13 Plants That Repel Garden Pests


Every gardener has a unique and complicated relationship with insects, which are both friends and foes in the garden. We feel such joy when we glimpse a butterfly lighting upon our flowers but go to great lengths to repel and destroy others, like aphids and mosquitos. What if I told you that you could plant certain things in your garden that would repel those pests naturally while encouraging the good bugs?

With all the money we spend on insect-eliminating sprays, candles, oils, soaps, and lights, why not invest in some plants that will help to keep your yard naturally free of some of the more irritating and dangerous insects? With mosquitos playing host to diseases like malaria, West Nile virus, and Zika virus, it is important to ward off these pests if you plan to spend much time outdoors. 

Since, as gardeners, we typically do enjoy a fair amount of outdoor time, it makes sense to discover the most natural ways to repel the bad insects while not harming the good insects or ourselves in the process. Many insecticides that kill harmful insects also kill the helpful ones. 

Bees and butterflies are vital to the garden, and they have very different preferences than other insects do when it comes to their plant preferences. Often, the very same plants that other insects are repelled by are the very ones that pollinators will come looking for. Let’s discuss why certain plants repel some insects and not others

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Why Do Some Plants Repel Insects?

A basil plant thrives within a green cage trellis, its lush foliage intertwining gracefully. Under the sun's warm embrace, the leaves shimmer with a verdant sheen, exuding vitality and freshness in their vibrant green hues.
Plants deter insects with pheromones, oils, and other defenses, safeguarding against harmful infestations naturally.

Certain plants have defense mechanisms that naturally ward off harmful insects. Others produce pheromones that are unappealing to insects or strong scents that mask their favorite (and maybe your favorite) plants. Still others have physical characteristics that make them appear dangerous to certain insects. 

Some species contain essential oils that insects are not fond of. When the sun heats the foliage and flowers of these plants, the oils get released, and the insects catch a whiff and head for the hills.

All of these qualities make the plants that possess them very appealing to the gardener. While it is unlikely that one would be able to plant enough of these insect-repelling plants to eliminate all garden pests from the yard, it is quite possible to plant enough to assist in controlling the population. 

Note: Another great way to control the populations of harmful insects is to use plants that attract beneficial predator insects to the garden. If you provide their favorite plants, they will do much of the pest elimination for you!

What Plants are Effective and for Which Pests?

I’m so glad you asked! I’ve compiled a list of 13 plants that repel certain pesky garden pests, and we will discuss how each one works and where you should plant them for maximum benefit. 

Tansy

A cluster of bright yellow tansy flowers blooms vibrantly, exuding warmth and cheerfulness. Surrounding them, lush green leaves and various plants create a verdant backdrop, accentuating the flowers' vivid hue.
Containing thujone, tansy repels insects effectively and serves as a beneficial companion plant in gardens.
botanical-name
botanical name


Tanacetum vulgare
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun to partial shade
height
height


1’-3’
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


3-8

Tansy is a charming plant that produces small, bright yellow, button-shaped flowers in mid-summer. The flowers dry beautifully, retaining their color, and make nice cut flowers as well. Tansy essential oil contains thujone, a monoterpene ketone, which is toxic to humans and insects alike. As long as a person doesn’t ingest the plant, it won’t cause any harm.

The thujone in tansy plant oil repels pests like fleas and mosquitos exceptionally well. When used as a companion plant, tansy deters a wide range of harmful insects, including ants, cucumber beetles, cutworms, flies, cabbage worms, carrot rust fly, and several others. It makes an excellent companion in the garden as long as no one accidentally ingests some. 

Tansy has escaped cultivation in some states and is listed as invasive. Please check with your local extension office before planting.

Lavender

Tall lavender flowers, abundant in number, sway gracefully against a backdrop of greenery, exuding a soothing aroma that captivates the senses. Slender stems elegantly support the weight of each lavender bloom, reaching skyward.
With its insect-repellent properties, lavender is a must-have plant for gardens.
botanical-name
botanical name


Lavandula
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun
height
height


up to 4’
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


5-9

Lavender is one of those plants that I just can’t get enough of. It’s an amazing plant that grows in poor soil and is incredibly heat, cold, and drought tolerant.

The smell is one of the most popular fragrances in the world. Lavender contains camphor, which is one of the most effective insect repellants. 

To repel pests like flies, fleas, and mosquitos, plant lavender in your garden. The more you plant, the more effective it is, but nothing has as great an effect as releasing the oils from the plant. Simply crush the leaves in your hands to release some of this oil. You can also cut and dry the flowers and grind them up to keep moths out of the closet and flies out of the kitchen.

Borage

A close-up captures blue borage flowers surrounded by fuzzy purple buds, showcasing nature's intricate details. In the backdrop, blurred textured leaves add depth, creating a harmonious tapestry of colors and textures in this botanical composition.
This tasty flower deters pests like cabbage white butterflies.
botanical-name
botanical name


Borago officinalis
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun to partial shade
height
height


1’-3’
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


2-11

Borage plants have an interesting way of repelling certain pests that can be harmful to other plants, especially food crops. It is thought that the frenetic bee activity that commonly takes place around borage plants is a deterrent to other insects. To be specific, borage seems to deter tomato hornworm and cabbage white butterflies. 

