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14 Plants That Repel Fleas and How to Use Them (Safe for Pets)

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This article is part of our Insects on Farm Animals series.

We’ll look into plants that repel fleas AND are safe for pets! Plus, they’ll smell great in your garden. We’ll also include a couple of ways to repel fleas that are not plants – diatomaceous earth and electronic flea combs.

For those of us who enjoy bringing our pets with us when we go outside, fleas can be a big concern. And like most of us, you probably don’t want the fleas to come home with you either! Unfortunately, fleas have become a necessary evil unless you buy the expensive flea and tick chewable pills or drops.

But there are also other ways to repel pesky insects, and this includes growing certain plants that repel fleas (safe for pets) in your outdoor space!

Yes, you read that right – there are plants that repel fleas and are safe for pets to be around. Not only will they help your cats and dogs, but many of these plants also repel mosquitos and ticks. This safeguards you and your entire family.

Please note that this article refers to plants – not essential oils. Essential oils are potent. Many, if not most, are not safe to use around pets. The essential oils of many of the plants below are toxic for pets. Always seek expert guidance before using any natural medicine for yourself or your pets!

One more point…

This list assumes that your pet is not going to eat a bucket full of, for example, eucalyptus leaves. I have dogs, horses, cows, sheep, chickens, and kids – none of these animals eat eucalyptus leaves. Only the koalas like them. If your pet scoffs down anything from dishwashing tablets to blankets, please perform further research.

The plants below have strong smells. They’ll put most pets off eating them. This list of plants is not meant for internal use. They are plants to plant around the house and yard, and they are considered safe for your pets to be around – not to eat pounds and pounds of. The strong smell will discourage most pets – but if you have a persistent or particularly ‘hungry’ pet – please do not plant them.

The aim of this article is to create a less-friendly environment for fleas – NOT to feed these herbs to your pet!

Disclaimer: Check with your vet before feeding your pet any of these herbs and before starting any form of flea or tick control! We are not veterinarians and your vet should be your first port of call in regards to the welfare of your pet. 

Plants That Repel Fleas and Are Safe for Pets

  1. Catnip
  2. Mint
  3. Lemon Balm
  4. Sage
  5. Basil
  6. Oregano
  7. Rosemary
  8. Lavender
  9. Lemongrass
  10. Fleawort
  11. Marigold
  12. Eucalyptus
  13. Chrysanthemum
  14. Rue

The plants below can be grown around your outdoor area to repel pesky insects. You can grow them in pots and place them around doorways. Planting these plants around your pet’s kennel, if they sleep outside, can help repel fleas too.

In many cases, you can also make an extract from the leaves and then use it as an all-natural bug-repellent spray. Find out more about this from PETA, the ABCs of Cruelty-Free Flea Remedies. An added bonus is that many of these plants smell great to us (but fleas hate the smell!). They are fairly common plants that can be found in most gardening centers.

Flea Repelling Plants: Mint Family

Most plants in the “mint family”, or Lamiaceae, are flea and tick repelling while being both safe and pleasant for your pets. On top of that, these plants usually smell great which can be an added benefit!

“These plants (myrtle, mint, yarrow, and thyme) have also been commonly used in folk medicine as treatment of colds, pains and as spices and herbal tea (). Moreover, these plants proved to be toxic to different species of insects and ticks (Maia and Moore 2010, , Yahoobi-Ershadi et al. 2011, ).”–Source

Peppermint can also improve your dog’s mood!

1. Catnip to Repel Fleas (Nepeta cataria)

cat with catnip flea repellent
Black cat with catnip.

Catnip is another dual-purpose plant that will repel fleas but is safe for your pets. And if you have a cat, they may like it a little too much! Just like the other members of the Lamiaceae family, catnip has a smell that fleas don’t find attractive. The herb can also be dried and used as tea to help you and your family sleep.

Research from the American Chemical Society found that catnip is 10 times more effective than DEET, the potent chemical generally used in insect repellents:

Researchers report that nepetalactone, the essential oil in catnip that gives the plant its characteristic odor, is about ten times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET — the compound used in most commercial insect repellents.–Research

Catnip is a perennial plant that grows 3-4ft tall. It smells quite strong, very similar to regular mint plants. This flea-repelling plant is easy to propagate, from seed, cuttings, air layering, or even root division. Unlike other plants from the mint family, catnip enjoys a full sun position and it will grow in most soils and climates.

