Flea-repelling plants: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Plants vs Zombies GameEver heard of the popular phone game Plants vs. Zombies? It’s a strangely addictive game where you use different types of plants to keep hoards of zombies away from your house. Using flea-repelling plants to keep those tiny pests away from your house and pets seems to work on the same principle. Plants are your friends!

If you are embarking on a new landscaping plan, or if you’d just like to brighten up your yard with some new potted plants, you can use some of these popular flea-deterring plants to add another level of protection to your home and your pets.

It’s important to know that while some plants may be effective at repelling fleas, they may also pose a threat to your pet if your pet ingests them. For example, the appropriately named Fleabane (or Pennyroyal) plant is no friend to fleas, but it is actually also toxic to cats and dogs. Other plants that are commonly cited as flea repellents but that are also dangerous to pets include:

Sweet Bay
Chrysanthemum (or Feverfew)

Also be aware that garlic is toxic to cats and some breeds of dogs. Some sources suggest scattering whole or ground cloves of garlic around your yard to keep the fleas away, but this will pose a threat to any cats and dogs who might chance upon them.

Also be aware that certain plants can deter or kill beneficial nematodes, the good flea-killing worms that you can add to your yard to keep flea populations under control. If you are using nematodes as a treatment, be sure to keep them away from those particular plants.

Plants that repel fleas and are non-toxic to cats and dogs include:

Plants in the mint family
Catnip (be aware that this plant may attract neighboring cats)
Rosemary (the herb, not Rosemary Bog or Rosemary Pea, which are toxic to pets)
Lemon grass

A note about mints:
Mint plants are very useful flea repellents, however, they are also invasive plants and, if allowed, will overtake large sections of your yard. One method for containing mint plants is to plant them in separate pots. If you wish to use them in your landscaping, you can simply bury the pot in the ground, just be sure the pot has proper drainage holes to keep too much water from getting trapped and oversaturating the plant. Also, if you are using a variety of mints, be sure to keep them separate to avoid cross-pollination of the plants.

For more general information about what plants may or may not be harmful to your pet, you can visit the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals website (ASPCA.org) and view their list of toxic and non-toxic plants. HYPERLINK: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants

This list is particularly useful if you are introducing new plants into your yard and home. Also take special care around holidays and special occasions when you might have seasonal plants in your home such as lilies, poinsettias, and other foliage associated with holiday celebrations.

Also note that flea-repelling potted plants in your home will not eradicate an already existing flea problem, but if these plants are placed near to problem spots, such as around your pet’s favorite spots to sleep and rest, you may be able to disrupt the fleas and give some measure of relief to your pet, not to mention beautifying your home atmosphere!

A Personal Perspective:

For a time, I lived in a rental house that had a very large, very overgrown back yard. We had neighbor cats and dogs and even some neighbor chickens all near by. While doing house repairs, our landlord also commonly brought his dog, who wasn’t shy about coming and spending time in the house.

With so many pets about, and with a house that had lain vacant for some time, one of our first concerns was the possibility of having an infestation of fleas and other critters. As the spring moved into hot summer weather, we braced for the insects that would come with it. And while we had an inexplicable case of beetles in the front yard, we never seemed to have trouble with the back yard.

One day, as I was out doing yard work, I started to notice that we had an abundance of one type of plant. After closer inspection, we realized that we had a healthy crop of mint. Their distinct smell gave them away as lemon mint plants. We were happy to let the plants continue growing because we figured they were doing such a good job of keeping the pests away. The whole time we lived in that house, not once did we ever see a flea.



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