13 Plants That Repel Flies
Flies come only second to mosquitoes on the annoyance scale in our household, and are number one in what I most want to eradicate since they can spread germs (and not to mention are obnoxious). It doesn’t take long to become overwhelmed with flies in some of your favorite outdoor spots no matter what time of day.
There are many plants that are touted as repelling the worst of our biting and buzzing insects, and below I’m going to provide you a healthy list that will help aide in keeping flies away. Combined with other proactive attempts to eradicate your fly problem (keeping animal feces picked up, covering your compost pile, and dusting damp areas with lime or diatomaceous earth to name a few), plants CAN, and WILL help deter these annoying little critters.
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Perennial Plants To Repel Flies
There aren’t many plants that are touted as able to repel flies, but there are a few little beauties you may either have in your garden beds already, or want to place there. Not only are they lovely to have around to aide in fly eradication, but they are genuinely pretty and smell good!
Some of these plants help keep away flies simply by growing nearby due to their potent fragrances, but others needs a little help to extract their oils. Look to the bottom of this article for oil extracting techniques!
It also tastes great in many beverages and culinary dishes! But be sure to keep the plant from flowering as it will fail to continue to propagate the best of its popular, sweet smelling leaves! Simply snip off leaves and branches when it starts to send out flowering stalks to allow for new growth.
Basil is considered an annual, although it can reseed itself in warmer climates if allowed to bloom. Despite this, inexpensive plants can be purchased each spring from local garden centers, and seeds can be easily cultivated indoors and transplanted outside after the last frost. Basil also makes a good choice for indoor herb gardens and can be kept alive year round.
As a warm climate evergreen this large tree (can get to 40’ high if allowed) cannot handle any sort of freeze, but does exceptionally well in a pot and is often used for topiary to be brought inside once cold weather sets in. It also can handle some cramped conditions since it is a very slow grower, so you won’t have to repot constantly. Be sure to give it rich, well drained soils – especially during its first few years of growth as it gets established.
Bay leaves combined with sprigs of rosemary (see #5) create a lovely scent, as well as providing a great fly deterrent when placed around the house.
This is a very easy plant to propagate and comes in quite a few different varieties to fit your climate needs and growing spaces. I prefer those that do best in pots so I can place them in different places around my property as both added interest and pest control. Depending on your planting zone, take care about how you winterize your potted plant. They are tough to kill, but freezing out the roots can do just that, so putting them up for the winter in a shed, wrapping the pots, or even burying the pot in northern zones is a smart move.
It takes around 3 years for your plant to produce an abundant flower crop and get really established. At its height, one plant can put out over 1000 flower stems!
Both fresh and dried leaves can be used in this potent spray recipe, but dried leaves will create a stronger repellent since the oils will be more concentrated. Easy to make, leaves are soaked in hot water before cooling and straining to be placed in a spray bottle. Feel free to add in other fly repellent oils as well (such as lavender, see #3).
Tansy is a simple and pretty plant to grow, but it can be toxic when consumed in large quantities. There have been reports of livestock falling sick and even dying after eating large quantities of the plant. Because tansy reproduces through it’s roots, be sure to keep it in a contained area if you have any worries about it getting into livestock fields.
Many growing zones will find that rosemary will stay evergreen for them with the correct care and protection. It can grow to heights of 3-4 feet and up to 5 feet wide, so make sure to give it room! They can also do well in well-drained planters as long as it receives the sun it loves and craves for healthy growth.
Because of it’s heady scent, rosemary is a popular flavor and aromatic herb to use in many culinary dishes and beverages. These properties are also the same that keeps away many flies as it is the leaves that put forth the most scent.
Many gardeners will grow it as an annual in the North, but rosemary does surprisingly well through the winter. In northern climes above zone 5 you may want to bring plants indoors if your plant is unprotected, and the winters have consistent deep freezes.
