There is an old saying about it being a good thing to bring the outdoors indoors… but it does not apply to bugs. Ants have a nasty tendency to invite themselves into your house where they can search for water, food, and shelter, and they make lousy houseguests.
Ants, much like many pests, rely on their sense of smell to find food and shelter. Chrysanthemums, lavender, sage, rosemary, thyme, garden mint, basil, and garlic are just some plants you can use to deter ants. Place these plants in entryways and areas where ants frequent to repel them.
Keep reading to discover how to use these plants to keep ants out of your home!
How Do You Know What Kind of Ants Are In Your House?
You can identify ants by habitat, behavior, size, color, and something else you might not have heard of… nodes.
One node ants include carpenter ants, cornfield ants, false (small) honey ants, field ants, larger yellow ants, and the skunks of the ant world, odorous house ants.
On the other hand, two node ants include the hilariously named thief ants (they steal!), pharaoh ants, pavement ants, and acrobat ants.
According to the University of Minnesota, there are two general types of ants, and they are classified by nodes.
Take a close look at an ant… they look a little like they are put together with Legos. The most noticeable parts are the head and the gaster, which is what holds the heart and digestive system.
The gaster also holds the stinger or spray opening (if the ant belongs to the “spritz my enemies with acid” club).
Nodes are… well, think of them as the trailer hitch. They are connectors to the rest of the ant body that lets the ant pivot and flex its gaster so it can defend itself with whatever biological weapons it’s got.
Counting nodes is one of the easiest ways to narrow down the possibilities when you are trying to identify the ants in your lawn, woodpile, or kitchen cabinets.
Why Is It Important to Know What Kind of Ants You Have?
You need to know your invader! With so many species of ants around, not knowing which one you’re dealing with means you can’t target your pest control efforts for maximum effectiveness.
Knowing what they are tells you what they eat (super important!), where they nest, when they swarm, if they sting, and whether you are likely to get up in the middle of the night and see any invading your bathroom.
Other ants, for instance, can be outdoor ants and ruin your lawn instead of your house.
Why Are Ants Repelled By Aromatic Houseplants?
You can plant strongly scented plants like lavender, rosemary, basil, garden mint, and catnip outside the house or you can keep them indoors as kitchen or decorative plants.
Ants hate aromatic plants because they disrupt the scent trails they use to communicate with each other. In some cases, the plant chemicals actively irritate the ants and can mask food potential food sources due to their pungent aroma.
Fortunately, the plants that hate ants about as much as you do are pretty easy to grow. If you are ready to grow some pretty pesticides from scratch, we’ve got the help you need.
If you’d like to learn more about scents that repel ants and not just houseplants, check out our guide: 12 Scents That Ants Hate (and How to Use Them)
Chrysanthemums Repel Ants
Your mother probably had chrysanthemums in a pot or along her front walk, and you probably never knew that she was keeping ants away from her door!
Chrysanthemums are pretty flowers that contain a potent ant-repellent, but you will need to plant them in sufficient quantities to make a difference. You’d want to do that anyway, though, because they’re pretty.
Where to plant chrysanthemums to repel ants: Chrysanthemums do well in full sun, so anywhere you have a sunny window or sun-drenched bit of garden, they’ll fill in nicely… and ants won’t! Just make sure that wherever you place the chrysanthemums is where you’re trying to repel ants.
Sage Repels Ants
Sage is instantly recognizable for its silvery-furred soft leaves and the distinctive scent the leaves release when you rub them. Sage has a home in a lot of kitchen gardens because of its place in making your grandmother’s stuffing recipe and compound butters.
It is also a great herb to add to your garden when you have small children. The velvety leaves invite them to engage… which is the opposite of the reaction ants have when they smell this plant.
Where to plant sage to repel ants: Sage works indoors and out, but it needs full sun and hates being soggy, so be careful with your watering. Sage does well in ornamental planters outside your doors.
Lavender Keeps Ants Away
Thankfully for us, lavender can keep ants away from desired areas of your home! Lavender is quite pungent in itself. There’s a good chance that you’ve had the opportunity to be near a lavender plant at some point in your life.
As lavender has a very strong scent, it masks any food sources that ants may be trying to find. Additionally, its scent is overpowering and ants will not want to go near it as a result.
Where to plant lavender to repel ants: You can place lavender plants or even use a spray containing lavender essential oil like Wondercide’s Lavender Indoor Pest Control Spray in areas where you’re trying to keep ants out.
Ants Hate Rosemary Plants
One herb you probably have in your spice rack right now, rosemary is an indoor kitchen garden favorite for two things: the fresh flavor it gives to chicken, lamb, and potatoes and the lovely bright smell… which is exactly what ants hate about it.
Rosemary does well potted on your windowsill or in ornamental planters outside your doors.
Where to plant rosemary to repel ants: Rosemary does not like the cold, so either start it indoors or keep it indoors until it gets warm. It likes bright indirect sunlight, well-drained soil, and long walks in the garden… no, wait, that’s the ants you are trying to keep out of your house.
Thyme Deters Ants
Thyme is another member of the mint family and does the same duty as its cousins by keeping ants far from itself. As it’s another strong scented plant, it can mask potential food sources that ants usually go after and repel them!
Where to plant thyme to repel ants: Thyme is a great container plant and does well in the kitchen or anywhere else you want to put it where ants frequent. Give it full sun and keep the ants away!
