Plants That Repel Bugs


Plants that repel bugs are an amazing choice for a garden because one of the most annoying things about gardens, indoor and outdoor is the insects that they will bring.  But the opposite can be true.  There are plants that are planted for both an indoor and outdoor garden that will actually keep bugs away.

What are some plants that repel bugs? For your outdoor garden, there are eight staple plants that are insect repellants, these include petunias, marigolds, alliums, and rosemary.  For your indoor garden, there are seven staple plants that will act as insect repellants.  The indoor bug repellant plants include basil, lavender, lemongrass, rosemary, and mint.

Plants that act as insect repellants are easy to plant and most can be interspersed into your vegetable gardens or indoors within your herb or floral oasis. 

PlantBugs It Repells
Alliums*Flies, Slugs, Worms
BasilMosquitoes, Houseflies
Bay LeavesFlies, Slugs, Worms
CatnipMosquitoes
ChivesAphids, Carrot Flies, Japanese Beetles
ChrysanthemumsBed Bugs, Lice, Ticks, Mosquitoes, Ants, Beetles,
Roaches, Silverfish, Japanese Beetles
Common LantanasMosquitoes
DillAphids, Squash Bugs, Spider Mites,
Cabbage Loopers, Tomato Hornworms
FennelAphids, Slugs
Four o’clocks**Japanese Beetles
GarlicMosquitoes
GeraniumsLeafhoppers
LavenderFleas, Mosquitoes, Moths, Flies
Lemon ThymeMosquitoes
LemongrassMosquitoes
MarigoldMosquitoes, Aphids
NasturtiumsAphids, Squash Bugs, Beetles,
Cabbage Loopers, Whiteflies
ParsleyAsparagus Beetles, Snails
Peppermint/MintSpiders, Mosquitoes, Ants
PetuniasAphids, Squash Bugs, Beetles
Pitcher PlantsAnts, Flies, Beetles, Slugs, Snails,
Wasps, Bees
RosemaryFleas, Ticks
ThymeCabbage Loopers, Tomato Hornworms,
Corn Earworms, Whiteflies
Venus FlytrapAnts, Flies

*Alliums are toxic to pets like cats and dogs and they attract moths.

**Four o’clocks actually attract the Japanese Beetle, but then poisons them.

BugPlants That Repel Bugs
AntsChrysanthemums, Peppermint/Mint,
Pitcher Plants, Venus Flytrap
AphidsChives, Dill, Fennel, Marigold,
Nasturtiums, Petunias
Bed BugsChrysanthemums
BeesPitcher Plants
BeetlesChrysanthemums, Nasturtiums, Parsley,
Petunias, Pitcher Plants
Cabbage LoopersDill, Nasturtiums, Rosemary
Carrot FliesChives
Corn EarwormsThyme
FleasLavender, Rosemary
FliesAlliums, Basil, Bay Leaves, Lavender,
Pitcher Plants, Venus Flytrap
Japanese BeetlesChives, Chrysanthemums, *Four o’clocks
LeafhoppersGeraniums
LiceChrysanthemums
MosquitoesBasil, Catnip, Chrysanthemums, Common
Lantanas, Garlic, Lavender, Lemon Thyme,
Lemongrass, Nasturtiums, Peppermint/Mint
MothsLavender
RoachesChysanthemums
SilverfishChrysanthemums
SlugsAlliums, Fennel, Pitcher Plants
SnailsParsley, Pitcher Plants
Spider MitesDill
SpidersPeppermint/Mint
Squash BugsDill, Nasturtiums, Petunias
TicksChysanthemums, Rosemary
Tomato HornwormsDill, Thyme
WaspsPitcher Plants
WhitefliesNasturtiums, Thyme
WormsAlliums

The plant that repels the most species of bugs is the chrysanthemum. The bug that is repelled by the most species of plants is the mosquito.

