You have just watered your plant. Everything runs perfectly until two days later, hovering fungus gnats or tiny flies are everywhere! Yikes! While they can be controlled with insecticides, there is an underrated solution without risking your health and being an environmentally friendly gardener. Plants that repel flies are the holy grail of organic agriculture and biological control, as it is considered safe and leaves no chemical trace to nature. If you are interested in this exceptional group of plants, continue reading this article as we unravel their secret arsenal against many insects.
What Plants Keep Flies Away the Best?
The plants belonging to the family of Mint are some examples that keep flies away, including Lavender, Sage, Mint, and Rosemary. The distinctive fragrance comes from a unique blend of volatile and non-volatile aromatic compounds–chemicals that can either quickly diffuse into the air or stay within the plant tissue. Each herb has its own cocktail of chemical substances with at least one dominant, making its smell quite unique; for example, linalool in Lavender, menthol in Mint, borneol in Sage and Rosemary, estragole in Basil and many terpene derivatives in other aromatic herbs. Other flowering plants like chrysanthemums possess a secret weapon called pyrethrum — it may not be so obvious, but when extracted and applied directly, it can be lethal to insects.
Is There a Plant That Flies Hate?
What plants do flies hate? To answer this question, the list is endless and depends on the fly species. However, a good generalization is when a plant is aromatic or pungent; it is likely a plant that will make the fly turn in a different direction. The most recommended are perennial herbs like Lavenders, Rosemary, and Sage, as they are easy to grow and attract pollinators but will never lure annoying pests.
What Are the Plants That Flies Hate
Flies dislike many plants, especially the ones that secrete a melting pot of chemical substances. Etched within the plant’s DNA, they produce several compounds, in the form of tiny oil droplets, at the tip of their leaf hairs embedded on the surface — a unique property that makes them effective against flies. When these microscopic hairs are disturbed with touch or sight movement, oils are splattered, releasing some smelly volatile compounds that would make the flies turn around. Some of these compounds are so volatile that they are emitted even without physical disturbance. An excellent example of these plant chemical weapons are menthol, linalool, borneol, estragole, and other derivatives of terpenes (a large subgroup of volatile organic compounds).
List of Plants That Repel Flies, Gnats and Mosquitoes
Because the list of plants that repel fruit flies, gnats, mosquitos, and other insects is quite long, we have divided it into three main groups–the flowering plants, aromatic herbs, and other plants that deserve special mention:
With flowers, not only do they beautify the landscape, but it also drives flies away. For these reasons, we have listed the best flowers that repel fruit flies and other insects:
Originating from the Mediterranean region, Lavender species receive special attention for their fragrance that soothes the body and soul. Its essential oils are extracted for culinary and industrial uses. Does Lavender repel flies? It does! It is more than a flower for landscaping purposes. Its aromatic leaves secrete pest-repellent oil that can be used directly or indirectly. Backed by many studies, the active ingredients effectively keep flies off and are often mixed with many insect-repelling lotions today. This purple-flowering perennial herb shoos away flies and many insect pests when planted near vegetables such as Lettuce, Cabbage, and Tomato, making it the perfect companion plant in an organic garden.
The Chrysanthemums' flowers make this plant catchy, making it the plant breeder's favorite subject in developing new varieties. But what is unknown in this autumn-blooming plant is that its striking flowers store a significant concentration of pyrethrum — a chemical compound that displeases bugs. Thanks to its pest-deterring substance, flies, mosquitos, and most pests are less likely to land in your garden. If planted in a vegetable backyard, you get two for one: beautiful flowers and guardians of plants.
Known scientifically as Tagetes spp., Marigolds are also a gardener's friend. They are available in different shades of yellow, orange, and red-orange and are excellent plants to highlight borders. Gold has nothing to do with Marigolds, but its deterrent qualities are an invaluable jewel. The essential oils extracted from the flowers contain several bioactive compounds that get rid of the most common species of disease-spreading mosquitoes. When planted with other crops such as Tomatoes, Carrots, and Cauliflowers, its presence significantly reduces the number of root diseases.
Resembling like Chrysanthemum blooms, Tansy can be easily misidentified with its circular and radial flowers. The main difference is that its yellow flowers are often formed in clusters with a distinctive smell similar to camphor oil. A study has revealed that it contains camphor and other aromatic compounds, which accounts for its bug-repelling activities. Aside from the fact that this perennial flowering plant is known to repel flies, it is an excellent companion plant with many vegetables, including Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale, Cucumber, Squash, and Potatoes.
