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Flowers and Plants That Repel Bugs (But Do They Work?)

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No one likes to be on the patio or in the backyard swatting insects. In my new house, I’m shocked by how many mosquitoes swarm me when I go outside. Which is why I did a lot of research to see which flowers that repel bugs could be added to our outdoor living space to make it more enjoyable.

While a flower garden won’t be the only thing to use to repel insects in your backyard or indoors, it is a good start to getting rid of bugs in the outdoor living areas that you enjoy. Personally, I don’t enjoy having to spray oily insect repellant on myself every time I walk outside. So adding these flowers helps to keep the following bugs away:

  • Mosquitoes
  • Gnats
  • Flies
  • No-see-ums

Adding these flowers that repel bugs to your landscaping, or putting in pots around your patio, will be an extra measure of preventing bugs from annoying you or biting. Which means you might not have to use sprays or pesticides as often, or at all.

The million dollar question is – did these flowers work to keep mosquitoes from biting me?

Nope.

But that needs to be put in context (which I explain later). You might have more success. So, first, see if you like any of these plants to consider adding to your backyard to try it yourself.

Best Flowering Plants to Keep Bugs Away

These are some of the best flowering plants to repel insects in your yard and garden. While there are many other plants known to repel bugs, this list focuses on the flowering varieties that are sure to make your garden beautiful!

Lavender

There’s a lot to be said about adding lavender to your garden. Not only does it smell wonderful, but you can dry it to use in your home, use the flowers for DIY projects, and even cook with edible lavender.

While humans love the smell of lavender, mosquitoes actually hate it. So if you’re wondering does lavender repel bugs, the answer is definitely YES!

There’s so much to be said about how lavender repels bugs and which kind you want to buy (and what kind you don’t). Be sure to check out our article on using lavender to repel mosquitoes for more detailed info.

I added six lavender plants this year, because I heard such great things about them repelling mosquitoes. There were two varieties of lavender, so I did have benefits of different types. I found that the lavender bloomed fine in the spring, then did nothing all summer, until it started getting color in September. Then it bloomed again. I live in western NC, zone 7, for reference.

Marigolds

Many old-fashioned garden remedies mention using marigolds to ward off bugs in the garden, especially a vegetable garden. But do marigolds repel insects?

Yes, if you choose the right ones.

For marigolds to repel insects, they must be scented. So if you happen to come across a variety that is beautiful but not scented, they might not work.

According to P. Allen Smith, whom I had the pleasure of talking with at his Moss Mountain Estate Farm, French marigolds will repel whiteflies and kill bad nematodes.

Limonene is the active component in marigolds that has been shown to repel whiteflies around tomato plants in a vegetable garden.

Mexican marigolds will keep away a lot of other bugs, including aphids and mosquitoes, and repel rabbits.

Stinking Roger marigolds are known to repel biting flies.

However, marigolds are known for attracting snails. So use this Coca-Cola gardening hack to prevent snail damage.

Chrysanthemums

Big bold chrysanthemum blooms are not only show stoppers in your garden, but they are powerhouses when it comes to repelling bugs!

In fact, a chemical property of chrysanthemums, known as pyrethrum, is used to make commercial insecticide. (Might be listed as pyrethrins in the ingredients.)

These flowers repel a variety of bugs, including:

  • Mosquitoes
  • Ants
  • Spider Mites
  • Ticks
  • Roaches
  • Japanese beetles
  • Silverfish
  • Lice
  • Fleas
  • Bedbugs
  • Harlequin bugs

Geraniums

I love geraniums, but I have to admit I’m not a big fan of their smell. Apparently bugs aren’t, either!

One variety of geraniums is the Mosquito Repellant Plant, scientific name Pelargonium citrosum. The citrus fragrance repels insects.

Other types of geraniums can repel bugs, too.

Petunias

These easy-to-grow flowers are common in many people’s gardens. But did you know that they are excellent flowers to repel bugs?

While these beautiful plants don’t work against mosquitoes or other types of insects that are problematic for humans, they do have natural insect repelling properties that are great in vegetable gardens. They repel bugs such as:

  • Squash bugs
  • Aphids
  • Leafhoppers
  • Asparagus beetles
  • Tomato hornworms

Floss Flowers (Ageratum)

Mosquitoes don’t like these small flowers, which makes them a perfect addition to your patio. They contain a chemical known as coumarin, which is also used in insect repellant sprays. However, keep in mind it can be toxic to pets and humans if ingested.

The flowers come in shades of white, pink and blue and are compact growers.

I added two of these plants to my patio this year. I was really surprised how such a tiny, delicate plant held up to intense heat and thrived.

Nasturtiums

Another flowering plant that might be better suited for your vegetable garden rather than your patio or backyard garden. These gorgeous flowers, which are edible, release a chemical into the air to keep bugs away. Nasturtium flowers repel insects such as:

  • Beetles
  • Aphids
  • Squash bugs
  • Whiteflies
  • Cabbage loopers

Lantanas

Living in Florida for over a decade, I am very familiar with growing lantanas. They are one of the flowering plants that can stand up to intense heat, humidity and even salty air.

Lantanas grow in a variety of colors, but my favorite is the sherbet-like variegated color palette.

They will probably be an annual where you live unless you live in more tropical climates. But they are worth adding to your garden.

