Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - February 08, 2010

From: Arlington, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Best of Smarty, Pests
Title: Need bug repelling plants in Arlington, VA
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

What kind of plants are best bug repellents, and need little or no maintenance. I'm a city girl and don't like bugs (spiders)

ANSWER:

Dear Miss Muffet,

You may be relieved to learn that spiders eat "bugs." In fact, most of their diet consists of insects. The report that they favor curds and whey is an urban myth that has been perpetuated by Mother Goose among others. There are also insects (digger wasps) that carry off spiders in order to provision their nests so that their developing larvae can have something to eat. So you might say its a bug eat bug world out there.

There are numerous plants that are said to be insect repellent, and some of the active ingredients,  e.g. pyrethrins, are extracted and used as insecticides. The short list below contains some of the more often mentioned insect repellent plants, however, they are non-natives and there are no entries for them in our Native Plant Database.

Marigolds (Calendula officinalis) (Images)

Lavender (Lavandula sp)   (Images)

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) (Images)

Citronella (Cymbopopgon nardus(Images)

Basil (Ocimum basillicumImages

Believing that "the best defense is a good offense", Mr. Smarty Plants is suggesting three plants which occur in your state that might help keep the bugs at bay; Venus flytrap Dionaea muscipula (Venus flytrap), Pitcherplant Sarracenia flava (yellow pitcherplant), and Sundew plant Drosera brevifolia (dwarf sundew).

 

From the Image Gallery


Gila manroot
Marah gilensis

Yellow pitcherplant
Sarracenia flava

Dwarf sundew
Drosera brevifolia

More Pests Questions

White snails in Austin, TX.
October 01, 2014 - We walked through an undisturbed site off of Hwy. 71 near Old Bee Caves Rd. and there were little white snails on the majority of the plants on site (not specific to certain types of plants). What typ...
view the full question and answer

Ants in outdoor plants in Austin
July 30, 2011 - Live in Austin. The problem is THIS. Ants have invaded our outside potted plants- mandevilla, begonia , lemon tree and violas. The colonies are devouring the roots it appears. Please give suggestions ...
view the full question and answer

White ash trees with bunched up leaves from Nevada TX
June 09, 2012 - I have very young white ash trees (3' tall planted this winter) The leaves are crippled not opening up bunched up together and have a white powder. Is this aphids mites or what. Only on one tree. Th...
view the full question and answer

Problems with tomatoes in tubs in Campbellton, TX
May 30, 2009 - I have my tomatoes planted in big black plastic tubs, they are starting to wilt and dry up. I have put Sevin dust on them for bugs. I haven't been over watering. Could you please tell me why they are...
view the full question and answer

Discouraging Poison Ivy
June 27, 2015 - Is there a fern that discourages poison ivy from growing?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.