Plants & Other Ideas That Repel Insects

I.  Use Eco-friendly bug fighters


With the sunny days of summer we often experience insects in the yard and garden that are irritating and destructive.  Several years ago, I wrote 5 Reasons To Make Your Garden Organic This Year.  Organic gardening can mean different things to many people.  Really it’s just about growing plants without synthetic chemicals or fertilizers. Most people know instinctively that  pesticides and week killers are harmful to the environment and our families.  One of the main reasons I hear for not going organic is “it costs too much.”  I’m retired now but when I was growing up, everything was grown without modern insecticides.  My friends and I say “It was all organic back then.”  Was it that expensive in the 1950’s and 1960’s to have a more eco-friendly garden?





Recently there was an 11 billion dollar settlement in the class action suit linking Roundup weed killer to cancer.  I feel for those who have develped cancer from using this toxic product.  If you have your yard done by a professional, ask what products are being used.  Avoid pesticides and weed killers in your yard. Your family does not need to be exposed to these products.







I try to minimize usage of toxic chemicals like bug sprays.  Since I discontinued their use in my yard, I do not personally react to poisons being sprayed and have lots more bees and butterflies on my flowers.  I switched to spraying around my house with essential oil of oregano diffused  with the hose.  I spray around my home periodically which repels many kinds of bugs.  Central Florida can have lots of pests, but I hate the invasion annually of love bugs and Hawthorne bugs.  They just leave my yard when it’s sprayed with oil of oregano.


For mosquitoes, periodically check your yard for any standing water and remove it.  If the mosquitoes breed in your stagnant pool, you will have a horde of blood thirsty attackers.  Have a pond on your land?  You can stop mosquitoes from maturing by using mosquito dunks and bits. These products contain Bacillus thurengiensis israelensis (Bti), a naturally occurring soil bacteria that works as a larvicide.  When the larvae of mosquitoes — as well as black flies and fungus gnats — consume Bti, it affects their stomachs making them no longer able to eat. Within several days, they die of starvation.  The bacteria is all natural and doesn’t harm other wildlife or the environment.




Photo Amazon



Dunks float in water and can be anchored with a string. Bits are granules or pellets that can be scattered in soil, plant trays or other areas. Apply them to places where there is standing water, as well as muddy, shady areas.



II.  Use plants to repel bugs


Plants and especially herbs contain essential oils that are nature’s bug repellent. Insects tend to avoid them. You can even use some of these plants to make your own natural bug repellent.  See my post Tell Bugs to Bug off  for more information on using essential oils in your home and garden for pests and a recipe for your DIY bug spray .




Comfort Spring, Tell Bugs To Bug Off: Natural Remedies To Repel Bugs




There is another way you can fight back against mosquitoes, gnats, flies, no-see-ums and other pesky bugs which doesn’t involve covering yourself  and family with a sticky chemical spray. To help you enjoy going outdoors, try strategically placing insect-repelling plants in your garden or on your patio. Let’s look at the environment you can create that makes it more difficult for unwanted insects including mosquitos to prosper. Yet you will still have beneficial insects like wonderful butterflies and bees.



overhead shot of mint rosemary basil other plants

Photo via Treehugger



In looking at bug fighting plants, here’s a list of plants that should help keep your backyard a fun, safe, and vibrant place this season.  You’ll notice that many of the beneficial plants are herbs.  The smell from fragrant herbs is the result of the distribution of tiny globules that contain oils. High temperatures, for example, can cause the globules to become volatile, evaporating the essential oils and turning them into vapors.





Plant basil in containers on window sills,  by  your doors, and in outdoor areas where you like to relax or entertain. It repels house flies and mosquitos. Be sure and use some of your fresh basil leaves in your summer recipes too.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 11
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Moist, rich, well-drained soil




Basil, Herbs, Food, Dew, Water Droplets, Dewdrops, Pot






Chives will repel carrot flies, aphids, and Japanese beetles. Be sure to harvest your chives, because it will spread quickly if you allow it to go to seed. Even the beautiful flowers are edible.