Native to North Africa and the Mediterranean basin, Nasturtium is a flowering vine with exceptional qualities. Different plant parts are used in traditional and aesthetic medicine to treat several illnesses and improve eyesight and immunity. Because of its trailing habit, it is mainly grown on walls or fences to display its beautiful flowers with crimson hues. Not only that, glucosinolates — a secondary metabolite with scientifically-known insecticidal properties — is one of the phytochemicals that can be extracted from Nasturtium. It has been reported to repel pests that are a significant problem in agriculture, including aphids, cabbage moths, squash bugs, and cucumber beetles.
What plant keeps flies away? One botanical superfamily that keeps them off is the herbs which we have listed below:
Perhaps the most popular aromatic herb, Mint is known for its superb refreshing taste and aroma. The so-called menthol, a chemical abundant in Mint, gives Mint a distinctive flavor. It plays with the brain's signals, giving it a cold sensation. For centuries, the uses of Mints have been innumerable, from ancient funeral ceremonies to various culinary treats. Nowadays, they are known to help keep your home free from flies and mosquitos. Its leaves contain a cocktail of naturally insect-repelling compounds, including menthol, menthone, and methyl acetate, that automatically keeps pests at bay. Plant it and leave it, and it will proliferate. One gardener even recommends growing in a pot as it can easily take over the entire lawn if planted in soil.
Named after the Greek word "basileus," which means "king," Basil belongs to the mint superfamily Lamiaceae. It may be a common plant, but the annual aromatic plant would be considered royalty in the herb family with its uses and applications. Basils can be easily cultivated at home and grow fast after harvesting the leaves and shoots. Place it in windows, and the insects will definitely not be tempted to enter. When planted, such as Tomatoes, Peppers, and Eggplants, its strong smell confuses pests from finding their next meal and prevents the weeds from growing.
Growing in the native landscape of the Mediterranean region, this fragrant shrub has been attributed to folklore and ancient tradition. This drought-resistant herb gives off a distinct smell once rubbed on your hands. For this reason, it has become a favorite spice to season meats, vegetables, soup, and pasta. Additionally, Rosemary herb has been proven to repel insects like flies, mosquitos, and garden pests, mainly due to the borneol–a natural essential oil found in its tissues.
Among all the other fly-repellent plants, Lemongrass is the only tropical plant belonging to a different family, Poaceae, or the large superfamily of monocot grasses. They are widely used in many Southeast Asian recipes, like seasoning chicken, rice, and meat soup. Although this aromatic grass likes warm areas, this can be grown in places with mild winters or indoors where the year-round warm season is absent to take advantage of its properties. Does Lemongrass repel flies? A big yes! Not only can it keep away flies and other bugs in your garden, but several studies have proven that it can also kill mosquito larvae when applied directly using extracted oil.
Sage is another herb of the mint family that possesses outstanding qualities both in the garden and at the industry level. Like other herbs, its velvety and aromatic leaves have been used to season fresh and preserved foods like chicken and pork sausages. It is also one of the plants that keep flies away. The essential oil extracted from the oval-shaped foliage mainly contains thujone and borneol, which have wide applications like soap and detergent-making. The attractive flowers are appealing to bumblebees and many pollinators, while the scented smell of the leaves keeps the pests off your garden.
Other plants also deserve a spotlight as they can keep away many insects. Want to know more about what plants get rid of flies? Here they are:
Also known as Bay Leaves or Bay Tree, Laurel is an evergreen tree-shrub native to the Mediterranean but is cultivated worldwide. It grows no more than 18 m tall in its natural habitat, producing tiny flowers that transform into green, purple, or blackish berries. It has been a symbol of honor in ancient Greece and Rome weaved into crowns and placed upon the head of sports victors. Now, this shrub also deserves to honor itself for its diverse and countless applications. In alternative medicine, it is used to treat varying diseases because of its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Also, the tree is one of the plants that flies hate due to its strong smell–a mixture of at least 55 volatile organic compounds. It is easy to grow and drought resistant. So next time you think about planting repellent trees, the laurel tree wants to be on the top list.
With a towering height of 10-60m, Eucalyptus is a fast-growing tree native to Australia and Tasmania. Because of its rapid-growing characteristics, it is one of the most important trees in forestry plantations. In real estate, this tree is mainly grown as shade trees. If you plant this in your garden, you will get another benefit–mosquitoes and flies will fly no more after detecting the tree's characteristic minty smell. Eucalyptus leaves emit cineol and α-pinene — compounds most insects hate, including the common houseflies, disease-carrying mosquitoes, and pests of agricultural importance like rice and corn weevil.
It may sound like a tree, but Wormwoods are grouped under aromatic herbaceous perennials of the lovely sunflower family, Asteraceae. Standing at least 1.5 m in length, many species of Wormwood are cultivated primarily for herbal products and flavorings. It is also used in making beverages like vermouth. Aside from its medical and food usage, this herb is one of the fly deterrent plants you would consider growing in your backyard. Mainly containing camphor, cineole, and pinene — the main components of its essential oil extracted from the leaves — it has insecticidal properties, as demonstrated in studies with fruit flies. If you are considering what plants keep flies away, don't forget to put Wormwood on the list.
