Are you looking to make your home and garden naturally bugs and pest free? Try these plants that repel bugs and other pests (such as mice, rats and even rabbits), while creating a beautiful, non-toxic landscape.
All winter we wait.
We wait for blue skies, sunshine, and warm air. We wait for green grass, colorful blooms, garden fresh fruits and vegetables. We wait for picnics, backyard barbecues, and waterside playtime (and lounging).
But nobody waitsfor the return of biting insects and troubles some flies, coupled with household and garden nuisances. Sure, there are any number of synthetic and potentially toxic bug and pest deterrents that instructions direct us to apply liberally and use frequently “for best results”. But what if you want to have a bug and pest free home without the questionable and potential dangerous chemicals present in many of these products?
Look no further than our favorite herbs and aromatic plants that repel bugs and pests!
Botanists and scientists believe that plants produce volatile aromatic compounds for a variety of reasons such as to attract pollinators and reduce disease. Another incredibly important benefit of volatile aromatic compounds (i.e. essential oils when distilled), is the ability to repel bugs such as flies, mosquitoes, and fleas, as well as deter other four legged pests such as mice, rats, and rabbits from your home and garden.
Try these aromatic herbs and plants to repel bugs and pest this season and keep your landscape and home toxin free!
- Alliums: This great big botanical family is host not only host to garlic, onions, chives, and leeks, but also a variety of popular landscape ornamental such as “Globemaster” which produce gigantic heads of purple blooms almost a foot in diameter!Alliums are among the plants that repel flies, aphids, flea beetles, cabbage moths and cabbage rust flies when planted in the vegetable garden. As such alliums are a strong contender for “most useful companion plant” — especially when one considers their slender, erect stature and a tendency to not take up too much space in the garden or landscape. Plant garlic, onions, chives, scallions, and leeks among more pest-prone leafy crops such as those in the Brassica family to fight off bug damage. While scientists cannot confirm this, many a farmer’s wife will add that eating lots of onions and garlic ward of mosquitos — although it my also deter a romantic partner!
Plant your Allium family member is well drained soils that receive full sun for best growth.
- Basil: A favorite culinary (and underappreciated medicinal) herb, basil comes in an amazing array of colors ranging from lime green to black-purple, and leaf sizes from itty-bitty to to size of a childs hand! Additionally, bug deterring basil comes in real myraid of aromas and flavors — from the traditional Genovese to Thai, lime and even cinnamon. Of course you can’t forget the lovely and highly medicinal holy basil/tulsi cultivars like rama, krishna and vana which can be used in this delicious chai. You can also count basil as a plant that deters mosquitoes, flies, and thrips — and makes a fine pesto. In addition to increased pest resistance, a study conducted West Virginia University indicated that planting basil next to tomatoes seems to increase tomato yields. Win/win!
Plant basil in moderately rich well drained soil in full sun and provide ample water. Basil likes heat, so expectant an explosion of growth at in the heat of summer (be sure to pinch back flowering stalksto ensure a bushy plant).
- Bay: This gorgeous, evergreen shrub is plant that has the ability to repel bugs such as wasps, flies, moths and even cockroaches! I keep a bundle of sage in the pantry where I store my grains to deter weevils that might otherwise infest my flours and grains that are in less than airtight containers. Bay makes an outstanding “foundation” shrub in the landscape, and its dried leaves offer earthy, herbal aromatics and flavors to soup, stews, and sauces.
Bay can grow quite large in relatively fertile, well drained soils in full sun. Grown in a container, bay will stay compact if pruned regularly.
- Catnip:Quit slapping at those miserable, disease carrying blood suckers, and grow plants that deter mosquitoes like catnip. Researchers have discovered that the essential oil derived from nepelactone is roughly 10x more effective as a mosquito repellent than DEET (the commercial ingredient in many bug sprays). Additionally, catnip is considered a plant that repels mice — and NOT just because it attracts their natural predator, cats. Rather, catnip is a natural deterrent to mice like other members of the mint family. Try plant catnip near your foundation and near port of entry.
Plant catnip in full sun in modestly rich soils for best result. If your feline friends are rolling on your plants, some suggest driving bamboo stakes into the mound. As a member of the mint family, catnip may spread rapidly.
- Chrysanthemums: I am an absolute SUCKER for the showy orbs of “mums” that put on a proud display of color outside storefront to bid farewell summer and usher in fall. Chrysanthemums owe their bug repelling powers to the aromatic constituent pyrethrum which deters ants, roaches, Japanese beetle, lice, bed bugs, fleas and so many other irritating pests! While isolated pyrethrum based sprays and pesticides may be toxic, planting these colorful perennials around your home and garden will help to repel bugs naturally!
You can plant showy fall chrysanthemums directly in the landscape following their bloom. Cut foliage back with 2-4 inches of the soils line and place in a sunny location in well work, moderately rich soil.