Indoor plants that keep bugs away

There is nothing more annoying than having a beautiful day outside and having to keep your windows closed for fear of pesky pests.  That fear can be alleviated by planting and placing the right plants around your home that will keep those pests away.   Here are some herbs and florals that you can plant indoors that will not only make your home smell good, remove toxins in the air, and give you a supply of nutrition, they will also keep pests away. 

Basil

Basil will help keep away flies and mosquitos.

Planting basil:

The trick to having a great indoor basil plant is the soil and the pot.  First, make sure you have a pot that has excellent drainage.  The soil should be nutrient-rich indoor soil.  You will need a good organic fertilizer (use at half strength).  And provide at least six hours of sunlight a day.  If you can’t provide six hours of sunlight, fluorescent lighting for 10 hours a day will do.

While the soil should be moist, it should never be soggy.  Soggy soil will cause root rot. 

According to Gardener’s Supply Company here are the four easy steps to growing basil indoors:

  1. Lightly moisten the fresh potting mix and pack firmly into 4-6” pots.  Sprinkle the surface of the soil with a few seeds.  Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil and press to firm the soil.  Mist.
  2. Place in a warm window with southern exposure.  Avoid drafty windows and windows where the temperature will drop precipitously at night.  Rotate the pots to keep them from leaning in one direction.  If you are using grow lights: place the lights a few inches above the seedlings raising the lights as the plants grow.  If the plants look to leggy move the lights closer.  If you see white spots on the leaves, the lights are too close.
  3. Keep soil moist but not soaking wet.
  4. A month after planting, you will have the aroma of basil.  Two months after planting you will have enough to make fresh pesto.  If the leaves start looking pale green in color start using organic liquid fertilizer. 

For continuous harvests, plant a batch of seeds every few weeks.

Placement of Basil plants:

To deter the flies and mosquitos, once your basil plant is at full growth place by your doors.  Remember it will still need sunlight, so if your doors are in a shaded area (like mine) moderate the time.

Catnip

Good for the cats and bad for the mosquitos!

Planting catnip:

Catnip grows best and has the best aroma when planted in sandy soil.  It can grow in either sunshine or shade, but like most plants prefers the sun. 

While catnip will deter mosquitos it attracts, yes, your cat and bees.

When planting catnip keeps in mind: it will grow to around 3-4 feet, it needs to be placed in a planting box (it tends to take over its space) in your windowsill. But be warned your cat is going for the feasts she sees in the window. 

The herb gardener suggests: With six hours of sunlight a day, catnip can grow all year round.  Keep it moist and pinch off the flowers to encourage leaf growth. 

When the plant reaches eight inches, it is harvest time.  Pinch back flowers as they appear to stimulate leaf growth.  Never take more than half the plant in a single cutting.  But wait until late morning to harvest after the dew has evaporated.

Placement of catnip:

For the indoor garden, a windowsill that is not too accessible to the cat is ideal.  Always remember that catnip will attract bees also, good for pollination of it and surrounding plants, not so good if you or the cat gets stung.

Chrysanthemums

Not only do they repel roaches, ants, ticks, silverfish, lice, fleas, and bedbugs; they have the added bonus of purifying indoor air and removing toxins.

Planting chrysanthemums:

If you receive the plant in a pot (and you most likely will) transplant it to a bigger pot with fresh indoor soil and adequate drainage holes.  Place the plant in a window where it will receive bright light during the day.  Spoiler alert: make sure the plant does not get street or security light at night…it will be confused, and its bloom production gets squirrely causing it to stop flowering.

Water the plant under the leaves.  Avoid excess humidity and insure good air circulation. 

The mum will flower for three to four weeks and then stop.  Just compost the plants after they are done flowering and repeat steps.

Placement of Mums:

Ideally you want to have two or three mum plants in your indoor garden. Placement in a well lit bedroom, living room and kitchen will not only increase the aroma of the home but now you have strategically placed a pests repellant in your living spaces.

