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How to: use plants to deter pests

Strongly scented herbs planted throughout the garden help put flying insects off their food – whether that’s your treasured plant, food crop, or body!

Planting pungent ornamental herbs near pathways where they spill over onto paving increases their effectiveness.

When the paving warms up, the foliage does too, releasing the fragrant plant oils. Consider this potpourri of powerful scents:


Pungent ornamental herbs in the garden can help put flying insects off their food. Photo - Minerva Studio / shutterstock



Often used as a low, pest-repellent hedge around orchards and vegetable patches, wormwood, Artemesia absinthium, grows to 1m and thrives in full sun. Grow it near the chookhouse to deter lice and near the barbecue to deter mosquitoes. Use the dried leaves with dried lavender to fill sachets and protect clothes against moth damage.


Wormwood, Artemisia absinthium. Photo - Nikolina Mrakovic / shutterstock


Scented geranium

We plant scented geraniums around roses to keep them pest-free, and around the outdoor bath, for quick and easy scented soaks. Fragrances available include ginger, nutmeg, lime, rose and orange. Small pink geranium flowers decorate the shrubs from spring to summer. Heights can vary from 20-80cm. Use fresh scented leaves to make tissanes and dry leaves to add to scented sachets and pot pourri. Prune back and strike cuttings in autumn. Sprawling bushes need regular trims, one-third at a time.


Cotton lavender, Santolina, forms silvery soft cushions of strongly-scented foliage with a halo of yellow button flowers. It grows in full sun, to 60cm and makes a good low hedge or rockery plant.Its pest-repellent properties are greatest when the leaves are dried. Add them to moth-repellent sachets and sprinkle around books and papers to repel silverfish.


Santolina. Photo - picturepartners / shutterstock



Tansy produces a scent or taste so bitter it drives insects away, including ants and flies. Plant it outside the back door or near windows or try rubbing the leaves over your pet to encourage fleas to abandon ship. Tansy grows in full sun and part shade to 50cm.


Tansy, Tanacetum-vulgare. Photo - Hellen Sergeyeva / shutterstock

About this article

Author: Linda Ross