Fill Your Garden with These Natural Insect-Repelling Plants

bright pink flower with shiny big crawling on it
Put your garden to work while keeping mosquitoes and other bothersome bugs away. These plants are a natural insect-repelling options you can try in your yard.

Keep Bugs at Bay

Lucky for us, there are garden plants that naturally send bad bugs packing. These insect-repelling plants generally have strong odors and oils that are offensive to some mosquitoes, flies, and other bugs. Add these human-safe, natural bug-control plants to your containers and patio plantings to lessen the bug population for your next backyard gathering.

Basil

Grow this excellent mosquito repellent as a centerpiece on your patio table, or plant a drift of basil in the garden bed. Both insect-repelling and a culinary herb, basil is easy to grow from seed or transplants. There are many varieties of basil—and they all repel insects—so choose the variety that best suits your needs. Try 'Thai Magic' for use in Southeast Asian dishes or 'Spicy Globe' for a tabletop container.

Mint

Rodents will also be far away with the help of a plant. Mint plants, such as peppermint, can deter rodents in your home. Pests, such as mosquitoes, ants, flies; and other rodents, such as mice and rats, will be no more with this plant lying around. Mint can be in the form of crushed leaves, oils, sprays, or even mint gum to shoo them away for good.

Crush Leaves and Stems

You need to get rough with insect-repelling plants to bring out their repelling power! These special plants are ineffective when they're just sitting in a pot or merely growing in the soil next to a patio. The leaves must be crushed to release their volatile oils, which ward off stinging and biting invaders.

Don't hesitate to crush a few leaves between your fingers as you pass by insect-repelling plants. You can also rub the broken leaves on your skin for extended bug repellent.

Special note: Be sure to test for any allergy first by rubbing the leaves on a quarter-size patch of skin on your inner forearm for a day or so; if there's no irritating skin reaction, it's likely safe for you to rub away.

Lemongrass

Whether you grow it as a container plant or in the garden, lemongrass has an elegant upright appearance and lovely bright green foliage. The leaves and stems can be harvested for culinary use in Vietnamese and Thai dishes. Snip a few inches off the leaf tips to release the plant's natural bug-repelling oils. Lemongrass is easy to grow from seed and is considered a tender perennial. It doesn't tolerate freezing temperatures, but enjoy it year-round by growing it in a pot and bringing it inside in the winter.

Lavender

Lavender has a charming scent we all know and love—except for some insects, that is. Mosquitoes, moths, and flies tend to stay away from lavender plants in general, but the most effective way to keep them away is to rub the plant on your skin and nearby surfaces to release the oils.

Remember: Bugs Do Good Work

The ecosystem consists of multitudes of beneficial insects. These hardworking insects are essential pollinators and crucial to our food system while keeping bothersome bugs in check. Protect the ecosystem by not using chemical bug repellents unless necessary.

Lemon Thyme

A creeping herb with a bright citrus fragrance, lemon thyme releases oils that repel many kinds of bugs. Use lemon thyme as a groundcover and enjoy its insect-repelling properties every time you tread on it. Lemon thyme grows well in full sun and well-drained soil. It is drought-tolerant and easy to grow from transplants purchased at the garden center.

A popular culinary herb, lemon thyme has the best flavor before the plant flowers.

Garlic

A great companion plant for many food crops, garlic can repel several insect pests. Plant it near plants in the cabbage family, as well as carrots and tomatoes. Garlic is planted from individual cloves purchased at the garden center. Plant the cloves in fall, and shoots will emerge from the soil the following spring.

More Bug-Smart Strategies

In addition to employing bug-repelling plants in the garden, try these tactics to keep mosquitoes, biting flies, and other troublesome bugs at bay.

Go weed-free. Weed plants create food and shelter sources for bad bugs. They also rob nutrients and water from nearby good garden plants.

Promote healthy plants. Plant the right plant in the right place to promote healthy, strong plants that naturally ward off diseases and insects. Grow sun plants in the sun and shade plants in shade.

Mulch. A 2-inch-thick layer of mulch suppresses weeds and prevents soil moisture loss, creating a healthy growing zone.

Search for pest-resistant varieties. Some plant varieties are selected to be more resistant to insect pests than other varieties. Search out plants that have good pest resistance.

Eliminate standing water.

Catnip

A perennial herb in the mint family, catnip is typically marketed to cat-lovers, but it possesses mosquito-repelling ability that rivals some commercial bug sprays. Plant in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. Start catnip from transplants purchased at the garden center; the plant's tiny seed is tough to germinate.

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