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These Plants Will Keep Damaging Insects Out of Your Garden

Lavender, petunias, and chrysanthemum flowers
Sow Right/Park Seed/Ketere

Dealing with pests is one of the more annoying aspects of maintaining a garden. Instead of turning to harmful chemical pesticides, though, why not just add some insect-repelling plants to your garden?

At some point, pretty much every gardener has to come up with a plan for keeping pests away from their plants. If you’re having an insect problem, you can actually drive many of them away by just adding a few more plants. These all-natural insect repellents will also add even more beauty to your garden or landscaping.

Best Plants to Repel Mosquitos

Close-up of lavender blossoms and lemongrass leaves
Sow Right/Burpee

Mosquitos are one of the most frustrating outdoor pests to deal with, especially because they target humans. When the weather is pleasant and sunny, there’s nothing nicer than spending some time in your garden. But it’s frustrating to have to go inside because you’re being eaten alive by these blood-sucking pests.

Fortunately, your options aren’t limited to long sleeves or chemical bug repellents. There are quite a few plants that you can add to your garden that will naturally repel mosquitos. Most repel these pests in the same way a typical bug spray does: by giving off an aroma that’s unappealing to insects.

Try planting one or more of these varieties in your garden:

Lemongrass: It contains a high amount of citronella oil, the fragrant, citrus compound that is one of the most popular alternatives to synthetic repellents. It’s also a great ingredient in herbal teas.

Burpee Herb Fresh Lemongrass

Fresh, citrusy, and hated by pests.

Thyme: It isn’t just a delicious herb to add to your cooking. This plant’s oils smell good to humans but repel pests, including mosquitos. This multipurpose, low-growing plant can serve as ground cover, while also repelling bugs and keeping your recipes well-flavored.

Gaea's Blessing Seeds - Thyme Seeds

Grow ground cover that repels pests and can go straight to your kitchen.

Basil: Another common garden herb with strong mosquito-fighting power. It can be planted directly into the ground or in pots. Place some near your patio or porch to keep them bug-free.

Genovese Basil Seeds for Planting

Repels bugs and tastes amazing.

Lavender: The scent of this plant will make your outdoor living area smell wonderful to you, but not to the bugs that can spoil your gatherings. As a bonus, it’s actually quite pretty and comes in several different varieties.

Sow Right Seeds Lavender for Planting

Smells great and keeps mosquitos at bay.

Best Plants to Repel Aphids

Close-up of marigold flowers; a bundle of dill on a wood table
Outsidepride/Gaea’s Blessing

While aphids aren’t particularly annoying to humans, they can really ruin your garden. These sap-sucking insects are actually like hair lice for plants. The amount of damage they can do runs the gamut from mild to fatal for your plants.

La Jolié Muse Outdoor Hanging Flower Pot Set

Perfect for pretty, pest-trapping petunias.

A few aphids aren’t much of a problem, but an infestation might make it impossible for your plants to bounce back. To stop the problem before it starts, there are some plants you can add to your garden that will inherently repel these tiny pests.

At the very least, the following plants can help you keep the aphid population low enough for your plants to thrive:

Marigolds: These gorgeous, bright-colored flowers thrive in many different climates and situations. They also have a scent that aphids (and rabbits!) can’t stand, but actually attracts “good” insects, like ladybugs, which feed on aphids.

Outsidepride Marigold Flower Seed Mix, 1,000 Seeds

These bright, gorgeous blooms also keep aphids under control.

Petunias: These stunning flowers also double as pest control. The thing is, rather than repelling aphids and other bugs, they actually attract and trap them in their sticky centers. Plant petunias near other plants you want to protect, like vegetables, roses, and herbs.

Park Seed Double Cascade Hybrid Mix Petunia Seeds

These colorful blossoms actually trap bugs and keep them away from the rest of your garden.

Dill: This fresh, tasty herb is always handy to have around. It also has the added benefit of repelling pests like aphids and mites. Avoid planting it near tomatoes, however, as it attracts the type of hornworm that can damage them.