I had four of these plants in my yard this year. One on my patio, and three more in the front garden.

Catnip

Grown as an herb, catnip does have beautiful purple flowers that develop. It is a member of the mint family, which means it can become invasive if planted in the ground. Be sure to keep this one in a pot.

Catnip has nepetalactone, which is a chemical known to repel mosquitoes, flies, roaches and deer ticks. An Iowa State University study comparing DEET and catnip essential oil showed that catnip was extremely effective at repelling mosquitoes.

However, it is also known to attract cats, too. So if you have roaming cats in your neighborhood, planting this might attract them. Which you might not like.

Alliums

I first fell in love with Alliums when we visited the Jamestown, Virginia area and saw them growing everywhere. Seeing the huge purple flowering balls on top of large stalks reminded me of fireworks growing in the garden.

Allium Flowers in grass field

They keep away mosquitoes, too, which is a winner in my mind.

A member of the same plant family that also contains garlic, chives and leeks, they make great companion plants in a vegetable garden. The bug-repelling plants keep away slugs, aphids, cabbage worms and carrot flies.

Did These Flowers Really Repel Mosquitoes?

I bought a variety of these flowers and put them in pots around our small patio. As well as some more throughout our garden. I wish I had taken some photos of the garden. But I was so frustrated going outside and getting bitten that I kept putting it off. Then the plants died. Note to self: Stop putting things off.

Did they actually repel mosquitoes?

I’d say no.

But let me put that in context. I am a mosquito magnet. I can be standing next to my husband outside. He won’t get bitten at all. I’ll get 5 mosquito bites in 2 minutes.

My family visits my home and gets no bites, either. Except for my nephew, who is like me. He gets mosquito bites as soon as he goes outside unless he is covered in insect repellant.

Soooo…….. do these flowers keep mosquitoes from biting you? Maybe. But if you don’t get any mosquito bites after adding these to your garden or patio, you might not have really gotten bitten anyway, without them.

Here’s the thing: I actually got mosquito bites while planting lavender. Yes, my hands were in the lavender pot, it was right next to my body. And I still got bitten!

I’ve also seen mosquitoes land right on catnip leaves. If they were repelled by them, how on Earth would they stand landing on their leaves?

I appreciate the fact that these plants do have natural bug repelling properties. However, it must be put in context. You cannot except a lavender plant to keep away a backyard of mosquitoes, flies and other biting bugs. It’s just not going to happen. And there are different types of mosquitoes. One type of mosquito might stay away, while another might not be phased. You still have to wear bug repellant if you are someone that attracts bugs.

The Plants in My Garden

So, what was my summer garden like this year? Well, a lot of my plants were these bug-repelling plants because I was so miserable getting mosquito bites.

P.S. Here’s some of the things I used to stop the itching from mosquito bites.

I found a lot of plants worked. And many didn’t. I share all of my successes and learning lessons in this video:

Mosquito Repellants I Tried

When the plants started fading and I was so tired of not being able to go outside, I started researching mosquito repellant products online. Eventually I decided on trying this all natural mosquito repellant spray that is put around the perimeter of your house. Such as in your lawn, on your plants, around your home, etc.

It was costly, but came with a money-back guarantee so I decided to try it. We sprayed it everywhere. Then my yard and house (yes, even inside) smelled like garlic. The neighbors texted me and asked if I was making curry.

But did it work? Kind of. I felt like there were less mosquitoes. But the expense and the smell made me return it. I’m not having my yard smell like garlic while I still have to wear bug repellant.

I then found this granule powder made from natural, essential oils. It was cheaper. And it smells so much better! (Kind of like old-lady perfume, but more towards lavender. It’s not garlic-y smelling, so I don’t mind.)

Did it work? Again, kinda. But I still had to wear long pants or repellant. And the powder (and spray) are only effective until it rains a lot. Then you have to reapply.

In all honesty, guys, I’m really considering getting my house sprayed professionally next year or breaking out some chemical repellants. I like to live naturally. But getting bitten by mosquitoes is not safe. They spread disease. And I don’t think that getting bitten by bugs repeatedly is safe.

It’s a decision I’ll have to postpone until next year. Hopefully I can find a solution that actually works. So I can enjoy my yard and patio next year.

 

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Joanne

Saturday 23rd of October 2021

I read your article about how you are a mosquito magnet, I have your answer if you aren't allergic to garlic, and I found out how well it works by accident. Our friends and my husband and I were sitting around a campfire, all the ladies were slapping like crazy, but they noticed I wasnt. I was taking garlique pills as a supplement. Good for you in more than one way I guess! Mosquitoes didn't like how I tasted! They don't make you smell, but they work!

Kimberly Button

Saturday 23rd of October 2021

Joanne, That's a great idea! I might need to take them next summer before the mosquitoes start biting! Thanks for sharing!

Jo

Thursday 6th of May 2021

Since you are the mosquito magnet in your family (as I am in mine) you might be interested in a natural experiment I did. We were to go camping in Florida, and I knew it would be bad for me. A little web research revealed that taking 50-100mg of vitamin B1, thiamine, for a week before and during the trip would help. It did! Here's a link: https://www.justvitamins.co.uk/blog/taking-vitamin-b1-can-prevent-insect-bites-and-stings/