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7 Impressive Plants That Repel Ants (And What Attracts Them)

7 Impressive Plants That Repel Ants (And What Attracts Them)

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Nobody’s home is 100% insect-free, and having a few bugs around is to be expected. That doesn’t mean we all don’t look for ways to keep them out of the house in the first place.

Ants are a particularly annoying pest that no one wants around. You can use your love of houseplants to your advantage and choose a few varieties that can repel ants.

7 Impressive Plants That Repel Ants (And What Attracts Them)

Plants That Repel Ants

Many plants that can fill your home (and dishes!) with delightful scents can double as ant deterrents. The aromatic oils these plants release make any place a no-go zone for ants.

If you spot the itty-bitty critters setting up camp, here’s a list of plants and herbs to bring into your space:

1 – Lavender


Ants don’t stand a chance against this evergreen shrub—the divine lavender scent is just too much for the little intruders. 

Lavender can be a bit of a space hog, but you can definitely grow this lovely aromatic plant indoors. Just give this sun-worshiper a bright window seat with plenty of refreshing breeze.

If you’re a lavender newbie, you’ll love the no-fuss French lavender. With its light purple flowers, it’s stunning and incredibly easy to care for.

Plant these beauties in the spring so they have time to settle in before the summer heat kicks in. If your winters are mild, planting them in the fall works like a charm, too.

Give your French lavender fast-draining, alkaline soil and avoid overwatering to prevent root rot. Don’t forget to snip those spent flowers, and you’ll be rewarded with more ant-repelling blooms.

To explore more awesome perks of lavender, check out my piece about houseplants that do wonders for your health.

2 – Mint

Mint Plant

The fresh, invigorating scent of peppermint isn’t just for teas and candies.

To keep ants at bay, place mint near entryways or around your favorite houseplants. For spot treatment, crush a few leaves to release the mint oils, and watch the ants make a quick exit.

There’s a mint for every taste—stick with classic peppermint or spearmint (a personal favorite!), or mix things up with apple mint, chocolate mint, or even pineapple mint.

You’ll need well-draining soil (add some peat or perlite if necessary) and a spot with 4–6 hours of indirect light to grow mint. See my recommendations for other plants that don’t need high sun.

Water your mint just before the surface starts to dry out, and turn the plants frequently, as they tend to bend toward the light.

3 – Rosemary


This culinary herb pulls double duty by adding flavor to your dishes and showing ants the door.

Rosemary isn’t as aromatic as lavender or mint, but it packs the same knockout punch against ants. Now, fair warning: It’s not the easiest plant to nurture indoors.

But if you’re up for the challenge, give your rosemary as much sun as possible. And if Mother Nature isn’t cooperating, throw in a small grow light for backup.

Don’t go overboard with watering. Wait until the soil is crumbly on the surface before giving it a deep soak.

Oh, and make sure you’ve got a well-draining pot—you want those roots damp, not waterlogged. Check out my tips for rescuing overwatered plants if needed!

4 – Thyme

Potted Thyme Plant

Don’t let this delicate herb fool you; thyme means business when giving ants the boot!

The secret lies in the antimicrobial properties of T. vulgaris, the essential oil in common thyme. For a DIY pest defense, pluck some sprigs and scatter them around where ants hang out. 

As a hardy plant, thyme can thrive in a garden during the growing season or as a year-round indoor planter. With its evergreen features, this petite shrub makes a charming accent on a kitchen window.

Like mint, you can grow thyme in indirect light. To avoid over-watering, let the topsoil dry completely before giving it another drink.

Another trick to keep the roots from getting soggy is to use an unglazed ceramic pot, which helps the moisture evaporate faster.

5 – Marigolds

Closeup Of Orange Marigold Flowers And Foliage

Not all ant-repellent plants are kitchen herbs; some are downright decorative.

Take marigolds, for example—their bold flower heads have a spicy scent that can deter pests, making them the perfect border for your veggie patch.

However, they can be a tad finicky as houseplants. But if you manage to make it work, prepare for a burst of orange in your home.

Marigolds need tons of warmth and sunshine to flourish. When summer rolls around, let them bask in the sun to recharge.

I love this Edible Flowers Bottle Garden Kit from Urban Leaf. I’ve turned my collection of empty wine bottles into a hydroponic flower garden using this system.

6 – Tansy


The essential oil from tansy is the perfect bug-be-gone potion. It has a potent mix of camphene, borneol, and thujone that ants can’t stand.

When bruised, tansy’s fern-like leaflets emit a camphor-citrus fragrance, which made them a popular strewing herb in early times.

However, you’ll need the clusters of golden buttons to make a homemade insecticide. Here’s how:

  • Steep dried tansy flowers in hot water for an hour.
  • Strain the liquid.
  • Toss it in a spray bottle.
  • Give your plants a protective mist against bugs.

If any of that spray gets on your edible plants, give them a good wash before digging in.

7 – Garlic

Garlic Stems Growing

Now, garlic might not be the first plant that comes to mind for your indoor garden, but it’s a total nightmare for ants (and pretty much any other pest).

The sulfur compounds in garlic cloves can ward off pests, including ants, aphids, slugs, and mosquitoes.

You don’t need to go all out and start a garlic plot. Just buy an extra bulb and follow these steps to whip up an all-natural garlic spray.

  1. Peel a whole head of garlic.
  2. Puree the cloves in a blender or food processor with one cup of water.
  3. Add two tablespoons of dish soap and three more cups of water.
  4. Give the mixture another whirl before transferring it to a clean jar.
  5. Let the mix steep overnight.
  6. Strain the mixture to remove the garlic bits.
  7. Transfer the liquid to a reusable spray bottle.

