If you’re looking up plants that repel aphids for a current infestation in your home garden, in this post I share several natural ways to get rid of them, including homemade natural spray options.
However, it’s good to first know why the best way to deal with aphids is to NOT get rid of them completely.
Aphids are a significant food source in organic gardens for beneficial insects and small birds nested in nearby shrubs or trees who consume them.
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Why Plants That Repel Aphids Work Better Than Natural Sprays
When you use natural insecticides, you put your garden full of aphid-repellent plants, beneficial insects, spiders, parasitoids and birds at risk.
Spraying organic insecticides disrupts a garden’s natural balance. Beneficial insects can be killed by natural sprays. But worse is that their food source gets taken away.
All these wonderful aphid predators are able to maintain a low number of aphids for you if you can sustain their ideal environment. Their ideal environment is basically a healthy, organic garden.
When building up a healthy, organic garden, plants that repel aphids are an important part of it. A naturally pest resistant garden is possibly due specific aphid-repelling compounds (also called allelochemicals) in specific plants. These compounds are where their signature scents and tastes come from. And for aphids, powerful scents will make them go.
Plants Have Natural Defense Systems We Can Utilize
From Basil’s eugenol and estragole to Rosemary’s powerful Camphor and Eucalyptus-like 1,8-cineole, all of these plants that repel aphids have organic compounds which are proven to repel aphids. These pest repelling natural chemicals they produce are how they defend themselves.
Unlike with natural sprays, there are no downsides to companion plant aphid-repelling plants in your garden. On the contrary, there are only upsides. These plants also attract beneficial insects and pollinators.
What Aphids Look Like
Here are some aphids on a potted plant sitting outside my window. They’re in some type of trance on this local, wild plant’s stem that grew within this pot. This was quite convenient for this blog post, as I no longer will use images from elsewhere (you can ask me why if you want).
Personal note on camera/photography:
This gave me a chance to use this mirrorless camera my brother gave me. He gave me his old Sony Alpha a6000 after upgrading to a newer Sony a-series mirrorless. I guess these mirrorless cameras are the new DSLRs. Compared to my Nikon DSLR, which has been gathering dust since I’ve given in and re-joined the smart phone world, this Sony a6000 IS easier to handle and carry around my shoulder.
I’m no photographer, but I managed to capture one or two usable pictures with the mirrorless, while the iPhone X, as good as its camera is, could not handle these tiny aphids on the tiny stem. Not with the stuff going on behind them. It could only focus in on the background plants. This tells me that smart phones indeed cannot replace real professional cameras, mirrorless or DSLR. I will come back to this post to add more aphid pictures with the mirrorless or Nikon.
How To Identify An Aphid
The main identification marker when you see an aphid will be its tube-like cornicles which protrude from the tail end of their abdomen. These are referred to as their “exhaust pipes” or “tailpipes.” I’ve circled them in red in the picture below:
Some have much smaller and harder-to-see tailpipes. These red aphids in the picture above have easy to see cornicles. Aphids vary in size and color. They range in size anywhere from 1 mm to 10 mm.
Aphids are soft bodied, tiny insects that are quick to fall of any plant they’re on if you’re manually removing them. They are sucking insects. They pierce and then suck out a plant’s sap. Some have tiny wings, others no. But they do all possess a set of cornicles.
Of the 4,000 species of aphids that exist on Earth (400 in North America, 500 in Britain), around 250 of these 4,000 aphid species are garden pests that attack food producing crops, herbs and flowering plants.
What An Aphid Infestation Looks Like
Here’s a semi-recent aphid infestation picture from a kale plant growing in a backyard garden bed.
As you can see from the single like, I’m quite the influencer.
A few kale leaves have been infested, while the rest are healthy. By letting nature take its course on this little garden bed, these handful of kale leaves somehow became trap leaves.
My Son’s Aphid (4-Years Old)
I told my son about aphids and asked him to draw me one for this blog post. I showed him some aphid pictures and then he drew me this. The “No Eyfedzs” message was a bonus. And FYI, the first “s” in “Eyfedss” is actually a “z” and he knows it’s backwards, he said.