Spearmint And Peppermint Repel Ants
Do not let those newfangled mint plants out there fool you. Peppermint and spearmint work pretty well to deter ants from ever looking at your house, but you can also use it as an insecticide. You will be able to make a soothing tea from your garden mint if you need a pick me up.
Mighty Mint Spray is a solid choice for eliminating creepy-crawly ants (and other bugs) in a way that smells good.
Where to plant peppermint and spearmint to repel ants: These mint plants like sun. Mint also likes shade. Mint can grow pretty much anywhere and it will. If you plant it outside and don’t contain it properly, you are going to have a lot more mint plants than you started with. We cannot help but think it’s not a bad thing, especially if you are looking to keep ants away.
If you do not want it to take over an outdoor bed, keep it in a planter. There have not been any reports of indoor mint going outside and mugging your petunias, so as long as you keep it inside, your outdoor plants will be fine!
Basil Keeps Ants Away
Otherwise known as “that green stuff on Caprese” or the secret ingredient in your favorite pasta sauce or pesto, basil easily makes it as an annual potted houseplant.
The only problem with this one is the amount of sun it needs, so if you have a sunny kitchen window, that’s where your basil is going to want to hang out.
Where to plant basil to repel ants: Somewhere with plenty of sun so that basil can grow properly and reach its full scent peak. If you have a large living room with glass windows and plenty of sun, basil should do well here and be able to penetrate areas where ants frequent. Make sure to water your basil frequently
Garlic Deters Ants From Your Home
We could insert the expected vampire joke here, but you’re looking to keep ants out of your house, not Dracula.
Fortunately, you do not have to choose… garlic grown as a house plant will keep both away. Grown as a houseplant in your kitchen (you know, next to your basil in that sunny window?), your garlic plantings will grow crisp green garlic leaves for you to use in your recipes.
Growth note: Garlic can grow quickly. You can plant a bulb (or a bunch of bulbs) in a container of water (yay, hydroponics!) and have harvestable garlic leaves within two weeks.
Where to plant garlic to repel ants: Anywhere you have sun, but garlic also does well outside in the garden. To keep ants away, plant it near entrances to your house.
Do not plant garlic when the weather is warm. Do your planting during the cooler months. Of course, if you are planting on your kitchen counter, you can do whatever you want.
Why Do Ants Avoid Some Indoor And Outdoor Plants Anyway?
In a word… VOCs. Which is technically three words made into one word, but it works. Volatile Organic Compounds are chemicals that plants make that act as irritants or “keep off me” signals to insects.
Ants may be great for soil, but they aren’t always great for plants. They are too small and too smooth to be good pollinators, and they may chase away the plant’s preferred pollinators. Some plants have developed ways to make ants stay back without bugging the insects they want, like bees.
Do I Need to Keep Ants Out Of My House?
Most of the time, ants are great. They help partially pollinate plants, condition soil and help move seeds so that they can germinate away from their parent plant. You’ve probably even seen them moving the occasional dead bug off the sidewalk. Talk about being civic-minded!
But just because ants are good neighbors outside your house doesn’t mean you want them to become roommates.
Ants themselves rarely cause problems for you unless you are allergic to their sting, which does occasionally happen. Unfortunately, according to a study by the PMC Us National Library of Medicine, these tiny critters can cause quite a few other issues.
Besides, do you want them on your counter? (No, you don’t, so if you have a serious problem with ants, hit up your local trusted exterminator or pest professional for top-of-the-line help. You should never try to handle a major pest issue on your own.)
How Can You Keep Ants Out of Your House?
The best defense to keep ants out is a good offense. That means making sure you have caulked around the edges of the house, keeping your food (especially pet food) sealed, and keeping your house as clean as you can.
Pro-Tip: if you have an ant trail in your house, mix up a quick solution of 1-part water to 1-part white vinegar and spray away. It is a great non-toxic way to disrupt the pheromone trail ants lay down as they search for food and water. Besides, it eliminates ants with no side effects on people or pets.
But if you don’t have a current ant problem and want to keep it that way without using harsh or potentially toxic chemicals, there’s another way to keep ants out of your house.
One of the most common household pests, ants are social insects that live in colonies containing thousands of members, everything from eggs to adults. While ant colonies can live anywhere, including your house, you can control them naturally if you know what houseplants and indoor plants to use.
Additionally, you can use some of these plants to keep ants out of your room as well. More on why there may be ants in your room in our article: Here’s Why Ants Are In Your Room (Even If There’s No Food)
How Many Kinds of Ants Are There?
As common as ants are, it’s kind of surprising how few of the ant species are actual concerns for humans. Out of the 12,400 species in the world, only a relative handful create problems for people by spreading disease or damaging houses and structures.
If you would like to keep your ants outside where they belong, but you don’t want to commit to using commercial pesticides and sprays of dubious safety, using the plants on this list as part of your indoor and outdoor landscaping is a great way to keep them there.
Thanks for reading!
Aglave, S. N. P. B. (2017). Small Plot Experimental Study for Testing Efficacy of ant Repelling Activity of Essential Oils. International Journal of Biotechnology and Biochemistry, 13(4), 403-412.
Simothy, L., Mahomoodally, F., & Neetoo, H. (2018). A study on the potential of ants to act as vectors of foodborne pathogens. AIMS Microbiology, 4(2), 319–333
Ueda, H., Kikuta, Y., & Matsuda, K. (2012). Plant communication. Plant Signaling & Behavior, 7(2), 222–226.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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