Chances are, if you’ve been on this site for very long, you’ve heard us mention complimentary gardening.
Sometimes referred to as companion planting, this technique takes advantage of the natural properties in plants to attract beneficial insects, repel pests, and regulate water or soil quality.
Companion planting, when done right, can yield enough wheat for a loaf of bread in 10 square feet, plus herbs to add flavor and even some pretty flowers for the table!
But the particular aspect we’ll be looking at here is in pest control, namely ants.
Harvester and leafcutter ants can strip the leaves off of your plants, and ants are also known to protect many common piercing pests or bugs from natural predators in exchange for their honeydew.
Before investing in harsh chemicals for the next spring planting, consider using these plants instead as a natural (and often tasty) remedy.
What are Some Plants that Repel Ants?
There are quite a few plants out there that make ants think twice about invading your garden.
Here are some of the most common ones.
When the Catholic Church began absorbing pagan religions, they took special note of how garlic was used to repel all sorts of folklore monsters that hunted through scent, such as the wampyr (vampire) and lycanthropes.
Today, we know that garlic (Allium sativum) actually does repel a number of pests, from ants all the way up to rodents and ex-boyfriends.
When planted in the garden, these plants form a protective barrier that few unwanted critters will dare pass, while not hindering beneficial insects.
Garlic also has numerous health benefits for people, although research has debunked some of its more extreme “miracle cure qualities”.
One of the most beloved scents for humans just so happens to be a nightmare for ants.
Not only does lavender make for a lovely floral display, it attracts important pollinators such as honey bees and butterflies, which will then pollinate the rest of your garden.
The heady scent of lavender is too much for ants, however, and planting these in front of taller shrubs or trees can result in an ant-proof barrier that you’ll love.
For those new to lavender, French lavender (Lavandula dentata and Lavandula stoechas) can be a great, easy to care for starter plant.
This wonderful herb contains citronella, a natural chemical famous for repelling ants, mosquitoes, and many other pests.
While some species of lemongrass (Cymbopogon spp.) are known for their culinary uses, others are used in beekeeping and folk medicine.
Another great benefit of lemongrass is its common use as an ornamental hedge or privacy screen, with perennial growth reaching more than 6’ feet tall.
Marigolds actually hail from a few different genera, with the common marigold (Calendula officinalis) and four species in the genus Tagetes being the most popular.
An added bonus is the fact that the common marigold is actually edible and tastes great in salads.
Not only are these plants often fun starters for kids, but they have a reputation for repelling a wide range of pests and looking pretty while doing so.
As these plants can be as small as 6” inches (depending on the species), they work great as a low barrier to taller plants and can repel ants, nematodes, and even deer.
However, they can be attacked by some species of aphid, as well as spider mites and slugs, so they’re not a one-and-done solution to every problem.
Mint is perhaps one of the best plants out there for complimentary gardening.
It repels a wide range of pests, including ants, and has countless uses in the home and kitchen.
Most gardeners stick to peppermint (Mentha × piperita) or spearmint (Mentha spicata), but you can also try more exotic varieties such as apple mint (Mentha suaveolens), corn mint (Mentha arvensis) or pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium).
This amazing kitchen herb is equally amazing in the garden.
When you plant rosemary around larger plants, the wonderful aroma will repel several pests, including ants.
It can then be harvested for use in the kitchen as well as numerous folk and home remedies and even crafts.
But one thing you might not know is that rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus) and its many cultivars can be grown perennially as hedges, attracting butterflies and bees to your garden while producing beautiful floral displays.
One of those fun little flowering plants you don’t hear much about, tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) has attractive yellow flowers and a long history of uses in food and medicine, although it can be toxic in large quantities.
The plant, especially when in bloom, can repel a wide range of pests, including ants, cutworms, Japanese beetles, and some species of mosquito.
Even better, the plant is known to attract ladybugs, which are a natural predator of aphids and other pests that ants will try and protect.
The scent of a tansy is not unpleasant and has often been describes as “camphor with a hint of rosemary”.
Another great kitchen herb, thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is actually related to mint and is well-known for repelling ants, aphids, and rabbits.
The herb itself can be harvested for culinary uses, but also has medicinal properties and was traditionally used for incense in many cultures.
Why These Plants Work
If you look closely, you’ll find that all of these plants have something in common – a strong scent.
Ants use scent as a primary means of communication, laying trails to food sources and to warn of dangerous areas.
The scent of these plants can be detected by ants and actually overpowers the scent trails, making ants become disoriented.
As a result, workers will try to avoid getting too close to the plants, instead detouring around said aromatic plants so their trails can be detected by fellow workers.
Some Other Great Ant Repellers
There are so many ant repelling plants out there that we couldn’t possibly list them all in one article.
Here are some other great choices we just couldn’t leave out: