Bug-free Backyard: 5 Natural Insect Repellents

Do you love being outside in the warmer months but wish for a bug-free backyard? These 5 plants are natural insect repellents that send insects the clear message to buzz off.

natural insect repellents
Need natural mosquito control? Look to nature’s solution: plants

With summer fast approaching, your backyard is finally shrugging off the last dregs of winter. The pond is trickling, flowers are bursting with color, and your outdoor living space has never looked more inviting—especially to bugs.

After spending multiple weekends designing your backyard, shopping for new patio furniture and installing outdoor flooring, the last thing you want is to be chased out of your own space by insects. Fortunately, there is a simple solution that doesn’t involve chemical bug spray.

Certain plants can serve as an amazingly effective natural mosquito repellent and deter bugs from ruining the vibe of your outdoor oasis. With the following plants in your backyard, you can keep bugs at bay and get back to throwing a festive outdoor deck party.

Why Use Natural Mosquito Repellent?

bug-free backyard
Take your deck or patio back from those invaders–bugs!

Chemical bug sprays make many homeowners understandably nervous. According to a 2019 study published in BMC Public Health, researchers found that “bug bombs” were not only ineffective but also left behind toxic insecticide residues such as diethyltoluamide (DEET) that could potentially pose a risk to both people and pets.

Although the CDC has stated that DEET is safe when used correctly, the ingredient hasn’t been without controversy. A few studies have found an association between DEET and cancer, including a 1998 study published in the International Journal of Oncology, which found an increased risk of testicular cancer in men who used DEET for more than 115 days..

If you’re one of the many homeowners who doesn’t feel comfortable using chemicals to deter bugs, why not use plants as a natural mosquito repellent instead? As we’ll discuss below, there are several plant species that give off a scent which many bugs simply can’t stand.

5 Natural Insect Repellents: Plants to Help Achieve a Bug-free Backyard

Before we get too far into the powers of bug-fighting plants, there is one caveat to these natural bug repellents. Not all plants work to repel bugs in the same way.

While some can deter bugs from their scent alone, others require you to take the leaves and apply them to your body. With that caveat in mind, here are the top bug-fighting plants to deter bugs:


bug-free backyard lavender
Grow lavender for many uses: food seasoning, herbal tea, aromatherapy, and now–to make a bug-free backyard!

While the heavy scent of lavender is often pleasing to humans, it tends to drive several bug species away. According to a 2018 study published in Fashion and Textiles, researchers found that adding lavender oil to cotton clothing reduced the total number of insects biting on subjects.

Lavender has a bitter tinge to its scent, which may play a role in its natural mosquito repellent tendencies. It may also be that the scent is just so strong that it’s able to mask the human scent, which makes it difficult for bugs to pick up scents with their antennae.


natural insect repellents
Marigolds offer you a classic annual with a fragrance that’s a natural insect repellent.

There are several varieties of marigold which can potentially serve as natural insect repellents. French marigolds are easy to grow, easier to maintain, and may repel whiteflies and mosquitoes and nematode worms. Mexican marigolds are also believed to repel an array of insects with their aromatic scent.

Although they may not be a sure-fire way to repel insects, both marigold varieties can brighten up your backyard and provide a pleasant aroma. For healthy growth, be sure to plant them in outside containers in a spot that receives ample sunlight.


bug-free backyard citronella plant
Citronella plants grace your backyard with lush greenery and serve as a natural mosquito repellent.

An easy-to-grow option, Citronella is perhaps best known for its insect-repellent qualities. Citronella candles are commonly purchased as functional décor for backyard patios in the hopes of deterring mosquitoes.

Planting the citronella plant in your backyard won’t be enough to deter insects. To use citronella properly, take a few leaves off and rub them on exposed areas of your body. While we can’t guarantee that you won’t get bitten, it can potentially help reduce the number of times you do.


natural insect repellents
Choose petunias in an array of color to suit your style and for their natural insect repellent properties.

Fragrant and beautiful, petunias come in a wide variety of colors and are a welcome addition to any landscape. They’re perfect for planting in containers, window boxes, or along your paver pathway to highlight your outdoor flooring.

Petunias are said to repel aphids, whiteflies, hornworms, and squash bugs. The only downside to this lovely annual is that they may attract caterpillars, slugs, and other pests.


natural insect repellent
Extent the natural insect repellent into the fall months by adding chrysanthemum to your garden. These flowers bloom long after some of your others have finished their show of color.

A member of the daisy family, chrysanthemums will infuse your backyard with bright pops of color while keeping bugs at bay. This beautiful flower contains pyrethrum, a naturally occurring chemical that can repel several types of bugs, including roaches, ants, fleas, and ticks, and nematode worms.

One of the more common varieties of chrysanthemums that contain pyrethrum include single chrysanthemums, which are distinguished by their rows of daisy-like petals. No matter which variety you choose to plant, keep in mind that the natural chemicals in chrysanthemums are considered toxic to pets and people when they are ingested.

Additional Bug-Fighting Herbs

Who doesn’t love picking fresh herbs straight from the garden? By growing the following herbs, you can keep your backyard bug-free while getting a few delicious meals out of the deal.

  • MintMint, especially peppermint, is a handy herb that can deter mosquitoes, ants, moths, and flies. It can also deter outdoor pets, keeping them away from your precious herb garden without causing them harm.
  • BasilBasil is an attractive herb with a strong aroma that is said to deter mosquitoes and flies. Plant basil in a sunny spot so it can thrive and be sure to bring it inside during the colder months.
  • GarlicThe heavy scent of garlic is said to repel not only mosquitoes, but snakes as well. It’s also easy to grow and can give your dishes a delicious flavor that can’t be achieved with garlic from a supermarket.
  • RosemaryRosemary is a beautiful plant and a useful herb to have on hand. Its pungent scent is said to drive away mosquitoes, flies, and moths.

For a fun backyard idea, consider making a wall garden out of these herbs. Wall gardens are ideal for small spaces and can instantly add style of any outdoor living space.

Fight Bugs Naturally with Natural Insect Repellentsitoes

If you don’t want to douse your entire backyard in toxic chemicals, these plants may be a better solution for keeping bugs at bay. While they aren’t guaranteed to drive out every insect from your yard, they can potentially keep pests to a minimum.

Besides, what have you got to lose? Even if they don’t work as well as you would have hoped as natural insect repellents, you’ll still benefit in the end with colorful blooms and useful herbs.

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