Propagate new plants using growth from existing plants and mix them into containers around your yard. You can also take cuttings and hang fresh or dried rosemary around to repel insects. As mentioned above, when mixed with bay leaves you have a nice, natural way to keep flies at bay. Having a fresh supply of rosemary to cook with and dry for the winter also saves a lot of money since it’s a fairly costly herb to purchase.
Whether you keep it growing nearby (I keep some nearby back porch door), rub it on your skin, or use the oil extracts- you will have an effective fly repellent.
Mints are hardy, rapid growers and self-pollinate through runners. They can quickly take over a yard if left unchecked, and are often best kept in containers, or within bricked areas where they are more easily thinned out. The effort of care is well worth it as this multi-purposeful plant does so much more than keep insects at bay. Mints are popular in cooking, beverages, and has been used as a digestive aid for thousands of years.
Pennyroyal can be most helpful in your garden as well to help deter many bugs from your susceptible veggies. By simply planting this low-grower under and around your plants, you are providing a natural insecticide to help keep them pest-free.
As a member of the mint family, be sure to re-transplant them come fall, or rip them out since they can become invasive quickly if left unchecked.
Wormwood is famously known as absinthe, and has been used for over 3000 years for medicinal purposes. It also became a popular flavoring for certain beverages, and has since been banned in many countries due to its potent properties and negative side effects when ingested in large quantities. Despite its many uses, only external applications are without caution. If using this plant in any other way, be sure to consult a doctor to avoid any side effects.
Contrary to many beliefs, the plant itself is not effective in warding off biting insects. Rather it is the oil found in the fronds that provides relief despite the strong fragrance it gives off when brushed against.
Effective insecticidal usages include breaking off a frond to rub into your skin or clothing. This typically wears off after two hours so you’ll need to reapply. Or you can also create a spray using the extracted oils that has been found to be comparable to deet. As an added bonus, the oil also has both antibacterial and antifungal properties making it a common ingredient in many over the counter aides.
Popular in areas of bulb plantings, sweet woodruff also repels flies naturally – no cutting or drying needed. You can also add a breath of fresh air to sitting areas by planting within patio pots by propagating from existing garden plants. Just be sure to keep the soil moist!
Because of the varying species of this tree (some can reach 130 feet in height) it is best to choose a variety of species that do better in pots. On its own it does produce a heady scent that can deter flies, but the oils derived from the leaves are even more potent and can either be crushed from the leaves and rubbed on, or extracted to further uses.
When mixed with water and made into a spray it can be as effective as DEET. If you should get bit using this oil, it doubles as an antibacterial agent and will help keep swelling to a minimum.
Catnip contains citronella oil as well as other insect deterrents, and can be used in a similar manner as citronella grass as explained previously. But be warned, it isn’t called catnip for nothing! It will bring in your feline friends!
Growing to approximately 2 feet in height, this blueish leafed plant tolerates poor soils, and is a good addition mixed into perennial gardens to help keep out insects and to provide you, the gardener, and natural aromatic border to keep away unwanted flying insects. Rue is best started from seed in the spring, and in the correct environment can reseed itself year after year, but the leaf potency is best when it is kept from flowering.
Extracting and Using Oils
As mentioned in conjunction with a few of the plants above, oil extractions can create a much more effective and potent fly repellent. For best results, be sure to harvest in the morning after the dew has dried, but before the sun burns off any newly formed essential oils.
Even though you can get some relief by simply crushing or rubbing the foliage on your skin or clothing, long-term effects are optimized when extracted oil is made into a spray, or is mixed with other fly deterrent plant oils.
Primitive oil extraction is a fairly simple process that you can do in your own kitchen with a minimum of fuss. Be aware that by using the linked methods you will not be getting 100% pure oils and they should not be ingested although they will be good for use in . homemade insect sprays and some topical applications.
So experiment away and share your experiences with what works, and what doesn’t below! Questions? Feel free to ask, and as always, share this article to help spread the word!