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  • Writer's pictureNina Melillo

Natural Insect Repellent Plants for Your Garden

Updated: Nov 8, 2023

Venus Fly Trap


Bugs! Not many people enjoy sharing their space with insects. Insects have a habit of presenting themselves at the most inopportune times, while resting in your garden after a long day’s work, sharing a meal outside under the stars, or just having an intimate conversation with someone special under the shade of a pergola. Some of us even think of ourselves as insect magnets! Do you know someone who steps outside and is immediately attacked by flying insects? Perhaps it is even you!

Some insects are very beneficial to the garden, others, not so good. In this post I will discuss some plants that repel the “not so good” bugs, specifically mosquitos, house flies, moths, and fleas. Read on to learn about natural insect repellent plants that you can grow and use in solutions that you can spray in your garden and on your skin to discourage these pesky insects.

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Do Insect Repellent Plants Really Keep Bugs at Bay?

The research has shown that essential oils in specific plants do repel some insects. However, according to Dr. Bodie Pennisi, a professor and landscape specialist at the University of Georgia’s Griffin campus, there is not enough evidence to support a conclusion that having an abundance of the essential oils in your garden will repel specific insects.

If you plant the specific flowers/herbs recommended in this article, you will probably have fewer pesky insects in your garden. However, no research has produced conclusive evidence indicating how many plants are needed, or where to place the plants in a garden to most effectively repel insects.

Below is a compilation of herbs and flowering plants that may impede mosquitoes, flies, moths, fleas and other insects from invading your garden. This eco-friendly approach will not only deter pesky insects from, but will also help keep plant-attacking pests under control.

TIP: In addition to planting insect repellent plants, to control mosquitoes eliminate all standing water in your garden where their larvae will breed.

Herbs That Naturally Repel Insects


Rosemary plant with periwinkle colored flowers

Rosemary repels mosquitoes and insects that are harmful to vegetable plants. To make a repellent spray from rosemary, boil dried Rosemary sprigs in a quart of water for 20 to 30 minutes. Strain the liquid into a container with a lid filled with a quart of cool water. Keep the mixture sealed in the refrigerator for as long as you can smell the rosemary emanating from the solution. When headed outdoors, add the mixture to a small squirt bottle and squirt away.

For more tips on growing rosemary in your garden, click Best Way To Grow Rosemary.


Lemongrass plant

This grass repels mosquitoes. Lemongrass is an umbrella name for plants in the Cymbopogon family, which also includes citronella grass. It is an ornamental grass that is only hardy in zone 10. Those who do not live in zone 10 or warmer, can grow this grass as an annual. Citronella oil is a natural oil found in Lemongrass. This ornamental grass grows up to 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide in a season.


Basil plant that is flowering

Fresh Basil repels house flies and mosquitoes. Plant Basil in the ground or in a pot close to your door. You can make a repellent spray from fresh Basil by boiling 4 ounces of water with 6 to 8 ounces of clean fresh Basil, including the stems. Boil/steep the Basil for several hours, then squeeze the excess moisture from the leaves and stems into the solution. Add 4 ounces of cheap vodka to the water/basil mixture and store in the refrigerator. When going outdoors, spray the solution onto your skin taking care not to spray into your eyes.

For more tips on growing basil including some yummy recipes, click How to Grow Basil.


Field of lavender

Ah, the sweet smell of lavender. We may love the sweet fragrance, but moths, mosquitoes, fleas, and flies hate it! To deter insects plant Lavender in pots around your patio or in the ground surrounding a deck. Also, hanging dried Lavender in your house will help keep flies outdoors.

Lavender infused body oils (purchase from Etsy) contain oils extracted from the flowers.

Spraying the oil on your body will deter flies and can enhance relaxation.


Mint leaves with lady bug

Mint also repels mosquitoes. Be care when planting mint because it is extremely invasive. Plant it in a container to prevent it from overrunning your garden.

Click here for more information on How to Grow Mint Indoors, and Varieties of Mint/Growing Outdoors.

Other Herbs With Repellent Qualities

Thyme – Repels whiteflies, cabbage loopers, cabbage maggots, corn earworms, and tomato hornworms.

