Are you constantly reaching for a fly swatter in your house? You’re not alone. Having flies buzzing around your head can be endlessly annoying, and it can be any time of year when they decide to make themselves at home.
Why not put your houseplants to work? Choose some that are known to repel flies and send them right back outside.
Types of Flies
We’re not just talking about the usual houseflies here. Though they are the main flying pest in the average house, you can also use houseplants to repel fruit flies and even moths.
Small whiteflies can be an issue in the home too, in particular if you have a large indoor garden that attracts them. All of the plants below can help deal with any of these pests.
Plants that Repel Flies
A number of aromatic plants will do a great job keeping flies at bay. Many of them thrive indoors and can be part of your indoor or outdoor garden. Here are some of the best:
1 – Basil
A healthy basil plant will look great in a sunny kitchen window, offering a nice aroma to the room while also keeping out stray flies. Along with direct light, your basil will need regular watering, and a little spritz from a misting bottle occasionally wouldn’t hurt. They aren’t that finicky though, and if the soil does dry out on top, it should be fine.
As an annual, basil will put up small stalks of flowers in the late summer so it can go to seed. To keep your plant living longer, snip out the flowers as soon as they start to develop.
Basil comes in dozens of varieties, with many unique scents like lemon, cinnamon, and licorice. Any of them will work for insect control (not just flies, but even spiders and mosquitoes as well), and you can use fresh leaves in your cooking too.
Not sure which variety to get? Urban Leaf’s Basil Seed Collection will give you plenty of options, with 6 different varieties of basil seeds that you can grow indoor or out.
2 – Tansy
Not only with the smell of tansy repel most flies, it will give you clusters of pretty yellow flowers to brighten up your home. Unlike most of these aromatic plants, it’s the flowers that produce the scent rather than the leaves. So you do need to care for your plant well enough that it will bloom indoors for you.
Tansy is also different that it is not a culinary herb whatsoever. In fact, it can be irritating to the skin and should not be kept if you have kids or pets that might have access to it.
As for care, tansy just needs several hours of indirect light and regular watering. It’s quite tolerant of poor treatment. Another note about tansy is that it will self-seed very easily and is known as an invasive plant in some areas. If you do start to grow it, make sure you keep your houseplants out of the garden.
3 – Mint
Mint can grow quite large, so you’ll need a good sized pot and lots of space with at least 4 hours of bright sun or even indirect lighting. The best situation would be sunny in the morning and then lower light for the rest of the day.
Water enough so that it doesn’t dry right out, usually just when the surface of the soil is dry to the touch. Soil should be loose and drain excess water quickly.
Keep your plant pruned (use excess leaves in tea or cooking!), or it will outgrow its container very quickly. You’ll still probably have to split and repot occasionally. When choosing a variety of mint for a houseplant, select one with the strongest scent you can. Spearmint is a good choice.
4 – Sweet Woodruff
When grown out in the garden, sweet woodruff is a low-growing ground cover with small white flowers. It’s not common as an indoor plant but it would work nicely in a hanging basket where you have the room to let the tendrils spread out and dangle.
It’s not a high maintenance plant either. Sweet woodruff needs indirect light, or even low light, and water just when the soil dries out.
5 – Marigold
If you are trying to keep out whiteflies, then you should try to add a few marigolds to your indoor garden. Though they do better as outside plants, you can probably manage a pot or two of them if you provide enough light.
Not only do they need a full day of light, they prefer warm temperatures as well. You can let them dry out a bit between waterings too. Even if you don’t have any whiteflies, the scent of marigolds can repel many other insects too.
6 – Lavender
As usual, lavender is on our list of pest repellent plants. The strong floral scent is just perfect to keep away flies, moths, as well as mosquitoes, ants and even spiders.
You can choose from English, French or Spanish lavender for growing inside. The French is probably easier to keep but the English strain is more aromatic and can be more effective for fly control.
You can find Hidcote English Lavender plants on amazon. This is a great candidate to repel flies in your home.
Lavender will need a lot of light, and if you find your plants aren’t blooming enough, add a lamp to brighten things up. There needs to be good air flow around the plant (but not cold drafts), and you must pot lavender in loose soil so that the roots are not left soggy.
Be prepared to deal with a large plant though. If you have the right conditions, you can end up with a pretty big pot of lavender after just a season or two.
Pruning in the fall can help but you can probably count on some repotting in your future with lavender. If you divide this perennial up into smaller plants, you can keep it under control and add more lavender pots around the house.
7 – Rosemary
Like with lavender, you need a place that has a lot of sun as well as good air flow. Otherwise, your plants can develop mildew. For light, either find a window that offers full sun for at least 6 to 8 hours a day, or plan on keeping your rosemary plants near a lamp.
These are picky plants in terms of watering too. The soil needs to drain well and the roots can’t sit around in soggy soil. On the other hand, you can’t let it dry right out either.
If you can get the care just right, a pot of rosemary will add some fly-repelling aroma to your indoor garden.
8 – Citronella
Known best as a mosquito repellent, the lemony citronella plant will help with other sorts of flies too. It’s not that common as a houseplant though so you might have difficulty finding one.
Citronella is also often incorrectly labeled, which won’t help your search either. A true citronella plant will have long leaves and look a lot like a pot of grass. If you find a “citronella” that has leaves that resemble parsley, it’s a scented geranium which is also somewhat aromatic though not at strong as a real citronella plant.
Once you have an actual citronella, you have to have a very sunny place for it and constant warm temperatures. Once winter hits, add a grow light to keep it happy until the longer days are back.