As an added benefit, bees love catnip too!

2. Mint to Repel Fleas (Mentha sp.)


I often try to grow some mint in my yard as a weed to prevent my dogs from getting fleas. There are many different varieties, including spearmint, peppermint, chocolate mint, orange mint, etc.

All of these varieties are plants that repel fleas but are safe for pets. Your furry friends will also smell great after brushing up against this plant, and you can harvest some to use for your cooking as well. All mints can be weedy, meaning that they can spread aggressively in your garden.

Growing mint in pots is a good way to keep it contained, but it does like to spread. If you want to grow it in a certain area without it taking over your yard, you can dig root guards into the soil so that the mint is contained.

I personally love mint growing like crazy throughout my garden, it’s a great groundcover that keeps the weeds down, and it’s super easy to grow. Most mint varieties do prefer shade, so to have them perform their best, find a nice, moist, shady spot.  

Recommended: Six Medicinal Plants to Grow in Your Garden

3. Lemon Balm to Repel Fleas (Melissa officinalis)

Lemon Balm has a rich, citrusy scent that most people love and most insects hate. This plant is a good repellent for mosquitos, and can make a great extract for a bug spray.

Fleas, ticks, and mosquitos all hate the smell and taste of citrus-smelling plants, and they won’t go near you or your pet if they smell lemon balm around you. Lemon balm is also a weed-like plant, but it does well in pots. Just like mint, you can let it spread in your yard as well.

4. Sage to Repel Fleas (Salvia officinalis)

Photo credit Eden Brothers Seeds

Sage is a sun-loving plant that is multi-functional and very easy to grow. It can be grown to make teas, incense, and of course to repel fleas. This plant doesn’t spread as well as lemon balm and mint, and so it is typically safe to grow without root guards.

Sage is a perennial plant 2-4ft high. It prefers a position in loose, well-draining soil. It dislikes wet roots, so good drainage is crucial to avoid rot.  Sage grows best in cooler climates and does best with protection from hot sun.

Sage is one of the best companion plants for your garden. As well as repelling fleas, it also helps in repelling other insects from your onions, tomatoes, and cabbage, amongst other vegetables. Best to keep it away from basil and cucumber, however.

DIY Flea Repellent Spray With Sage and Rosemary

Dogs Naturally have a wonderful everyday flea-repellent spray recipe, which you can use to spray your dog when she goes outside. The ingredients include lemon, fresh rosemary, fresh sage, and water. You can also add some fresh lavender if you like.

This flea-repellent spray is steeped overnight, after which you can put it in a spray bottle. It keeps in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.

Get the full recipe from Dogs Naturally!

If you’re not ready to make your own flea repellent spray, Dogs Naturally recommends this 100% organic spray to protect your pet:

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5. Basil to Repel Fleas (Ocimum basilicum)

Photo credit Eden Brothers Seeds

Basil varieties are great for keeping fleas out of the yard, and of course, it is great in all cooking! Not only will this plant attract bees and pollinators (I often see hummingbirds around mine), but it is totally safe for your cats and dogs. You can also grow a variety called Holy Basil, which makes a tea that is full of its own benefits, all while keeping fleas away.

My favorite use for basil is pesto, without a doubt. But I love having it around the garden too! Beneficial insects love the flowers. You can let them go to seed and they will self-seed readily, or you can save your seeds for next year, just like in our how to save pumpkin seeds for planting next year article.

Recommended: Culinary Herbs You Must Grow in Your Garden

6. Oregano to Repel Fleas (Origanum vulgare)

Oregano is a standard herb that many of us already grow. Because it is a part of the mint family, it will repel fleas and many other insects. On top of that, if your pets start snacking on this culinary herb, it may actually help them digest their food better! It also makes a great tea when you feel like you are getting sick. 

7. Rosemary to Repel Fleas (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs to grow for both culinary purposes, and also as a way to repel fleas in my yard, whilst being safe for pets. Rosemary can grow to be a quite large bush when planted in the ground, and will attract bees and butterflies while repelling the insects that bite. What’s great is that when your dogs rub up against this bush, they will smell amazing!

