10 Plants to Deter Fleas in Your Yard

English bulldog puppy sitting on a lawn

Do you want to put a stop to itchy fleas but aren’t a big fan of pesticides? Many plants have natural flea-repellent powers that can send those pests packing. 

Planting a few of these in key spots around your yard is a great step in preventing fleas. Keep in mind that they won’t solve a serious flea infestation and are most effective alongside other preventative measures.

Why fleas are attracted to your yard

The first step to treating a pest problem is to understand the pest itself. What is it about your lawn that would attract fleas in the first place?

Fleas like to hang out in spots with:

  • Moisture
  • Shade
  • Places to hide
  • Wild animals 
  • Food or trash

That means overgrown grass, trees, and shade structures like patios and playground equipment can be breeding grounds for fleas. Anything that attracts rodents and other wild animals also can harbor fleas. That includes holes in your home’s foundation, roof, or crawl spaces.

10 of the best plants to deter fleas

All these plants have natural ways of making your yard unpleasant for fleas. Most of them are safe for pets but check the description to make sure you’re not planting something toxic to your canine and feline pals. The concentrated essential oils of any plant should be used with care around animals.

1. Mint

Mint plants may smell great to us, but fleas don’t like their strong scent. Are you a novice gardener, or do you have a track record of killing easy-to-grow plants? Mint is a great choice for you. It spreads quickly and with little help as long as it gets enough water. It likes at least six hours of sunlight a day and soil that stays a little moist. Clip the flowers that come at the end of summer if you want their oils to stay concentrated. 

Pro Tip: You might want to put this one in a container because it can invade the space of other plants. Try a pot that’s at least 12 inches deep and up to 24 inches wide.

  • Plant type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Hardiness zones: 3-8
  • Sun: Full sun to partial shade
  • Water needs: High
  • Soil: Rich, well-drained, loam
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: Up to 3 feet

2. Catnip

Catnip is a member of the mint family and is commonly used as an insect repellent. Its active component triggers a chemical response for fleas (and mosquitoes) that makes them feel pain or itchiness. With catnip, fleas are the ones scratching. And not to mention, cats love it. 

This is a fairly easy plant to grow in your backyard, just don’t overwater it. It’s drought-tolerant and can die from sitting in waterlogged soil. If your soil struggles to drain, try mixing some of the top layer with a bit of sand or plant this in a container with rocks at the bottom.

  • Plant type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Hardiness zones: 3-9
  • Sun: Full sun to partial sun
  • Water needs: Medium to high
  • Soil: Rich, average, well-draining, loamy
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: Up to 3 feet

3. Rosemary

Rosemary, another familiar-smelling herb, is as great at flavoring a dish as it is at warding off ticks and fleas. Rosemary’s a great choice if you live on the coast because it tolerates salt. 

Rosemary is native to the Mediterranean, so it thrives in warm and dry environments. If you plant it in a container, choose a terracotta pot (for extra porosity) with rocks at the bottom for drainage. Mixing regular potting soil with sand also improves drainage. 

  • Plant type: Perennial shrub
  • Hardiness zones: 7-9
  • Sun: Full sun to partial sun; rosemary prefers 6-8 hours of sunlight
  • Water needs: Low
  • Soil: Well-drained, sandy soil
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 2-5 feet

4. Citronella

Citronella usually comes to mind when we think of insect repellent because it’s often the main ingredient in anti-bug candles and sprays. Make sure not to buy a “mosquito plant” (sometimes called citronella) — this is a member of the geranium family and doesn’t produce citronella oils. Real citronella looks less like a fern and more like grass.

The best time to plant citronella is in the spring after the last frost. To make sure it grows quickly, mix a few inches of compost or other organic material in with your soil before planting.

Keep in mind, citronella is toxic to dogs and cats. It can cause vomiting if ingested even in small amounts and can cause skin irritation. Avoid this plant if you’re a pet owner.

  • Plant type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Hardiness zones: 9-11 (can be grown as an annual in colder zones)
  • Sun: Full to partial sun
  • Water needs: Medium
  • Soil: Well-drained, moderately rich, moist
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 3 feet

5. Chrysanthemums 

Chrysanthemums are famous for their stunning fall display, but did you know they’re also famously repulsive for fleas? These beautiful flowers (also known as mums) contain a secret anti-flea weapon: pyrethrum. Pyrethrum is commonly used in pesticides to kill fleas, but it has a repellent effect, too. 

Mums have a shallow root system, which means they need to be watered frequently. Add a layer of mulch 3-6 inches from the base to help keep the soil moist. To encourage growth and resiliency, pinch blooms about an inch from the branch tips two to three times during the growing season.

Like citronella, chrysanthemums are toxic to pets. If you’ve got a furry friend, try one of the other plants on this list instead.

  • Plant type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Hardiness zones: 5-9
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Water needs: Medium
  • Soil: Rich, well-drained soil
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 2-3 feet

6. Cedarwood

This isn’t something you can grow in a flower garden, but it is a natural material that has a lot of flea-deterrent power. Although no scientific study has proven this true, a lot of landscapers swear by cedarwood as a repellent for fleas. 