Portrayed as an insect eater, Venus Flytraps may not be the best plant to keep flies away, but they deserve a special mention in this article about flies and mosquitos. This vicious monster-looking plant closes its mouth-like modified leaves to ambush any insects falling into its trap. Apparently, it would miss a significant number of flies and mosquitoes at home, but it is a remarkable plant to grow indoors. Keep it in a humid place and rooms with warm and stable temperatures to keep its jaws happy, or rather, open to trapping more flies!
Citronella Grass (Cymbopogon nardus)
A close relative of Lemongrass, Citronella Grass is another tropical plant species growing about 1.5 to 2 m high. The essential oils are concentrated at the lower portion of its leaf sheath, constituting a mix of geraniol, citronellal, and citronellol primarily. These compounds make this plant lethal to pests like thrips and green peach aphids — a never-ending problem in Tomato, Eggplant, and Pepper cultivation. Planting this in the garden will not put a great barrier of herbs that repel flies and mosquitoes, but extracting the sap and applying it to the skin is more effective. However, it still deserves a spot in your garden as the scent can "confuse" the pest where to find its next host.
How to Keep Flies Away From Plants — All Possible Ways
If plants don't work, there are also other ways how to keep flies away from plants:
- Sticky traps; "I don't chase, I attract." This is the first statement of sticky traps after witnessing your attempts. If you can't repel flies, using sticky traps is another option that is readily available in your local grocery or online. This booby trap is designed to lure insects with its color, as they are often attracted to yellow, white, or blue. In large-scale farms, the decoy is usually hung on the branches to attract flies, mainly fruit fly species that lay eggs on fruits.
- Pheromone trap. Another way to lure, trap and kill flies is to use pheromone traps — sort of a "sex call scent." Thinking that females are nearby, males will compete and rush to find the ideal mate without a doubt, but to no avail, only finding a deathbed. When using this trap, be sure to know the target species, as pheromones are highly specific and would only attract particular species of flies.
- Screen barriers. Installing a physical fence is one of the alternatives if using plants to deter flies would not work. You can house your potted plants in a screened structure to prevent fruit flies from laying eggs on plants. It might be costly, but it is more effective than relying solely on herbs that repel flies. If your plants are planted on a soil bed, install a hoop tunnel and cover it with a fine insect screen, or use a ready-made mosquito net if it is smaller.
- Plant sanitation. A well-maintained garden free from animal feces, smelly garbage, and decaying plant residues will keep all flies species away from your garden. Fruit flies and fungus gnats are attracted to decaying plant residues such as fallen fruits, while domestic flies are attracted to rotten waste or reeking food residues. As a bonus, you might also get disease-free plants with a clean backyard.
- Diatomaceous earth. Some fly eggs hatch in the soil. Diatomaceous earth, a white powder obtained from the remains of sea algae, comes in handy when controlling flies in the soil medium. Some reports show that applying this white dust on the soil surface prevents the emergence of fungus gnats — another relative of flies.
- Moderate watering. Fungus gnat eggs have evolved to emerge only when the conditions are favorable for them. One good signal for them is when the soil is constantly wet, which simulates the rainy season. You can outsmart this behavior by controlling the amount and frequency of watering: only when the upper soil has dried out.
What Smell Will Keep Flies Away?
Various smells keep flies away, but a safe generalization — those with powerful and pungent fragrances from aromatic herbs keeps them off. For instance, the aroma of lavender, mint, rosemary, sage, lemongrass, and citronella grass are typical fly-shooing smells.
What Repels Flies Naturally?
Non-chemical and natural approaches to repel flies are innumerable. You can set some readily available traps, DIY fly traps, use plant repellents, or improve garden sanitation practices which will surely make your house a no-fly zone.
Are the Fly Repellent Plants Dangerous for Humans?
Repellent plants have virtually no threats against humans unless a pure form of extracted essential oil is drunk in large quantities (but no one would do that). However, some herbs might also cause allergic reactions.
Does Lavender Repel Flies?
Yes, Lavender can indeed repel flies. Extracted from the leaves, this aromatic perennial plant possesses a chemical substance called linalool that the flies hate and is typically incorporated in many fly-repellent lotions.
Does Lemongrass Repel Flies?
Yes, Lemongrass is a tropical species of aromatic plant belonging to the grass family that can repel flies. Like Lavender, this fragrant grass also secretes a cocktail of chemicals, including geraniol and citronellol, which are known fly deterrents.