growing. This cute little plant is a nice surprise and a welcome change. And I really love plants with that 'fat', trunk-like the Ponytail Palm and the Desert Rose... They look prehistoric and unique to me...

Valerie, that's great info. Thanks for sharing it! This cute little plant will be added on the 'must have' list...:)

    Bookmark   May 10, 2007 at 2:10PM
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Lucy and Pirate girl,
I am really sorry but I did not ask for the plants Id. I already know that.(Hydnophytum) Here are some more pics for you to ponder upon:

Rhizo, My plant will not be alowed to go outside and play with the plumies. My husband would kill me if I brought a condo full of ants in the house. LOL

    Bookmark   May 10, 2007 at 2:11PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)


You needn't apologize (to me anyway), I know you didn't ask for an ID, it's just mystifying, that's all. While I'm not familiar w/ this Seller you used or saying they're not a good one, there are sellers on EBay who have wrong IDs & false info. on their plants, it HAS been know to happen from time to time.

I Googled the plant & saw most of these pix you've linked, except for the one w/ orange berries. Additional to what Rhizo said here, some of the reading I just did in searching for this plant also said it will NOT attract ants at all here in North America.

Very cool, I'll keep an eye out for it, thx for sharing it w/ us.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2007 at 5:23PM
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You got a nice plant there! I'm a big fan of Myrmecodia & Hydnophytum too!
I've never propagated mine by cuttings (some kinds of plants that normally form thickened stems or caudices when grown from seed, don't form them when grown from cuttings; I didn't know if it'd be worth a try). I have grown Hydnophytum from seed, though. If down the line you have seeds to plant, I'll second what the copied article above says-- make sure to get them planted while they're fresh. They'll sprout almost immediately that way, but the germination rate goes down very quickly if they're stored.
Now--- I'm going to question the ID...but I promise not to call it a Ficus or an Adenium! Hydnophytum moseleyanum is very, very often misnamed in the horticultural trade as H. formicarium. They're similar, but the real formicarium has a much more flattened-circular, symmetrical caudex, often (though not always) with a rough, channeled surface. It also has very prominent, raised leaf veins and leaves with very blunt, rounded tips. The real H. moseleyananum has thicker, smoother leaves with a bit of a point at the very tips. The base might have a little roughness, but it won't be have the ridges that H. formicarium often does, and it's most apt to be taller for its width, oval, and often lumpy/asymmetrical.

There's some good information and pictures here that help tell the two apart:
There's a link to H. formicarium info on the same page as the H. mosely. info.
The clickable link below really spells it out well, IMO.
Enjoy your new plant-- it's a beauty!

    Bookmark   May 10, 2007 at 11:06PM
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greenelbows1(z9--so LA)

There are a number of unrelated plants also sometimes called ant plants, that make life a real joy for those wonderful dedicated plant hunters that go out in the jungles collecting new plants for us. Don't know how many of you have enjoyed the attention of fire ants, but as one who has, I am truly grateful for the folks who are willing to go through what they do!

    Bookmark   May 12, 2007 at 10:26PM
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LOL-- Thankfully, we don't have fire ants up here, but once I got a plants shipment from FL that had a colony living in one of the pots. I generally like to take my time & savor unwrapping new plants, but I sure moved fast when got to that one!

...and you're right, Nancy; the name "ant plant" has more to do with how the plant functions than with what kind of plant it is. There are Myrmecophitic Hoyas, Dischidias, Ferns, Bromeliads, Orchids & Nepenthes, as well as the Hydnophytum relatives we've mentioned here.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2007 at 12:21PM
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Val, thanks for the info..
Nature, no problem. I've heard of ant plants but never seen one for sale, (in the past) But there were numerous discussions on other forums..It truly does resemble a ficus/bonsai..

Ooojen, how have you been? It's been ages since I've seen you around's the room you and dh built? Is it filled w/plants? Does it get a lot of sun? Humidity? Also, is it attached to your house? Toni

    Bookmark   May 13, 2007 at 4:14PM
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