Plants to Keep Summer Bugs Away


By Susan Patterson


If you enjoy spending time outdoors, but are driven from your fun by summer bugs, you can use harsh chemical bug repellants or try a more natural approach. A few strategically placed plants around your outdoor living space will not only drive pesky bugs away but will also beautify your yard.

Here are five, easy to grow options that are as pretty as they are practical.

Lemon Grass

Lemon grass is an aromatic herb that is effective at repelling insects as it contains citral oil which is similar to citronella. Its fresh lemony smell is enjoyed by humans but offensive to insects. This member of the grass family is very easy to grow and thrives in USDA plant hardiness zones 9-11, but can be placed outside during the summer and brought inside in the winter in cooler regions. Not only will this herb keep insects at bay but also makes a wonderful tea. Some people use lemon grass to form a living fence around outdoor seating areas or grow it in large pots.


Rosemary is a wonderful smelling herb that is celebrated for it culinary attributes. Few people realize how excellent this plant is for keeping bugs away. Rosemary is a very easy to grow plant but requires a sunny spot that drains well. It does not like to be wet, so frequent water is not necessary. This herb can get quite large so it needs to be trimmed regularly to keep it a reasonable size. Place rosemary around your patio or deck for a fragrant and protective border. Rosemary is a perennial that does best in USDA plant hardiness zones 6-11.


Marigolds are pretty little annual flowers that repel insects wonderfully. It may be the pungent smell of these warm-colored beauties that cause insects to fly in the other direction. As an added bonus, these flowers also repel deer, so they are excellent for protecting your garden. Marigolds should be deadheaded regularly to promote further blooming.


Mint is a tasty herb that can be used for thousands of different things, including keeping bugs away. An added benefit of this plant is that you can simply rub the leaves on you for bug repellent while you are gardening. Mint can be invasive and spreads quickly. Many people plant it in buckets to restrict its growth. You can choose from a wide variety of mint plants including peppermint, chocolate mint, orange mint and spearmint. All will work equally well to keep bugs away and make a nice addition to any outdoor living space in USDA plant hardiness zones 4-9.


This wonderful plant is adored by cats, but hated by bugs. Catnip has actually been proven to be 10 times more effect than DEET when keeping bugs away. Catnip can also be rubbed directly on your skin for a safe and effective bug deterrent. Grow catnip in containers in USDA plant hardiness zones 3 -9 for best results. If you choose not to contain catnip, be prepared for it to spread prolifically.