Lavender

Lavender isn’t the ideal plant for growing indoors, the struggle is real.  But not only does its aroma cause relaxation but it repels mosquitos, fleas, moths and some rodents.  The struggle is worth it. Steps for planting lavender in a pot from www.Gardenia.net

  1. A 12-16 inch pot that has adequate drainage.  Add small stones for swift drainage.
  2. Your potting mix should be a sandy potting mix that easily drains water.  Fill the pot ¾ full and add a tablespoon of lime.
  3. Add seeds or transplanted plant.  Fill the pot with soil.  Firm the soil to remove air pockets.  If using plant, the crown should stick up about one inch above the soil.
  4. Water thoroughly.
  5. Add a two-inch layer of mulch to help retain moisture.
  6. Lavender requires at least six hours of sunshine a day. 
  7. Water when the soil is dry and then drench so that water flows freely out of the bottom of the pots.
  8. Feed weekly with a liquid fertilizer.
  9. Prune twice a year to prevent shrub from turning to wood.

A good rule for pruning, is to prune two leaf sets above the woody part.  This will encourage stable growth and a healthier, thicker lavender plant.

Always use a clean set of pruning shears that have been washed clean of dirt and disinfected with a bleach solution. This will ensure that your Lavender plant doesn’t pick up a bacterial disease.

Placement of Lavender:

Place your lavender blossoms in entry ways to repel mosquitoes, fleas, moths and some rodents, and to give you that relaxing smell as soon as you walk in your home.

Lemongrass

The citronella found in lemongrass is the main ingredient in insecticides and repellants. 

It is best to start an indoor lemongrass plant from the stalks/bulbs of an existing plant. 

Planting lemongrass:

Pick the stalks with the greenest centers and the bulbs still intact on the bottom.

Place bulb down in a glass with three to four inches of water.

Let it sit for three to five weeks, changing the water frequently until the new roots begin to grow.

Size matters choose a big pot as you can handle, with good drainage, the lemongrass will grow a few feet high.

Fill the pot with indoor potting mix and water until it is moist.

Poke a hole in the center of the potting mix.

Trim off the tops of the stalks and set one stalk in the hole.

Fill the potting mix around the stalk.

Place the plant in a sunny place. 

Harvest it frequently:  cut with a sharp cutting shears flush to the surface of the soil.

Making lemongrass oil:

  1. From a lemongrass stalk peel its outer leaves.  Peel away the fibrous layer by pulling it towards the white end.
  2. Hold the peeled stalk with two hands, horizontally. Partition the stalk into two-inch segments, just by bending it.
  3. Roll each of the segments between your hands until they become mushy and pulpy.
  4. Twist each segment and squeeze the oil, either on your skin or in bottle for spray.

As a repellent:

Combine lemongrass oil with other natural oils to produce a more potent mosquito repellent.  Combine lemongrass oil with lemon eucalyptus oil for mosquito protection of about five to six hours per application.

Or mix lemongrass oil with rosemary oil for a more fragrant formula.  This can ward off a greater number of insect species.

Placement of lemongrass:

Place lemongrass anywhere mosquitoes think of entering, doors and windows. 

Mint

While you are planting and harvesting mint for your teas and mojitos, you are actually keeping mosquitoes at bay. 

Planting mint:

Remember the roots of a mint plant are runners, that means they will grow out horizontally overtaking any and all neighboring plants.

Pick a wide container that has adequate drainage.

Potting soil is the best, if you mix a little sand in the soil (or it is already premixed) it is better for drainage.

Add mulch to the top of the soil.  It will create a barrier to weeds and bacteria, keeps roots cool and when it decomposes adds nutrients.

Seeds: place the seeds on top of the soil and lightly sprinkle them with soil.  Keep them consistently moist but not soaking wet.

Cuttings or transplants: fill a large wide pot with potting soil leaving room for the root ball.  In the center of the pot place the root.  Cover with soil and pad it down making sure the upper stems and leaves are upright.  Water base and roots of plants lightly. 

