The 20 Best Plants That Repel Insects

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Whether you wish to repel mosquitoes, flies, or vegetable pests, there are many plants that can help you. This is thanks to certain plants’ natural properties. Depending on the type of insect, the emitted chemical substances can have a repelling effect. Even though lots of plants are harmless and many flowers seem pleasantly fragrant for us, pests can find them very threatening. Pesky bugs and other unwanted insects don’t belong in your garden. Instead of relying on chemical sprays, insect-repelling plants can be used strategically to deter them.

Keep in mind that no matter how many bug-repelling plants you try to add to your garden, there’s no guarantee that you will be able to completely rid the area of pests. Even if this doesn’t represent a perfect solution, keeping mosquitoes and harmful bugs at bay using targeted plants comes with a bonus effect. You will also be able to enjoy some fresh fragrances and boost the visual style of the garden in the process. Let’s take a look at the plants that have the strongest potential in terms of repelling insects.

1. Lavender

The sweet smell of lavender is prized by people everywhere but it seems that lots of unwanted insects dislike it strongly. This means you can rely on the pleasant fragrance of lavender to repel mosquitoes and flies quite effectively. It’s strong enough to fight against moths and fleas. To maximize the insect-deterring effect of this plant, we recommend adding it to sunny spots in the garden. Entryways can also benefit from planted lavender in containers to scare away various pests.

Aside from its fragrant qualities, lavender is also appreciated for its purple blooms. The flowers can boost the aesthetic of any garden, especially in the summer season. You don’t need to restrict yourself to relying only on the plant itself. There’s also the possibility to use the extracted lavender oil. It’s particularly potent against mosquitoes as it forms a barrier against these insects when rubbed on exposed skin.

2. Citronella Grass

If you’re familiar with citronella candles, you will be even more pleased when using the natural properties of the citronella grass itself. This plant’s mosquito-repellent abilities have been well documented so it’s no wonder to see that candles made using citronella oil are so popular. The pungent odor of citronella grass can be used reliably to create an insect-free area on the patio.

There are different ways to incorporate citronella grass in your garden. Many gardeners prefer adding the plant to terra cotta pots to complement the natural beauty of the citronella’s lush green foliage. Although it has a simple grassy appearance, this plant can also improve the look of any garden, especially when placed alongside colorful flowers. Clippings of citronella grass work nicely with creative arrangements while offering a natural barrier that repels insects.

3. Chrysanthemum

Pyrethrum is a strong substance contained by chrysanthemum plants. The ingredient provides this flower the ability to repel a large list of insects including roaches, ticks, fleas, and spider mites. Using chrysanthemums as insect-repelling companion plants represents a good natural alternative compared to using commercial insecticides. In fact, pyrethrums are so potent that they are regularly used for indoor sprays and aerosol bombs.

Planting chrysanthemums for their insect-repelling properties has to be done strategically to maximize the effect. It’s recommended to take into account the layout of your garden and find the best spots to protect the other plants. Chrysanthemums have attractive blooms that can look great for both outdoor and indoor planting. They have some air-purifying qualities as well so they should be considered for indoor use.

4. Rosemary

This aromatic herb can do more than just adding a unique flavor to your dishes. Rosemary has been often used as a reliable insect-repelling plant. The characteristic smell of the herb is hated by many insects including mosquitoes. It’s quite potent against common vegetable pests so that makes rosemary a good companion plant in lots of gardens. The herb is suitable for container planting but the ornamental style of rosemary can also contribute to the decor of your landscaped beds.

Some rosemary varieties can grow surprisingly large so the plant can work as a hedge. It brings some much-needed texture to arrangements. Bug repellent sprays can be made using dried rosemary if you want a natural alternative to commercial solutions. Planting rosemary in the garden is definitely a win-win situation when taking into account the insect-deterring effects and home cooking uses of the herb.

5. Petunia

Specialized in repelling various garden pests, petunias are beginner-friendly plants that will also provide colorful touches anywhere. Petunia plants are capable of keeping a wide range of bugs at bay. Some notable examples include aphids, leafhoppers, and tomato hornworms. The secret to its insect-repelling effectiveness lies in the licorice-like fragrance produced by the funnel-shaped blossoms of the flowers.

Growing petunias is a breeze thanks to the easy care requirements of these plants. They will thrive as potted plants or when planted in the ground. This perennial is a full-sun lover while good drainage ensures your petunias will thrive the whole season. The variety of bright colors of their blooms can create an eye-catching appearance for any garden. Although petunias can be counted on against certain insects, they can also attract crawly pests like slugs and caterpillars.

6. Basil

Another great herb to include in your insect-repelling plant arsenal is basil. Aside from being delicious in salads or pest sauces, basil is dependable against house flies and mosquitoes. It’s highly recommended to keep basil in containers on the patio or other outdoor areas intended for relaxation. You can also count on basil plants in vegetable gardens where the herb can keep at bay pests such as tomato hornworm and Asparagus beetle.