Rosemary is evergreen so it’ll look great all year round. It likes full sun and well-draining, loose soil. Rosemary and sage grow really well together, so combine the two plants in your garden for extra flea-repelling power!

8. Lavender to Repel Fleas (Lavendula sp.)

Lavender, of course, is another favorite for every gardener. It’s easy to grow and the flowers attract bees and butterflies. Fleas, mosquitos, and moths? They hate lavender! As long as you remember to prune your flowers regularly, these beauties will keep growing for you. This is a plant that every member of your family – furry or otherwise – will love.

There are over 20 species in the Lavendula genus, of lots of shapes and sizes. They are hardy perennials with woody basis and gorgeous, fragrant flowers. Propagation from seed can be hard and slow, and if you find you’re not having any luck, try some tip cuttings or air-layer them.

Lavender prefers a sunny position in well-draining soil. It grows well in the garden and in pots, so you can have a beautiful plant that repels fleas but is safe for pets anywhere you need it.

Recommended: Tips for Planting Lavender Seed

Other Plants That Repel Fleas

9. Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)

Lemongrass is a plant that smells incredible and is great in cooking as well. It may smell good to us, but it’s downright nasty to fleas and mosquitos. This is another plant from which you can make an extract to use as a bug-repellent spray for both you and your furry friends. Lemongrass is a pretty, ornamental herb that loves full sun.

A particular variety of lemongrass is Citronella grass (Cymbopogon nardus). It grows taller than the regular lemongrass and is super fast-growing in warmer climates. This is the species used to make citronella oil, used in insect sprays and mosquito repellents. Citronella oil can be rubbed on your arms and legs to repel mosquitos, and it has a similar effect on fleas. Makes a nice cup of tea too!

Citronella is a great herb that has gained a lot of popularity for its ability to repel mosquitos. But it also does wonders for repelling fleas due to its citrusy aroma. This is such a pleasant plant to have around, and it does well in pots. I usually keep a couple on my outdoor patio to keep pesky bugs away, and this can, of course, be used in an at-home bug repellent.

10. Fleawort (Plantago sp.)

Fleawort is the weed to seed if you want your yard to be flea-free. Fleawort as a name actually refers to a few different weed-like herbs that is commonly referred to as the plantain weed. These plants are low to the ground and look like little bunches of lettuce. They can be used in a tea, or even to eat in a salad. The tops will flower, giving your yard a touch of pretty.

11. Marigold to Repel Fleas (Tagetes sp.)

Marigolds are extremely multi-functional and should be in every garden. They deter many insects that want to eat up your precious plants, and so many gardeners plant them with their crops. On top of that, they will deter fleas due to the aroma, keeping your dogs and cats safe. And, of course, these plants are a pretty addition to every outdoor space.
The flowers do need to be pruned in order to keep the plant blooming. There are seeds in the flowers that are about to die, and you can use them to grow more marigolds throughout the garden.

12. Eucalyptus

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Eucalyptus is a magical plant that many people remember due to its smell. It is invasive in many parts of the world now, but is still planted as a wonderful addition to cities and yard. A big benefit is that fleas hate the smell of eucalyptus, but this tree is perfectly safe for your cats and dogs to be around.

The leaves can also be used to make a strong herbal tea, and many people hang them in their bathroom to add a eucalyptus smell when they take a shower. If you live in an area that is at risk for wildfires it may be wise to skip this tree, though, as eucalyptus can spread fires easier due to the trees’ high oil content.

13. Crysanthemum

Chrysanthemum flower

Chrysanthemum flowers are an age-old favorite for keeping fleas and other insects away from the house.

These are pretty, decorative flowers that can be kept in a pot, or planted in the ground where they will grow to become a flowery bush. The flowers can even be dried and used to make a tea for us humans, but these flowers should only be grown if you have dogs. If eaten in large quantities, the flowers can be toxic to cats.

14. Rue (Ruta graveolens)

Rue is another plant that was used to repel fleas and insects before special powders and sprays were developed. This plant does well in sun, and blooms into yellow flowers that attract bees and pollinators. While it is not toxic to cats, they generally do not like the smell. Because of this, many people plant this plant in their yard if they also want to deter cats.

