plants that repel bugs

16 Plants That Repel Bugs

While bugs, insects, and pests play an important role in every ecosystem, it can’t be denied that mosquitoes can turn a camping trip into an itchy nightmare, bed bugs can ruin a good night’s sleep, and house flies buzzing in your face are just plain annoying. Let’s be real for a minute: who really likes bugs? Especially in their home? Fortunately, there are plants that repel bugs, or at least might repel them, that we can plant in our gardens.

Many of the conventional ways to deter these pests from your home and outdoor gathering spaces are dangerous to your health and the health of the environment. The goal should not be to eradicate these small-but-important creatures, just to discourage them from taking up residence in yours.

Thankfully, there are countless natural ways to achieve this goal. One of the easiest is by using pest-deterring plants.

16 plants that repel bugs

Much of the evidence about a plant’s effectiveness at repelling bugs is anecdotal. Some have better luck with it than others and your mileage may vary. Even if these don’t do the trick, you’ll have still planted a wonderful garden with many useful plants.


You may have heard already of citronella oil lamps or candles that are used to keep mosquitoes away. Citronella oil comes from lemongrass, so this is the perfect plant to have in your garden or in pots on your patio to help keep the nasty little bloodsuckers away. 

Lemon thyme

This is another one that will do a good job against mosquitoes. Lemon thyme can grow in shallow, dry, rocky soil, and will do very well in a rock garden. The plant alone won’t keep the mosquitoes away, however. To activate its repellent properties, you must bruise the leaves by rubbing a few cut stems between your hands. Test it out on a small patch of skin first to ensure you aren’t sensitive to the compounds, especially if you have sensitive skin.

Lemon Balm

Also for mosquitoes, this is another that you must rub between your hands and rub onto your skin. Again, do a small test first before rubbing it over a larger area.


Though lavender is used as the ultimate relaxation herb for humans, it does anything but that for moths, fleas, flies, and mosquitoes. Disperse dry bundles of lavender throughout your home – closets, drawers, and areas where flies sneak in. Not only will it leave a lovely scent throughout your space but it will keep those pests away. 


One of the world’s favorite flavor-providing herbs has additional benefits: flies and mosquitoes hate the scent. Place small basil pots both in and outside your home, wherever you relax and entertain, to keep the biters at bay.


This is another mosquito-deterring herb that can be planted in pots around your home. It’s best to stick to growing mint in pots as it is a very aggressive grower. If you’re not careful, it will take over your garden or be growing up between the cracks of your patio for years.


This perennial plant is simple to grow and is excellent for keeping the bugs from crashing your campfire. Toss a handful of sage leaves into your campfire. As they burn, the scented smoke they create will let you enjoy your evening in peace.


This is another perennial herb that also works well when tossed into a fire. It can also be used to make a rosemary water spray that does a pretty good job of keeping mosquitoes away.


If you’re a cat person, then this is the plant for you. Not only will your backyard become a popular hangout spot for your neighborhood cats, but it will keep deer ticks, mosquitoes, cockroaches, and flies far, far away. This is another plant that will easily take over your garden, so stick to growing it in pots.


A popular digestive aid, fennel will also help to rid your garden of the little creatures that eat your veggies before you do. Fennel is great for preventing slugs, aphids, and snails from munching away at your home-grown produce.


Are your attempts at growing your own asparagus being thwarted every spring by asparagus beetles? Try planting parsley amongst your asparagus and the beetles will go looking for someone else’s garden to lunch in.


Also a produce saver, dill repels squash bugs, spider mites, aphids, cabbage loopers, and tomato hornworms.

Bay Leaves

No more buying dried bay leaves at the store for your next dish – you can use the fresh basil from your garden instead. While you enjoy the depth of flavor this herb brings to soups, sauces, and stews, this plant will work double-time to keep flies away.


This aromatic herb not only repels a number of bugs and pests, but it also helps your peppers grow by providing them with humidity-sustaining ground cover.


Cabbage loopers, cabbage maggots, whiteflies, corn earworms, tomato hornworms, and small whites will all vacate your garden in no thyme with this herb planted throughout.


A favorite garnish to many meals, chives are great at deterring several pests. Japanese beetles, aphids, and carrot flies won’t want anything to do with your garden when you have chives planted there.

All of these plants and herbs are especially effective when used together. For example, oregano is an excellent pest remover, but it can be susceptible to aphids and spider mites. Plant some dill in there, and your problem is solved.

By using plants and herbs instead of sprays and chemicals to keep unwanted pests away, you will help to keep your family, your garden, and the planet a little bit healthier.

We hope this guide on plants that repel bugs helps keep your backyard garden parties bug free!

Keep Reading: Plants That Repel Ants From Your Garden

Thomas Nelson
Gardening Expert
Hi! I'm Thomas, one of the founders of The Garden Magazine. I come from a long line of gardeners who used the art of gardening as a way to live long, healthy lives. I'm here to share my knowledge of gardening with the world!