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The 14 Plants That Repel Ants (Away From Your Home!)

Ants are some of the most painfully common pests we encounter in our day-to-day lives. If left unchecked, they could even destroy plants! So what ant-repelling plants can we grow ourselves?

The 14 plants that can be used to effectively repel ants are:

  1. Citronella grass
  2. Pennyroyal
  3. Rosemary
  4. Peppermint
  5. Yarrow
  6. Thyme
  7. Lavender
  8. Sage
  9. Painted daisies
  10. Catmint
  11. Autumn mums
  12. Rue
  13. Spearmint
  14. Lemongrass

Whether we go out in nature, have a picnic, or even just walk into our kitchen, ants can be found almost everywhere. But are there any plants we can grow to help keep ants away outside our homes? You will find the answer to this by scrolling to the article below!

1. Citronella Grass (Cymbopogon nardus)

The heavy aroma of citronella grass can aid in repelling ants. The oils of this plant can also be used as an effective deterrent in sprays. Keep citronella grass strictly in containers to avoid overgrowth and position them where ant are commonly seen.

Repelling Mechanism: Oil and fragrance

Best Grown in: Containers or confined spaces inground

Origin: Asia

Toxicity: Toxic to animals and humans if ingested in large amounts

This tall and grassy plant has a strong, citrusy scent that ants find unpleasant. You might see citronella plants commonly being sold at local plant stores and nurseries.

However, make sure the plant you purchase is actually citronella grass and not just a scented geranium. The plant that citronella oil is truly derived from is citronella grass, which grows wild masses of long, bladed leaves.

Citronella Grass Leaves
Daniel Tassini Hochheim (cc-by-sa) PlantNet – Cymbopogon Nardus Leaves

Because of how rampant this plant can grow, keep it in containers. Moreover, this is a plant you can trim without guilt, as doing so will help release its repelling fragrance.

Additionally, the use of citronella oil has been seen to cause 50% mortality among fire ants and is an excellent ingredient to include in ant-repellent sprays. Just do not ingest this as this can be harmful to the body!

Simply read on to see what else can be combined with citronella oil to deter ants!

2. Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)

Because of its large production of strongly scented compounds like pulegone, pennyroyal is a highly valuable plant to use against ants. The most concentrated and fragrant form of pulegone can be found in pennyroyal oils and used to repel ants but must be handled with caution.

Repelling Mechanism: Oil and fragrance

Best Grown in: Containers

Origin: Mediterranean

Toxicity: Toxic to animals and humans if ingested in large amounts

Pennyroyal is a colorful perennial that contains large amounts of pulegone. These pulegone molecules are responsible for the strong aroma of pennyroyal that ants hate.

Grow this member of the mint family in containers and shady areas to overwhelm scavenging ants with its scent.

Pennyroyal Flowers
Daniel SOTTY (cc-by-sa) PlantNet – Mentha Pulegium Flowers

Another thing to note is that many commercial repellents contain the essential oils of pennyroyal, so you can use this to your advantage. But they must be handled with caution.

Pennyroyal oils are the most concentrated form of pulegone available and can cause nausea and abdominal pain if they’re eaten in large amounts. Keep this away from pets and children but feel free to use this in natural solutions against ants.

3. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Rosemary is a versatile herb that can be grown outdoors or in pots inside the kitchen to help deter ants. The aroma of rosemary will overpower the ants’ sense of smell and act as a helpful repellent.

Repelling Mechanism: Fragrance

Best Grown in: Ground or containers

Origin: Europe

Toxicity: Non-toxic to animals and humans

Remember, ants have an incredible sense of smell that they use daily to follow pheromone trails, search for food, and sense potential dangers. Without it, they’d quite literally be lost.

Because of this, the strongly-scented rosemary herb is a great plant that can be used against ants to overwhelm them with.

Rosemary
Dagnia Debade (cc-by-sa) PlantNet – Rosmarinus Officinalis Flowers

What’s even better is that you can grow rosemary by a sunny window right in the kitchen to use in your dishes and help keep the ants away. Two birds with one stone!

4. Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)

Although peppermint can be invasive if planted in the ground, peppermint is a heavily scented plant that can be used as an ant-repellent. Peppermint oil can be used as a natural solution against ants or rubbed liberally into the skin to prevent ant bites.

