Today marks the first day of spring — the time of year when many of us start to think about gardening. Of course, I always make sure to include some plants in my garden and around the patio to keep away all those pesky bugs.
For one, these plants will keep the bugs away just as well as, if not better than, chemical pesticides, insecticides, and repellants. (In fact, plants actually evolved to develop this skill first — after plants had been on the Earth for more than 100 million years, and insect ancestors first crawled out of the oceans.)
You can also use the herbs on my list of garden must-haves to flavor your food and protect it against spoilage. (Herbs that prevented the growth of bacteria were especially useful and coveted as spices during the centuries before refrigeration.)
Additionally, many of these plants also have medicinal benefits.
Perhaps best of all, plants and herbs don’t pollute the environment or pose a threat to your heath as do commercial pesticides, insecticides, and repellants.
So, without further ado, here are my top-12, bug-repelling plants to add to your garden this spring…
1.) Allium (garlic and onion)
Allium is the flowering form of garlic and onion. And it will help keep pests like aphids, cabbage worms, and slugs out of your garden. Their beautiful flowers are also quite decorative.
You should also let any wild onion plants that appear grow in your garden and in your lawn. As an added bonus, when you cut the grass, you’ll smell their fragrant aroma.
This popular Mediterranean herb will help keep away houseflies and mosquitos. You can grow basil in the garden and in pots inside or outside your home. I typically place pots of basil near doors and outdoor patio areas.
These perennial flowers contain a special chemical called pyrethrum, which naturally repels fleas, roaches, and ticks. In addition, the potent properties of this iconic Asian flower make it a key medicinal plant in Chinese medicine. It’s even a natural treatment for prostate cancer. (I’m finally putting all the finishing touches on my new, online prostate protocol as we speak. So stay tuned. As always, you’ll learn about it first, right here in my Daily Dispatch.)
4.) Citronella and lemongrass
Both Citronella (Cymbopogon nardus) and lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) belong to the Poaceae family of grasses. And they both repel mosquitos when planted in a pot or in the ground.
To make commercial insect repellants and other products, manufacturers extract oils from the plants’ leaves. But I’d advise just planting these grasses, or using the oils, instead of a commercial product.
In the U.S., lemongrass only grows naturally in South Florida. But during the spring and summer, you can grow it in the ground or in pots just about anywhere.
Of course, citronella leaves are inedible. But lemongrass is edible and commonly used in Thai dishes, especially soups.
You may enjoy using some fresh lemongrass (in moderation) in your cooking. I wonder if the deliciousness of the Thai restaurants found in South Florida where I reside may be due to their use of the fresh lemon grass available there.
Planting this pretty purple perennial in your garden will help keep away fleas, house flies, mosquitos, and moths. You can also cut and dry a few sprigs to enjoy their scent in your closets and dresser drawers.
In the summer of 1996, I travelled to Provence, France — a region known for its lavender. I was visiting the ancestral mountain home of my grandfather, who had died just two years earlier. And I vividly remember the beautiful bunches of lavender my grandfather’s mistress picked from the huge pots growing outside her windows. She then stuffed them into some old blue stockings, which I brought back with me and still use in my drawers to keep clothes fresh.
6.) Lemon thyme
You need to crush or grind up the leaves of lemon thyme to release its active bug-repelling chemicals, unlike the other plants on this list. But it is potent — and works well against cabbage loopers, cabbage maggots, corn earworms, and tomato hookworms.
The scent of this pretty flower will chase away aphids and mosquitos as well as larger plant predators like rabbits. It’s also a medicinal remedy for bruises, injuries, and chest conditions.
Mint belongs to the prolific family of flowering plants that also includes basil, hyssop, lavender, marjoram, oregano, perilla, rosemary, sage, savory, and thyme.
Like the other plants on this list, mint will repel mosquitos. But because it’s so hardy and tenacious, it can spread like a weed in the ground. That’s why I recommend planting it in a pot. Then you can pluck a sprig to muddle in your favorite cocktail. The alcohol will extract the flavor and potent oils for added benefits.
This beautiful, flowering plant releases a fragrance that protects itself — and even surrounding plants — from insects. So, if you’re trying to grow broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, and tomatoes, intersperse a few decorative nasturtiums into your garden. This diversity also prevents any one type of insect from specializing and attacking one kind of plant.
This common and colorful flowering plant is particularly good at repelling — and even killing — insects. It traps insects in its sticky stamen until the insect dies — kind of like a domestic version of the Venus fly trap.
11.) Pitcher plants
Beautiful and easy to grow, pitcher plants may be the most under-appreciated plants in horticulture. Insects such as ants, beetles, slugs, and wasps fall into the plants’ unique leaf structure, called a pitcher, and can’t get out — kind of like a natural version of a “roach motel.”
Popular in cooking and useful medicinally, rosemary also repels mosquitos. You can plant it in a pot or the ground around your sitting area. When you feel it getting especially buggy outside, just rub a few rosemary sprigs on your skin.
You can also make a spray repellant by boiling 1 cup of dried rosemary leaves in a quart of water. Let the water cool and pour it into a spray bottle. Then, you can spritz yourself and your pets whenever you’re outside. In addition, scattering dried rosemary leaves into your garden will help keep bugs away from your growing vegetables.
Just remember — you have many effective options for keeping away the bugs this spring and summer without resorting to toxic, chemical pesticides, insecticides, and repellants. Plus, many of these plants are useful in the kitchen, medicine cabinet, and linen closet. And that’s the beauty of plants and natural remedies — they have many invaluable uses and can be found right in your own backyard.