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Insects aren’t the only pests that you can repel with the careful choice of plants. Mice are also sensitive to strong smells and will avoid a number of plants, especially when outside in the yard.
To combat a mouse problem inside, you can plant a bed or two of the right plants to help deter them from getting too close to the house.
The best approach is to have these plants right up close to the house, ideally in areas where you feel mice might be sneaking in.
If you are not really worried about mice inside the house, you can have these deterrents in other spots around the yard to make the property as unappealing as you can. At least, to the mice.
1 – Onions and Garlic
Yes, these are two different plants but they have very similar aromas and can be grown in the same conditions. Both garlic and onions are grown from bulbs (also known as sets), and need a space with full sun and well-draining soil.
For garlic, plant your sets first thing in the spring, leaving about 4 to 6 inches between each clove. The pointed end should be facing up and two inches deep into the soil.
After several months, you’ll see the leaves turn brown and die back. You can harvest your garlic at that point, or leave it in place to keep on repelling mice. Onions are grown much the same way, except they usually mature more quickly than garlic.
You can also use garlic as a mouse repellent without actually growing it if you prefer. Just make a puree of garlic from four or five cloves, and add that to a pint of water. Spray around your foundations or anywhere mice are getting to be a problem.
2 – Sage
For most temperate regions (between zones 5 and 8), outdoor sage will overwinter just fine and grow as a perennial. Any hotter or colder and the plants won’t survive the extremes in temperature, but you can still grow it as an annual if you want.
Either white or green sage can be grown to repel mice due to the strong smell of both varieties.
It’s not a picky plant and will grow nicely in all sorts of soil types as long as there is decent drainage, and there should be sun for most of the day. As a perennial, it will continue to get larger each year and can develop into bushes up to three feet high.
You’ll want to let them have some room, though you can keep them trimmed down by harvesting their leaves in the fall for culinary uses.
3 – Mint
There are many different varieties of mint, and they all have aromatic leaves that can deter both insects and mice. Spearmint is probably the strongest, if you are trying to decide on which kind to get.
Like most perennial herbs, mint doesn’t need any special growing conditions and will thrive in any spot that gets a lot of sun. They don’t like dry soil so you’ll have to keep them watered when rain gets scarce in the summer.
You will have to keep an eye on your mint plants though. They are extremely vigorous and can easily take over an entire garden bed if you don’t keep it trimmed back. Any extra leaves can be dried nicely for tea or cooking.
4 – Lavender
Most people don’t need a reason to grow lavender. Between the lovely scent and the pretty purple flowers, it’s a common choice even when mice aren’t an issue.
It’s easy to find too, at your local nursery or you can even order it on amazon.
Like with sage, it can be a perennial in regions with moderate weather but can be grown as an annual otherwise. In fact, you may want to grow some lavender in pots, and then bring them inside for the winter rather than letting them die back.
They like dry conditions best, and some varieties are even considered drought-tolerant. Give them plenty of sun, warm weather and don’t bother with added fertilizer.
You can leave them alone to grow and create a mouse-repelling barrier (which can help with mosquitoes as well), and also harvest some of the purple flower spikes to lay around the house for some added scented protection against indoor pests.
See my lavender care guide for tips for growing lavender indoors.
Plants to Avoid
Another way of looking at this is identifying the plants that are likely to attract mice, and avoid them in your yard. Mice like many vegetables, especially greens and tomatoes.
If you have to grow them, keep them as far from the house as you can. Strawberries are another favorite that should be avoided if you have any ongoing mouse problems.
Other Natural Mice Repellents
You can supplement your gardening plans with a few other tips and tricks to help keep pesky rodents at bay.
Used coffee grounds are a potent way to add some unpleasant-to-mice smells in the yard. Just sprinkle around your house or outside plants. Not a coffee drinker? You can get the same effect with a generous dose of cayenne pepper.
Just be careful using pepper as it can be painful on the nose for any outdoor pets you may have, as well as any other non-mouse animals that come through your garden.
There are ultrasonic devices on the market that are plugged into any electrical outlet that claim to drive away mice with their high-pitched sounds that humans can’t hear. Not always the most effective, but can be one non-toxic option to add to the overall pest plan.
Though they probably can be used outdoors, you’ll be disrupting most of the local wildlife by doing that. Instead, this can be an indoor deterrent, possibly plugged into basement or attic outlets to protect those quiet areas that mice like.
A Little Prevention
One good way to deter mice from getting right into the house is to keep your lawn cut short for at least 10 feet or more around the building. Mice don’t like to run around without cover, and are a lot less likely to make a dash away from the longer grass. A trimmed yard creates a buffer zone to keep exploring mice at a distance.
And you can’t forget the obvious advice of keeping all holes or gaps in the exterior of your home patched up. Same goes for any smaller outbuildings that may attract mice, like garages, sheds or barns.
Avoid letting them find any other options for easy shelter. Open wood piles and unprotected compost heaps are two major draws for mice. Secure them with screening if you can, or at least have them away from the main house as much as possible.
Bird feeders are a potential source of food for mice as well. Use rodent-proof fixtures to hang your feeders, or add some of that cayenne pepper to the food. That will certainly encourage the mice to get lost if they go after the seeds in the feeder.
And it so happens that birds cannot taste the heat in cayenne so you can use this trick to keep the mice out while not deterring your bird visitors.
Both of these tips apply to keeping mice out of the house. There isn’t much you can do to prevent mice from getting into the yard.
Some people swear that having an outdoor cat can do wonders for a mouse population, except not all cats are active enough to do their own hunting, and if they do like to hunt, they certainly won’t stop with just the occasional local mice. Stick with some clever landscaping instead.