18 Plants That Repel Insects

Companion Planting to Foil Pests

Borage plant with blue flowers and buds

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Plants that repel insects are often used for natural pest control through companion planting, the practice of growing different plants together to achieve specific results based largely on anecdotal evidence. Like humans, insects have their preferred foods, and they usually find these foods by scent. You can make it harder for insects to locate the buffet by mixing in plants that will confuse their sense of smell, such as planting onions between cabbages. This means you won’t be able to plant in tidy rows and large blocks of a single vegetable, but it doesn’t take a lot to have an effect.

Plants with pungent scents are among the most effective insect deterrents, and many of these are herbs, so the plants have two purposes. In addition, some deterrent plants also attract beneficial insects you want in the garden. This is another type of companion planting that is proving to have great use for gardeners.

  • 01 of 18

    Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

    Basil Herb Food Seasoning Plant Part Herb Garden
    mollypix / Getty Images

    Basil repels asparagus beetle, carrot fly, flies, mosquitoes, and whitefly. It’s the scent that deters the insects, so gently touching the leaves to release their oils as you walk by improves its effectiveness. Annual.

    • USDA Growing Zones: Annual. hardy zones 10-11
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Moist, rich, well-drained soil
  • 02 of 18

    Borage (Borago officinalis)

    Borage plant with blue flowers and buds in garden

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Borage repels imported cabbageworm and tomato hornworm. It also attracts beneficial insects and pollinators, such as native bumblebees. Allow it to self-sow, and you will always have some in your garden. Prefers cooler temperatures.

    • USDA Growing Zones: Annual plant
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained soil
  • 03 of 18

    Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

    Orange and yellow marigold flowers in a large organic flowerbed
    lubilub / Getty Images

    Calendula, or pot marigold, repels asparagus beetle, nematodes, and tomato hornworm. It also attracts beneficial insects, so this edible flower is useful throughout your garden.

    • USDA Growing Zones: Typically grown as an annual. Hardy zones 9 to 11
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained soil
  • 04 of 18

    Catmint (Nepeta)

    Nepeta siberica (Siberian Catmint)

    Marie Iannotti / The Spruce

    Catmint repels aphids, cabbage looper, Colorado potato beetle, cucumber beetle, flea beetle, Japanese beetle, and, squash bugs. The one drawback with catnip is that some varieties can be aggressive spreaders and quickly take over large parts of the garden. Perennial.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained soil
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  • 05 of 18

    Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

    Chive flower macro
    pejft / Getty Images

    Chives will repel aphids and Japanese beetles. Be sure to harvest your chives, because it will spread quickly if you allow it to go to seed. Even the beautiful flowers are edible.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist soil
  • 06 of 18

    Dill (Anethum graveolens)

    Dill Stems

    LauriPatterson / Getty Images

    Dill is excellent for repelling cabbage moths and spider mites. Dill is also a good plant for attracting beneficial insects, such as parasitic wasps that lay eggs in tomato hornworms, and is a host plant for black swallowtail butterflies. You will lose a little dill while the larvae feed, but they are not around for long, and the butterflies are lovely. Biennial, hardy to 25 degrees F.

    • USDA Growing Zones: Biennial plant
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Loose, well-drained soil
  • 07 of 18

    Garlic (Allium sativum)

    Garlic Bulbs

    Chris Mellor / Getty Images

    Garlic repels aphids, cabbage moths, codling moths, Mexican bean beetles, peach borer, Japanese beetles, as well as rabbits. Planting garlic under roses to repel Japanese beetles is a classic companion planting technique. Annual.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 2-10 (varies by type)
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Fertile, well-drained soil
  • 08 of 18

    Hyssop (Agastache rupestris)

    Giant Hyssop (Agastache rugosa)

    Rachel Husband / Getty Images

    Beautiful, fragrant hyssop repels cabbage moths. Hyssop is an excellent companion for all sorts of cole crops since they are all attacked by cabbage moth larvae. Perennial.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Full to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained soil
    Continue to 9 of 18 below.
  • 09 of 18

    Mint (Mentha)

