If you’ve ever left your door open for half a minute during the summer, you’ve had a fly incursion. Did you know that you could use houseplants to keep flies from ever wanting to come in in the first place?
There are a few main houseplants that can repel flies. Some of the most common include peppermint, lemongrass, lavender, basil, and catnip. The natural aroma of the plants blocks other scents that attract flies, causing them to be confused and stay away from the area.
If you hate having flies in your house as much as we do, keep reading for a reliable list of houseplants and indoor plants known to help repel houseflies ready to help you!
Identifying What Kind Of Fly Is In Your Home
Most of the time, flies fall into two categories… annoying and more annoying.
OK, that’s not true. Most flies in the home are actually measured by size. According to the Illinois Department Of Public Health, they’re classed as large or small filth flies (but no matter what size they are, they’re still annoying).
Oh, and mosquitoes. Yes, they count as filth flies, too.
Large filth flies include:
- House flies (the kind you’re probably battling every summer when you leave the windows open)
- cluster flies
- stable flies
- blow flies (greenbottle and bluebottle varieties)
- flesh flies
Large filth flies are built on the bigger side for flies, thicker and fatter than their small fly cousins. They’re strong fliers that constantly looking for their next meal or a moist place to lay eggs: dead animals, trash, rotting material, and poop.
Small filth flies include:
- fruit flies
- fungus gnats
- phorid flies
- drain flies
Small filth flies are delicately built and harder to see and deal with. They don’t want to compete with their bigger kin for food and resources.
These little buggers come up through your drains, in your fruits and veggies, and are tiny enough to fit right through that window screen you’re counting on to keep bugs out.
Small filth flies are the ones living (and laying eggs) in the sludge in your drain or feasting on that overripe fruit on your counter, or even the fungus you didn’t know you had growing in the dark recesses of your bathroom or kitchen cabinet.
House flies are the small, dull blackish kinds of bugs you’ve probably swatted at your whole life.
They have a habit of landing and rubbing their legs together to clean off their chemoreceptors so they can smell out their next target (which is generally when you try to swat them).
House flies aren’t as large or flashy as bottle flies with their blue or green metallic carapaces, but they are the ones more prone to be found in your house rather than your yard.
House flies are capable of laying up to a whopping 500 eggs in their lifetimes, so getting rid of them as soon as you see them is your best bet!
House flies also like to find their way inside during the winter when it is cold. Luckily during these times, there are a few great ways to get rid of them!
What Attracts Flies Anyway?
According to research published in Biodiversity, flies are both important pollinators that ensure agricultural diversity and a large part of the food chain.
All that usefulness means that flies are attracted to pretty much anything… including anything you don’t want them attracted to.
If it’s wet, smelly, ripe, decomposing, and/or moist, they’re interested in it. And they’re either going to eat it or lay eggs in it.
That includes the contents of your trash can, anything left in the cat box or the yard after the dog does his thing, any animal that might have crawled into your attic and not made it out, wet leaves in your front yard, your garden compost heap… anywhere there’s something that’s rotting and/or moisture.
Not All Flies Want The Same Things
You might be surprised to know that not all flies want the same things!
Stable flies want blood; they bite animals (and people, they’re not picky) and nest in wet hay. The flashier green and blue bottle flies are perfectly happy to buzz around your garbage looking for that perfect bit of rotting matter.
Small filth flies are a different problem. You probably already know to toss rotting fruit so you don’t risk fruit flies, but you might not know that you should clean your drain traps to keep drain flies away.
Human habits make easy habitats for these pests and their yucky offspring, so a few simple adjustments to your lifestyle can make a world of difference when it comes to keeping flies out of your house.
How Plants Actually Work To Repel Flies
Aromatic plants have high concentrations of scents that flies find gross… which is fine because you find them gross and don’t want them around.
When I say they find them “gross” in actuality, the smells are A: not attractive to flies and B: will typically mask other scents that MAY attract flies.
Basically, the scents’ chemical makeup is meant to protect the plant and benefit it in one way or another (mostly by attracting and repelling foes)
Generally, many plants can also help repel flies from ever wanting to darken your doorstep (or windowsill) because some of them have natural insecticidal properties due to their natural makeup and aroma.
While most of the plants on our list can be planted anywhere, there are a few that you’d do better to plant in pots or boxes.
For starters, a tidy window box full of peppermint doesn’t just look nice; peppermint is a space hog wherever you put it.
To keep invasive plants from bullying their way around your garden, keep them confined to planters. There are plenty of good, Self-Watering Planter Pots that will make your sunny kitchen window into a miniature fly-repelling Garden of Eden.
Other plants prefer well-drained soil, and that’s always easier to manage if you’re dealing with pots rather than flower beds.
12 Plants That Flies Hate (and You’ll Love)
Flies are strong fliers that can travel miles for a meal, and they find their food by scent (remember the yucky stuff they like?), so any strong-smelling plants will disrupt their feeding patterns.
