10 Awesome Plants that Naturally Repel Harmful Insects

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Plants that Naturally Repel Harmful Insects

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Several plants have shown effectiveness in repelling insects. This is likely because these plants produce compounds that are toxic to insects or make it difficult for them to feed. The plant’s physical features sometimes make it unappealing or difficult for insects to land on or penetrate.

Some of the most common insect-repelling plants include citronella, catnip, garlic, marigolds, and lavender. These plants contain compounds, like limonene and geraniol, that effectively repel mosquitoes, flies, and other pests.

Studies have shown that these plants can be just as effective at repelling insects as commercial pesticides. However, they are generally much safer, especially around children and pets.

If you’re looking for a natural way to keep pests at bay, consider planting some insect-repelling plants in your home and garden.


  1. Citronella grass

Citronella grass is best known for its use in citronella candles, which are commonly used to keep mosquitoes at bay. The plant contains high levels of citronellol and geraniol, two chemicals known to be effective insect repellents.


  1. Catnip

Catnip is a member of the mint family and contains nepetalactone – a compound that is around ten times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET, the active ingredient in most commercial insect repellents.


  1. Lavender

Lavender is a popular herb used in various cosmetics and fragrances. The plant produces a strong scent that helps to mask the human smell that attracts mosquitoes. In addition, lavender oil has been shown to have insect-repelling properties.


  1. Lemongrass

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is a tropical plant often used as a culinary herb. Native to India and Southeast Asia, lemongrass has a citrusy flavor and aroma. Lemongrass oil is also popular for its ability to ward off insects, making it an ideal ingredient for natural insect repellents. 

In fact, research suggests that lemongrass oil is just as effective at repelling mosquitoes as DEET, the active ingredient in many commercially-available insect repellents. 

Moreover, unlike DEET, lemongrass oil does not appear toxic to humans. As a result, it may be a safe and effective way to protect yourself from mosquito-borne illnesses, such as malaria and dengue fever.


  1. Marigolds 

marigolds - insect repelling plants

Marigolds are commonly used as ornamental plants, but they also have insect-repelling properties. The flowers produce a compound called linalool, which repels various insects, including mosquitoes, ants, and beetles.


  1. Rosemary

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a fragrant, herbaceous plant in the mint family native to the Mediterranean region. It is often used in cooking and has some purported health benefits. 

Rosemary essential oil is also popular in aromatherapy. Some research suggests that rosemary essential oil can repel mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects. The plant contains a compound called limonene, an effective mosquito repellent.

A study published in 2009 found that rosemary essential oil was more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET, a chemical used in many commercial insect repellents. The study’s authors suggested that rosemary essential oil could be used as an alternative to DEET products.

However, more research is needed to confirm these findings.


  1. Sage

Sage is another herb that contains limonene, making it an effective mosquito repellent. In addition, the plant’s strong scent helps to mask the human smell that attracts mosquitoes.


  1. Thyme

Most people are familiar with thyme as a culinary herb, but did you know it also has natural insect-repelling properties? According to research, thyme essential oil is effective against several common household pests, including dust mites, cockroaches, and ants.

When used in a diffuser or spray, thyme oil can help keep these pests away from your home. And because it’s naturally derived, thyme oil is a safe and environmentally friendly way to ward off insects.

So the next time you’re looking for an all-natural solution to your bug problems, reach for some thyme!


  1. Verbena 

Verbena is a popular ornamental plant that produces a compound called linalool, which is effective at repelling various insects, including mosquitoes, ants, and beetles.


  1. Zinnias

Zinnias are annual flowers known for their vibrant colors and ability to bloom all summer long. But did you know these pretty flowers also have a secret weapon against pests? 

According to recent studies, zinnias may help to ward off harmful insects. The compounds that give zinnias their distinctive smell are also effective at repelling mosquitoes, ticks, and other pests. In addition, you can use the oils from zinnias to make an all-natural insecticide. 

So the next time you’re looking for a way to keep your garden safe from pests, reach for some zinnias. These pretty flowers not only add color and charm but may also help keep harmful insects at bay.


The science

science behind insect repelling plants

Some plants produce chemicals toxic to insects, while others release substances that are attractive to them. While the exact mechanisms vary from species to species, these chemical defenses help plants to ward off insect attacks.

For example, many plants contain essential oils that can act as natural insecticides. These oils can coat the insect’s exoskeleton, clogging its pores and preventing them from breathing.

Plants that produce chemicals that are toxic to insects typically do so as a way of deterring herbivores. The substances may interact with the insect’s digestive system, preventing the bug from feeding or damaging the plant.

In some cases, the toxins may even be fatal.

Finally, some plants simply don’t provide what insects are looking for. For instance, many butterflies prefer to lay their eggs on plants that will provide food for their larvae when they hatch. If a particular plant does not meet these criteria, it is less likely to be targeted by butterfly eggs.

On the other hand, some plants release chemicals that attract insects, such as pheromones.

These substances signal to the insect that the plant is a potential host for reproduction. As a result, the insect is more likely to lay eggs on or near the plant. While this may seem counterintuitive, it benefits the plant by providing it with a ready supply of food from the insects larvae.

Therefore, whether a plant repels or attracts insects depends on the species’ specific needs.


Benefits over pesticides

mosquito repelling plants

There are many benefits to using insect-repelling plants instead of pesticides. For one, they are much safer for the environment. Pesticides pollute the air, water, and soil and can even harm humans if not used properly.

Insect repelling plants, in contrast, are natural and pose no threat to the environment or human health. Additionally, they are often more effective than pesticides.

Some insects are resistant to pesticides but rarely develop resistance to plants.

Also, using insect-repelling plants is often cheaper than using pesticides. You can easily grow these plants at home; they do not require special equipment or training to use them effectively. As a result, they offer a safe, effective, affordable, and sustainable solution to the problem of pests.



These are just some of the many plants that naturally repel insects. By planting them around your home, you can keep the harmful insects at bay while attracting helpful ones like bees.

  • Luke Rooks

    Luke is a passionate environmental advocate based in upstate New York. When he's not sharing tips on sustainability and wellness, you can find him hiking with his dog, Max.

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