Place plant next to south or west facing window. 

Make sure the soil isn’t drying out.  You should only need to water the plant once or twice a week. 

Once the plant matures it can tolerate less light.

Harvest by pinching off the top couple of leaves.  Just never harvest more than two-thirds of the plant at any time.  Give it time to recover, a week or two before you harvest again. 

Placement of the mint:

Place the mature mint plant anywhere mosquitoes think of entering.  Placing it next to the lemongrass plant will give your abode a nice refreshing mixture of mint and citrus. 

Rosemary

In addition to the health benefits, and beauty, the rosemary plant not only keeps mosquitoes away but repels silverfish and moths.

Planting rosemary:

When growing rosemary inside it is best to start with a plant than to try to grow the seedlings.

  1. Choose a pot that is the same height as your plant and wide enough to provide at least an inch of space between the edge of the pot and the roots.  (as the plant grows you can increase the pot size)
  2. Make sure the pot has good drainage.
  3. Use well-draining potting soil.
  4. The rosemary plant thrives when its roots are dry.  It absorbs moisture through the air.  By simply adding a layer of a small rock in your drainage pan under your pot will make sure that the plant roots do not come into contact with the excess water.
  5. Water the about every two weeks or when the soil at the top of the pot is dry to the touch.
  6. Leave water in the drip pan with the rocks.  As the water evaporates the rosemary will absorb it. 
  7. Plan to give the plant six to eight hours of sun exposure. 
  8. Rosemary plants grow better in bright light.  The more sun/window exposure the better.
  9. Keep rosemary out of humid indoor areas.  This is usually the bathroom or the kitchen.
  10. Let a fan blow on the plant (at low speed) for a few hours a day.

To keep the plant growing in the same pot once it has outgrown it: wiggle the entire plant out of the pot. 

Using sharp garden shears cut two inches of root matter off the bottom and sides before repotting it with new soil. 

Put the plant in the shade for a couple of days so it can get used to the changes. 

Placement of rosemary:

You want to place the blossom rosemary plant near doors and windows to keep the mosquitoes away.  And you can cut off sprigs of rosemary and place them in clothes drawers to keep away moths and silverfish.

You have your indoor garden for food, medicinal, feline pleasure, and aesthetic beauty.  Now you have lavender at the entryway, lemongrass, and mint near your windows, rosemary, and catnip in your windowsills and chrysanthemums strategically placed throughout your home.  Your indoor oasis is now also bug repellent.

Outdoor plants that repel bugs

Your outdoor flower bed is a food buffet for some animals and pests.  But by strategically placing plants you can build a wall or protection without having to resort to traps and toxic chemicals. 

Alliums

This group includes chives, leeks, onions, garlic, scallions, and shallots.  While this group will attract moths (plant near rosemary and lavender) they repel slugs, flies, and worms.

Word of warning, this group is extremely toxic to dogs and cats.

Planting Alliums:

Find a location where the soil drains well.  If that is unreasonable, peat moss, compost, ground bard, or decomposed manure are viable substitutes.

Alliums will not survive in soggy soil or standing water.

Plant where they will receive full sun.

Plant the bulbs three inches deep and six to eight inches apart.  The pointy end of the bulb should be facing up.

Water well to settle the soil around the bulbs.

When in bloom, you can cut allium flowers for bouquets or for drying.

After blooming has finished for the season leave the foliage in place; don’t cut it off.  The leaves will gather sunlight, create food through photosynthesis and strengthen the bulb for the future.

Water as needed during active growth periods.   About one inch of moisture per week is a probably a good amount.

Placing Alliums in your outdoor bed:

Place the onion bulbs on the outside of your garden bed.

Place other alliums near vegetables to protect the vegetables.

Place rosemary and lavender next to alliums as they will help deter the moths that the alliums attract.

Basil

The oil in the basil kills mosquito eggs. 

