Best wasp repellent plants – 10 plants to keep these nuisance pests at bay

These wasp repellent plants will naturally deter the pesky pests and let you reclaim your yard so you can enjoy the summer months outside

Pink and red geraniums
(Image credit: Getty Images / yonka60 )

Planting wasp repellent plants is a simple but very effective way to keep these pests at bay. Not only will they fill your yard with spectacular color and seasonal interest but their powerful fragrance, while largely appealing to us, is a strong deterrent for these irritating insects.

From cheerful marigolds, chic eucalyptus to creeping pennyroyal, many of these are everyday garden plants and useful herbs. Perfect for incorporating into flavor-packed dishes, drinks, and healing remedies, they can prove hugely beneficial to us and highly deserving of a prime place in our backyards, plus they're great for getting rid of wasps.

Pot them in as flower bed ideas in containers, hanging baskets and window boxes and position them at key point around your yard and home. Surround your outdoor eating and cooking area with containerized herb garden ideas such as basil, mint, thyme and lemongrass and enjoy the convenience of having not only fresh ingredients to hand but a natural wasp deterrent too. A low planter or two at the center of your outdoor dining ideas will afford you peace and calm while you dine in a wasp free zone.

Best wasp repellent plants

Harness the natural power and beauty of these wasp repellent plants so you can sit back and relax undisturbed in your yard this summer.

1. Wormwood

Wormwood, a wasp-repellent plant

(Image credit: Alamy)

The charm of wormwood or Artemisia may appear to lie in its fine silver, feathery foliage but did you know that wasps simply can’t stand its astringent scent? 

Easy and quick to grow in a sunny, well-draining spot, it’s perfect for surrounding your deck or keeping wasps away from your porch

Reaching heights of around 2ft (60cm) and with a spread of 3ft (90cm) this hardy perennial forms attractive mounds. It can loose leaves over winter during particularly cold spells but will shoot again the following spring. 

Parts of the plant have been used to create the liquor Absinthe but is more commonly known for treating various digestive problems.

2. Mint and spearmint

Close up of mint leaves

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Adored by most but hated by wasps, the heady fragrance of fresh mint is hard to beat for sheer summer charm. 

Sun and part shade loving, there are many different varieties to grow, each with their own subtle flavor and characteristics. Peppermint and spearmint are two of the strongest mints so are well worth growing to keep wasps at bay. 

These herbs will shoot in spring, to reach around 3ft (1m) before dying back to ground level in fall. 

One word of warning from the expert gardening team at Crocus (opens in new tab), ‘Initially upright, the stems become lax as they grow, and begin to root where they touch the ground, so in time large clumps will be formed. If you prefer to keep them under control, it is best to grow mint in large pots or containers.’

3. Common thyme 

thyme in pots

(Image credit: Melanie Griffiths)

It’s hard to believe that the ground-hugging, billowy cushions of thyme are disliked by wasps. 

Covered in a mass of tiny white, pink or purple flowers during late spring and summer, this hardy aromatic herb is happy growing in most sunny positions with well drained soil. 

Most types of thyme – of which there are over 300 varieties – are happy in USDA zones 5-9 but they do dislike wet and humid environments. Growing thyme in containers is a great way to keep them happy, and near to areas that wasps are attracted to.

It’s also worth knowing that the strongest flavor and scent is held in the young, fresh leaves. So, for the most reliable wasp deterrent, reach for the shears and snip off any old, leggy growth.

4. Marigolds

Orange flowers of the marigold

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Both French and American marigolds possess a strong spicy scent that keep wasps well away. Together with their bold orange-red blooms and reliable nature, they need very little attention and are ideal for planting around borders and crops that are also vulnerable to pests and aphids. 

A tender annual, these readily available plants are happiest in sun and will thrive during the warmer months across UDSA Zones 2-11. You can grow marigolds from seed, and keep them flowering – and repelling wasps – for longer by deadheading regularly.

5. Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus plant

(Image credit: GettyImages)

Rub or crumble a silvery eucalyptus leaf and you can’t fail to notice the immediate heady burst of menthol. Often used as a decongestant, it’s these powerful essential oils that also keep wasps and many other insects away. Cut branches of eucalyptus can keep insects out of the house, too. 

An Australian native, these trees love their roots in free draining but rich or poor soil and their heads in the sun. They do grow large – in excess of 40ft (12m) – and quickly too – up to 3ft (1m) in a year while they are young, but you can prune them hard to reduce their size and promote fresh, fragrant growth. They are also successful in containers. 

Choose one that is at least 2ft (61cm) in diameter and be prepared to upsize in a few years. If planting direct in the ground the gardening experts at RHS (opens in new tab) do advise, ‘With larger-growing species, plant them well away from buildings, as they can dry out the soil, especially heavy clay.’