    Mint
    Jenny Dettrick / Getty Images

    The scent of mint repels aphids, cabbage moths, flea beetles, squash bugs, whiteflies, and even ants. To prevent this aggressive grower from taking over your vegetable garden, you can simply lay sprigs of mint among the plants you want to protect, but the sprigs must be replaced often. Or plant pots of mint and place among the veggies to keep the plant contained.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 11
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, slightly acidic soil
  • 10 of 18

    Onions (allium cepa)

    Red Onions

    Marie Iannotti / The Spruce

    Onions repel aphids, cabbage looper, carrot flies, Colorado potato beetle, and rabbits. The combination of carrots and onions has done well in testing. Annual.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Loamy, well-drained soil
  • 11 of 18

    Oregano (Origanum)

    Oregano Plant

    Luann Griffin / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Oregano repels cabbage moths. However, it can be difficult to interplant because it is a spreading perennial. You could try laying freshly cut springs near your cole crops, but they will need to be replaced frequently. Plant in pots and place throughout garden beds instead. Perennial.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 10
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Light, sandy, loamy soil
  • 12 of 18

    Parsley (Petroselinum)

    Flat leaf parsley
    Johner Images / Getty Images

    Parsley repels asparagus beetles. As with basil, you’ll need to be gentle when you crush the leaves to release the scent. Allow to flower to attract parasitic wasps.

    • USDA Growing Zones: Biennial, hardy in zones 3-9
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained soil
    Continue to 13 of 18 below.
  • 13 of 18

    Radish (Raphanus sativus)

    French Breakfast Radishes

    Marie Iannotti / The Spruce

    Radish plants repel cabbage maggot, squash bugs, cucumber beetles. For the best effect, you will need to seed three or four radishes in each cucumber hill and leave them there to mature while the cucumber plants are growing.

    • USDA Growing Zones: Annual plant
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, sandy, loamy soil
  • 14 of 18

    Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

    Rosemary Herb Plant Vegetable Garden, Fresh Green Leaf Sprigs Close-up

    YinYang / Getty Images

    Rosemary repels cabbage moths, carrot flies, Mexican bean beetles, slugs and snails. Although rosemary is not hardy in all zones, you can usually buy small plants inexpensively at the start of the season, and you can always bring them indoors for the winter, as houseplants. Perennial

    • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 11 (or grow as annual)
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Sandy soil
  • 15 of 18

    Sage (Salvia officinalis)

    Golden Sage

    Marie Iannotti / The Spruce

    Sage repels cabbage moths and carrot flies. Sage is a perennial plant and can be hard to intercrop but is still useful along the border. Common sage works best as a deterrent.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained soil
  • 16 of 18

    Savory (Satureja hortensis)

    Summer Savoury - young herb plant, annual ( Satureja, hortensis)
    EdwardSamuelCornwall / Getty Images

    Savory repels Mexican bean beetles. Summer savory works better than winter savory and is easier to interplant because it is generally grown as an annual.

    • USDA Growing Zones: Summer Savory: Annual; Winter Savory: Perennial 5 to 11
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich, loose, sandy soil
    Continue to 17 of 18 below.
  • 17 of 18

    Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

    close up view of potted thyme plant with green leaves
    LightFieldStudios / Getty Images

    Thyme plants repel cabbage moths, corn earworm, and tomato hornworm. Most thyme plants are low-growing and double as ground covers in the garden. Although they spread, they are slower to fill out than many other perennial herbs.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained soil
  • 18 of 18

    Wormwood (Artemisia ludoviciana)

    Absinthe wormwood plant
    Anchy / Getty Images

    Useful wormwood repels ants, cabbage loopers, cabbage maggots, carrot flies, codling moths, flea beetles, and whiteflies. It also seems to deter mice. Place pots near your entryway or in garden beds to keep pests out. Perennial.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained soil
Article Sources
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  1. Maia, Marta Ferreira, et al. Plant-based insect repellents: a review of their efficacy, development and testingMalar J. 2011, vol. 10, S11, doi:10.1186/1475-2875-10-S1-S11

  2. References

    (N.d.). Archive.Org. https://web.archive.org/web/20140529193140/http://cceniagaracounty.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/companion-planting-info.pdf