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Plants that Repel Mosquitoes, Flies & Garden Pests

Updated on November 13, 2015

Control Bugs Naturally

Spring heralds the arrival of warmer temperatures and soft rains. The earth begins to awaken from its winter slumber. Flowers bloom, trees bud, birds sing and baby animals are born. New life abounds. So, too, do the summertime pests that emerge from dormancy to proliferate in our landscapes. Our yards and patios are a wonderful place to relax and enjoy the spring weather, but sharing the space with mosquitoes and flies can ruin the ambiance. Besides their annoying buzzing and biting qualities, some pests carry diseases and others are detrimental to our vegetable and flower gardens.

It may be tempting to wield a high-power pest control spray when bugs begin to proliferate in areas where they are unwelcome. But many forms of insect control have negative side effects, not only for humans, but for the beneficial bugs that frequent our landscapes. For instance, sprays that are used for general insect control are often deadly to bees and ladybugs, which are important species to the health of our gardens. They also may harm butterflies, a notable disaster to those who enjoy and encourage butterflies to visit their landscapes. The prudent gardener looks for less toxic methods of pest elimination to discourage unwanted bugs without harming the more friendly and useful varieties

There are many natural and organic methods of pest control. This article will focus on plants that we can grow in our landscapes to deter unwanted pests. Though they may not be quite as effective as a chemical spray, plants have fewer (if any) negative side effects. Plants can also serve multiple purposes, providing beauty, a pleasant aroma, food and health remedies in addition to repelling unwanted bugs. Here are a few noteworthy insect-repellant varieties.

Photo Credit: Some rights reserved by Alicia J. Rose.

Marigolds

Marigold flowers give off a fragrance that is unappealing to many insects, especially to certain types of beetles, leaf cutters,the dreaded tomato horn worm, and some detrimental nematodes. Plant them near tender vegetables or place them in a pot on your picnic table. In addition to growing the flowers in strategic areas around your yard, you can also whirl the flowers with some water in your blender, strain and use as a pest deterrent spray.

Marigolds are easily grown from seed or transplants. Plant them in full sun. With very little care, marigolds bloom prolifically during the late spring and summer. To encourage continual blooming, deadhead the plants by removing flowers as they die. Marigolds come in many shades, including creamy yellow, right bright yellow, orange, gold, burgundy, and combinations of two colors.

Besides being a gorgeous bug repellent, marigold flowers are edible in salads and the dried leaves make a delicious tea.

Thai Lemon Grass

Thai lemon grass is not a particularly beautiful plant, but it is very effective as a natural mosquito repellant. An aromatic grass that gives off a lovely, lemony smell when rubbed or cut, it is extremely easy to grow in a landscape or on your patio. It t is tolerates full sun or partial shade, and likes plenty of water. Before enjoying an evening on the patio, snip a few of the leaves to release the odor that is pleasant to humans, but repellent to mosquitoes.

Lemon grass has many uses. It is often used as an ingredient in Thai food recipes. Homemade natural skincare, candles and perfumes sometimes contain lemon grass. On our farm, we simmer 1 part water with 1 part sugar and a few macerated pieces of lemon grass to make a simple syrup for sweetening lemonade or other beverages.

Nasturtium

Nasturtiums are effective for repelling white flies, squash bugs, beetles and aphids. They prefer lots of sun and soil that is allowed to dry out between watering. These hardy plants will often grow in places that other plants will not tolerate, and bloom best when grown in average to poor soil conditions. Grow nasturtiums near tender vegetables or in a pot on your picnic table or patio. The seeds can be harvested and soaked in water for use as an insect repellent spray.

Nasturtium flowers have a peppery flavor that is delicious in salads. In addition, nasturtiums are used medicinally as a sore throat remedy as the leaves are a natural antibiotic that is high in vitamin C.

Basil

Flies, mosquitoes, and asparagus beetles are repelled by basil. It prefers warm temperatures and well-drained soil with plenty of organic material, such as compost. In ancient tops, basil was grown in pots on the windowsill to deter flies. The flowers are lovely and they attract bees and butterflies. However, many gardeners say that for the best leaf flavor, pinch of flower spikes as soon as they form.

This lovely plant is also delicious in recipes. For pesto, choose a large-leaf, sweet variety, such as Italian or Genovese, or small-leaved Globe basil. For spicy dishes, select Holy basil or Cinnamon basil. For fish or chicken, Mr.s Burn's lemon basil is lovely.

Mint

Mints can be grown to keep ants, aphids, moths, and fleas away. Though tolerant of many growing conditions, mint is best grown in moist, fertile soil in full sun to partial shade.

Mint can grow aggressively and can become invasive in a garden, taking over as much space as it can. To trap a mint, grow it in a container on your patio. Or, cut the bottom off of a 5-gallon plastic plant pot. Dig a hole as deep as the height of the pot and set the pot in the hole. Backfill the pot with soil and plant your mint inside it. This will help to keep your mint under control as it grows in your garden amongt your other plants.

Package of 1,000 Seeds, Peppermint Herb (Mentha piperita) Non-GMO Seeds By Seed Needs
Package of 1,000 Seeds, Peppermint Herb (Mentha piperita) Non-GMO Seeds By Seed Needs

Peppermint has a strong smell that irritates and deters many pests. Many people enjoy the aroma and use the leaves for tea, a culinary condiment or for potpouri.

