7 Plants That Keep Ants Away

Written by Heather Hall
Updated: July 11, 2023
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Key Points

  • Many strongly scented herbs are excellent at keeping ants away. Having houseplants around with aromatic oils can deter ants from venturing any further into your house.
  • Using plants to keep ants away is a natural alternative to chemical insect repellants or traps.
  • The whole plant can be used to keep ants away. You can also choose to use crushed leaves, flowers, or essential oils to deter ants.
Need to keep away ants? These seven plants will help!

Many people prefer a natural method to deter ants and other insects. Sometimes using harsh chemical insect repellants is not an option if there are small children or pets in the area. Growing plants with strongly scented oils, like herbs, can keep ants away naturally. Using plants as a chemical-free insect repellant is a wonderful idea to keep your home safe for children. Here we will provide a list of common and easy-to-find plants that you can use to keep ants away.

These plants can be grown outdoors near doors and windows to keep ants away or indoors on a windowsill. Since many of the plants used are Mediterranean herbs, they require very bright light if grown indoors, so using an indoor grow light designed for plants is sometimes necessary for northern climates.

Another option is to use the plant’s essential oil in areas where ants enter the home. If you don’t have a green thumb, buying essential plant oils can be an alternative method to keep ants away. Soak a cotton ball or cloth in the essential oil to keep ants away and place it in a shallow dish wherever ants enter the home. Remember that many essential oils are toxic to pets before applying them.

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Alternatively, you can use the leaves or flowers of a plant and crush them to release their aromatic oils. You can place the crushed plant material wherever you see ants, covering both the outside and inside areas for a strong line of defense.

1. Rosemary

Using sprigs of rosemary to keep ants away is an easy method.

©iStock.com/Artfully79

Rosemary is a beautiful evergreen perennial herb that is easy to grow outdoors. A large rosemary bush near a doorway or under a window will help deter insects from entering the house. Rosemary is not the easiest to grow as a houseplant. If you only have the option of an indoor plant, it might be best to pick an easier option from this list.

Rosemary requires full sun, at least eight hours per day. It likes free-draining loose soil and deep but infrequent watering. Rosemary is hardy in USDA Zones 7 and 8. You can find rosemary plants at any garden center or nursery, they are commonly sold in the spring with other vegetables and herbs.

2. Lavender

Spanish Lavender

Lavender is susceptible to fungal diseases if grown in crowded or overly damp conditions.

©iStock.com/Esin Deniz

Lavender is another highly aromatic herb that is good at keeping ants away. If purchasing this plant for indoor growth, look for French lavender, as it is more suitable for use as a houseplant. Be sure to place lavender in a spot with direct sunlight. Appropriate locations may be a south-facing windowsill or on the kitchen counter under a grow light set to 12 hours or more.

If growing outside, lots of bright sunlight is necessary, as well as an area with excellent airflow, as lavender is susceptible to fungal diseases if grown in crowded or overly damp conditions. Lavender is hardy in USDA Zones 5-10. It is sold as an ornamental plant in most commercial garden centers.

3. Mint

mint

Mint plants are best grown in pots, so they don’t overgrow the garden

©Paul Maguire/Shutterstock.com

There are numerous mint varieties to choose from that will help keep ants away with their strong scent. You can pick apple mint, chocolate mint, pineapple mint, spearmint, or peppermint. These are edible, make for lovely salads and teas, and keep away ants.

Mint is a good choice for indoor or outdoor growing. It doesn’t have as high a light requirement as some of the other options on this list and is also adaptable to indirect light.

If growing mint outdoors, be aware that it can be invasive. It will continually spread until it reaches a natural border, so it is best planted in a pot so it cannot take over your garden. Plant in well-drained soil in a spot with a minimum of four hours of sunlight and water only when the soil is fifty percent dry. Mint is hardy in USDA Zones 5-9. You can easily find it for sale in nearly every garden center. You can also get a seedling from a friend with a mint plant, as mint readily self-seeds.

4. Thyme

German thyme

German thyme is wonderful at keeping ants away.

©Emilio100/Shutterstock.com

There are over 350 species of thyme, and they are all edible! You can pick from garden thyme, lemon thyme, caraway thyme, german thyme, and many others. Thyme will adapt to indirect lighting, so it is a good choice for an indoor plant. Thyme prefers light, well-drained soil that is allowed to dry out almost completely before watering. Planting in an unglazed pot, such as terracotta, is best to allow for excellent airflow and drainage.

If planting outside, place it in an area that receives five or more hours of sunlight per day, preferably near a doorway or under a window to help keep the ants away. Thyme is hardy in USDA Zones 2-10. The best place to find it is from another herb gardener; the tiny seedlings are very easy to propagate. You can also buy thyme from a nursery when herbs are being sold in the spring.

5. Tansy

Tansy is a fragrant member of the aster family

Tansy is a perennial herbaceous flowering plant that adapts well to indoor use.

©Dominicus Johannes Bergsma / CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons – License

Tansy isn’t as familiar as many other recommendations on this list, but it is a strong ant-repellant. And tansy will provide you with flowers, whether planted indoors or out! Both the leaves and flowers of tansy are strongly scented and will keep ants away.

Be sure to plant tansy in a location that receives six or more hours of sunlight daily. Provide monthly fertilizer during the growing season for best results and abundant flowers. Tansy is hardy in USDA Zones 3-8. It is sold as an ornamental plant in most commercial garden centers in these zones. You can also order tansy seeds from many online seed catalogs.

6. Garlic

harvested hardneck and softneck garlic

Garlic has long been used as a natural insect repellant.

©iStock.com/PlazacCameraman

You can grow garlic or use store-bought garlic bulbs to keep ants away. Interplanting garlic bulbs among your flower beds is a time-tested trick to deter insects. Many gardeners have long used a mixture of garlic and onions to keep insects from destroying their other vegetables. You can use this trick to keep ants away!

Plant organic garlic bulbs in the soil two or three inches deep in the fall; they will sprout and multiply in the spring. To use store-bought cloves, crush them in a shallow dish and place them on the ground near doors and windows to deter ants. Garlic is hardy in USDA Zones 1-5 but can grow in warmer climates. It requires a ten-week period of cold weather for the best crop. You can use store-bought organic garlic bulbs for planting.

7. Marigolds

Are Marigolds Poisonous - Marigold flower

The Marigold is a fragrant flower that thrives in full sun.

©EQRoy/Shutterstock.com

This last insect-repellant plant is not an herb. Marigold is a highly fragrant flower that is great at keeping ants away. You can grow marigolds outside during the summer and then take them inside to overwinter. If done this way, you can keep your marigold plant vibrant and healthy for many years. Marigolds are hardy in USDA Zones 2-10 but are usually sold as an annual because they get quite scraggly with age. Marigolds are sold in most commercial garden centers in the spring and summer.

Summary of the 7 Plants that Keep Ants Away

NumberPlant
1Rosemary
2Lavender
3Mint
4Thyme
5Tansy
6Garlic
7Marigold

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Valeriy Lushchikov


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About the Author

Heather Hall is a writer at A-Z Animals, where her primary focus is on plants and animals. Heather has been writing and editing since 2012 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture. As a resident of the Pacific Northwest, Heather enjoys hiking, gardening, and trail running through the mountains with her dogs.

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