Spring and summer are so beautiful, vibrant, and warm that — in moderate climates — it is nearly impossible to stay indoors and keep the windows closed. Unfortunately, open windows, picnics in the yard, and dinners on the patio are an open invitation to buzzing, biting, bothersome pests.
Although you have your choice of numerous chemical bug killers and repellents, do you really want to expose your family and pets to toxic chemicals? Luckily, your landscaping can work as a natural pest repellent, if only you know what to plant. To get you started, here are nine plants and herbs that can help keep bugs away.
Lavender’s aromatic oils already make it a popular choice for a freshening and cleansing agent in homemade cleaning formulas. Those same oils and scents make it an attractive-smelling bug repellent as well. Lavender helps deter common pests like moths, fleas, flies, mosquitoes — and even scorpions.
As with most plants on this list, lavender will work best if planted by your high-traffic areas: entrances and outdoor living spaces. You can also dry lavender and place it as a decorative repellent on the interior side of your entry doors and windowsills.
Feverfew is another multipurpose pest repellent. Not only does it chase off a number of biting, flying pests like mosquitoes, it’s a medicinal herb, used to treat a range of ailments from arthritis to stomach aches to migraines.
Feverfew does well enough on its own, but works even better if planted together with lavender and lemongrass.
Lemongrass is another bug-be-gone heavy hitter. Also called citronella grass, lemongrass provides the base for — you guessed it — the popular insect-repelling citronella candle.
Unless you live in sunny Florida, this plant will do better as an annual. Just don’t forget that it is edible as well. Use it to help flavor a variety of recipes.
Plant pennyroyal to help chase off mosquitoes, gnats, ticks, and fleas. Quick tip: Crush a bit of the leaves and apply to skin for an even more effective repellent.
Start an Herb Garden
Herb gardens are wonderfully multifunctional. They provide a pleasing pop of color, fantastic aroma, fresh seasoning for meals, and they discourage bugs.
- Basil is a great first choice. It repels house flies and mosquitoes. You can also steep its leaves in boiling water, then combine with vodka for a homemade insect repellent.
- Fennel discourages slugs, snails, and aphids.
- Mint chases off mosquitoes. Just remember to plant in a container or it will spread quickly.
- Rosemary works against mosquitoes. It also repels other bugs that are harmful to vegetable gardens.
- Thyme works on a multitude of pests, including whiteflies.
If none of these options fits your fancy, there are many other edible and decorative plants that can do the trick. If you’re not sure which plants will do best in your yard, take a trip to a local nursery to get help from an expert.
Then, sit back and enjoy the great outdoors, pest-free, naturally.
Feature image of wild borage by makamuki0, Pixabay. Originally published on June 3, 2015, this article was updated in March 2023.