9 Houseplants That Can Help Repel Bugs
There are few things more unpleasant than being curled up in bed with a good book, your pup on your feet, about to sink into sleep... and then feeling the particular unmistakable tickle of a bug crawling across you. It is the worst. And if you keep up your own living space, you likely know that keeping bugs from invading is a full-time job, and sometimes it can feel like you're fighting a losing battle. But there's good news: there are some houseplants can help you repel bugs. You just have to know which ones are on your side in the bug battles.
There are plenty of implements to help keep pests out of your home, but if you have kids or pets, many of them may feel like no-go options. Insecticides and traps can be effective at ridding your house of unwanted guests, but for an anxious person like me, the idea that my cats or dog may get into the poisons is enough to keep me from bringing them into the house at all.
Thankfully, nature provides its own insect repellants, and while some of the plants on this list may also pose a danger to a child or pet if ingested, if placed out of reach, they can be extremely effective at shooing bugs away from you and your family. Plus, they smell nice, too.
Sage bushes are just plain pretty to have around the house, but they double as suppliers of a hugely useful insect repellant: burning sage. You may have heard about sage smudging rituals to clear your house of negative energy, but it turns out the smoke created by burning sage is super effective against bugs like mosquitoes, too. Keep a sizable sage bush around the house and take cuttings on the regular — just remember that sage has to be dried before it can be burned.
Basil may smell delicious to us when it's used in a zesty tomato sauce, but it smells terrible to bugs, according to Gardening Know How. "The intense scent and oil in basil and many other herbs are often used to deter common household pests," the site reported. "The pungent herb seems to repel flies and basil pest control has been used since ancient times."
Like many of the other plants on this list, chives are also known for their non-insect-repelling qualities, namely how dang good they taste. But chives, which can be grown virtually anywhere, from an outdoor garden to a tabletop mini-greenhouse, repel carrot flies, Japanese beetles, and aphids, according to Mother Nature Network, making them effective at keeping bugs out of your house and away from your other plants, especially if you grow veggies. And once the chives have done their job, they're still A-OK to sprinkle on a baked potato.
Also known as the mosquito plant, this green gem does exactly what citronella candles do: helps you repel mosquitoes. It is important to know, however, that citronella plants, unlike some of the others on this list, don't just repel mosquitoes by sitting there; you have to crush a leaf yourself in order to free that familiar citronella fragrance for it to be effective, according to Bonnie Plants.
Your cats are about to be incredibly happy. Believe it or not, catnip appears to be excellent at keeping bugs, including mosquitoes, at bay. According to research from the American Chemical Society, "nepetalactone, the essential oil in catnip that gives the plant its characteristic odor, is about ten times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET — the compound used in most commercial insect repellents."
As someone who's grown lavender and has pollen allergies, I suggest growing a lavender bush on your porch or balcony rather than full-on bringing it into the house. But no matter where around the house you keep lavender, it's going to be one of your bug repelling BFFs. Livestrong reported that in her book The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy, expert Valerie Ann Worwood wrote that lavender oil can help you slay infestations of fleas, black beetles, and several types of flies.
This may be a bit of a no-brainer judging by its name, but venus flytraps are naturally an effective means of cutting down on fly and gnat populations. Venus flytraps are carnivorous plants that will snap closed on insects that land inside their "mouths," which means they'll help you get rid of pests, and you'll have one happy, well-fed plant.
Like sage, burning rosemary gives off a strong, herby scent that will dissuade insect visitors from sticking around. You do have to make sure that, again, the rosemary is dried before you burn it, and that the smoke from the burning bundle is getting near enough to the bugs to drive them out. Waving a burning bundle around one room only ain't gonna cut it.
Marigolds are downright beautiful, and though my family has always planted them, I didn't know they were bug repellants until I noticed my mother-in-law planting them near her tomatoes. Lining your windows with boxes of marigolds can help spread their "distinctive smell," which according to Eartheasy is highly, highly disliked by mosquitoes. Marigolds also, as Eartheasy points out, "contain [p]yrethrum, a compound used in many insect repellants."
So there you have it! Not only will these plants work overtime to help you keep your house as bug-free as possible, but they'll add a spark of green to your living space. Happy summer, y'all.