Repelling Mechanism: Oil and fragrance

Best Grown in: Containers

Origin: Europe

Toxicity: Toxic to animals if ingested in large amounts

Ants are quick to detect and avoid peppermint because of its extreme fragrance. This is the reason why peppermint is so capable of repelling ants.

Simply grow peppermint in containers and position it around doors and windows where ants may crawl.

The scent of peppermint oil is even more potent than the plant itself and can also be used in sprays. However, this oil should not be ingested and the plant should be kept away from animals to prevent severe stomach pains upon ingestion.

Alternatively, you can just rub peppermint leaves on the skin and scatter the bruised leaves around your yard to help keep ants away.

5. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Yarrow is commonly grown to help repel ants due to its rich scents and ability to attract predatory insects like butterflies to consume ants. To ensure the delicate flowers are not damaged by weather, yarrow is best grown in pots.

Repelling Mechanism: Fragrance and attractive to predatory insects

Best Grown in: Ground or containers

Origin: Europe

Toxicity: Toxic to animals and humans if ingested in large amounts

Yarrow plants have fuzzy soft, creamy-colored flowers that bloom in the summer and are attractive to butterflies.

These butterflies won’t just be another pretty thing to look at in your garden. Some of them, such as Large Blue butterflies, are known to eat ants!

Yarrow Flowers
Ludovic Stroobants (cc-by-sa) PlantNet – Achillea Millefolium Flowers

You can grow yarrow outside to discourage ants with its fragrance and increase the presence of butterflies.

However, since their soft stems can easily be flattened in strong wind and rain, you might want to grow this in pots to prevent them from taking damage. Yarrow is also not safe to consume, so make sure little ones and animals are not tempted to eat this plant.

6. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

Thyme has a pungent fragrance that can assist in repelling nearby ants. Grow thyme to support chickens for predatory control and help reduce ant numbers in the yard.

Repelling Mechanism: Fragrance and attractive to predatory animals

Best Grown in: Containers

Origin: Southwestern Europe

Toxicity: Non-toxic to animals and humans

To make things even more convenient, thyme is another strong aromatic plant you can easily grow in the garden or kitchen to help deter wandering ants with its pungent smell.

Thyme Flowers
Fenotti Adriano (cc-by-sa) PlantNet – Thymus Vulgaris Flowers

Thyme can also be used to help feed chickens. Despite being noisy, chickens are great animals that can help control ants and ticks.

>> Check out our article here on the plants that help repel ticks.

These birds aren’t picky about their food at all and will actively peck away at any ant they see and consume them.

Be sure to set up some chicken wire, however, to protect your other plants from these enthusiastic eaters.

Additionally, avoid using chickens against fire ants as this may hurt the animals.

7. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

Lavender is commonly cultivated for its floral aroma that can help repel ants. Linalool is the natural compound responsible for this fragrance and is very frequently used in insecticides. Additionally, lavender oil can also be used in sprays or applied topically to prevent potential ant bites.

Repelling Mechanism: Oil and fragrance

Best Grown in: Containers

Origin: Mediterranean

Toxicity: Toxic to animals

Lavender is a sweet-smelling herb that ants will be repelled by and find the aroma too strong. This fragrance is due to the presence of linalool.

The compound linalool can be found in lavender and is commonly used as a viable ingredient to effectively control ants, which is perfect!

Lavender Flowers
B Seba (cc-by-sa) PlantNet – Lavandula Angustifolia Flowers

You can take advantage of this and grow lavender in pots or as an attractive hedge surrounding your home. Just make sure your pets do not eat this, as the linalool may cause severe nausea and vomiting.

Lavender oil also makes a great natural deterrent for ants and can be rubbed directly onto the skin to help prevent ant bites.

8. Sage (Salvia officinalis)

Sage can be grown to help deter unwanted insects such as ants. Additionally, sprigs of sage can be left inside potted houseplants to repel ants from nesting indoors.

Repelling Mechanism: Oil and fragrance

Best Grown in: Containers

Origin: Europe

Toxicity: Non-toxic to animals and humans

Sage tends to grow quite low, making it ideal to be placed near the ground where ants may wander.

Ants are sensitive to the rich fragrance of sage and will quickly feel overwhelmed once they pick up on its smell.

