7 Plants That Repel Flies Naturally!

By: Marye Audet, Planet Green  | 
Dried bay leaves in a pile on a wooden surface. 
Bay leaf is an excellent herb to repel flies
Marye Audet/DCL

Plants that repel flies are priceless, especially in rural landscapes. In truth, I have always disliked flies. I just didn't know how much until we moved to acreage and began to raise chickens and goats. An irritation with flies turned into a hatred of them. It was a giant battle to keep them out of the kitchen. I even hired a couple of my children as hit men...a penny a fly.

That probably would have worked pretty well except I failed to figure in the over-zealousness of children. After a few days of rampant fly swatting which included locations like the warm platter of cookies, the dog, and Dad's head it became apparent that either we would need protective gear or another solution should be found.


Protective gear can be hot in Texas in the summer. We opted for another solution.

Fly Repellent Plants

There are herbs and plants that deter flies as well as other pests. They tend to grow easily, are drought resistant, and are often dual purpose. Who knew? It works.

From rare carnivorous plants to the sort of herbs you can find at your local grocery store, there are indeed a lot of natural solutions to those pesky flies. Order a few seeds when you are checking out your seed catalogs this winter and plant some eco-friendly, dual purpose insect repellent.


Of the many options, herbs seem to be the most affordable, available, and effective. For peak performance make point of moving them around once in awhile. Movement brings the natural oils to the surface of the leaves and releases more of what it is that the pests don't like. Just brushing against a growing plant or stirring up the leaves of a dried one should do it.

1. Basil

There are about a million kinds of basil and new varieties being introduced all the time. Basil is a beautiful fragrant plant that grows easily in most climates. It even tolerates the dry, Texas heat pretty well.

Most people know fresh basil is delicious in pesto, tomato based dishes, and salads but did you also know that it is one of the best ways to keep flies out of your house? Just plant basil next to the doors, use as a foundation planting mixed in with your flowers, or plant in containers. The flies will stay far away [source: Gardenia].


You can grow basil in containers by your picnic table or on your patio and cut a nice size bunch of it to decorate the blanket with when you go to a remote picnic spot. As an added bonus, mosquitoes don't like it either. Choose your favorite, all the basil that I have tried works equally as well.

2. Bay Leaf

You can grow bay laurel outside in the summer but you will need to bring it indoors during the winter months [source: Britannica]. You can buy dried bay leaf at the store if you find you are unable to grow it; the dried variety that you put in stews and soups works as well as the fresh for keeping pests away.

You can put one bay leaf in fifty pounds of wheat berries or organic white flour and it will keep the weevils out of it. If you don't happen to buy flour in those quantities you can add a bay leaf to a smaller sized container with similar results. Other items that it will protect are:


  • Barley
  • Cornmeal
  • Oatmeal
  • Quinoa
  • Rice

Most cereal products will be just fine for months with the bay leaves to protect them. Scatter a few leaves on the pantry shelves to repel moths, roaches, earwigs, and mice. Flies seem to hate the smell of bay leaves, too. Who knew they had such sensitive olfactory nerves?


3. Lavender

Lavender smells wonderful and if you have never used lavender buds in cooking you should give it a try. In small amounts it adds a wonderful floral and citrus flavor to baked goods, meats, and even vegetables. Lavender also repels moths, mosquitoes, and fleas.

  • Hang a bundle of it in your closet or lay a few sprigs of it in with the out of season clothes you are storing.
  • Grind it to a powder and sprinkle it on your pet's bedding.
  • Grow it in containers on your patio to repel mosquitoes.
  • Grow it in your kitchen garden to keep rabbits out of your lettuce and spinach.


4. Mint

Mint, is beloved for it's smell, tastes, and nutritional properties. But mint plants, as well as other plants from the mint family — catnip, lemon balm, and pennyroyal — are among some of the best fly repellent plants available.

Plant them in a garden bed around the foundation of your home to keep outdoor pests like mice and a range of other insects out of your home. Neither of these pests seem to like the smell and all but the most determined will head to a better smelling yard.


Indoors, you can place shallow bowls of the dried aromatic plants in your pantry to discourage pests and bugs. Pennyroyal is also repugnant to fleas, ants, and a variety of flying insects including mosquitoes. Just be careful of it because large amounts of pennyroyal can be toxic to pets and children.

5. Rosemary

Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs, not only for cooking and grilling but because it has a number of uses medicinally and as a household herb. As it grows it repels mosquitoes.

Try planting it around your patio or any area that you use in the evenings to keep the air smelling fresh and the mosquitoes on someone else's property. Rosemary also repels cats, so planting it around the kids sandbox is a good idea.


You can use rosemary springs under the cushions to keep the cats off the furniture but beware - the oils in the rosemary can stain the cushions. Be sure they are the one sided type.

6. Sweet Woodruff

Sweet Woodruff has long been used to deter carpet beetles and moths. Just lay it beneath wool carpets (or other types). It may also deter ants. An added benefit is that it releases a sweet scent when you walk across your rugs.


7. Tansy

Tansy is another little known herb that repels flies, ants, fleas, moths, and mice. Its flowers resemble marigolds or yellow Bachelor's Buttons and it makes a great foundation planting. Tansy was traditionally used by churches as a strewing herb in the Middle Ages.


Original, Green, and Frugal

Herbs were the original household cleaners, disinfectants, and bug repellents. All these plants have been relied on for repelling flies for thousands of years [source: Katz]. Long before humankind formulated artificial insect repellent spray and put it in a can.

These plants are not only better for the environment; they actually improve the environment. Herbs continue to work for you when you have finished with them and discarded them to the compost heap. They enrich the soil, add nutrients, and some (like Valerian) attract beneficial earthworms. Next time you are tempted to reach for the fly spray, reach for the basil instead.