10 Plants to Grow for a Pest-Proof Yard

It’s inevitable—just as you sit down to enjoy a quiet moment in the garden, the irritating buzz of an insect approaches. Your hopes of enjoying a cup of coffee in peace on the patio are quickly forgotten as you swat the offending bug away. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a pest-free garden, but there are some types of plants, especially herbs, that insects aren’t overly fond of. So, if you’re trying to keep annoying pests at bay, place a few of these plants in containers strategically arrayed around your patio and deck. Then, get ready to enjoy some bug-free time outdoors.

  1. Lavender


    A soothing favorite for centuries, lavender repels fleas, moths, mosquitoes, and many other insects. While oil extracted from the flowers makes an effective mosquito repellent, just the plant itself can ward off unwelcome insects. As you're arranging lavender plants around your outdoor seating areas, don't forget to position one close to a doorway to help prevent houseflies from entering.

    Related: 9 Calming Colors for a Serene Home


  2. Chrysanthemums


    Bright blooms of chrysanthemums contain pyrethrum, which is frequently used in natural insect repellents and dog shampoo. The chemical can kill and repel ants, ticks, fleas, spider mites, roaches, Japanese beetles, and even bed bugs. This characteristic makes it a popular insect-repelling companion plant in vegetable gardens, but pots brimming with colorful mums are also a welcome addition to any outdoor seating areas.

    Related: 9 Creative Ways to Build an Outdoor Hangout

    flickr.com/via PINKÉ

  3. Basil


    Delicious to eat, basil also repels mosquitoes and houseflies. Place containers of basil around outdoor areas where you like to relax. You can even use it to make your own natural insect repellent by pouring four ounces of boiling water into a container with a generous handful of leaves and stems. Let the mixture steep for several hours, strain, and then add four ounces of cheap vodka. Pour the mix into a spray bottle to spritz on whenever you're outdoors.

    Related: The 12-Inch Farm—10 Foods You Can Grow in Containers


  4. Nasturtiums


    Nasturtiums have a long-standing reputation as a powerful companion plant, because they release an airborne chemical that repels a variety of insects, including aphids and whiteflies. Whether you plant nasturtiums in the vegetable garden, in containers around the patio, or along flower beds, this easy-to-grow annual will protect itself, other plants, and you from unwanted visitors.

    Related: The Good Guys—8 Beneficial Bugs for Your Garden

    flickr.com/via David Goehring

  5. Lemongrass


    Citronella oil—known for its use in insect-repelling patio candles—comes from the lemongrass plant, so it’s not surprising that the ornamental grass itself can deter mosquitoes with its strong fragrance. To double up on pest-fighting abilities, plant lemongrass around the patio and use citronella candles when the bugs are especially bad. Grown as an annual, this grass reaches up to four feet tall during the season and does quite well in containers.

    Related: 10 Time-Tested Tricks for a Bug-Free Backyard


  6. Marigolds


    Mosquitoes and aphids hate the smell of marigolds, but these cheerful flowers are a favorite with gardeners. Grown as an annual in most gardening zones, marigolds prefer full sun and well-drained soil. (Beware: If you plant them in the shade, marigolds become prone to powdery mildew.) Place them strategically in your vegetable garden or in pots around the patio to ward off invading insects.

    Related: 10 Easy-to-Grow Vegetables for Beginning Gardeners


  7. Lemon Thyme

    Lemon Thyme

    This hardy herb will repel mosquitoes only when you bruise its leaves to release the essential oils, but that takes no time at all! Simply station a few planters with lemon thyme around the patio and, when you’re sitting outside, offend hovering mosquitoes by crushing a few leaves on the plant to release the scent. 

    Related: 7 Herbs That Clean House


  8. Mint


    The aromatic leaves, stems, and flowers of a mint plant repel mosquitoes. But keep this one confined to a pot—it spreads aggressively and could overtake your small garden. Instead, place planters brimming with mint around the patio to create a pest-free zone for your enjoyment. If you'd like, you can even make a natural insect repellent by mixing mint oil with apple cider vinegar and witch hazel. A light misting when you're outdoors will shoo irritating insects away.

    Related: Pests, Be Gone! 10 Natural Ways to Make Your Home Critter-Free


  9. Petunias


    Not only are they pretty, with a sweet fragrance, but petunias also naturally catch a variety of insects, including Japanese beetles, aphids, leafhoppers, and many more. The cheerful plants have sticky hairs that actually trap insects, and the roots ultimately absorb the nutrients from the bodies of their prey. Although petunias prefer full sun, a bowl of these profuse bloomers will do quite well when placed on a shady patio table.

    Related: The Invincible Yard—12 Ideas for Lazy Landscaping


  10. Rosemary


    This culinary favorite repels mosquitoes and other annoying insects whether the leaves are crushed or intact, so it makes a great addition to containers strategically placed around the garden. To make a rosemary insect repellent to-go, boil a bunch of leaves and stems in a quart of water for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid, pour it into a spray bottle, and store in the refrigerator until you're ready to mist it around.

    Related: 10 No-Effort Plants for a Foolproof Landscape


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