Planting Basil:

See above

Placing Basil in your outdoor bed:

Plant basil in pots near gathering to keep away flies and mosquitoes.  When you plant basil inside, plant a couple of extra pots so that you can easily transport them to the outdoor garden.

  1. When growing basil outdoors, remember that basil is very sensitive to cold, even a light frost will kill it.
  2. The more you harvest basil the more it will grow.  Don’t be afraid, harvest often.
  3. Catnip

Catnip

While catnip will attract cats, it will also attract bees.  Bees will provide natural pollination.

Planting catnip:

Catnip grows best in well draining soil and in the full sun.

Once it flowers, you just have to make sure that it gets the water it needs

Remember catnip can become invasive and start to take over neighboring roots.

To control its spread remove the flowers before they go to seed.

Placing catnip in your outdoor garden bed:

Ideally, you want to place catnip near your vegetables.  It not only keeps away bugs, but your cat’s presence will keep away rodents.

If you find your cat loves catnip too much, that is she loves to lie on it and roll on it…place 1-to-2-foot-long bamboo sticks every two to three inches where it is growing to make it impossible for a cat to lie on top of the plant.

Chrysanthemums

Pyrethrum a compound found in chrysanthemums is used in many commercial insect repellants.  It keeps away mosquitoes, roaches, beetles, ticks, and silverfish.

Planting chrysanthemums:

Avoid the florist mums when planting outside, they have a limited root system.

In northern states, plant in the spring.  In southern climates plant either in sprint or autumn.

Wherever you plant, it has to be well draining soil, preferably organic soil.

Find the sunny spot in the garden.  If grown in shade they tend to get leggy as they search for the sun.

When growth is four to six inches remove the stem above the second set of leaves, called pinching.

Continue pinching new growth on all shoots through June.

Placing chrysanthemums in your outdoor garden bed:

Need to plant where protected from the wind. 

Think of placing your mums near rosemary, lavender and any tall plants that will help protect from sun.

Lavender

Although lavender attracts bees, it will keep away flies, moths and mosquitoes.

Planting lavender in your outdoor garden:

  1. Lavender is best planted in the spring as the soil is warming up.
  2. Plant lavender two to three feet apart.
  3. Plants typically reach between one and three feet in height.
  4. It thrives in any poor or moderately fertile soil.  If your soil is heavy or clay, add some organic matter to improve drainage.
  5. Keep away from wet, moist areas.
  6. Water once or twice a week after planting until plants are established.
  7. Water mature plants every two to three weeks until buds form, then once or twice weekly until harvest.
    • Harvest the lavender stems when about half of the flower buds have opened
      • Harvest in the morning hours when the oils are most concentrated
      • Cut stems as long as possible
      • Gather into bundles and secure them with rubber bands
      • Dry the bundles of lavender in a cool, dark place where there is good air circulation

Placing lavender in your outdoor garden:

Place lavender on the outskirts, the border of your garden.  Its ability to attract natural pollinators will aid the other plants.  It ability to keep away flies, moths and mosquitoes will act as a natural keep away border.

Marigolds

This sun loving plant will keep away aphids, mosquitoes and tomato worms. 

Planting marigolds:

According to the Farmer’s Almanac

  1. Marigolds thrive in full sunshine
    1. They do best in moderately fertile, well-drained soil
    1. Prepare the soil by digging down about six inches to loosen it. Remove stones.
    1. Add some slow-release fertilizer in the planting hole (optional)
    1. Sow seeds directly into the garden once the soil is warm
    1. Moisten the soil, then sow seeds one inch apart and no more than one inch deep
    1. While still small, thin the seedlings.  Space them eight to 10 inches apart.  For the larger varieties place 10 to 12 inches apart.

The French and Signet are the smaller varieties.  The American is the larger variety.

Placing marigolds in your garden:

Plant marigolds near your squash, melons, and tomatoes.  The bright colors of the marigolds planted within the vegetables will keep away insects and add color to your garden.