Sage Flowers
Carine Siceaux Planche (cc-by-sa) PlantNet – Salvia Officinalis Flowers

Sprigs of sage can be left inside or around potted plants to prevent desperate ant colonies from nesting. This is extremely useful because ants create complex tunnels in the soil that can disturb the potted plants’ roots and could potentially kill them!

Grow sage outside to prevent ants from disturbing the garden or keep it inside for an ant-free home.

9. Painted Daisies (Tanacetum coccineum)

Because of their ability to produce pyrethrins, painted daisies are highly effective plants to help repel ants. Use its crushed flowers to block anthill entrances and help eradicate the ant population.

Repelling Mechanism: Production of insecticide

Best Grown in: Ground or containers

Origin: Europe

Toxicity: Toxic to animals and humans if ingested in large amounts

These daisies aren’t just colorful! Painted daisies are known to produce a natural insecticide called pyrethrin, which will target the nervous systems of ants and quickly eliminate them.

Consider gathering these flowers to crush in a mortar and pestle and leaving them by anthills or using them to directly block the anthill entrance.

Painted Daisy Flowers
Zamorano Verónica (cc-by-sa) PlantNet – Tanacetum Coccineum Flowers

You may also leave this wherever else you see ants. However, they may not live long enough to travel back to their nest to spread the pyrethrin upon contact and reduce ant numbers.

This Daisy Isn't Only Beautiful, It's a Natural Insecticide Too | GARDEN | Great Home Ideas
YouTube Video – Natural Insecticide

UV exposure from the sun will eventually break down the pyrethrin into harmless compounds, so regular reapplications are needed.

Be careful though! You see, this plant is an excellent candidate for an ant-free yard but is highly toxic to animals and cannot be grown near fish ponds. The pyrethrin may be effective in repelling insects but this chemical is harmful if consumed.

10. Catmint (Nepeta cataria)

Fragrant chemicals called nepetalactone can be found in catmint and can help in repelling ants. Catmint can be grown in pots or directly in the yard to discourage nearby ants.

Repelling Mechanism: Oil and fragrance

Best Grown in: Ground or containers

Origin: Europe

Toxicity: Non-toxic to animals and humans

Ants scavenging and foraging for food will smell and sense catmint as an irritant. In other words, ants are more likely to stay away from gardens growing this plant.

Catmint Leaves
Ida-Caroline Hurtig (cc-by-sa) PlantNet – Nepeta Cataria Leaves

You can grow and regularly cut catmint to help release its fragrance and repel ants. Just keep in mind that it’s sure to attract cats in the process as well!

An active compound called nepetalactone can also be found in catmint essential oils and is just as useful in warding off ants.

11. Autumn Mums (Chrysanthemum morifolium)

Autumn mums, or chrysanthemums, are known to contain high amounts of pyrethrin that is highly effective in repelling ants. These flowers work similarly to painted daisies and must be kept away from pets and children.

Repelling Mechanism: Fragrance and insecticide

Best Grown In: Ground or containers

Origin: Asia

Toxicity: Toxic to animals and humans if ingested in large amounts

Similar to painted daisies, autumn mum flowers produce a large amount of pyrethrin that can help eliminate ants. The ants, with their keen sense of smell, will easily detect the fragrance of these blooms and know to keep their distance.

Autumn Mum Flowers
Shovon Khan (cc-by-sa) PlantNet – Chrysanthemum Morifolium Flowers

The majority of the world’s supply of pyrethrin is derived from chrysanthemum flowers and painted daisies and is often considered a natural insecticide!

You can grow these flowers by your garden bed or entryways to help deter ants. Like painted daisies, make sure your pets and children do not consume this and accidentally poison themselves with the pyrethrin.

12. Rue (Ruta graveolens)

Rue is a suitable ant-repelling plant with a potent smell that ants find unappealing. Rue can also be utilized to protect chicken yards and as a companion plant for roses to help protect them from ants.

Repelling Mechanism: Fragrance

Best Grown in: Ground or containers

Origin: Europe

Toxicity: Toxic to animals and humans if ingested in large amounts

Rue is another popular plant that is regularly grown to help keep insects away due to its lingering and repelling fragrance.

Even cats find the scent of rue plants bothersome. So take advantage of this by planting rue around chicken yards to protect them from curious cats.

