Can Some Plants Keep SoCal Pests Away?

A collage of various plants, including rosemary, marigold, basil, chrysanthemums, and mint, with the text "Can Some Plants Keep SoCal Pests Away?" at the top.

As Southern California gardens reach their most beautiful and lush points this summer, so too do the populations of pesky pests determined to eat every leaf, flower, and fruit in their path. 

Yes, these insects are a vital part of our ecosystem, but it can become quite a pain to see giant holes in the leaves of your tomato plants or to notice that something has eaten all the buds out of your geraniums.

Did you know that the simple act of adding certain plants to your yard or garden can help repel pests naturally, eliminating your need to add herbicides or pesticides to your yard?

Let’s explore some of the convenient, fragrant, and beautiful plants you can add to your home that will help you keep your native plants safe, as well as keep some of those pesky summer insects away (like mosquitos!).

Line Your Beds with Sunny Marigolds

Marigolds are the perfect sunny summer flower with their big, bushy blooms and a scent that repels many insects. Not only do mosquitos and aphids avoid marigolds, but you can even use them to keep rabbits away from your vegetables.

Bear in mind, however, that marigolds actually have a strong scent that can repel some humans, too, so it’s a good idea to take a whiff of the plants you intend to buy before you put them to work in your garden. 

You’ll usually see them sold with yellow or orange blooms, which look beautiful against any green, leafy backdrop. The best time to put them in the ground is in the early spring, but you can get away with planting marigolds all summer long as a border around vegetable and plant beds you want to protect.

Let Lavender Repel Bugs & Beautify Your Landscape

Marigolds are an excellent annual you can use each year to repel insects, but lavender is a plant you can use season after season to repel all sorts of insects. Lavender can keep mosquitos away from the perimeter of your home, as well as keep pesky insects like moths away.

One of the best reasons to keep moths away from your home with lavender rather than use a device to kill them is that they’re a vital food source for birds, and they’re also important pollinators for our ecosystem. 

One of the convenient aspects of lavender is that you can plant it almost anywhere you have full sun all day long, whether you have a container garden on your balcony or you have a huge front lawn and room to spare. Lavender will bloom beautifully year after year and keep the bugs away naturally.

Mint is the Perfect Mate for Your Vegetable Garden & Home

Not only can mint create a beautiful aroma for the exterior of your home, but it can also provide an effective barrier against aphids, ants, and whiteflies. It’s almost impossible to plant a garden and not encounter whiteflies, and mint is a helpful ally in preventing their invasion.

One of the most interesting aspects of mint for Southern California homes, too, is that it may also help with repelling termites. Since SoCal termites are usually the above-ground variety (rather than the subterranean type), mint can help protect your home from those wood-eating pests.

Conventional wisdom suggests that mint can survive in full sun, but they can get a little toasty and withered during the hottest days of the summer. Try to provide a little shade for your mint plants in August (or whenever the temperature gets into the upper 90s).

WARNING: Mint is highly invasive and will spread rapidly. 

Use Chrysanthemum Flowers Instead of Sprays

One of the most common ingredients in insect sprays in pyrethrums is made from the flowers of chrysanthemums. Instead of using the spray, however, you can actually use the plant to repel many types of pests from your yard, like spider mites and aphids.

There is some evidence to suggest chrysanthemums will even repel roaches, which can help if you’re living in an apartment or condo and you have a neighbor who doesn’t have the cleanest abode. Keep a chrysanthemum in a pot in your home, and their roaches won’t invade your apartment.

The only caveat is that chrysanthemums are a little tricky to grow all year long, and they’re often sold as annuals in pots that will eventually die in the late fall. However, you can keep them around all year long (though they normally won’t bloom all year) as long as you keep their soil fertilized and well-drained.

Chase Flies Away with Basil

Do you have a spot in your home where flies seem to congregate and return every summer, no matter what you do? Flies are habitual creatures that will return to the exact same spot year after year to hang out and make new flies. Generation after generation of flies will return to the same place, much to your dismay.

You can spend your days swatting them away, or you can try using a basil plant to repel them. Basil grows well inside, or you can plant it outside in the ground in the summer. If you live in a mountainous area of SoCal, consider keeping your basil in a pot that you can take inside when the temps turn colder.

In addition to using your basil plant leaves in your pesto sauce and on your homemade pizza, the plant will also help repel tomato worms. While tomato worms are big, fat, and incredible-looking insects, they will decimate your fruit if you don’t keep them away.

Use Lemon Grass to Keep Mosquitos Away… or Should You?

One of the most popular ways to keep mosquitos away is to use citronella candles, and there are some who suggest that planting lemon grass is also a great way to keep the mosquitos at bay. However, there are also studies that indicate that citronella oil offers no improvement in mosquito activity.

A brief report from one of the master gardeners at the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources in Alhambra indicates that there are conflicting studies on whether citronella has any effect on mosquitos.

At the very least, lemon grass isn’t going to harm your garden, and it won’t attract any mosquitos. However, there’s no guarantee that the grass will repel all the annoying mosquitos that will invariably invade your SoCal yard at some point this summer, so don’t assume it’s a miracle plant!

Keep Slugs Away with Drought-Resistant Rosemary

If you’re keen on planting drought-resistant plants in your garden, consider rosemary as a helper for keeping away pests like aphids and slugs. Not only can you grow rosemary easily even if you practically ignore it all summer, but it will even attract beneficial pollinators like bees to your garden.

Rosemary isn’t just a decorative plant and can help you liven things up in your kitchen, too, whether you plant it in the ground to protect your garden or keep it in a pot near your other potted plants. In addition to using rosemary as an herb in your cooking, you can even cook it into a bug spray.

All you need to do is add some rosemary to a pot of water and boil it for about a half hour. After thirty minutes, add the boiled mixture to a pot of cool water, straining the rosemary pieces out as you pour. You can use the rosemary water in a spray bottle to repel bugs from your garden plants.

Remember to Release the Oils in Your Beneficial Plants

Here’s one last piece of advice regarding your protective plants. When you use a plant like mint, basil, or citronella to protect your garden, yard, or home, remember to occasionally cut it and rub the leaves whenever you can.

You’ll release the oils and natural scents within your plants that will help them become even more effective at repelling all those annoying bugs. Mint is beautiful and will provide a lovely scent in your yard, but you can also take one of the leaves and rub it between your fingers for extra benefit.

Remember that with your lush, green garden comes the potential for many multi-legged invaders and that constant attention paid to your yard will always yield the best results. Inspect your leaves regularly and always keep an eye on your plants, so you can keep ahead of and fight off any unwanted insect invasions.

Start Your Garden This Summer At Green Thumb Nursery

Don’t let the summer growing season pass you by! Beautify your home with help from one of Southern California’s Green Thumb Nursery locations.

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