Petunias

This plant needs a sunny spot.  It keeps away squash bugs, beetles and aphids but it also attracts slugs and caterpillars.

Planting petunias in your garden:

It is best to start with a transplant petunia than from seed.  (seed is hard)

Petunias require full sun

They need rich, well-draining soil

Plant after the last expected frost when the plants stand at least three inches tall and have two or three leaves (choose small compact plants)

Amend garden soil with a bit of compost to improve drainage

Water at least one a week, making sure the soil is slightly moist

Placing petunia in your garden:

You want to place petunias in your vegetable gardens

Especially close to the alliums, if you can have rows of vegetables, rows of petunias and rows of alliums that is ideal to keep bugs away and keep slugs at bay.

Rosemary

Rosemary comes in both upright and creeping forms.  Think about your outdoor garden, this plant will prevent infestation and keep mosquitos away, so choose for both aesthetic purposes and location.

Planting rosemary in your garden:

Use plant from your inside garden to transplant to the outside.

Even outside the plants need well drained soil and eight hours of sun daily.3

Water thoroughly but let it dry out between watering.

Rosemary can be used either fresh or dried.

Placing rosemary in your outdoor garden:

The aroma of the plant is good for the prevention of infestation. Plant rosemary near beans, cabbage carrots and sage.

Some of your plants, like basil you may want to keep them in their containers when repotting.  Others like rosemary and catnip you could start inside and transplant some of the plant outside.  Either way remember that all these plants aside from their aesthetic appeal and food value, they are also adept at keeping bugs away from your home and other plants. 

Related Questions:

What scent keeps mosquitoes away?

  1. Basil: The essential oil contained in the basil plant emits an aroma that is irritating to mosquitoes.
  2. Citronella: Citronella oil comes from the lemongrass plant.  It has a lemon-like citrusy scent that is irritating to mosquitoes.  Lemongrass can be planted outside your home, it looks good and effectively keeps mosquitoes away.  In addition, citronella oil can be applied directly to your skin to make your own natural deterrent.
  3. Catnip: A study in Science Daily suggests that Nepetalactone, the plant’s essential oil, is about ten times more effective the DEET at repelling mosquitoes.
  4. Eucalyptus: The smell of eucalyptus interferes with mosquitos’ senses making it difficult for them to locate their food source.  The oil from eucalyptus also repels other insects such as ticks, midges, and sandflies.
  5. Garlic: When consumed, allicin, garlic’s active ingredient, interferes with our natural scent and masks us from mosquitoes.
  6. Lavender: Just plant it in your garden, the mosquitoes will hate you for it.
  7. Lemon Balm: Although bees, butterflies, and humans seem to love the calming lemon scent, insects find the scent unbearable.
  8. Marigold: Plant in various places in your garden to keep mosquitoes away.  Also, cut the flowers off to add to vases around the house to prevent mosquitoes from coming indoors. 
  9. Peppermint: Mint fragrances are unpleasant to the mosquito.  You can also crush peppermint leaves and rub them on your skin to keep mosquitoes away. 
  10. Rosemary: When barbecuing, place a few sprigs of rosemary on the grill to keep mosquitoes away as the scent floats through the yard.

Plants that repel ants

Scattering the leaves of the plants listed below in areas of your house where you have seen ants may keep them away.  The bonus is that most of the plants you will already have in your home garden. 

  1. Catnip
  2. Pennyroyal
  3. Peppermint
  4. Sage
  5. Spearmint

Your home garden and your outdoor garden serve multi-functions.  In addition to giving you food, relieving stress, and just adding beauty, these plants will keep away those pesky pests.  So start planting.

Eyerly Family

The Eyerly Family is a family of 8 that loves gardening. Over the past several years we have been applying what we learn about gardening to our own 16x16 raised back yard garden. Our garden is very prolific and we grow a wide variety of vegetables which we love to eat! Click here to learn more about the Eyerly Family.

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