Why Aphid Populations Need To Be Kept Low
Although aphids (a.k.a. greenflies or blackflies) are such tiny insects, they reproduce quickly. In ideal conditions, it takes days before you have a massive aphid problem in your garden. An aphid’s ideal condition would be the opposite of a beneficial insect’s ideal condition. They will jump on a weak plant over a robust and healthy one.
Aphids are problematic for home gardeners because of the significant damage they can inflict on the garden and any indoor or outdoor plants. They can:
- Spread plant disease
- Yellow and morph leaf shape
- Stunt plant growth
- Make honeydew which attracts ants, who then farm them.
- Reduce plant yields
The most significant damage from aphids comes from their ability to transmit plant disease and viruses like the Cucumber mosaic virus, Celery mosaic virus among many others.
A virus can be transmitted by a single aphid. However the risk is much higher when they’ve congregated and their populations have grown high as a result.
Use Pest Control Plants To Control Aphids Naturally!
While aphids are quick to overpopulate and inflict damage on your garden, they are also one of the easier pests to manage organically.
All of these live plants that repel aphids are highly effective and proven to actually reduce aphid numbers and damage simply by companion planting them nearby vegetable crops at risk for aphid attacks.
14 Plants That Repel Aphids (supported by research)
This list includes aphid-repelling plants that all contain specific compounds within them, proven to be affective against aphids. Each plant will share at least one of these studies on its use as a live-plant against aphids.
- Each on the list is scientifically proven to repel aphids.
- Companion planting, Growing, Culinary and Medicinal usage tips are added for each plant.
- Take these as general companion planting guidelines for each of these aphid repelling plants. Results will depend on various factors like soil health, location and weather conditions.
1. Chives – Allium schoenoprasum
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum), being members of the Allium family, possess the notoriously powerful pest-repelling compounds, allicin and alliin. These Allium compounds are responsible for chives’ signature taste and smell.
And chives don’t just give off a powerful in scent that is otherwise harmless. Their aroma is a useful tool.
In this 2017 Insects journal published study, live chive plants were able to effectively repel green peach aphids (Myzus persicae) due to the concept of scent masking.
The chives’ powerful aroma stuck to the host plant, cayenne pepper (Capsicum annuum), making it less attractive to the aphids, and ultimately repelling them.
In the quote below on scent masking, HP stands for Host Plant (the plant that needs protecting). And CP stands for Companion Plant (the companion plant that repels aphids)
…M. persicae is normally attracted by their HP (sweet pepper, Capsicum annuum) and repelled by the odor of chives (Allium schoenoprasum). When the odors of the two plants are blended, aphids were neither attracted nor repelled by their plant host.
However, five days later, the sweet pepper alone became repellent to the aphids. Authors suggested that the odor of chives adheres on the leaves of sweet pepper, masking its odor and preventing sweet pepper identification by the aphid.
The simplest explanation is an interaction between the CP and HP that generates an odor blend unrecognizable by aphids.– Ben-Issa R, et al. 2017, Insects.
Companion Planting Chives
Chives are one of those plants that you can grow almost anywhere. They don’t damage or get damaged by most crops when planted next to. On the contrary, many crops are known to grow better next to chives (from broccoli to strawberry).
Plants To NOT Plant Next To Chives
The ones NOT to plant next to chives due to soil nutrient competition are asparagus, peas, spinach and beans, as these will compete for similar soil nutrients (source).
More Chives Tips:
- Growing – Harvest often for more spreading and faster growth.
- Cooking – the flower and its stalk are both edible, but tougher than just chive leaves. Usually eaten raw or light cooked as a flavor enhancer (Miso, many asian dishes).
- Medicinal – Chives have been used alongside their allium relatives in traditional medicine since as long as we can record. Chives are said to be able to cleanse you internally as well as boost your immune system.
2. Garlic – Allium sativum
There are compounds within a live Garlic plant (Allium sativum) that have been scientifically proven as effective against aphids.