Parsley – Repels asparagus beetles

Bay Leaves – Repel flies

Fennel – Repels aphids, slugs, and snails

Dill – Repels aphids, squash bugs, spider mites, cabbage loopers and tomato hornworms.

Flowers That Naturally Deter Insects


Purple allium

Allium is an umbrella term for a variety of plants including garlic chives, chives, leeks, and shallots. Plants in the Allium family produce flowers on top of long stems and some stalks up to 6 feet tall! They are considered a broad-spectrum natural insecticide which repels aphids, slugs, carrot flies, and cabbage worms.


Pink chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums are a super flower! They repel roaches, ants, Japanese beetles, ticks, silverfish, lice, fleas, bedbugs, spider mites, harlequin bugs and root-knot nematodes. They contain an ingredient called pyrethrum which can kill flying and jumping insects.

For more information on chrysanthemums, click How to Grow Chrysanthemums.


Multi-colored petunias

Petunias repel aphids, tomato hornworms, asparagus beetles, leafhoppers and squash bugs. They are a gardener’s delight. Petunias come in a variety of colors, require minimal maintenance, and are easy to grow. They can be grown in the ground or in pots, window boxes, or hanging baskets.


Marigolds with a butterfly

If you have a rabbit problem, grow marigolds. In addition to repelling aphids and mosquitoes, they also repel rabbits. Rabbits do not like the smell of marigolds. Marigolds also repel whiteflies from tomato plants.

Floss Flowers

Periwinkle colored floss flowers

I know you have seen these flowers many times in various gardens. They are a delicate blue, pink, or white flowered annual that bloom straight through fall. They contain coumarin, a natural chemical that repels mosquitoes which is used in bug repellent sprays.


Pink and yellow lantana

Lantana is a beautiful annual that can grow as large as a bush. It naturally repels mosquitoes and can be planted in the ground or in containers.

Common Milkweed

Common milkweed

Do you have problems with spotted lanternflies? Grow Common Milkweed in your garden. This beautiful American wildflower attracts butterflies and pollinators. The spotted lanternfly is attracted to the milkweed but does not know it is poisonous to them. For more information on spotted lanternflies and how to control them, click Spotted Lantern Fly.

WARNING! According to Poison Control, “All parts of the plant contain toxic cardiac glycosides, which can cause nausea, diarrhea, weakness, and confusion in small amounts, and seizures, heart rhythm changes, respiratory paralysis, and even death in large amounts. Milkweed can also irritate the skin and eyes if touched.”

Carnivorous Plants That Ingest Pests

Pitcher Plants

Pitcher plant

Pitcher plants are exotic looking plants that actually trap and ingest insects. Their natural fragrance, beautiful color, and nectar lure insects into the cone of the plant. Once inside, the bug slides down the slippery sides, lands in water, drowns, and is ingested by the plant. They grow in sunny areas that stay moist, such as a bog.

Venus Flytrap

Venus fly trap

This plant has two hinged lobes at the end of a stem. Inside the lobes are hair-like structures that cause the flower to snap shut when an intruder comes along. The plant will not close its hinge unless the victim has touched the hairs numerous times. Once this happens, the Venus Flytrap will snap shut. It does not want to exert its energy if the prey is not really there. Ants, beetles, grasshoppers, flying insects, and spiders are all common victims of the Venus Flytrap. It can take a Venus flytrap three to five days to digest an organism, and it may go months between meals.

The Venus Flytrap is listed as “vulnerable”. It is native to North and South Carolina and New Jersey. Its numbers have diminished recently due to overcollection, habitat destruction, and fire suppression. It is being considered as an addition to the “endangered species” list under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Final Thoughts – Natural Insect Repellent Plants

Yes, you can have some relief from those pesky bugs during the spring, summer, and fall. Strategically add some of the plants mentioned above to your garden and, with a little luck, your natural insect repellent, and maybe some citronella candles, you will enjoy a calming experience whiling away the summer hours.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Please leave a comment below and share it with others.

Happy Gardening!


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