How to Use Herbs to Repel Ants

In some cases, having these aromatic plants in the right spots can be enough to keep out the ants.

For a more hands-on approach, grab a few leaves, crush them in your fingers to release the scented oils, and put them where you see ants swarming.

For tips on growing your herbs, check out my post about growing herbs and veggies indoors.

Plants That Attract Ants

Houseplants usually aren’t big ant magnets. But there’s a catch: some flowering plants can become aphid hotspots, which is literally an open invitation to ants.

Aphids feast on plant sap and leave behind a sticky residue called honeydew. And you know who can’t get enough of this sweet goo? Ants!

Ants shield aphids from their natural enemies, and in return, they get a steady flow of the sugary treat.

If you notice sooty mold or discolored, curling leaves, you might have a full-fledged aphid farm on your hands. For a no-fail solution against aphids, use insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Other Items That Attract Ants

Ants have a nose for food scents, especially the tempting aroma wafting from your kitchen.

So, the game plan is clear: keep all your edibles covered and safely stored away. That means no open containers and no ignored spills or crumbs on the counter.

When wiping down surfaces, use a strong-smelling cleaner to erase lingering odors. A solution of water and vinegar can do the trick, too.

How to Keep Ants Away From Plants Naturally

You can create a fortress against ants by adding some ant-repellent plants around shrubs and trees in your backyard. Or, you can try these simple methods to keep those tiny intruders away:

1 – Boiling Water

Pour scalding water down the ant hills to kill the underground colony upon contact.

Add a tablespoon of mild dish detergent to make it even more potent.

2 – Cinnamon Powder

Sprinkle cinnamon powder around your plant bases or throughout your garden.

For more serious infestations, mix cinnamon directly into the soil to thwart ants from creating new tunnels.

3 – Baking Soda and Sugar

This combo works by enticing ants with sugar while delivering a digestive system shock with baking soda.

The foragers bring back the concoction to the colony through the fine hairs on their legs, causing widespread havoc.

How Do I Get Rid of Ants Permanently?

Aside from your potted plants, below are more fool-proof solutions to add to your ant-fighting arsenal:

1 – Pyrethrin

Pyrethrin is an insecticide derived from chrysanthemum flowers. It works by disrupting the nervous system of ants.

Just spritz some in the areas where you spot ants the most.

2 – Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth is a fine white powder made from the fossilized remains of minute aquatic organisms called diatoms.

It sucks the life out of bugs by soaking up fat from their exoskeletons, leaving them dried up and done for.

3 – Borax

Borax is a mineral commonly used in laundry and cleaning products. To create a powerful insect dust, mix borax and sugar in equal parts.

Pop this mix where you spot those ant parties, but out of reach of your kids and fur babies.

Be patient; it may take some time for ants to carry the bait back to the nest.

Final Thoughts

To wrap up, the best plants that repel ants have fragrant aromas and strong essential oils.

With these ideas, as well as using the plants listed above, your home will be much better protected from ant infestations.

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Saturday 21st of May 2022

Just so you know, thyme does NOT repel ants. In fact, both of my outdoor potted thyme plants are always infested with them. The plants ARE infested with a tiny black pest I can't seem to eradicate, and the ants are obviously congregating to dine (thanks, guys!), but the ants are not remotely deterred by the thyme smell. They crawl all over it all the time.


Friday 4th of March 2022

Hi Lisa.. I like to put flower boxes on my front porch. Usually I plant impatients. I always have so many little ants all around them. What kind of flowers can I put in my boxes that do not attract ants? Thanks...Fed up with the ants.


Tuesday 15th of March 2022

Hi Patty, Marigolds would look great in your flower boxes and also help repel ants. Best of luck!

Happy Planting! Lisa


Saturday 29th of January 2022

Hi Lisa, I'm a new gardener, growing outdoors in USDA hardiness zone 10a. I look forward to trying your ideas. What modifications (if any) would you suggest for repelling ants in the outdoor food garden?


Tuesday 1st of February 2022

Thanks for the question. These plants can certainly be planted around your outdoor garden as well. Just be sure to check the hardiness zone on the plant tags (or search online) to make sure they will do well in your area. A couple of other things you can try if you'd like are adding cedar mulch or sprinkling diatomaceous earth in a border around the garden.

Happy Planting! Lisa


Wednesday 23rd of June 2021

Thanks for your article. You didn’t mention cinnamon ( because it’s not a house plant ;-) Like DE, cinnamon is a fine powder and the ants who get it on them suffocate. Others will detour trying to find a way around it. Like Diatomaceous earth, it’s an excellent barrier. Unlike DE, the dust doesn’t tend to irritate human lungs as much and it smells better. I found it was easier to camouflage brown dust in the house than white powder.

James Morrone

Tuesday 5th of May 2020

Lovely list, I will try out some lavender soon. Some advice to those recommending an exterminator instead, I'd say you are experiencing an infestation, or at least, a war with existing ant neighbors. I've had my best luck keeping pests away by using Mint as a PREVENTATIVE measure at the corners of my garden.

An unorthodox tip, bugs hate cigarettes. Turns out, tobacco has it's own natural pesticide. I don't smoke but I keep an ash tray in the garden for guests, and I tell them "please don't litter, help me defend my plants instead!". Two birds with one stone. I got the idea from an article I read about birds using cigarette butts in their nests from St. Andrews University.

Lisa | The Practical Planter

Monday 11th of May 2020

Hi, James!

You make a good point about the possibility of an infestation. It can be difficult to get rid of ants with those plants if you're already overrun. They are definitely great preventative measures! The cigarette butt idea is great. Those that do smoke, or even those that don't, can try that as well!