- Citronella Scented Geraniums:Perhaps because I have mixed feelings about true red colors, I have never been terribly fond of the standard, garden variety geranium — which are actually pelargoniums. I far and away prefer the delicate flowers and fragrant foliage of scented geranium. Citronella scented geraniums are among my favorite plants to deter mosquitoes and other biting insects from patios and outdoor rooms. I can hardly pass by my plants without pressing my fingers against the foliage — and I find myself lounging nearby when the sun warms the aromatics in such a way to diffuse their scent into the summer air.
Plant citronella scented geraniums in full sun, but with protection from the most intense rays of late afternoon. Resist the urge to over-fertilize and allow the soil surrounding the roots to dry slightly between watering.
- Lemongrass:True citronella is actually a lemongrass of the Cymbopogon genus. Brimming with citronella aroma, lemongrass is one of the most effective plants for deterring mosquitoes from your landscape. I like using the spiky, aromatic grass as a centerpiece in container place around outdoor seating areas, with plants like petunias spilling of the edge of the pot. You could even harvest stalks to infuse in oils for candles and torches.
Lemongrass thrives in warm, sunny locations with moderately moist soils such as near ponds or water features. Did you know that you can root out your own lemongrass from stalks puchased at the grocery store by placing trimmed stalks in a jar of water in a sunny window? When the rootlets appear, plant in pots with a moisture retentive soil and water regularly.
- Marigold: As a child, I never fully understood why my grandmother would nurture hundreds of marigolds until we planted them all along the garden borders. I later learned that marigolds are the chief companion plant of the vegetable garden. Marigolds are considered to be plants that repel bugs such as nematodes and cabbage moths, while also being a preferential found source for other garden pest — thus helping to keep your produce blemish free.
Marigolds are grown easily from seed or starts. Plant marigolds in a sunny location in well drained soils, deadheading spent blooms to promote repeat color.
- Peppermint: This farm living herbalist has dealt with her fair share of mice. While I am perfectly content to see mice out in the field, I am far less pleased to find them in my pantry or feed bins. Peppermint pulls triple duty — providing generous aromatic foliage for medicine making, being an attractive and pollinator friendly foil around the home AND be one of the chief plants that repel mice. I plant peppermint around the foundation of my home and barn to suggest to the wee little four legged critters to set up camp elsewhere.
Peppermint is tolerant of full sun to light shade and prefers moist, rich, but well drained soils. If you are considered about the somewhat invasive aspects of peppermint and other mint family members, grow in containers.
- Petunias: I will fawn over a hanging basket, resplendent in cascading blooms like a star eyed fan girl. I love there colorful, trumpet shaped blooms, unfettered growth, and sweet fragrance. But did you know that petunias are among the plants that repel bus such as tomato hornworm, asparagus beetle, squash bugs and aphids? As such, don’t limit yourself to hanging baskets — plant your petunias generously around your garden for healthy plants and excellent produce harvests!
Plant petunias after the risk of frost has passed. They prefer full soon and well drained soils in temperate climates. Offer some protection from late afternoon rays and extra water in warmer, drier climates. Note: some varieties of petunias will require deadheading to ensure repeat bloom.
- Rosemary: One of my FAVORITE culinary and medicinal herbs — rosemary is always on my list of plants to grow at home. Rosemary is also a plant that repels flies and mosquitoes — so plant this herbs generously around outdoor seating and eating areas! Want to keep neighborhood cats away from your garden and bird feeders? Guess what — cats detest the aroma of rosemary. Rosemary is also a powerful attract-er of pollinators such as hummingbirds and butterflies.
Rosemary grows prolifically in full sun and light, when drained soils. Rosemary varieties include tall, upright forms as well as trailing varieties perfect for rock gardens and retaining walls.
- Rue: This undervalued medicinal herbs serves a very important role well trying to reduce pesticide exposure with pets. Rue is a plant that naturally deters fleas! I plant rue in container which I place on my porch where my dogs love to nap. I find rue’s lacy foliage, yellow blooms, and herbal aroma quite pleasing.
This plant is drought tolerant and even thrives in rocky, arid soils — making rue an excellent choice for virtually carefree container in full sun.
I hope that you enjoy these plants that repel bugs and other pests. Holistic gardening practices are one of the best ways to have a toxin free home!
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Herbalism, Holistic Gardening, Homesteading
Devon is a writer and author on subjects of holistic and sustainable living. She has a degree in Complementary and Alternative Medicine from the American College of Healthcare Sciences, and her first book, The Backyard Herbal Apothecary, was published by Page Street Publishing in Spring 2019. Devon's work outside of NittyGrittyLife.com can be seen at LearningHerbs.com, GrowForageCookFerment.com, AttainableSustainable.net, and in the magazine The Backwoods Home. Devon's second book, The Herbalist's Healing Kitchen, will be published Fall 2019.