Here’s a list of 12 easy-to-grow plants that you can grow in and around your house to keep them from thinking that your house smells like their next dinner option.
Please note, using houseplants to repel any pests are highly variable as there are many factors that can influence its effectiveness. For best success, make sure that your plant is the strongest smelling thing in the room or area!
You’ll probably want to plant your peppermint in pots because it’s the kind of plant that will take a mile if you give it an inch.
Of course, if you don’t mind having a garden bed full of peppermint, maybe that’s not a problem. If you plant anything else with it, though, you run the risk of your non-mint plants being crowded out.
Peppermint smells gorgeous when you bruise the leaves, so getting a lovely fragrance right outside your window is easy. Your local fly population will hate you for it, which is kind of the point.
Where You Should Plant Peppermint To Repel Flies
Hardy, gorgeous peppermint grows easily in well-drained soil and needs good light, so look for sunny spots for it to thrive. Outdoor window boxes or indoor window gardens will do nicely.
You might be more familiar with the benefits of geranium oil for your skin and hair than you are with how well it repels bugs, but planting geraniums in your garden (or in nice planters near your doors) will help keep flies out of your territory (maybe that’s why geranium is said to be good for relaxation?)
Geraniums come in a variety of colors, so they’ll always provide the perfect pop of color in the planters and beds around your house.
Where To Plant Geranium To Repel Flies
Geraniums love sunlight as long as they get a bit of a shade break in the afternoon, water (but not too much or too often), and open air. While they’re good in pots, they also like good drainage.
If you know someone who already has geraniums, you can propagate them yourself from a plant cutting!
Lemongrass is easy to grow; you don’t even need to buy seeds (although you can if you want). You can regrow the plant from the herb you bought at the grocery store to make dinner or tea with!
It grows tall (several feet tall if you let it), though, so keep that in mind when you put it in that sunny window. Of course, you can take plant cuttings of your lemongrass any time you want to add some bright flavor to food
Where To Plant Lemongrass To Repel Flies
Anywhere there’s sun. Lemongrass needs good light and good watering. Unlike some plants on our list, they’re good drinkers!
Cheerful, fluffy-headed marigolds with their dense petals are so easy to grow that they’re usually the first flower you learn to plant as a youngin’.
Marigold comes in a lot of varieties and a handful of warm colors that look perky and cheerful in pots around the house or liven up those big planters on your porch.
Just make sure you aren’t buying a scentless hybrid marigold. You want them as strong-smelling as possible to repel flies (scentless ones will deter Japanese beetles).
Once you get marigolds in the ground, they’re pretty foolproof. And once they’re growing, their scent will deter whiteflies and carrot flies.
Where to plant Marigolds To Repel Flies
Sun-loving and unfussy once established, marigolds can be planted anywhere. They’re an annual that can be encouraged to bloom more by deadheading any flowers that die off.
Big or small, there’s a variety of chrysanthemum that works in your area. And you want chrysanthemums in your house plants because they repel flies, root nematodes, grasshoppers, and other pests. These showy, colorful plants look great anywhere you plant them.
Where To Plant Chrysanthemums To Repel Flies
Chrysanthemums contain the chemical pyrethrin, a natural insecticide. You can clip flowers and place them In areas you have bug incursions, but blooming chrysanthemums will deter flies if you put them in window boxes or planters near entrances.
Sun and good drainage are things that mums need to stay happy. Don’t let them get soggy. Near windows or any other natural light source where flies enter is an ideal spot.
Gorgeous, fresh-smelling lavender bushes look as good as they smell. As an added bonus, lavender also works to repel flies. We already know that flies are attracted to things that stink.
Lavender comes in several varieties, including Portuguese, English, French/Spanish, French Fringed, and Egyptian. While each varietal is a little different, they all carry that fresh fragrance that lowers people’s stress. Maybe that’s why flies hate it?
Lavender can get tall, but they’re still completely doable as indoor plants as long as you have the right container. You can propagate fly-repelling lavender from seed or cuttings (just put them in sandy soil).
Bonus: besides being nice houseplants, you can use lavender essential oil to make homemade anti-fly spray.
Where To Plant Lavender To Repel Flies
Anywhere with a lot of sun most of the day and good drainage!
Lavender hates being perpetually damp; it’s a Mediterranean plant and it likes sun, but not wind. Keep it sheltered from strong winds if you put it outside your entranceways.
Rosemary is one of the oldest medicinal herbs known to man and a kitchen garden favorite for two things: the fresh flavor it gives to chicken, lamb, and potatoes and the lovely bright smell… which is what flies hate about it.
You probably have some dried rosemary in your spice rack right now, but you want fresh to keep flies out of your indoor space.
Where To Plant Rosemary To Repel Flies
Rosemary can be grown from cuttings and does well potted on your windowsill or in ornamental planters outside your doors.
