7 Plants That Repel Bugs Naturally, From Mint to Marigolds
Skip the chemical-heavy insect spray in favor of plants that repel bugs naturally. Here, seven options to rid your backyard of pests.
The natural world has a way of handling things, well, naturally. Which is why it's not surprising that some of the most effective insect repellents aren't on drugstore shelves, but right in your own backyard. If you're on the hunt for a cure to your insect issues—whether the critters are wreaking havoc in the garden or on the surface of your skin—these plants that repel bugs are here to help.
Gnats, ants, wasps, mosquitoes—insects may be small, but they're persistent. And though it can be tempting (and effective) to reach for chemical-ridden insect repellents, research has shown that common insecticide ingredients like DEET can make their way into the groundwater, posing risk to human and environmental health (it's toxic to birds, fish, and aquatic invertebrates). In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the chemical is one of the most commonly found toxic compounds in the nation's waterways.
So why not stick to natural (and beautiful) remedies? Plants are masters of resilience and, in some cases, the art of repelling. Read on for seven plants that repel bugs—you may just consider adding a few to your home garden.
7 Plants That Repel Bugs
While many of us might love the sweet, sharp scent of basil, insects tend to hate it. The delicious, leafy herb has been proven effective against mosquitoes and houseflies. Position a pot on your windowsill, plant in your garden, or rub on your skin and enjoy the buzz-less-ness.
This tall, flowy plant is a natural (and proven) mosquito and housefly repellent. Lemongrass is closely related to citronella and contains its own citral compound that helps to keep insects at bay. The plant does best in warm, humid areas with full sun.
While lemongrass is commonly imported to the United States, the plant is native to India, Thailand, and Sri Lanka, so it may be best to use it topically or for DIY candles rather than planting.
Marigolds add vibrancy to any garden or home space while keeping mosquitoes, cabbage worms, and other pests out of sight. As a bonus, pollinators like bees and butterflies love them!
Natural Bug Spray
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This natural bug spray is free of parabens, phthalates, and sulfates. Instead, it uses a unique strain of Indonesian citronella to effectively repel mosquitoes.
Eucalyptus' strong scent may ease our anxiety, but it aggravates insects and helps to keep them away. The plant is invasive, and if it's not native to the area (which is common), the potency is often perceived as a threat rather than an odorous inconvenience. Pro tip: lemon eucalyptus oil makes for the ultimate personal repellent.
Bay leaves can help repel flies, moths, mice, earwigs, mosquitoes, and cockroaches. The fragrant smell and bitter taste of bay leaves function as a bug repellent, an antifungal, and, when dried, as a delicious addition to soups and stews.
In keeping with the trend, mint's strong smell helps to keep the bugs away. Rub the leaves against your bare skin, invest in an essential oil, or plant the shrub in your garden and say goodbye to unwanted pests (and hello to calming tea)!
Chrysanthemums are a powerhouse repellent. This plant’s center is one of few that contains the neurotoxin pyrethrin that actually kills insects, making it the ultimate pest assassin. While the blooms are still safe for pets and use in herbal teas, they're not ideal for pollinators.
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