Plant this flowering annual near your cabbage, tomatoes, and other night-shade vegetables. Not only will you ward off two of the most voracious feeders in the vegetable garden, but you also get the benefit of increased pollinator activity, which will increase your harvest.

Borage flowers are often used to decorate drinks and baked goods. They taste a bit like cucumber.

Peppermint

A close-up of peppermint leaves reveals their textured surface, adorned with delicate serrated edges that catch the light. The leaves' green hue hints at their freshness, inviting a sensory journey through their aromatic essence and crisp appearance.
The peppermint plants can serve as natural repellents but should be contained to prevent invasiveness.
botanical-name
botanical name


Mentha x piperita
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Partial shade
height
height


18”-36”
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


3-10

As an extracted oil, peppermint is a great killer and repellant for a bunch of harmful insects. A solution of peppermint oil sprayed around the house will ward off spiders, ticks, flies, beetles, ants, moths, and roaches. It will have the same effect when sprayed in the garden, but what about the plant itself?

Indeed, peppermint plants repel spiders, fleas, and flies, so it’s a great plant to have around your outdoor living spaces. The one caveat is that peppermint can spread quickly and can be invasive, killing off other native plants. Keep this one in containers that you can move around to keep away the creepy crawlies wherever you need protection. 

Rosemary

Sunlight dances on the slender leaves of a potted rosemary, illuminating its natural beauty. Beyond, blurred foliage in black pots creates a serene backdrop, enhancing the charm of the aromatic herb in focus.
With its heavenly scent containing compounds like camphor, rosemary repels garden pests and insects.
botanical-name
botanical name


Rosmarinus officinalis
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun
height
height


2’-6′
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


8-10

Rosemary is one of those herbs that I can’t walk past without running my hand over the leaves to take a bit of that heavenly scent along with me. Garden pests, however, do not appreciate the scent of rosemary, and it does a good job of repelling them in the garden as well as in the home. The herb contains camphor, limonene, and alpha-pinene, all compounds that drive away insects

In the garden, rosemary makes a great companion for plants affected by cabbage loopers, slugs, snails, Mexican bean beetles, and carrot flies. It’s great to grow near outdoor living spaces because flies and mosquitoes stay away from it as well.

Pollinators like its flowers, and in the kitchen, rosemary is a wonder. It is my favorite herb to add to a loaf of sourdough. 

Catnip

Catnip leaves, with their textured surfaces and serrated edges, display intricate patterns, inviting curious exploration. Among them, purple catnip flowers bloom, adding a burst of color and allure to the scene.
A member of the mint family, catnip repels pests with nepetalactone.
botanical-name
botanical name


Nepeta cataria
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun to partial shade
height
height


2’-3’
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


3-7

Catnip is a member of the mint family and is best known for the euphoric effect it has on cats due to the presence of nepetalactone. The very same compound is what makes catnip a pest deterrent. Mosquitos, flies, and other pests are repelled by the scent, and the essential oil can be used as a natural deterrent

In addition to its effects on felines and insects, catnip has been used by humans to treat anxiety, as a sleep aid, and even for pain relief. Some folks are allergic to it, though. Pollinators are not bothered by the strong scent of the plant and will come collect its nectar. 

Chrysanthemum

A row of Chrysanthemum shrubs lines the garden path, their yellow flowers basking in the sunlight. Each bloom stands tall, adding a cheerful burst of color against the backdrop of lush green foliage, inviting admiration from passersby.
These plants bloom in late summer, serving as natural mosquito repellents until the first frost.
botanical-name
botanical name


Chrysanthemum
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun
height
height


1’-3’
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


5-9

A chemical extracted from chrysanthemums is commonly used as an organic pest control method. Pyrethrum is found in these plants and is toxic to many insects, including fleas, ticks, and mosquitos. If you have pets that regularly spend time outdoors, it’s great to have chrysanthemums around. 

Chrysanthemums become popular in nurseries near the end of summer when they begin to bloom. Hardy mums make great garden plants and good container plants as well. Grab some potted chrysanthemums in August and place them around your outdoor living space. They will help to combat those evening mosquitoes until the first frost rolls in.  

Garlic

Dark soil-filled small bags cradle garlic cloves, promising growth. Emerging from these cloves are slender, green stalks, reaching for sunlight and hinting at the garlic's imminent maturation in the fertile earth.
A culinary staple, garlic serves as a potent insect repellent due to its allicin content.
botanical-name
botanical name


Allium sativum
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun
height
height


2’
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


4-9

It’s hard to imagine life without garlic. This staple in many international cuisines has some amazing health benefits for humans. It is antifungal and antibacterial and benefits metabolic and cardiovascular health, among other things. Garlic is repellant for insects, though, and contains allicin, a compound that insects find unappealing

Simply planting garlic in your garden won’t necessarily have much of an effect on pest populations. However, you can make a solution from fresh garlic and spray it on your plants as a very effective pest control. There is also some evidence that eating fresh garlic makes a person less attractive to mosquitoes (and maybe vampires, too). 