Rue grows to around 2ft tall. The whole plant is covered in oil glands, which is why people often don’t like the smell of it. I guess this plant goes both ways! It is easily propagated from seed, cuttings, or root division and tends to grow better without too much attention.

Because of its strong smell, it’s a great companion plant for raspberries and other fruiting plants. Keep it away from cabbages, basil and sage. Grow it anywhere you need to repel flies, such as near the compost heap or rubbish bins. We mentioned that cats don’t like it, but you’ll find this goes for many other animals as well, like deer, horses, and dogs.

Still, it’s also important to note that rue can cause contact dermatitis in humans. If you plant it, be sure to keep it at arm’s reach or wear gloves when handling it!

You can easily make your own Rue flea repellent by infusing the leaves in boiling water (leave to infuse for at least 10 minutes). Use the cooled infusion around the garden and on plants. Don’t spray it directly on your pet or on yourself, some people (and possibly pets) get a rash from a rue infusion applied directly to the skin.

Dry your rue and hang it upside down in pantries, cupboards, sheds, etc. – wherever you need to repel fleas, moths, flies, cockroaches, even silverfish. Some poultry keepers use rue as a remedy for chicken croup. They chop the leaves of rue very finely, mix it with butter and mold it into a pill. They then push is down the beak of the chicken.

Some poultry keepers feed rue to their chickens on a regular basis, and you can grow this plant near the chicken coop so your girls (and boys?) can peck at it if they feel they need it. They may not eat it for fun, but I’m a strong believer of animals knowing what’s right for them, and you may find they have a little peck at it every now and then to keep themselves healthy!

Source for Rue as a remedy for chicken croup: Country Acres book:

Other Ways to Repel Fleas That Are Safe for Pets

1. Diatomaceous Earth

I highly recommend you look into diatomaceous earth! I won’t go into its benefits in this article, but it’s something that, once you start using it, you don’t know how you lived without it.

2. Electronic Flea Comb

Many of these plants that repel fleas are multifunctional and can be used in the garden and for culinary purposes. You can space these along the edges of your outdoor area, or use them to protect your crops from being eaten by tiny insects. You can also pick and choose which plants to use based on what else you can use them for. Experiment and see which plants you would like to plant in order to keep your pets safe from fleas, and as always consult your veterinarian first.

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  1. Hello!

    I wouldn’t suggest Rue at all. I can’t touch it. I get blisters and if the sun bakes the spot it blows-up the rash, which lasts a good 10 days. Rue contains a type of latex.

    I’d be very careful with Mint and Eucalyptus as well.

    Lemon balm is very effective and makes a nice relaxing tea too. I dry lemon balm and sprinkle it on the floor where the ferals I rescued live snd grow it around their corral. People have been doing this for centuries. Sometimes I mix dry Tansy with it. Do not ingest Tansy.

    Actually coconut oil rubbed into your pets fur suffocates fleas and is 100% safe … good fat!

    Happy gardening and pets❣️

    1. Hi Olivia! Thank you so much for the valuable feedback! I didn’t know the tidbit about coconut oil! I’ll have to try that, as well.
      Thanks again,
      Aimee 🙂

  2. Lots of stuff here is not really all that safe for cats. Eucalyptus is toxic. Most of the herbs listed are probably OK in herb form, but not really that great because their livers can’t process. There at least needs to be a note to not use ANY essential oils around cats, the vast majority of herbs here would be extremely toxic in essential oil form.

    I know you didn’t suggest it in the article, but people tend to assume if it’s safe(ish) in one form it’s safe in all forms.

  3. We’re currently battling fleas in our back yard, with 2 outdoor cats and a pup that goes in & out. Was wondering what else we can do, planting some of these sounds like an excellent idea! Thank you!

    1. Hi there Laura!
      I’m sorry to hear you’re battling fleas – they’re such a pain! Planting these around the place really helps a lot. We used to have lots of problems with fleas and ticks (even worse!) but since planting these, I haven’t seen any fleas. There are still some ticks but many less than before. I have 4 big dogs and they’re in and out a million times a day 😀

    1. @Jackie, While the herb form isn’t likely to cause acute toxicity, most of the herbs listed here are not really good for a cat’s liver. If you go this route, use sparingly, and never use any of these in essential oil form.

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