The Journal of Applied Entomology in 2002 put out a study showing Cabbage aphid (Brevicoryne brassicae) populations on cabbage crops reduced when live garlic plants grew near them. Like with the chives, Allicin and Alliin compounds were said to be behind the aphids getting repelled. Garlic as a live plant repelled the aphids. An extract or garlic essential oil weren’t necessary.
Companion Planting Garlic
Garlic is a good plant to intercrop with shallow root lettuces or spinach. These help keep the soil broken up on top, and also help reduce weed growth. Other plants that grow well with garlic include, tomatoes, fruit trees, brassicas, carrots and kale.
What Not To Grow With Garlic
Garlic grows well next to most plants, however, beans, peas, parsley, sage and strawberries all should not be grown with garlic because it is prone to stunt their growth.
More Garlic Tips:
- Growing – Growing recommendations include to use well-draining soil (ideally between 6.0 and 7.0 pH) that doesn’t water log, to avoid bulb-rot. As well as to plant each bulb ~7 inches apart (I’ve grown them 3 inches apart just fine). And to keep the soil free of weeds, one of garlic’s worst enemies. If growing Allium sativum in grow bags or a container, you should go for one around a foot deep. You can companion plant with lettuce in containers too.
- Cooking – Consider the “10-Minute Garlic Rule” that says to wait 10 minutes after crushing or mincing (or slicing/chopping) it to cook it, due to the beneficial allicin that builds up for 10 minutes after. These beneficial compounds are retained during the cooking.
- Medicinal – From ancient civilizations to today, garlic has a rich history of medicinal usage. Say you slice your finger in the kitchen cutting something. Fresh sliced garlic is a great antiseptic. It’s been used and continues to be used to treat all types of wounds, including burns and infections.
Garlic has been extensively used worldwide for centuries, especially in the Far East. Garlic is reported to be a wonderful medicinal plant owing to its preventive characteristics in cardiovascular diseases, regulating blood pressure, lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels, effective against bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic infections, enhancing the immune system and having antitumoral and antioxidant features. Garlic exerts these effects thanks to more than 200 chemicals. It contains sulfur compounds (allicin, alliin and agoene), volatile oils, enzymes (allinase, peroxidase and miracynase)…”– Ayaz et al., 2007. “Garlic (Allium sativum) and traditional medicine.”
3. Spring Onion – Allium cepa
Live Spring onion plants have been shown as able to reduce green peach aphid populations on nearby collard crops.
Most know alliums as one of those natural pest control plants. Allium cepa and the other alliums contain two specific compounds, thiosulfinates and sulfides, which take the credit for this herb’s aphid-repellent effects.
Allium cepa (Sping onion) as a live plant has been proven to repel Mealy cabbage aphids (Brevicoryne brassicae), reducing overall populations when closely intercropped. In this 2010 study, published within the Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata Wiley Online Library, spring onions intercropped with collards resulted in reduced aphid density and better yields as compared to the Chili plant (Capsicum frutescens) intercropped collards or the non-intercropped monoculture collards.
Companion Planting Onion (Allium cepa)
Allium cepa (onion) is a beneficial companion plant for many vegetables. Beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, lettuces and peppers are all excellent companions to it.
From Homes & Gardens blog:
Planting onions, specifically growing spring onions, with carrots is a classic combination that many gardeners swear by. The smell of onions deters carrot root fly from the carrots for carrot companion planting, while the smell of the carrots helps to deter onion fly from the onions – a highly beneficial pairing.– Homes & Gardens on onion companion planting.
Allium cepa (onion) plant enriches the soil it grows in. It does not leach, but instead gives organic matter back and more. It suppresses weeds and improve soil structure with its fibrous root system that also accumulates sulfur to then provide it back to the soil.
What Not To Grow With Common Onion
They say not to plant onions with other onions (garlic, leeks, chives, scallions, shallots) nor with legumes (beans, peas, etc.).
More Common-Onion Tips:
- Growing – Allium cepa in a grow bag will need at least 12 inches (30cm) depth, with 18 inches (45cm) being better and you can’t fit many in as they need to be at least 6 inches apart. These dimensions will give roots enough room to develop and will allow nice, big bulbs to form. Regardless of where you grow them, soil should be well-draining, fertile and ideally with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Onion likes semi-acidic soil.