Flowers, Plants, Chives, Bloom, Blossom



  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Moist, rich soil








This might be the best plant to deter bugs. Ants, Japanese beetles, roaches, bed bugs, spider mites, silverfish, and ticks will stay away if you have some of these around. Some bug repellents use an ingredient in this flower because of how effective it is. These flowers deter:

  • Ants
  • Japanese beetles
  • Roaches
  • Bed bugs
  • Spider mites
  • Ticks
  • Silverfish
  • Harlequin bugs
  • Lice


Flowers, Buds, Garden, Chrysanthemums, Chrysanths, Mums



Most chrysanthemums sold in garden centers are ” hardy” and can survive winter in zones 5 to 9. A few varieties are hardy to zone 3.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Moist, rich, well-drained soil






Known for its health benefits and seasoning, garlic plants deter Japanese beetles, root maggots, carrot root flies, codling moths, cabbage worms, slugs, and aphids.  Planting garlic under roses to repel Japanese beetles is a classic companion planting technique.



Garlic, Head, Ornamental Plants, Garden, Nature



  • USDA Growing Zones: 0 to 10 (varies by type)
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Fertile, well-drained soil







Lavender has been used for centuries to add a pleasantly sweet fragrance to homes and clothes drawers. Although many people love the smell of lavender, mosquitoes, flies and other unwanted insects hate it. Place tied bouquets in your dwelling to help keep flies outdoors. Plant it in sunny areas of the garden or near the entries to your home.  For more information on lavender, check out Everything Lavender. Dried bundles and sachets can help keep flies out of your home this ummer.



Flowers, Lavenders, Purple Flowers, Inflorescence




  • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9 (or grow as annual)
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Well drained soil




Lemongrass or Citronella Grass


I think everyone is familiar with citronella which is an ingredient in mosquito repellents, but a lot of people don’t know it’s a grass. Citronella is a natural oil found in lemongrass, an ornamental that can grow up to four feet tall and three feet wide in one season. (It’s worth noting that lemongrass isn’t just the name of one plant; it’s the umbrella name for plants in the Cymbopogon family, which also includes citronella grass.) This grass with wonderful culinary uses is hardy only in South Florida (Zone 10), so almost everyone else will have to grow it as an annual. Plant this grass in gardens, or have it in planters near your doors to keep mosquitoes and flying insects from getting inside when you open the door.




Cymbopogon, Lemongrass, Grasses, Plants, Greenery




Lemon Thyme


Lemon thyme is a hardy herb that can adapt to dry or rocky, shallow soil.  It will thrive in your herb garden, a rock garden, or a front border as long as these are in sunny locations. The plant itself will not repel pesky mosquitoes. To release its chemicals, you must first bruise the leaves. To do this, simply cut off a few stems and rub them between your hands.



lemon thyme

Photo Treehugger



  • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Well-drained soil

Warning:  Thyme oil can cause skin irritation for those sensitive to plants in the mint family (sage, lavender, oregano). Before adopting as an insect-repellant, determine your tolerance by rubbing crushed leaves on a small area of your forearm for several days to ensure no side effects occur. Thyme oil should also be avoided during pregnancy.






The scent of a marigold will deter plant lice, mosquitoes, and even rabbits. Plant these in flower beds near your front or back doors, or even in your vegetable garden to keep rabbits and mosquitoes from harming your plants.


Butterfly, Insect, Flower, Painted Lady, Animal




  • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 11
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Well-drained soil






Mint plants can repel spiders, ants, and mosquitoes.  Mint is best grown in pots rather than the ground because it spreads aggressively. Once established in the garden, it can be difficult to remove. Cuttings of mint in mulch can help broccoli, cabbage and turnips.  You can simply lay sprigs of mint among the plants you want to protect, but the sprigs must be replaced often.  Containers of mint strategically placed in the garden or on the patio will help keep nearby plants insect free.



Peppermint, Medicinal Plant, Medicinal Herbs, Mint



  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 11
  • Sun Exposure: Part shade
  • Soil Needs: Rich, slightly acidic soil






Nasturtiums repel whiteflies, squash bugs, aphids, many beetles and cabbage loopers. They are a classic example for companion planting.  This gardening technique involves growing a variety of plants close to one another for the benefits each brings to the others. Nasturtiums release an airborne chemical that repels predacious insects, protecting not just the nasturtium but other plants in the grouping. Because many of the insects nasturtiums repel favor vegetables — tomatoes, cucumbers, kale, kohlrabi, collards, broccoli, cabbage and radishes — nasturtiums are an idea choice for planting along the edges of vegetable gardens.  They are easy to grow with minimal work and require full sun.  Of course, they do not repel the all important insect, bumble bees. The added bonus is that nasturtiums are edible.






  • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 11
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Well-drained soil







Available in a variety of vibrant colors to spruce up any flower bed, petunias help control aphids, tomato hornworms, and asparagus beetles. Rather than repelling these pests, petunias actually trap them in their sticky stamens, where the insects die instead of harming your plants. They require such minimal maintenance they are almost foolproof to grow and can be grown in garden beds, containers, or hanging baskets. Plant them in sunny areas near vegetables and herbs such as beans, tomatoes, peppers, and basil.



Petunia, Flower, Purple, White, Red, Hanging Plant




Petunias are treated as annuals in most areas, but can be grown as tender perennials in Zones 9 to 11.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11 (or grow as annual)
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Sandy soil








Essential oil globules on the underside of rosemary leaves  are one of the best examples of the plant’s powerful scent.  I have a rosemary bush by my front porch and love to touch it to carry its fragrance with me.  Rosemary in the garden grows in growing zones 7 to 10.  For those of you up north, you can either consider it an annual that you replant each year or you can keep it in a pot.  Rosemary will protect your vegetable plants by repelling a wide variety of bugs that will feed on the plants you’re growing.  Plant rosemary or put pots in various locations in your vegetable garden.






  • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11 (or grow as annual)
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Sandy soil






Like rosemary, sage has a scent pleasant to us but not to insects. It is a perennial plant that can be grown in planters on a patio or planted into landscaped beds as a border. If you’re camping or using a fire pit, toss a little sage or rosemary into the fire. The scented smoke helps keep away unwanted insects. To make it last, first wet herb, wrap the rosemary or sage in aluminum foil, poke holes in foil, and place in fire.   It will smoke for some time.




Sage, Leaves, Herb, Garden Plant, Aroma, Garden, Spice



  • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Well-drained soil











Wishing you a bug-free summer!





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I was raised in Tennessee but have lived in Florida for many years. Love my small home in the Tampa Bay area and its developing garden. My decorating style is eclectic - some vintage, some cottage, all with a modern flair. Pursuing a healthier lifestyle. Spent many years in social services but am happily retired.

21 thoughts to “Plants & Other Ideas That Repel Insects”

  1. Great info! I have lavender, mums and many other herbs and flowers. Mayflies come every June and like lovebugs, make a big mess 🙁 The one insect on the river is spider and they love my plants and anything they can make a web on!

  2. This is really an interesting post, Carol. Especially the thing for putting in standing water and then all the wonderful herbs and blooms that have extra properties. I didn’t know that they repelled bugs — that’s a huge plus!

    1. I found out about the dunks and bits recently – yeah! Now we just need a dunk in the rain barrel for no mosquitoes!

  3. This is a very, very important post, dear Carol – I’m very happy about it! An organic garden is never expensive. I think the rumor is spread by the industry that makes a lot of money on pesticides. I have an organic garden and it only costs me what I spend on plants and soil. I don’t need any fertilizer because I make compost myself – the best fertilizer in the world! And – as you wrote correctly – there are many plants that help to keep unwanted insects away in the garden as much as possible, but to give bees and butterflies a nice home. I don’t know if Ivy grows in Florida – but if it does, you can actually SAVE a lot of money with it. Because I only wash my laundry with ivy leaves – no more money for detergent for two years and the laundry becomes clean and smells wonderfully natural! If you want to know more about it, please ask me 🙂
    All the best from Austria

    1. wow – I had never heard of using ivy to do laundry. I just looked up growing zones for ivy – not sure it would like my semi-tropical climate but I am going to get some. Thank you!

  4. Thanks for sharing lovely informative post, I always grow marigold in between veggie plants for repelling bugs and insects. Thanks for sharing with Garden Affair.

  5. I always try to use natural products in my garden. But it sounds like I really need to get some Chrysanthemums in my garden to keep all those bugs at bay #MMBC

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