How do you use cedarwood? It comes in wood chips that you can sprinkle around key spots on your property. Concentrate them in shady areas that tend to stay moist. Don’t worry about getting them in your grass; your mower will grind them into a powder that’s just as effective. 

7. Marigolds

Marigolds are a garden favorite for good reason. Not only are their yellow and orange, pom-pom shaped flowers a stunning addition to a garden, they also have a natural ability to repel invasive pests like fleas and ticks. They’ll keep your other plants safe, too by repelling cabbage maggots, white flies, and aphids.

Although marigolds will grow in USDA Hardiness Zones 2-11, they have longer blooming seasons in Zones 10 and 11. You can prolong blooms in any area by deadheading spent flowers. They need five to six hours of sunlight per day for good development (more if you live in a colder climate and less if you live in a warmer climate).

  • Plant type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Hardiness zones: 2-11
  • Sun: Full sun to partial shade
  • Water needs: Medium
  • Soil: Loamy, rich
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 6 inches to 3 feet

8. Lemongrass

Native to southeast Asia, lemongrass is an easygoing herb that enjoys a more tropical climate. It grows as clumped stalks, similar to a spider plant. This bright green plant has a pleasant, citrusy smell (and great taste) that fleas can’t stand.

Lemongrass is a great replacement for border shrubs or other ornamental grasses that can house fleas. It spreads easily and can grow as wide as 4 feet. It’ll provide an attractive perimeter marker without inviting fleas. Make sure it has plenty of sun, and be prepared to bring it inside for the winter if you live in Zone 9 or below.

  • Plant type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Hardiness zones: 8-11
  • Sun: Full to partial sun
  • Water needs: Medium
  • Soil: Average
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 3-5 feet 

9. Pennyroyal

Though it smells like spearmint, pennyroyal is not a part of the mint family. This perennial grows in weedy stalks topped with fluffy lavender flowers. The plant itself repels fleas, so put it somewhere around the perimeter of your lawn. It tolerates a bit of shade but appreciates several hours of sunlight a day.

Avoid this plant if you have kids or curious pets. Pennyroyal contains a compound that is toxic to the liver and can harm you if ingested. It’s perfectly safe, however, to rub topically on your skin.

  • Plant type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Hardiness zones: 6-9
  • Sun: Full to partial sunlight 
  • Water needs: Medium to high
  • Soil: Rich, clay, sandy
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: Up to 1 foot

10. Basil

Basil isn’t just a key ingredient in Italian dishes. It’s also a flea-fighting superhero. You’ll recognize this multi-talented herb by its shiny, round, dark green leaves. It’s safe for pets, but fleas don’t like basil’s essential oils. Sprinkle the leaves around flea-ridden areas or crush the leaves and apply it topically to your skin.

Basil likes to get enough sunlight. To determine how much to water it, just touch the soil. If it’s dry, it’s time to water. Focus on the base of the plant and try to avoid spilling water on the leaves. Basil grows well in a container, so consider putting it on your windowsill to stop fleas before they leap inside.

  • Plant type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Hardiness zones: 5-11
  • Sun: Full sun to partial sun 
  • Water needs: Medium to high
  • Soil: Moist, rich, well-drained 
  • Duration: Perennial in zones 10-11, annual in zones 5-9
  • Mature height: Up to 2 feet

Where to put flea repellent plants

Now that you know what plants to look for, you need to know where to put them. You don’t need to cover your whole yard in pennyroyal for it to turn fleas away from your yard. 

To figure out where to plant your new perennials, you have to know flea behaviors. We know they usually find their way onto your property via wild animals and that they like to hang out in shady spots. With that in mind, focus your planting on the following areas.

Front porch or back patio

Not only are these places usually at least partially shaded, they also contain entrances into your home. Potted plants add beauty to your outdoor living space and defend against fleas cozying up on your couch.

Around your home’s foundation

This is a great spot to plant flea-repelling plants because it’s often where rodents and wild animals sneak into your house. Making them crawl through a patch of citronella is the perfect opportunity to send fleas running.

Wherever your pet likes to hang out

Around dog runs, under trees, and all Fido’s favorite spots to snooze could use some repellent power. Fleas love to make themselves at home in your pet’s coat, so putting plants that repel fleas in your dog’s favorite hangouts discourages the pests from sticking around.

FAQ about fleas

1. When are fleas most active?

Fleas are most active during the warmer months, but they exist year-round.

2. How else can I defend my home against fleas? 

Clear debris in your outdoor area, seal holes to your home, maintain your lawn, and keep food and trash carefully contained. These are great steps to prevent fleas.

3. Are there other natural pest control options for treating fleas?

Beneficial nematodes are a great way to get rid of fleas without using an insecticide.

4. How do I know I have a flea problem?

Walk through your yard with a pair of white tall socks on is a good way to know if your grass has fleas. You’ll be able to see the black insects against the fabric.  

Don’t know where to start with adding these flea-repelling plants to your landscaping? Call a pro to design and install your new plantings.

Main Photo Credit: Валентин Симеонов | Pixabay

Rachel Abrams

Born and raised in Gainesville, Florida, Rachel Abrams studied creative writing at the University of Virginia. She enjoys volunteering at her neighborhood community garden and growing herbs in her New York City apartment.