19 Plants that Repel Insects

Companion Planting to Foil Pests

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There’s a lot of misinformation and confusion when it comes to companion planting. That’s because it is so hard to test theories. No season is the same as another and no garden is like any other. That makes it hard to tell if it was the pairing of two plants near each other that gave you desirable results or if it was something else entirely.

However, just because it is hard to have a control group, that does not mean companion planting does not work. It just means that you will need to test things out for yourself. One of the companion planting tenants that has shown some success is interplanting different vegetables to thwart insect pests. Like humans, insects have their preferred foods. Very often they find these foods by scent. You can make it harder for them 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.

Even if you don't have great success at deterring pests, a bonus effect is that some of these plants will attract the beneficial insects we want in the garden. This is another type of companion planting that is proving to have great use for gardeners.

Plants with pungent scents are among the most successful insect deterrents. Do your own study and test some of these near any vegetables you have reoccurring problems with and see if it makes a difference. Even if they aren’t as effective as you might hope, you will still have lots of herbs for seasoning.

Sources:

Carrots Love Tomatoes, by Louise Riotte, Storey Publishing, 1998
Great Garden Companions, by Sally Jean Cunningham, Rodale Press, 1998
Rodale’s Successful Organic Gardening Companion Planting, Rodale Press, 1994

  • 01 of 19

    Basil

    Growing Fresh Basil

    © Marie Iannotti

    Basil repels Asparagus beetle and the tomato hornworm. It’s the scent that deters the insects, so gently touching the leaves to release their oils as you walk by improves its effectiveness.

  • 02 of 19

    Borage

    Borage
    Borage plants can be gangly, but the flowers are stunning.Borage.

    © Marie Iannotti

    Borage repels the tomato hornworm. It also attracts beneficial insects and pollinators, such as native bumble bees. Allow it to self-sow and you will always have some in your garden.

  • 03 of 19

    Calendula

    Calendula, or Pot Marigolds

    © Marie Iannotti

     

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

  • 04 of 19

    Catmint

    Nepeta siberica (Siberian Catmint)

    ©Marie Iannotti

    Catmint repels aphids, asparagus beetle, Colorado potato 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.

    Continue to 5 of 19 below.
  • 05 of 19

    Chives

    Chive blossoms

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

  • 06 of 19

    Dill

    Dill Stems
    LauriPatterson / Getty Images

    Dill is great for repelling cabbage moths. Dill is also a good plant for attracting beneficial insects 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.

  • 07 of 19

    Garlic

    Garlic Bulbs
    Chris Mellor / Getty Images

    Garlic repels aphids, cabbage moths, and Japanese beetles. Planting garlic under roses to repel Japanese beetles is a classic companion planting technique.

  • 08 of 19

    Horseradish

    Horseradish Root
    Aloha 17 / Getty Images

    Use horseradish to repel Colorado potato beetle. This can be tricky because it is hard to plant a perennial like horseradish with a crop like potatoes, that needs to be dug every season but it should have some effect if grown in the general vicinity.

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  • 09 of 19

    Hyssop

    Giant Hyssop (Agastache rugosa)
    Rachel Husband / Getty Images

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

  • 10 of 19

    Mint

    Mint Plants
    Bethany Lawrence / EyeEm / Getty Images

    the scent of mint repels aphids, cabbage moths, and even ants. You can just lay sprigs of mint among the plants you want to protect, so that the mint plant does not spread and take over the garden, but needs to be replaced often.

  • 11 of 19

    Onions

    Red Onions

    Onions repel aphids, carrot rust flies, and flea beetles. The combination of carrots and onions has done well in testing. To foil flea beetles on my eggplants, you can try tossing onion peelings around them, although the actual onion plants work better.

  • 12 of 19

    Oregano

    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.

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  • 13 of 19

    Parsley

    Flat Leaf Parsley Plant
    AndreyTTL / Getty Images

    Parsley repels asparagus beetles. As with basil, you’ll need to gently crush the leaves to release the scent.

  • 14 of 19

    Radish

    French Breakfast Radishes
    © Marie Iannotti

    Radish plants repel 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.

  • 15 of 19

    Rosemary

    Rosemary Herb Plant Vegetable Garden, Fresh Green Leaf Sprigs Close-up
    YinYang / Getty Images

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

  • 16 of 19

    Sage

    Golden Sage
    © Marie Iannotti

    Sage repels cabbage moths and carrot rust 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.

    Continue to 17 of 19 below.
  • 17 of 19

    Savory

    Summer Savory
    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.

  • 18 of 19

    Thyme

    Stems of Thyme

    Thyme plants repel cabbage moths. 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.

  • 19 of 19

    Wormwood

    Wormwood
    Photo: Ayla87 / Stock.xchng

    Useful wormwood repels flea beetles. It also seems to deter mice. Place fresh sprigs new your entryway, to keep both pests out.