9 – Venus Flytrap
Can you have a discussion about plants and fly control without a mention of the classic Venus flytrap? Believe it or not, this is actually a possible houseplant option that would add a little interest to your indoor garden as well as helping with flies.
This isn’t your typical indoor plant and it will need some special care. Even so, it can be a very fun addition to your home and they really do eat flies.
You’ll need to focus on two things to keep your plant thriving: humidity and soil acidity. Venus flytraps need very high moisture content in their surroundings and are often kept in glass terrariums to maintain that environment for them. Their soil can be moist but not soggy. A little misting is a good idea.
Just remember that keeping plants under glass also means they heat up very easily. Keep them out of direct sun, which is fine because they prefer indirect light or even a little shade anyway.
The soil needs to be much more acidic than usual, and most Venus flytraps are planted in a potting mix that is mostly peat moss. Use distilled water to keep the soil from losing its acidic edge.
Are Your Plants Attracting Flies?
When you start putting a plan together to rid your home of flies, the last thing you want to be doing is attracting them into the house too. Thankfully, there aren’t many plants known for drawing houseflies, so you probably won’t have to worry too much about that.
On the other hand, whiteflies are a different story. These small pests feed off plant sap, and can be attracted by your indoor garden. Hibiscus and poinsettias are two notorious houseplants that will bring in whiteflies. If you happen to grow tomatoes indoors, they can be a problem too.
Besides the plants, what else might be bringing flies into the house? Open garbage and exposed food are big attractants for flies, particularly overripe fruit in the case of fruit flies. Keep your garbage or compost in containers with tight lids, or store outside as much as possible.
Sometimes, it’s just warmth and light that draw them in and you can’t do too much about that. Having secure screens on all of your windows can be a big help, and try not the leave doors open any longer than necessary. A screen door may also help.
Other Ways to Repel Flies
Besides your collection of houseplants, you can take a few other natural approaches to reducing your household fly population. Spraying toxins all over the house isn’t the best idea.
Though diatomaceous earth (DE) is often recommended for ants or spiders, this is one area where it won’t help very much. It works by coming into contact with an insect and damaging its exoskeleton. So it’s perfect for crawling insects but not flying ones. What else can you try?
Flies of all kinds are very vulnerable to sticky traps, if you can find the best places to put them. Hanging ribbons of glue tape are fine though can get awkward if you need to put them up in parts of the house where people walk around a lot.
Another choice is the sticky “window trap,” especially if you suffer from the cluster flies that appear in the spring. A sticky film is attached right to the window glass, and it captures any flies that fly up to the glass.
To see how these window traps work, check out this video I found on youtube.
Specifically for fruit flies, you can do wonders with a very natural vinegar trap. Add about a half inch of apple cider vinegar to a drinking glass, and then set a funnel into the mouth of the glass (with the opening pointing down into the glass).
Fruit flies are attracted to the fermented vinegar, easily fly down through the opening, but then can’t find their way back out again. Many will get stuck in the liquid and drown, or you can just take the funnel off outside and let them loose. Up to you.
Are Flies a Health Hazard?
Buzzing flies are a nuisance but are these various flying pests an actual danger or hazard in the house? When it comes to houseflies, there is a potential health risk by letting them have free reign in your home.
Because they are attracted to and eat rotting food or garbage, they carry a large number of bacteria and pathogens everywhere they go.
Fruit flies can transmit disease too but are less of a health risk. They reproduce extremely quickly though, and you can have quite an infestation of them if you don’t take steps immediately. Clouds of fruit flies can be pretty disturbing.
Moths themselves are harmless. It’s their hungry little larvae that do the damage. When the moths lay their eggs, they hatch into grubs that eat all types of fabrics as well as many dry goods you find in the pantry. If you want to stop the grubs, you need to stop the moths.
And lastly, the whiteflies that directly target your houseplants won’t be much of a problem anywhere else in the house since they are only interested in your plants. If you have enough of them, their sap-sucking ways can start to harm your plants.
So keeping fly populations down in the home is important for many reasons, not just to keep the irritating buzzing at bay.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.
Monday 13th of June 2022
I had a large basil plant in my kitchen window and the flies flocked to it in mass. Complete disaster.
Wednesday 18th of November 2020
I hate to be pedantic but on this site there are 8 plants that repel flies and one that ATTRACTS. The VFT catches flies by attracting them. If it repelled them it would starve. Putting one outside your front door would generate a pool of flies ready to invade your house when you open the door, whereas putting it inside the house would help eliminate any flies that did invade.
Friday 1st of May 2020
it is quite a good read for me. I will try these plants and hopefully, they help me get rid of the flies at home.
Lisa | The Practical Planter
Monday 4th of May 2020
Glad I could help. Good luck on getting rid of the flies!
Sunday 24th of November 2019
Hi.Thanks for your article it is so helpful. Please introduce some types of trees that repel flies and mosquitoes I need them for my sheep farm.
Lisa | The Practical Planter
Tuesday 26th of November 2019
There aren’t many actual trees that repel flies and mosquitoes, and I’m not really aware of any that would do both. For flies, you could try the bay laurel. You would have to be in a warmer climate for this one (zones 8-11 outdoors), unless you were to bring it in in the winter (which then makes zones 4-11 acceptable). For mosquitoes, you could try the eucalyptus tree, though you would have to choose certain types in order for them to be cold tolerant. I hope this was helpful!
Thursday 4th of July 2019
This article really is helpful to me as I am starting to get a greenish tint on my thumb nowadays lol...Thanks!
Lisa | The Practical Planter
Friday 5th of July 2019
I'm glad you found the information helpful. Keep working on that green thumb!