Petunia

Vibrant petunia flowers bloom in a mesmerizing array of purple and pink hues, adding a burst of color to the scene. Lush green leaves gracefully cradle the delicate petals, providing a verdant backdrop to their radiant beauty.
Low-maintenance petunias with spicy-scented flowers serve as effective companion plants for vegetables.
botanical-name
botanical name


Petunia
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun to partial shade
height
height


6”-18”
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


10-11

Petunias are low-maintenance flower plants that provide beautiful color in containers and garden beds. They make great companion plants for vegetables that are affected by squash bugs, leafhoppers, aphids, tomato hornworms, and asparagus beetles. The cause of this is thought to be the scent of petunia flowers, which is slightly spicy and reminiscent of black licorice

In zones 9-11 petunias are tender perennials, otherwise they are grown as annuals. They like moist, well-drained soil and full sun, but they will grow in partial shade. Petunias are easy to find at just about any nursery. They are popular for use in hanging baskets and container arrangements for their reliably blooming flowers that last from spring through fall. 

Nasturtium

A close-up captures the exquisite beauty of red Nasturtium flowers, each petal unfurling in a graceful dance. Encircling the blossoms, the round leaves create a lush, enhancing the floral spectacle with their verdant embrace.
Planted as a companion, nasturtium repels pests like whiteflies, beetles, and cabbage loopers.
botanical-name
botanical name


Tropaeolum majus
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun to partial shade
height
height


1’-10’
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


2-11

Nasturtium plays an interesting role when planted as a companion plant in the vegetable garden. It repels some insects by the use of an airborne chemical. Meanwhile, it acts as a trap for others. Aphids like nasturtium more than most other plants, so aphids will get hung up on your nasturtium and leave other plants alone

In terms of repelling pests, whiteflies, beetles, cabbage loopers, and squash bugs are turned off by the scent that nasturtium plants release. They also attract pollinators with their large, colorful flowers. All of these characteristics make them a naturally excellent companion plant in the vegetable garden. 

Basil

A close-up of basil leaves showcases their rich green hue, glistening under the gentle light. The glossy texture adds depth to the intricate veins, capturing the essence of freshness and aromatic vitality in the herb garden's embrace.
These serve as natural insect repellents and attract pollinators like bees.
botanical-name
botanical name


Ocimum basilicum
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun
height
height


8”-3’
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


2-11

If you need another reason to grow some beautiful and delicious basil in your garden, I’m here to tell you that these plants are great at repelling pests like flies and mosquitoes. Basil makes an excellent companion plant, as well, but not because it wards off other insects. Basil is known to improve the flavor of vegetables growing nearby.

Plant basil around your living spaces where its fragrance will ward off the bad insects. If you allow your basil to flower, prepare for the pollinators to come buzzing from near and far. Bees especially love basil flowers, as they are fragrant and purple, two of their favorite things. African blue basil is a wonderful variety for attracting pollinators and repelling mosquitos. It makes a good pesto, too!

Dill

Rows of dill plants thrive in nutrient-rich, dark soil, their verdant foliage reaching toward the sky. Tiny water droplets delicately cling to the feathery leaves, reflecting the morning light and nurturing the plants' lush growth.
Attracting beneficial insects, dill aids in pest control and promotes pollination for a thriving garden.
botanical-name
botanical name


Anethum graveolens
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun to partial shade
height
height


3’-5’
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


2-11

Dill is an annual herb that does all the right things in the garden and the kitchen. In the vegetable garden, dill plants repel pests like cabbage loopers, tomato hornworms, and cabbage worms. What it repels is perhaps less important than what it attracts. Dill is a larval host plant for Black and Anise Swallowtail butterflies. It also attracts ladybugs, hoverflies, and lacewings.

By attracting predatory insects to the garden, dill helps keep down populations of aphids, whiteflies, and scale, among others. Pollinators are attracted to its bright yellow flowers, and more pollinators mean a better harvest. Give your dill rich, well-drained soil and plenty of sunlight to keep it blooming. 

Marigolds

A close-up reveals marigold flowers against a soft blur of green leaves, highlighting their intricate beauty. The ruffled petals boast a captivating blend of red and orange, exuding warmth in the midst of nature's embrace.
These flowers repel insects and benefit garden plants, especially tomatoes.
botanical-name
botanical name


Tagetes
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun
height
height


1′-4′
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


2-11

Marigolds make excellent companions in the garden, as they repel insects like squash bugs, tomato hornworms, and mosquitoes, along with a handful of other garden pests. They have a strong fragrance that many garden insects do not like, and with such cheerful flowers, what more could a gardener want?

Mix marigolds in with your other flowering plants and in the vegetable garden to help ward off pests that would eat other garden plants. Plant these near your tomatoes to keep away the most destructive pests that these plants face.

Final Thoughts

There are insects that we love to see in the garden and those that we wish would simply go away. Sadly, once these pests get into the garden, it can be a real challenge to eradicate them. Planting things that repel insects is a great, natural way to help control the populations of pests that would love to devour your vegetable garden and those that are harmful to humans as well. 



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