- Cooking – Allium cepa is known as the “common onion,” but you will also see it referred to in recipes as a bulb or garden onion.
- Medicinal – Roman naturalist and philosopher Pliny the Elder wrote on botany among many other subjects. The following quote is from Book 20 of his encyclopedia, Naturalis Historia.
The onion, although it brings tears to the eyes, is a most valuable medicine for the eyes. Its pungency, too, is of service in drawing off phlegm and other viscous humours, as also in the treatment of colds and defluxions, acting as it does as a gentle stimulus to the olfactory organs.Pliny the Elder. Naturalis Historia. Book 20, Chapter 50
*You can download Naturalis Historia (Natural History) from the Internet Archive website. Here is the link to it. It has each page in the original Latin plus the English translation alongside.
4. Basil – Ocimum basilicum
Basil (Ocimum basilicum) has been proven to repel aphids as a live plant.
The specific compounds in Basil attributed to aphid-repelling effects are known as eugenol and estragole.
In this 2017 study titled, “Companion Plants for Aphid Pest Management: A Review” by Lundgren and Fergen, from the journal, Insects, Basil (Ocimum basilicum) was one of the many plants reviewed as companion plants to deter aphids. This study showed how Basil (Ocimum basilicum), as a live plant, was able to repel the following aphids:
- Species of Aphid: Myzus persicae. Host plant: Capsicum annuum (they repelled aphids away from the Capsicum annuum).
- Species of Aphid: Aphis fabae. Host plant: Faba beans (Vicia faba)
- Species of Aphid: Aphis citricola. Host plant: Common Pear (Pyrus communis).
In peer-reviewed scientific journal, Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata, author Refka Ben Issa, et. al. looked at twelve different companion plants to see which would alter the performance or be able to reduce green peach aphid (Myzus persicae) numbers simply from simply being close-by.
Basil (Ocimum basilicum) was amongst the plants that had the most affect on the green peach aphid (Myzus persicae). Along with rosemary, lavender, chives and three Marigold species (French, African, Pot). All of these plants “affected aphid performance by reducing the reproductive performance and/or settlement of females” (source).
How To Companion Plant Basil
Basil can actually alter the flavor of plants that grow nearby. This phenomenon of basil affecting a nearby plant’s flavor is called, allelopathy. Basil companion plants include, asparagus, beets, broccoli, carrots, chamomile, chives, cilantro, garlic, oregano, potatoes, tomatoes, borage, marigolds and petunias.
Many of these will actually grow and taste better near Basil. For example, tomatoes and potatoes are known to improve in flavor when companion planted with Basil.
What Not To Grow With Basil
On the other side of the allelopathic spectrum – Basil can create negative reactions from nearby plants. One is flavor. Unless you like Basil-tasting cucumber, Basil should not be grown near cucumber plants. Additionally, Basil attracts spider mites, which can be problematic for cucumber plant growth if not kept under control.
Other herbs like fennel, hyssop, rue and sage should not grow near Ocimum basilicum.
More Basil Tips:
- Growing – Make sure your soils stays hydrated and if in-ground, give a deep water weekly to ensure roots are stretching out as deep as they can. Water frequently and trim prior to harvest.
- Cooking – If aesthetics matter to you in your cooking (they do to Ling, but not to me), placing freshly picked Basil in the refrigerator will distort and change the color of the Basil leaves. It’s best to keep them at room temp in the water glass.
- Medicinal – It’s name translates to royalty in Latin and “king” in Greek. Additionally, Basil is said to have been used by the ancient Egyptians for their mummifications. These are all indications of its medicinal qualities which include being antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and more (also contains anti-cancer qualities).
- How to attain the health benefits of Basil? Can chewing on leaves while gardening be helpful? Basil tea is probably the best quick-option for attaining health benefits from Basil. Just steep several leaves in hot water to make a medicinal Basil tea.
5. Rosemary – Salvia rosmarinus
While chives use a powerful aroma that may not be agreeable to most, herbs that smell good can have this affect on aphids too.