Gaea's Blessing Seeds - Dill Seeds

Fresh tasty herb and aphid-repellant.

Best Plants to Repel Moths

Close-up of basil leaves; nasturtium
RDR Seeds/Seed Needs

Moths might seem pretty harmless outdoors, but that’s not always the case. As caterpillars, they can do enormous damage to plants. As moths, they feed on the nutrients plants need to thrive.

ESOW Garden Tool Set

Make planting and tending your garden a breeze.

Add in the fact that they’re just annoying to have flitting around you and your cookout guests all summer, and you’ll definitely want to plant some of the following seeds to repel them:

Basil: Moths simply don’t like the smell of this herb. For additional protection outdoors, try crushing a few leaves and rubbing them on your skin to release the oils that contain the aroma.

Genovese Basil Seeds for Planting

Repels bugs and tastes amazing.

Lavender: similarly, gives off an aroma that most humans like but most bugs do not. As with basil, you can also crush a little bit to release a stronger scent.

Nasturtiums: Another plant that protects by attracting and trapping, rather than repelling, pests. Cabbage moths (and aphids) will focus their attention on nasturtiums and get trapped in there, leaving your other plants safe.

Nasturtium Jewel Seeds

A beautiful floral blend that traps and stops moths.

Best Plants to Repel Flies

Pink and purple chrysanthemums; close-up of purple chive blossoms
Ketere/Gaea’s Blessing

Flies are mostly just a nuisance, but they can make spending any amount of time outside unpleasant. Depending on how many are around, they also can suck some of the nutrients out of your plants and lead to wilting and slower growth.

HORTICAN Galvanized Steel Watering Can, One Gallon

Perfect size for keeping all those plants watered.

To keep the flies out of your garden, try planting some of these attractive repellents:

Chrysanthemums: These flowers repel a wide variety of pests, including flies, roaches, ants, lice, and more. The secret is a compound called pyrethrum, which is also an ingredient in many synthetic bug repellents. Plant these in your garden or along the border of your home and/or patio.

Double Petal Chrysanthemum Seeds, 200 Count

A gorgeous way to keep annoying flies away.

Basil and lavender: These helpful plants repel flies, as well as the other pests we covered above.

Chives: are part of the allium group of plants (aka onions and related plants), which produce a smell that repels flies and other pests like beetles and mites

Gaea's Blessing Seeds, Chives

Fresh herbs for your recipes will also keep those pesky flies at bay.

Best Plants to Repel Worms

A pot of petunias; orange and yellow marigolds
Park Seed/Outsidepride

A wide range of worms can infest your garden. While some are actually good for the soil, others, like cabbage and earworms, or tomato hornworms, can cause some serious damage to your garden. They can disrupt both the plants and the soil, and leave long-term issues in their wake.

Tuscan Garden Classic Rustic Outdoor Floor Fountain

Add a beautiful focal point to your garden.

Plant these varieties to prevent any damage-causing worms from ruining your garden:

Marigolds: These pretty flowers we covered above also repel roundworms and related parasites. Again, just plant them near or around the plants you want to protect.

Garlic: In addition to vampires, the aroma of this handy herb also repels worms. As an added bonus, you’ll have a ready-made fresh source for your recipes.

Garlic Bulb for Planting and Growing

This cooking staple doubles as a worm repellant.

Petunias: As we mentioned previously, the sticky centers of these beautiful blooms attract and trap pests, including parasitic worms. They’ll be wiped out before they can damage other plants.

You don’t have to resort to harmful pesticides to prevent damaging insects from ruining your garden. Scattering a few of these beautiful and/or tasty plants throughout your garden will ensure your other plants remain pest-free and can thrive all season.

Amanda Prahl Amanda Prahl
Amanda Prahl is a freelance contributor to LifeSavvy. She has an MFA in dramatic writing, a BA in literature, and is a former faculty associate focusing on writing craft and history. Her articles have appeared on HowlRound, Slate, Bustle, BroadwayWorld, and ThoughtCo, among others. Read Full Bio »
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