Plants that repel pests outdoors — 7 herbs and flowers that gardening and pest control pros love

These plants that repel pests outdoors will add vibrancy to your backyard and banish bugs

Learning the plants that repel pests outdoors is a good idea. Here are three of these - purple lavender flowers in a field, a bunch of rosemary with light purple flowers, and orange, pink, and white mum flowers in a field
(Image credit: Getty Images / Olivia Bell Photography / Jasenka Arbanas / somnuk krobkum)

Getting your hands on plants that repel pests outdoors will allow you to maintain a beautiful backyard space that's bug-free with less chemicals and effort.

I'm gardening in my backyard at the moment and in need of pest tips myself, I asked the pros about the plants they recommend using to scare away any unwanted visitors. Aromatic herbs and flowers such as mint, rosemary, lavender and marigolds are their top picks.

If you've got creepy crawlies in your yard and already learned how to identify pests, I've got you covered with plenty of useful plants to help you repel these bugs.

Pretty and practical plants that repel pests outdoors

Whether you're trying to remove ants from your backyard or are dealing with bigger bugs, these plants are all sure bets for warding them away.

As well as asking gardening and pest control experts for advice, I've also rounded up useful highly-rated picks from trusted retailers throughout including putting together a pest repellent essentials kit.

The prices below were correct at the time of publishing this article. 

1. Marigolds

A close-up of a cluster of bright yellow marigold flowers with dark green leaves behind them

(Image credit: Getty Images / Ravinder Kumar)

These have to be the most cheerful plants out there, with their sunshine colors and bountiful blooms. As a bonus, they’re great plants for repelling pests.

“Marigolds produce a scent that repels mosquitoes, aphids, and even nematodes in the soil,” explains Tony O’Neill, gardening expert and founder of Simplify Gardening. “Their vibrant flowers also attract beneficial insects like ladybugs, which prey on garden pests."

Tony says to plant them in full sun and using well-draining soil, such as the Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Potting Mix from Amazon which provides feed for up to six months whilst protecting against over and under-watering.

2. Lavender

A cluster of purple lavender plants with light green stems, with a light blue sky above

(Image credit: Getty Images / Olivia Bell Photography)

I absolutely love lavender and I have it in my garden anyway, so I’m pleased that it’s one of the best plants to repel bugs. Bye, bye, nasties!

Tony explains, “Lavender's strong fragrance is effective at deterring mosquitoes, flies, and moths. It's also known for its calming properties and can add a pleasant aroma to your garden.”

You can get pots of it pre-grown, boosting your chances of gardening success. The Premier Plant Solutions Store Lavender from Amazon is the site’s overall pick (it's clever algorithm looks at similar items, assesses reviews, star ratings and popularity before giving it this label) and grows in hardiness zones 5-7.

Make sure to water it sparingly, as it’s drought-tolerant once established. “Then, make sure to prune back in the spring to encourage new growth and maintain shape,” Tony says.

3. Basil

A birds eye shot of a dark green basil plant, with other leafy plants below it

(Image credit: Getty Images / Sergio Amiti)

I’ve just started growing basil on my kitchen windowsill, but I’m now convinced that I need to move it outside as it's a good plant for repelling pests, it turns out.

“Basil not only enhances your culinary dishes but also repels flies and mosquitoes,” explains Dalya Harel, pest control expert and founder of Lice Busters. “I think it's best to plant basil in well-drained soil with plenty of sunlight."

I have adopted a basil plant from the store and started to grow it. You can do this too, with the Fresh Produce Shenandoah Basil Plant from Walmart which is organic and GMO-free.

She advises pinching off the flowers as they appear to keep the leaves flavorful and aromatic. You can do this while grabbing leaves for your pasta or pizza dishes — Bellissimo!

4. Mint

A birds eye shot of bright green mint leaf plants outdoors

(Image credit: Getty Images / mtreasure)

This fresh herb isn’t just great for putting in cool drinks — it also works brilliantly as a pest-repellent plant, too.

“Mint is a great pest deterrent, especially for ants and mosquitoes,” Dalya says. “I recommend regularly harvesting it, as this prevents the plant from becoming leggy and promotes a bushier growth.”

He notes that it can be invasive, so he advises planting it in pots to control its spread. I have the Better Homes & Gardens Pottery Amy Ceramic Planter from Walmart in my basket, thanks to its fun pattern and handy drainage plug.

5. Chrysanthemums

A collection of dark pink, light pink, orange, and yellow mom flowers outdoors with grass around them and sunlight behind them

(Image credit: Getty Images / somnuk krobkum)

Also known as ‘mom’ flowers, these pretty flowers will add color to your backyard ideas.

"Chrysanthemums contain pyrethrum, which is a natural insect repellent that can deter cockroaches, ants, ticks, fleas, and more," Tony explains. Many commercial repellents use a synthetic version of this chemical in their insecticides as pyrethrum is so effective.

Simply place your chrysanthemums in full sun to partial shade, water regularly, and deadhead spent flowers to encourage more blooms.

6. Lemongrass

A cluster of green spiky lemongrass plants with dark soil underneath them and dark green bushes behind them

(Image credit: Getty Images / Photography by Jeremy Villasis)

Zingy and zesty, lemongrass is not just a super home fragrance scent, but is also a super aromatic plant that repels pests.

Tony explains, “Lemongrass contains citronella, which is well-known for repelling mosquitoes. This makes it a great plant to place near an outdoor seating area, so you can dine al fresco without swatting away pests."

If you like this idea but don’t want to plant anything, you could always choose one of the best candles with a citronella scent, as this has lemongrass in it.

For example, I love the look of the Diptyque Citronnelle Lemongrass & Orange Blossom Scented Candle from Nordstrom. Celebs like Kate Moss and Kim Kardashian love this brand and this candle has a vibrant pattern that will add to your outdoor decor.

7. Rosemary

A close-up shot of dark green spiky rosemary plants with light purple flowers growing on them

(Image credit: Getty Images / Jasenka Arbanas)

Just like basil, rosemary is a herb worth having in your backyard for many different purposes. 

Tony says, “Rosemary's strong scent can deter mosquitoes, flies, and cabbage moths. It’s also a hardy herb that can be used in cooking.”

Start with a small plant like the American Plant Exchange Live Tuscan Blue Rosemary Plant from Amazon, and nurture it so it becomes a larger plant.

Just be sure not to water it too often and make sure you prune it regularly to help it maintain shape and encourage new growth.

Pest repellent essentials kit

By using these plants that repel pests outdoors, you can keep your backyard looking gorgeous and free from gross, unhelpful bugs.

“In my own gardening area, I've had great success with using marigolds and basil to deter pests naturally, making it a more enjoyable space to work and relax,” Tony finishes by saying.

Dealing with a specific bug? Learning how to repel ticks from your backyard may also be helpful for you.

Eve Smallman
Content Editor

Hi there! I’m a content editor at Real Homes. I've been a lifestyle journalist for over five years, previously working as an editor across regional magazines. Before this, I graduated from Nottingham Trent University a degree in journalism, along with an NCTJ gold diploma. I love running, decorating my rented Victorian home, and discovering new cheeses. For Real Homes, I specialize in interior design, trends and finding the best viral buys.