Rue Flowers
Timothée Dolidon (cc-by-sa) PlantNet – Ruta Graveolens Flower

Rue can be grown around other more fragile plants as well, such as roses and flowers, to help mask them with its own scent and prevent other pesky insects from infesting them.

This is a terrific ant-repelling herb that can be kept in containers or planted directly on the ground outside. Similar to other plants, avoid eating this one to prevent vomiting and diarrhea.

13. Spearmint (Mentha spicata)

Due to its strong fragrance, spearmint is highly capable of repelling ants. Spearmint oil can also be utilized to create powerful spray deterrents. Prevent this plant from spreading wildly by growing it strictly in containers and placing it where ants are most commonly seen.

Repelling Mechanism: Oil and fragrance

Best Grown in: Containers

Origin: Europe

Toxicity: Toxic to animals if ingested in large amounts

Although mint can grow quite aggressively at times and needs to be kept solely in containers, spearmint is an excellent aromatic that you can grow to overwhelm nearby ants.

Spearmint Flowers
Wendy Wendy Vree (cc-by-sa) PlantNet – Mentha Spicata Flowers

Keep this wild-growing plant in pots and position it in the most active areas of your yard to help prevent ant bites and discourage scavenging ants. This must be protected from animals, however, as the spearmint can cause extreme irritation to their stomachs.

Because of its strong fragrance, spearmint oil is a splendid and potent ingredient you can include in your sprays to help keep away ants.

Natural DIY Mixed-Plants Ant Repellent

According to a statistic based on the U.S. Census and Simmons National Consumer Survey data in 2020, an average of 86.54 million Americans used ant aerosol spray as their most commonly used insecticide. That’s a lot!

An average of 86.54 million Americans use ant aerosol spray as their most used insecticide, which can be both expensive and harmful for the environment.

With this information in mind, the question now is how can you create your own organic ant-deterrent spray at home?

To create an easy, yet powerful ant-resistant spray at home, use the following ingredients:

  1. 1 cup of white distilled vinegar
  2. 20 drops of peppermint essential oil
  3. 20 drops of citronella essential oil
  4. 10 drops of pennyroyal essential oil

Mix it all with warm water to make an organic repellent to combat ants. This can be sprayed around the house and will help disrupt the pheromone trails of ants and eradicate the ant population if necessary.

14. Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)

Lemongrass has a pungent fragrance that can aid in controlling severe ant infestations. This plant can be grown in pots where ants frequent the most and trimmed frequently to repel ants with its strong scents.

Repelling Mechanism: Oil and fragrance

Best Grown in: Containers or confined spaces in the ground

Origin: India

Toxicity: Toxic to animals if ingested in large amounts

While many of us enjoy the lemony fragrance of lemongrass, ants will find the heavy perfume of it overpowering and will quickly signal to other ants to stay away from it.

Lemongrass Leaves
Diez Cielos (cc-by-sa) PlantNet – Cymbopogon Citratus Leaves

Because of its grass-like growth, it can be tempting to grow this on walkways and sitting areas. However, lemongrass typically grows and spreads at incredibly wild speeds.

Keep lemongrass strictly in containers to avoid aggressive growth but feel free to cut it regularly and release its lemon scent to discourage nearby ants.

FAQs

Do ants damage plants?

Generally, ants do not target plants to harm or destroy them. Ants can sometimes even be beneficial by pollinating flowers. However, large ant colonies can disturb underground root systems and over-aerate the soil, which can eventually result in the death of a plant.

Are ants repelled by dead ants?

Dead ants typically release pheromones that other ants can easily detect and search for. However, ants are not repelled by the death of other ants. Rather, they will oftentimes carry dead ants back to their nest to bury them in middens, or piles of waste and dead ant workers.

Summary of Plants That Repel Ants

Although ants are usually not harmful, these insects can quickly become an issue if they are left unchecked. Most ant-repelling plants are featured to be attractive to predatory insects and animals, have high fragrance and helpful oils, and high production of natural ant insecticides.

The plants that are known to have these useful characteristics are citronella grass, pennyroyal, rosemary, peppermint, yarrow, thyme, lavender, sage, painted daisies, catmint, autumn mums, rue, spearmint, and lemongrass.

Sources

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