Basil smells great for us but insects are quickly deterred by the scent. You can touch the leaves to help release the aromatic oils contained in the plant. There are different basil varieties but it seems that all of them provide a similar pungent punch that repels bugs. Keep a consistent level of moisture and give it adequate sun to enjoy basil thrive in your garden.

7. Nasturtium

One highly protective plant against insects, Nasturtium will keep safe many more vulnerable plants in your garden. It relies on an airborne chemical that’s an instant dislike for a wide variety of bugs such as beetles, aphids, and whiteflies. Nasturtium’s protective barrier can extend towards its companion plants to maintain a pest-free yard as much as possible.

It’s highly recommended to include this flower in vegetable gardens where predacious insects can be more easily controlled. Tomato, cabbage, kale, and cucumber plants can definitely benefit from the insect-repelling effect of Nasturtium plants. It can serve well for edging any gardens. One nice advantage of Nasturtium is that it doesn’t deter good pollinator insects like the bumblebee. Allowing this plant to thrive requires a combination of early spring planting and quality soil conditions. Deadheading is needed to encourage new blooms of Nasturtium.

8. Mint

The flavorful scent of mint is an excellent ally to keep the area free of flying insects like mosquitoes and house flies. There’s also the added culinary benefit of mint leaves. You can spice up your cocktails and deserts if you choose to grow mint in the garden. Even if you don’t have a generously-sized garden, there are other methods to grow this aromatic herb. Mint performs well in containers. Just make sure you harvest leaves periodically for the best growing results.

Mint cuttings can be used to form a protective barrier against vegetable pests. The plant’s refreshing scent is considered a threat for aphids, ants, and cabbage moths. The insect-repelling properties aren’t restricted to just the leaves. Both the flowers and stems maximize the effect. You can take it a step further and extract the aromatic oils and combine them into natural mosquito repellent sprays.

9. Onion

The onion plant can act as a great repellant for harmful insects in the garden. It can have a particularly protective effect on vegetables such as carrots and eggplants. This is thanks to the onion’s natural properties that form a deterrent barrier against carrot rust flies and aphids. The bulbs of onion emit a powerful fragrance that will definitely make mosquitoes keep their distance so the plant’s reliable against different types of insects.

The flowering form of onion is called allium. It’s the same for related plants such as garlic, chives, and leek. Some allium varieties like giganteum can be very potent repellents for pests like slugs and cabbage worms. The flower heads of allium giganteum perform in a similar manner to a broad-spectrum natural insecticide. Tomatoes, potatoes, and broccoli are some of the plants that will reap numerous benefits from having alliums close.

10. Marigold

Marigold flowers work great for landscaping purposes due to their brightly-colored style but there’s more than just pretty looks for this plant. It also produces a distinctive fragrance that’s been proven to repel many types of insects. From whiteflies to aphids, and mosquitoes, marigolds can work very effectively at keeping the area free of unwanted bugs. The well-developed roots of the plant repel nematodes. We recommend planting a good mix of seeds like these.

Thanks to the aromatic properties of limonene, marigold flowers are worth keeping in your garden to deter pests. Growing this plant is a breeze. We recommend mixing it in vegetable gardens or integrated along the borders. Marigold plants form a great pairing with roses and they’re simple to grow as long as they receive enough sun. You can also grow this insect-repelling flower in containers to decorate the patio.

11. Borage

Easy to grow and offering decent insect-repelling properties, borage is a recommended option for any gardener. The plant smells similar to cucumbers. Combined with the purple-blue flowers, borage creates an attractive display for beneficial insects such as pollinating bees. It’s an excellent companion plant for many vegetable and fruit crops such as tomatoes and strawberries.

In terms of abilities to keep insects at bay, borage may not seem as impressive as other plants on this list. Still, it’s particularly effective against common pests like the tomato hornworm. By letting the plant self-sow, you can enjoy its qualities for an extended period of time. Deadheading can help to maximize the number of blooms and revitalize the plant. Considering the way it acts as a magnet for pollinators, borage flowers shouldn’t miss from vegetable or herb gardens.

12. Sage

With the help of its strong scent, sage represents another reliable herb in the fight against unwanted insects. It’s simple to grow and can be successfully incorporated into multiple types of dishes. This is a perennial plant that can deter common garden pests like carrot rust flies and cabbage moths. Enhancing the aromatic properties of sage can be done by burning a few of the herb’s leaves. This is particularly effective against mosquitoes.

You can also try to use dried sage for crafting some insect-repellant sprays. For best results, we recommend planting sage in containers but it’s also reliable at work in landscaped beds. Some gardeners might run into issues when it comes to intercropping sage, but you can try planting it along the edges of the border in that case.

13. Geranium

Geranium plants can create a strong barrier against various insect types. It’s important to select a good variety as not all geranium plants work on the same bugs. For example, Pelargonium citrosum is one geranium that can be used well to repel mosquitoes. The secret for its effectiveness lies in the blooming flowers that show off a distinctive lemon-like fragrance abhorred by the flying insects.

