6 Plants to Deter Termites

colony of termites

If you choose the right plants, your garden can help you prevent termite infestation without resorting to harmful chemicals. Several types of plants repel termites with their strong scents or scare termites away by attracting predators. 

To prevent termites in your home, plant termite-repelling plants near your home’s foundation and windows, doors, vents, or other potential entry points. Whichever type of plant you choose, use several specimens in a bunch or row. A single plant on its own may not be effective. 

1. Catnip 

close-up of a catnip plant, with small white flowers
Tiger Lily | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Catnip contains a compound called nepetalactone, which is a natural insect repellent. Gardeners use catnip around their gardens to ward off many common pests that damage plants and evidence shows termites stay away from catnip, too. 

According to a study from researchers at the USDA Forest Service, catnip oil repels subterranean termites that live in the soil. Since the oil is a concentrate taken from the plant, this research supports live catnip plants as effective termite repellents. 

2. Vetiver grass 

tall, ornamental vetiver grass
Forest & Kim Starr | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 3.0

Vetiver grass is a bunchgrass native to Asia, and it grows well in tropical or temperate climates. Vetiver has a built-in insect repellent called nootkatone. Researchers from Louisiana State University’s Agricultural Center found that nootkatone works well for repelling termites. 

Since vetiver grass establishes a deep root system that gives off nootkatone, it’s perfect for deterring subterranean termites nesting and tunneling underground. Those deep roots also protect soil from erosion, so vetiver grass is good to plant on slopes. 

3. Marigolds

vibrant red, orange and yellow marigold flowers
yganeshbabu | Pixabay

There’s no official scientific research into marigolds as insect repellents (as of right now), but many gardeners swear by these bright-colored annual flowers. The fragrance of marigolds is said to repel many lawn and garden pests, one of which is termites. 

Because the scent is what keeps the termites away, your best bet is to plant an especially fragrant variety of marigolds. French marigolds and African marigolds are good options. 

4. Lemongrass

Have you heard of citronella? It’s a popular insect repellent, and it occurs naturally in lemongrass. The strong citronella scent of lemongrass can deter termites along with many other lawn and garden pests. 

A study from Cornell University’s Cooperative Extension Service concluded that lemongrass oil is effective at repelling subterranean termites. If the oil extract works as a termite repellent, imagine what live lemongrass plants can do! 

5. Mint

close-up of leaves from a mint plant
congerdesign | Pixabay

The scent of live mint plants is strong even for humans. What might be a refreshing smell to us is overwhelming and painful for termites. Scientists haven’t yet studied the effect of mint on termites, but gardeners have used mint to ward off pests for decades.   

Beware that mint spreads quickly and aggressively, so you should plant it on its own, away from other plant beds and gardens. Mint can lose its strong scent over time. Cut back mint plants a few times a year to encourage new, fragrant growth that continues to repel termites.

6. Garlic

Bunch of harvested garlic bulbs
Jennifer Dickert | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

Garlic isn’t only for vampires — it can repel termites, too. Garlic is most fragrant and effective as a termite repellent when you crush the cloves. 

You can even use garlic to exterminate termites. One study from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Agricultural University shows that termites die within 24 hours when exposed to a garlic extract. Here’s how you can create the same extract they used: 

  • Step 1: Chop garlic cloves or ground them with a mortar and pestle. 
  • Step 2: Put the chopped or ground garlic in distilled water in a ratio of 1 part garlic to 2 parts water.
  • Step 3: Leave the garlic to soak for about 24 hours. 

Keep in mind, the live plant itself isn’t as potent as crushed garlic cloves or extracts like the one described above. 

Plants that attract termite predators

Some plants keep termites away from your home not by repelling the termites directly but by attracting other insects that eat termites. The more termite predators you have hanging around your home, the smaller your yard’s termite population will be. 

Beneficial insects that eat termites include but aren’t limited to beetles, flies, dragonflies, praying mantises, spiders, centipedes, wasps, ladybugs, and ants (yes, believe it or not, ants are beneficial insects). 

Pennsylvania State University has an extensive list of plants to attract beneficial insects on their extension website. These are some of the best plants for attracting termite predators:

  • Coriander
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Cosmos
  • Sunflower
  • Tansy 
  • Yarrow
  • Alfalfa 
  • Sweet clover
  • Wild mustard 

FAQ about deterring termites

1. Do geraniums repel termites?

Not really. Geraniums, even scented geraniums, aren’t effective for repelling termites or other insects. They aren’t known for attracting any termite predators, either.

2. Do termites harm plants? 

Yes. Termites feed on cellulose, which is found in woody plants such as trees and shrubs. If you have woody plants in your garden, termites will eat and kill them. 

If termites in your yard don’t have access to a woody food source, they may start eating the roots of herbaceous (green-stemmed) plants. Without roots, those plants will die. 

3. How do I prevent termites?  

Aside from planting termite-repelling plants, here are some steps you can take to prevent termites:

Don’t overwater your grass.
Remove decaying wood such as logs and fallen branches from your yard ASAP.
Store woodpiles away from the house, preferably on a platform off the ground or inside a garage or shed.
Trim trees and bushes so the branches don’t touch your house.
Use only inorganic mulch that termites can’t feed on.
Seal cracks in your home’s foundation so termites can’t use them as entry points. 

4. How do I permanently get rid of termites?

Wiping out a termite infestation often requires a termite control specialist, especially if the termites are inside your walls. 

You can get rid of termites in your yard before they reach your home with these DIY pest control products:

–Foam termiticide
–Termite baits
–Termiticide barrier chemicals
–Boric acid

Dangers of termite infestation

Termites are the most expensive insect pests in the United States. American homeowners spend approximately $5 billion every year on termite extermination and repairing termite damage.

Once termites get into the wooden structure of your home, they’ll destroy it in no time. Termites live in huge colonies, and every one of those hungry mouths will feed on the wood in your home until there’s nothing left. 

That’s why it’s so important to prevent termites in the first place. You can use these plants to deter termites as part of your prevention plan. It’s also a good idea to get a professional termite inspection once a year. 

Main Photo Credit: Brian Gratwicke | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Jordan Ardoin

Jordan Ardoin is a writer and editor with a passion for sustainable, earth-friendly gardening and lawn care practices. When she isn't sharing her knowledge about lawn care and landscaping, you can find her curled up with a good book and a cat in her lap.