Rosemary has been proven effective as a live plant that repels aphids because of the volatile organic compounds, Camphor and 1,8-cineole that it emits.
Rosemary essential oil and Rosemary extract are also both effective aphid repellants.
Prior to 2017, Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus) had the official scientific name of Rosmarinus officinalis.
In this study published in the Atlantis Press in 2018, and titled, “The influence of Rosemary plants (Rosmarinus officinalis) volatiles on Aphid (Myzus Persicae),” authors Tingting Cai, et. al. showed how live rosemary plants can repel aphids thanks to their VOCs emitted.
Live Rosemary plant (Salvia rosmarinus) proved to be effective at reducing the number of green peach aphids (Myzus persicae) on nearby Chinese cabbage (Brassica pekinensis) crops.
Volatiles emitted from rosemary plants showed repellent effects on M. persicae. These findings provide new insights into the interactions between R. officinalis plants and M. persicae, which will contribute to the development of new management strategies for biological control of insect pests– Tingting et al study’s abstract
Companion Planting Rosemary
Plants that have been noted as having beneficial allelopathic influence when grown near Rosemary shrubs include, beans, cabbage, carrots, lettuces and spinach.
What Not To Grow With Rosemary
Rosemary does not grow well with broccoli, cauliflower or other brassicas. As far as cabbage which has also been said to be good to grow alongside it, Rosemary attracts cabbage moths. And if you’ve dealt with those harmless white butterflies (what I thought they were for a long time) before, you know the devastation cabbage moths can bring to any brassica.
Tomatoes are another. Rosemary should not be grown nearby tomatoes due to their stark water-need differences. Additionally, stunted growth is a negative allelopathic effect that Rosemary can have on tomato plants.
Lastly, herbs. Basil, parsley, sage, thyme and other herbs are generally worse off growing near Rosemary. Other herbs should be grown at minimum a couple feet or more away from the Rosemary to avoid its consequential allelopathic properties.
More Rosemary Tips:
- Growing – Because Rosemary is a shrub, it must be pruned. And while it likes a good watering, unlike with Basil, Rosemary’s soil should be let to dry (for a short amount of time) before subsequent waterings.
- Cooking – Make a Rosemary infused EVOO to enjoy your daily olive oil more than ever before. If you don’t enjoy olive oil’s natural taste, yet fully appreciate its health benefits and consume it daily anyways, this idea is perfect. Infuse your olive oil with Rosemary sprigs! It’s best to dehydrate the sprigs first. If you don’t get enough sun, an oven can do it at its lowest temp until dry. Then just submerge these dehydrated Rosemary sprigs into your olive oil and leave them there for at least a couple of weeks. Then, strain them out and you will now have yourself an upgraded EVOO – Rosemary-infused olive oil.
- Medicinal – Rosemary is now known to have neuroprotective properties. Two of its compounds, carnosic acid and rosmarinic acid, have been proven in various studies to help reduce the impact of oxidative stress and damage from inflammation on the brain.
The List Goes On… 9 More Plants That Repel Aphids
Eventually all 14 plants that repel aphids will be fully expounded on like those first five above (with companion planting and additional tips added). Until then, below are the rest of the aphid-repelling plants (plants 6 to 14):
6. Thyme (Thymus spp.)
7. Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
8. Mint (Mentha)
9. Cayenne pepper (Capsicum spp.)
10. Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)
11. Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
12. Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum spp.)
13. Petunia (Petunia spp.)
14. French Marigold (Tagetes patula)
Traditionally Used Plants That Repel Aphids (Not Evidence-Based)
There aren’t any studies confirming these as live plants being able to repel aphids, but they’ve been used across various cultures traditionally. These include, cilantro, dill, eucalyptus, fennel, oregano, yarrow, lavender, parsley, rue, rye, sage, spear thistle, geraniums and calendula flowering plants.