The scent of some geranium plants can remind you of citronella grass. This explains why it works in a similar manner to repel unwanted bugs. Geraniums grow quite fast and can thrive in dry environments. Those who live in colder climates should probably stick to containers for the best insect-repelling effects. The beauty of geranium flowers can bring a splash of color to a vegetable garden when brought as companion plants.

14. Catnip

Although cats love the smell of catnip, it seems it has the opposite effect on unwanted insects like mosquitoes and house flies. This is not unexpected considering that catnip is part of the mint family of plants. The fragrant oils of this plant contain a substance called nepetalactone. It’s a good repellant for many bugs while offering a pleasant smell for your cats. Catnip is easy to grow and can be planted in various spots of the garden.

It can establish itself so well that you might get overwhelmed by catnip plants if you’re not careful about their spread. Catnip plants can repel more than just annoying flying insects. They can keep your other plants protected from aphids, harmful beetles, and squash bugs. Many people will also find attractive the small purple blooms of catnip plants.

15. Floss Flower

Thanks to a chemical called coumarin, floss flowers will make certain insects like mosquitoes to keep their distance. This plant has small blooms that have a fuzzy appearance in a nice range of colors including purple, white, and pink. The vibrant hues and interesting textures work nicely for rock gardens due to the resulting visual contrast. Growing floss flowers requires high-quality soil to perform at their best.

The attractive annual floss flower can be a decent insect repellant but you need to be careful. Coumarin is toxic to humans and animals if ingested. It’s also worth mentioning that despite the strong fragrance, floss flowers are weaker bug repellants compared to other plants. Given its qualities overall, you shouldn’t hesitate when it comes to planting some floss flowers to prevent unwanted insects from visiting the garden.

16. Lantana

Another good plant for pest-proofing your yard is lantana. The blooms of this plant can create a reliable barrier against flying insects, especially mosquitoes. While getting some bug-repellant spray represents a great solution, sometimes it’s better to rely on natural alternatives. Your backyard can be kept clear of the pesky mosquitoes by planting some lantanas around. Growing this plant is very easy if you live in a hot climate area.

The bright flowers of lantanas can attract beneficial insects while preventing harmful ones from approaching. Unfortunately, this may not be an ideal flower for planting en masse if you own pets. It contains a chemical that’s toxic for animals if ingested. Even if your pet will only put the plant in its mouth, there can be some risks. For this reason, we recommend hanging potted lantana flowers in safe spots in your outdoor area.

17. Tansy

Tansy is one ornamental flower with interesting insect-repelling properties. While it’s a bit of a high-maintenance plant, it’s worth keeping tansies around for their looks and bug-proofing properties. A wide variety of pests such as Japanese beetles, moths, and mosquitoes steer clear of this plant. With proper care, it can reach a maximum height of six feet tall so this is not a very small plant.

Tansy flowers can be used as companion plants to repel insects and pests in the vegetable garden. It’s particularly effective to protect your squash and cucumber plants. Make sure you only plant this one if you don’t have pets or livestock. This is due to the tansy’s toxicity against animals. It’s still worth considering tansies for more than just the natural insect-repelling properties. The flowers add potassium to the soil but the main benefit is attracting good insects like ladybugs.

18. Lemon Thyme

A hardy herb that will adapt easily to different environmental conditions, lemon thyme can also be considered a dependable plant that repels insects. Mosquitoes have a strong dislike for the smell but the fragrance isn’t very strong unless the leaves get bruised. Similar to lemon-scented geraniums, this type of thyme has a citrus smell that prevents many bugs from getting too close.

The good news about lemon thyme is that it has a comparable growing profile to other herbs. This means it can be planted easily and requires minimal maintenance to thrive. Less-than-ideal soil conditions won’t stop this herb from growing but it’s important to let the thyme get enough sunlight to maximize its insect-repellent properties. Rubbing crushed leaves of lemon thyme on your hands can work as a natural mosquito deterrent but make sure you check for allergic reactions first.

19. Bay Leaves

Most people associate bay leaves with food as there are many culinary uses for them. However, the plant can also work as a great ally for repelling harmful insects in the garden or around the house. The characteristic smell of bay leaves has a good level of pungency to irritate pests like flies. Sprinkling dried bay leaves can enhance the repelling effect if you wish to target specific indoor areas.

The bay leaf plant has been considered sacred in ancient times for its healing properties. It may not have a very strong effect on all the pests out there but the pungent smell is sure to deter some insects. Placing bowls of dry leaves in your home might protect against fleas and cockroaches as well.

20. Bee Balm

Repelling unwanted insects can be done with many plants but why not reap more benefits by attracting beneficial bugs as well? This is possible if you choose a plant such as the bee balm. With its fragrant oils, this is a great flower to keep mosquitoes at bay. At the same time, it will attract helpful bugs like bees and butterflies. It can even catch the interest of hummingbirds.

Bee balm is also known by other names as some people commonly refer to it as horsemint. The plant’s blooms offer a colorful variety in shades of purple, pink, and red. Bee balm is edible so it can be used for culinary purposes. Some people integrate it into jellies or salads. It’s great for teas as well.


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