Even if they didn’t carry disease, ticks just aren’t something you want to share your summer with. But if you’d like to keep them in place without adding pesticides to your person, there are a number of natural and homemade tick repellents that can do the job, as well as a host of plants that are easy to add to your local landscape and garden. To make your life less inviting to ticks, let’s take a look at these natural approaches, all backed by solid science.
Homemade Tick Repellents
Essential oils don’t just smell nice; research shows they can be an effective way of controlling ticks. Just a few of the essential oils that have been demonstrated to be effective against ticks are oregano, rosemary, geranium, cedar, and juniper. In fact, a review of the scientific literature on the subject concluded that essential oils “have the potential to provide efficient, and safer repellents for humans and the environment.”
To put these powerful oils to work for you, mix up a batch of homemade tick repellents and spray using some of your favorite scents. Here’s what you’ll need:
- 2 oz. witch hazel or vodka
- 1 oz. water
- 20 drops EACH of any of three of the following essential oils: geranium, lemon eucalyptus, lavender, Virginia cedarwood, and Alaskan cypress
Pour witch hazel or vodka into a small spray bottle. Carefully add 60 drops of the essential oils. Pour in the ounce of water. Shake well before each use. Some of the essential oils can be irritating to skin, so test in a small area first. If irritation occurs, use only on clothes and shoes. Because essential oils dissipate quickly, reapply every 4 hours.
Plants for Tick Control
Just as ticks aren’t fond of certain essential oils, they don’t care for the plants they come from either. There are several attractive tick repelling plants to add to your yard, in garden beds or patio pots. Here are a few favorites:
Is there anything the soft blue-purple spikes of this plant can’t do? Besides being beautiful, it’s also touted for its relaxing scent, and it not only repels ticks, but also fleas, mosquitoes, and moths. Lavender likes full sun and well-drained soil. It makes a beautiful sweep of color in a border.
These relatives of the onion come in many sizes. Chives grow as tidy little bundles, while ornamental alliums can grow flower stalks as tall as 6 feet. What they have in common are puffball blooms, generally purple or pink, that look like something out of Dr. Seuss. The flowers have a faint onion scent that ticks and other bugs avoid.
This woody member of the mint family can be grown as a perennial in cold areas if it’s in a protected part of your yard. It also can be grown in a pot, then taken indoors in the fall. Rosemary’s needle-like leaves give off a distinctive fragrance at the slightest brush, and ticks are not a fan.
These perky ruffled flowers have a scent that lots of bugs don’t like. Ticks avoid them, as well as mosquitoes, flies, aphids, and tomato hornworms. Marigolds are easy-to-grow annuals that make great fillers in flower beds or pots. They don’t do well in soggy soil, so be sure to let it dry out between waterings.
Are you noticing a trend here? Lots of fragrant herbs are unappealing to ticks and other bugs. Chamomile is a perennial herb with feathery foliage topped with small daisy-like flowers that are white with a yellow center. The flowers can be dried to make a soothing tea. Chamomile likes partial shade and moderate amounts of water.
Another perennial herb, sage has soft, wide green leaves. It produces spikes of edible purple flowers during the summer. Once it’s established, sage is very easy to grow and can get up to three feet tall. Make sure it has steady amounts of water until it’s growing well. Sage is available in a tricolor variety that makes it a lovely addition to a flower bed.
This perennial herb is best grown in a container. Its vigorous growing habit means it will take over garden beds. If you plan to harvest its serrated leaves for tea or cooking, you’ll find that they are a little less flavorful after it flowers. Don’t be shy about cutting mint back; it will only grow back stronger.
As you can see, there is plenty of help in the plant kingdom to keep ticks at bay. If you’re struggling to stay free of the parasites, combining tick repelling plants with natural homemade tick repellents and get their pesticide-free powers to work for you. You’ve got nothing to lose except troublesome ticks!