More Ways To Naturally Control Aphids (Besides Manual Finger-Swipes)
Here are some more ways to naturally repel aphids from your home garden:
- Use worm castings – Worm castings are not only a fertilizer, but also a natural insect repellent. Worm castings have cytokinins and other plant growth hormones that until recently, we really didn’t know much about. Cytokinins promote growth, stimulate cell division, promote healthy shoot and root growth, make plants more tolerant of stress, regulate nutrient uptake, and these are just some of the beneficial effects of cytokinins and related previously-unknown substances within worm castings (incl. cytokinins, auxins, gibberellins). As for aphids, castings dissolve their exoskeletons.
- Release beneficial insects – This is considered a biological control. If you have an overpopulation of aphids, releasing their natural enemies will help your garden regain its ideal sustainable balance.
- Use Diatomaceous Earth
- Encourage birds to come and stay – There’s a good number of aphid eating birds including wrens and chicadees, that will come nest in a bush you leave them, or possibly some indigenous shrubs.
- Build a bird bath – Do birds feed on aphids? Yes! While not a fast acting biological control, it’s understated how awesome and effective bird baths can be to encourage aphid-consuming birds and pollinators like bees to your garden.
- Get ants off your plants – As you will notice, aphids and ants work together. The ants protect and farm the aphids for their honeydew secretions. Getting rid of aphid-farming ants in your garden beds will help control your aphids. Here are 2 ways to do it.
- Honey can be used as a distract-ant. Just place a jar of honey with a holed lid (just big enough for ants to enter) near your plant’s base. Instead of the honeydew secretion farming, the ants should go to your honey. If your goal is to kill the ants, then you can mix borax, water and sugar together instead.
- Vaseline around the base of the plant stem can help stop the ants from moving up that plant. This can help stop their aphid farming in its tracks if they’re just at the point of getting started.
- Chili powder (capsacain) – Actual chili powder, not spray, sprinkled onto the aphids.
- Vaseline for aphids – I learned of it from this guy who I’ve subscribed to on Youtube. I’ll embed his video below.
What If You MUST Spray To Get Rid Of An Aphid Infestation?
If you need something ASAP, there are some very effective homemade bug sprays for aphids that work great.
Here are several quick, natural aphid sprays that should do you well in the short-term.
- Spray with water-only. With water hose or strong spray bottle.
- Chili-water aphid spray
- Castile-soap spray
- Baking soda aphid solution
- Apple cider vinegar aphid solution
Make An Aphid Soap Spray In 20 Seconds.
If you have some Castile soap (or any dish soap), you can make something right now, quickly, that you can go use. For the Aphid Soap Spray, simply put some Castile soap in with some water into a spray bottle. The soap encases the aphids, ultimately suffocating and killing them.
Why A Healthy Garden Is Key To Organic Aphid Control
Focus on the garden as an eco system. Feeding the soil keeps plants healthy, for example. You can tend to the soil additionally by using a nice cover crop local to you. These keep adding nutrients back into the soil. They also bring in beneficial insects like lady bugs and assassin bugs. Additionally, if you take care of each individual plant, learn how it grows best in your area, what fertilizer it needs, how much water, soil it likes, etc. This will help create a naturally pest-resistant garden that will protect itself against aphids.
A healthy garden welcomes aphids and their larva as a food source. Ladybugs, lacewings, hoverflies and other good garden bugs will happily stay in your garden with a fresh supply of aphid larva.
These will keep your aphid numbers down and under control, especially when you consider the additional help from these plants that repel aphids companion planted around your high risk crops.
So the goal of fixing aphid problems is one of prevention and management instead of complete annihilation. If you’ve ruled out the use of sprays, then the ultimate solution to managing pests like aphids, which can damage and transmit diseases among your crops, comes down to keeping beneficial insects in your garden.
And this is done by creating a habitat that encourages them to stay. Especially those who feed only on aphids, like ladybugs (lady beetles).
This list of plants that deter aphids are among the many that will help you attract predatory insects, pollinators and repel aphids with their aromas and aphid-repelling compounds.
While certain pests may call for paranoia when you see them, aphids shouldn’t be one of them.
How do you use plants that repel aphids in your garden?
Are your beneficial insects and plants able to fend off aphids without spraying?