Rosemary doesn’t like the cold, so either start it indoors or keep it indoors until it gets warm. It likes bright indirect sunlight and well-drained soil.
Sweet, holy, Italian, or lemon… basil comes in a bunch of varieties!
This tall, tender green plant easily fits in 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.
In addition to being a tasty flavoring, basil’s fresh scent repels several bugs, including flies.
Where To Plant Basil To Repel Flies
Somewhere with plenty of sun. Think near a kitchen window or even in your living room! Remember, keep the plants near where flies may get a whiff of scent to enter.
Pro tip: Make sure you don’t overwater! Not only does overwatering hurt the plant, but it can cause its scent to be less pungent, leading to more flies!
Catnip is the kind of plant that can be grown anywhere, but if you plant it carelessly, it will try and take over a bed or garden plot like some kind of chlorophyll-based Napoleon.
On the other hand, you want catnip in your window boxes, by your doors, and especially near any pastures because certain kinds of flies don’t want to mess with it (stable flies, to be exact).
Where To Plant Catnip To Repel Flies
Catnip, a member of the insect-repelling mint family, thrives in well-drained soil and a sunny spot. You can get seeds, but it’s better to propagate catnip from a young plant.
Pro tip: You’ll keep away biting stable flies, but you’ll have a better chance of attracting cats.
Ever notice that you don’t see a lot of flies in a pine forest? There’s a reason for that. If you’re lucky enough to have pine trees on your property already, they’re already working their fresh-scented magic and repelling flies.
Pine trees aren’t indoor plants, but they do start small. You can always grow pine saplings in a nice-sized planter just outside your door for a fly-repellent that’s decorative and functional!
Pro-Tip: You can grow pine trees from seed, but make sure you pick varieties that grow in your area. You can start your own if you can find female cones (the larger ones). Pine seeds need to be planted in warmer weather, like late summer.
Where To Plant Pine Trees To Repel Flies
Pine seedlings need sun – but not too much sun – and careful watering. You can buy a bare-root seedling or pick a container-grown seedling. Either way, pines grow without too much trouble.
Like we mentioned earlier, you can grow pine tree saplings just outside your doorway but you’ll eventually have to transplant them.
When you transplant a pine tree, make sure they have plenty of space and there are no other tree root systems in the way.
However, you may be better off getting a pine of the dwarf spruce variety instead or an arborvitae that will stay at a good size so you can actually keep the tree there!
The evergreen shrub rue is a pretty, lacy-leafed plant with a long history that doesn’t get much play anymore.
What does get a lot of play is rue plants’ ability to make flies do a quick turn-around when they smell it. Fruit flies especially hate this plant. Wear gloves when working with it.
Where To Plant Rue To Repel Flies
Anywhere you get good sun and have well-drained soil. Rue grows between one and three feet tall and can grow from seeds or cuttings. Try in your front yard garden bed!
How To Get Flies Out Of Your House If They’re Already Inside
If you see large concentrations of flies in or around an area, you should start looking around for whatever died in your house, or check for hidden pockets where liquified food might have been trapped (like in a drain).
A serious fly infestation should always be handled by a professional exterminator.
You can usually handle small incursions with a fly swatter and enough arm strength. With those compound eyes, flies can see danger coming and they almost always respond faster than humans can, so it might be better to break out your favorite fly killer instead.
How To Prevent Flies From Getting Inside Your House
Of course, the best way to handle flies in the house is to never get them at all!
- Keep trash areas as clean as possible
- Clean as often as you can
- Treat your drains with a sludge cleaner to clear out any infested muck in your pipes
- Make sure you don’t overwater plants or leave fruit to go overripe on your countertops
- Put out sticky traps in any plant pots that you bring indoors for the winter
Of course, everyone has off days where things aren’t as squeaky clean as you like, or where something got in that shouldn’t have. That’s where our handy plant list comes in.
If you want to use a spray, you should look for the type that contains the most natural ingredients. We recommend Wondercide Indoor Pest Control Spray as a good start!
That’s A Wrap!
These 11 plants will liven up your décor and keep flies – and their messes – out of your house.
Even better, you can plant them together in arrangements to double down on their fly-repelling abilities. Fresh or dried, you’ll always have a natural, fresh-smelling way to keep flies out of your house if you plant these.
Happy fly repelling!
Sun, Y. P., & Johnson, E. (1960). Analysis of joint action of insecticides against house flies. Journal of economic entomology, 53(5), 887-892.
Geden, C. J. (2012). Status of biopesticides for control of house flies.
Crosskey, R. W., & Lane, R. P. (1993). House-flies, blow-flies and their allies (calyptrate Diptera). In Medical insects and arachnids (pp. 403-428). Springer, Dordrecht.
Hinkle, N. C., & Hogsette, J. A. (2021). A review of alternative controls for house flies. Insects, 12(11), 1042.
Spiller, D. (1966). House flies. Insect colonization and mass production, 203-255.
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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