Ticks are giant mites, and their bite can be a health hazard. Though ticks live on plants, they do not harm vegetation. Their only food source is the blood of invertebrates including humans, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds. Gardeners can deter ticks and other pests by using the natural control of certain plants that repel them. Once a tick has embedded in skin, there are even plants that can help draw their heads out of your skin. Choose plants for your yard that repel ticks, fleas and other pests. Some of these plants may not be native to the northeast for planting, but their extracts may be available through local stores for making natural repellents, etc.
WARNING: Some plants are dangerous to people and to pets! Examples: Pennyroyal can cause miscarriages in humans and pets if ingested, do not use it in your yard if a member of your household is pregnant. Citronella may cause problems with cats, and garlic can be poisonous to cats. Always consult your physician (and your veterinarian if you have pets) before you conduct any homeopathic form of treatments and before using any of the plants listed in this article!
Planting garlic cloves in your garden will help to deter many pests from the rest of your plants. Placing garlic cloves in and around the sleeping/play areas of your pets will drive away ticks and fleas. You can also place about 4-5 drops of fresh squeezed garlic juice from cloves into your pet’s drinking water. Note that garlic can be poisonous to cats!
Rue (Ruta graveolens)
Rue is an evergreen herb with metallic blue, feathery foliage. The herb has disinfectant and insecticidal properties for getting rid of flies, mosquitoes and a number of other insects naturally. Rubbing the herbs over pets keeps away the fleas. Planting rue with other plants keeps beetles and slugs from the garden. The semi-woody plant grows to a full height of about 2 1/2 feet. Rue foliage has a medicinal and bitter smell upon crushing or cutting. The herb blooms with small, four petaled flowers during summer. Rue is easy to grow from seed and thrives in a range of soil types including poor soil. You also can grow the herb as an indoor plant.
Wormwood (Artemesia absinthium)
Wormwood is among the bitter herbs used for centuries to repel and deter insects including ticks, flies and moths. Wormwood grows to a mature height of about 3 feet and has gray-green foliage. The plant is covered with fine hair and blooms with yellow flowers during summer. Wormwood is widely used in traditional medicine both by itself or in combination with other herbs to relieve digestive and gallbladder disorders. Wormwood, also referred to as artemesia, grows naturally in the temperate and mild climates. The foliage of wormwood is used for making an herbal tea.
Mint is among the most recognized and most used herbs in the kitchen, which also keep away a wide range of insects with its strong scent. Mint is especially effective for deterring beetles and fleas. Keeping sachets of dried mint in closets keeps out moths and placing fresh mint in pantries helps deter ants. Rubbing the herbs over the neck, face and hands repels mosquitoes, and rubbing the herb over pets and mouths of horses and cows keeps them free from flies. Planting mint with cabbage and tomatoes gets rid of aphids, cabbage white butterflies and white flies.
Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis)
Rosemary is an evergreen herb with grayish foliage and small light-blue flowers. Whether you grow it in the soil in warmer climates or a container in colder areas, harvest the plant’s leaves and dry them. Once dry, grind the leaves to a powder in the blender. Rub the powder into your pets’ fur and sprinkle it in your yard concentrating on the soil and plants of your animals’ outdoor spaces.
Pennyroyal (Mentha pelugium)
A European native, Pennyroyal is the smallest and one of the most aromatic members of the mint family. This shady ground cover with its lilac-hued flowers and ovate leaves boasts tick-repellent properties, and also deters ants, aphids, ticks, fleas, and cabbage maggots. Brussel sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage will benefit from pennyroyal. Harvest pennyroyal leaves just before the plant flowers and dry them. Once the leaves are completely dry, grind them in a blender. Apply the resulting powder to pet fur and outdoor spaces. Note that pennyroyal can cause miscarriages in people and pets!
Fleabane Daisy (Erigeron speciosus)
An annual plant growing 16-24″ tall with violet, daisy like flowers. Good in full sun or partial shade. Roman naturalists detected that this herb repelled fleas, hence the name. Grow in your garden to control insects, and rub the green leaves on your clothing or pets to repel fleas, mosquitoes, ticks, gnats and flies.
Mexican Marigolds (Asteraceae)
Mexican marigolds have natural tick-repellent qualities. Originating in Central America, the Mexican marigold with its bright yellow flowers and pungent leaves can deter many pests, including deer, when planted at the outer edges of your garden. Burn marigold leaves as a tick repellent or obtain essential oils by steam distillation. Use the marigold plant externally to remove ticks from your skin.
More Tick-Repellent Plants
- Lemon scented herbs are said to help deter ticks and other pests, such as lemon thyme, lemon balm, lemon verbena, lemon grass, lemon eucalyptus, lemon pelargonium.
- Sage repels cabbage moths, carrot flies, and ticks, and carrots will benefit from sage.
- Rose geranium plants will deter ticks from entering your yard; when you are outdoors, you can crush the leaves of rose geraniums and mint plants and rub them on your skin to make an all-natural flea and tick repellent.
- A few more plants that have shown tick-repellent activity through their essential oils are allspice, basil, cedar, cinnamon, lavender, peppermint, pine and soybean; usually these deterrents give a limited protection time that does not exceed two hours.
Anti-Tick Lawn Care
Cut your lawn close to destroy a large number of ticks. If the number of ticks is on the rise in your region, set your lawnmower’s blade to its lowest setting. Ticks need grass at least three inches tall to grow and thrive. Close cutting will give your yard a severe trim and is a surefire method of destroying a large amount of ticks in your landscape. You can also apply Diatomaceous Earth to your yard (not the kind you use in a swimming pool, but the kind you get at a feed store or organic nursery) which will also help with getting rid of lots of other bugs.