 

Here are some more members of the mint family that repel pests, and have many other uses, as well!

Catnip Seeds 400 Seeds
Catnip Seeds 400 Seeds

Catnip is known to repel ants, aphids, roaches, and beetles. It repels mice, but cats love it. Still, it is a hardy perennial that belongs to the mint family. Its soft, heart-shaped leaves are gray-green. Catnip produces small white or lavender flowers. Plant it in full sun in a well-drained soil. This hardy perennial requires little care and is a butterfly attractor.

 
500 LEMON BALM SEEDS Melissa officinialis Attracts BEES&BUTTERFLIES citronellal
500 LEMON BALM SEEDS Melissa officinialis Attracts BEES&BUTTERFLIES citronellal

Also known as Horsemint, Bee Balm, Purple Horse Mint or Lemon Mint, Lemon Balm has a lemony smell that attracts bees and butterflies. Steep the leaves for a soothing tea or pour it in a spray bottle and apply to the skin to repel mosquitoes.

 

One member of the mint family, Mexican Mint Marigold, is a great substitute for tarragon that can be grown easily in hot, dry climates. My garden is in Phoenix, Arizona and French tarragon is tricky to grow here. But I have not issues growing Mexican Mint Marigold, locally referred to as Mexican tarragon. It seems to love the heat, and doesn't mind a little bit of water stress.

Seeds and Things Non-hybrid Herb Mexican Mint Marigold 100 Seeds Per Packet
Seeds and Things Non-hybrid Herb Mexican Mint Marigold 100 Seeds Per Packet

Mexican Mint Marigold has a licorice flavor and scent, similar to French tarragon. This hardy plant grows well in warm temperatures. It is also known as Mexican tarragon Root Beer Plant, Yerba Anis or Cloud Plant. Its strong odor is a potent deterrent to pests, while the small, yellow flowers attract pollinators. Use as a culinary substitute for French tarragon.

 

If you have a protected space that is not visited by pets or children, Pennyroyal is a very effective pest deterrent. We have lots of animals that roam our farm, so I avoid growing Pennyroyal. But I purchase the dried herb online to make sachets to keep bugs out of our seasonal clothing storage.

200 PENNYROYAL MINT Mentha Pulegium Herb Flower Seeds
200 PENNYROYAL MINT Mentha Pulegium Herb Flower Seeds

Pennyroyal is a highly toxic member of the mint family. It's crushed, dried leaves have long been used to repel fleas and other pests. Although it is sometimes used as an herbal remedy for various maladies, it can be poisonous to pets and humans if ingested.

 

Garlic

Garlic repels aphids, borers, apple scabs, Japanese beetles, peach leaf curl, and spider mites. Garlic tolerates many growing conditions, but prefers an area with full sun and well-drained soil. It is typically planted in the fall and harvested in the spring when the leaves begin to die.

At our farm, we plant garlic (and onions) around the perimeters of our garden beds to create a barrier that helps to protect our garden vegetables from pest infestations.

What methods do you use for natural pest control?

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    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 3 years ago from USA

      Stay inside :) Haven't grown Nasturtium before ... no reason really, just never thought of it. Cat nip is supposed to repel bugs also, but can't say for sure if it does.

    • profile image

      burntchestnut 3 years ago

      If you can get some toads or frogs to live in your garden, they'll help eat insect pests.

    • roamingrosie profile image

      roamingrosie 4 years ago

      Great suggestions! I'll have to try some of these, since we have more than our fair share here in Florida. I'd love add some mint to the garden!

    • Northerntrials profile image

      Northerntrials 4 years ago

      It is much better to plants to attract those that will eat mosquitoes than to plant plants that are thought to repel pests. I am glad you didn't showcase the mosquito plant, which has been proven to be nothing but a money grab from retail stores. I enjoyed you post Thanks.

    • chi kung profile image

      chi kung 4 years ago

      I always admire what a huge amount of knowledge people have and how we can solve just everzthing naturally withouth using anz artificial stuff!

    • Dabdab profile image

      Dabdab 4 years ago

      This is a fantastic lens - really informative and on a subject that should get more coverage. My late mother-in-law was a professional gardener and she was using and experimenting with natural pest control using plants such as these and also particular types of insects (such as moths) - it is a really interesting subject, so thank you for this lens.

    • Snakesmum profile image

      Jean DAndrea 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Although I've got most of these plants in my garden, I didn't know about all their insect repelling qualities! Useful info, thanks.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      We just wanted to let you know that we featured this post at this weeks Wednesday's Adorned From Above Blog Hop. Thanks so much for sharing with us.

      Have a great week.

      Debi and Charly

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Great info! Thanks for sharing this on The HomeAcre Hop! Hope to see you back today :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Hi Kari,

      I've actually done this one. lol I have used marigolds around my swing, but the others I did not know about. Thanks so much for sharing this with us at Transformed Tuesday.

      Hugs,

      Peggy

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      MMmmm...this year I am growing extra marigolds....I have grown them for yrs but only a few at a time my it was my mothers favorite flower to plant. It grows so easy. visiting from Healthy Tues hop. I use sprays, yea the chemical ones...wannna get away from them though.fitandbeyond40.com

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Cool to learn that Nasturtiums and Marigolds keep bugs away. Didn't know that! They are both so pretty, too. :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      This is fantastic!!! We have a lot of little pesky flying bugs around my house! Thanks for sharing at frugalfitfamily.com