6. Geranium

Pink and red geraniums

(Image credit: Getty Images / yonka60 )

Ever noticed that bright, bold and beautiful scented and ivy-leaf geraniums have an instantly recognizable smell? Known for its energizing effect, the unmistakable fragrance is released as soon as leaves are brushed past or when in a particularly warm and sunny spot. 

Wasps with their super sensitive sense of smell simply can’t abide it and according to the Experimental Perfume Club (opens in new tab) this is likely due to the chemicals in the oil. ‘The well-known molecules found within geranium oil are citronellol, nerol, geraniol and linalool – many molecules shared with rose and which explains why they carry a similar scent profile!’

Grown as half hardy annuals in zone 9 and below, these plants will flower endlessly through out the summer months and can be seen in wall hung pots, hanging containers and cascading out of window boxes. Deadhead regularly to prolong the show, and learn how to overwinter geraniums to enjoy them again next year.

7. Lemongrass

lemongrass GettyImages-520797269

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Lucky enough to live in USDA zones 9-11 or warmer climes? Then you can add growing lemongrass to your list of wasp repellent plants. 

Coming from the sunshine, humidity and warmth of Sri Lanka and southern India this tropical plant has a reviving citrus fragrance that is guaranteed to keep wasps well away. In these zones you can leave lemongrass in the ground all year round – just adding a little mulch for protection in zone 9.

If you live in zone 8 or below, and you are still keen to give this plant a go, then you will have to lift and store the plant indoors over winter.

8. Basil

basil growing in the garden in a planter

(Image credit: Markus Spiske / Unsplash)

‘As humans, we may enjoy the aroma of basil in a rich tomato sauce, but bees and wasps are put off by the fragrance,’ say Ehrlich Pest Control (opens in new tab)

You can grow basil from seed, indoors and out. For best results, sow seeds at regular intervals throughout spring and summer. 

Basil requires constant heat to grow and dislikes sitting in wet compost, where if left it will quickly rot. The soft and tasty leaves also scorch very easily so make sure your crop is positioned out of direct sun. 

Harvest individual leaves by picking them off, rather snipping several plants with scissors, as this will promote fresh, new growth. And learn how to prune basil at the right time to prolong its life.

9. Pennyroyal 

Pennyroyal

(Image credit: Alamy)

This vigorous and mat forming plant, gives off a strong mentha scent that, when crushed, wasps and many other insects, just can’t stand. Covered with distinctive whorls of lilac in mid-summer it thrives in poor soil and moist conditions but does have the habit of spreading relentlessly. It remains hardy down to 5 to -4℉ (-15 to -20℃).

There are two main types to choose from: European and American Pennyroyal, with the former having the stronger perfume. Leading herb grower and expert Jekka McVicar (opens in new tab) also suggests to ‘Rub crushed leaves onto mosquito bites to remove the swelling and irritation.’

10. Citronella

Citronella grass in raised bed

(Image credit: Kcris Ramos / Getty Images)

Largely known as an insect repelling candle or oil, citronella is a scented pelargonium with rather attractive pink-purple flowers. 

An evergreen, large branching shrub it reaches heights of 5ft (1.5m) and has tooth-edged foliage that smells strongly of lemon.

Hardy in zone 8 through 12, it requires well-draining soil, full sun and thrives happily in open borders and planters.

What is the best plant to keep wasps away?

There are many strongly scented plants that wasps just can’t stand. These include many herbs such as mint, basil, lemongrass, thyme and bay. Some fruits such as cucumber have the same effect but for more decorative deterrents try flowers such as marigolds, geraniums and beautiful foliage including silvery grey eucalyptus and wormwood.

Bear in mind that many wasp repellent plants make for great mosquito repellent plants, too.

How do I keep wasps away from my patio?

Discover some of the aromatic and flowering plants dislike and enjoy growing them around your outdoor living room.

Some of the best plants for hanging baskets and wall top planters can repel wasps: from tumbling ivy to scented leaf geraniums – those with red blooms are meant to be particularly effective.

Pots of aromatic herbs – think thyme, basil and mint are ideal for lining up next to the outdoor grill station or outdoor kitchen. Not only will they help protect the chef from pesky wasps but pep up meat, salad dishes and summery drinks too.

Fill surrounding borders with billowing cushions of silver wormwood and pockets of punchy marigolds to create a stunning fragrant border that wasps will stay away from.

Jill Morgan
Jill Morgan

Jill Morgan has spent the last 20 years writing for Interior and Gardening magazines both in print and online. Titles she has been lucky enough to work on include House Beautiful, The English

Home, Ideal Home, Modern Gardens and Gardeningetc.com. Although much of her career has involved commissioning and writing about reader homes and home improvement projects, her

everlasting passion is for gardens and outdoor living, which is what she writes about for Homes & Gardens.