Plants that deter pests like ants, mosquitoes and termites

While waiting for our food at The Vegetarian Kitchen two days ago, a woman carrying a huge bag came in. I thought she was also a customer but she was looking for someone and the son of the owner The Vegetarian Kitchen entertained her. I was busy taking photos of the place and I wasn’t really paying attention until I saw bunches of plants change hands. The woman was selling citronella plants. Suddenly, she had my hundred per cent attention.

If you’re a long-time reader, you’d probably know about the long and hard battle we’ve been fighting against mosquitoes that we have tried just about every anti-mosquito gadget in the market — from electric repellers to sprays to lotions to patches to portable sonic devices.

And we’re still willing to try whatever else there is. So, when we encountered this woman selling citronella plants, well… you can imagine the adrenalin rush. And not only was she selling citronella. She had this other plant that she called “racumin” which, according to her, was good for repelling ants and termites. Oh, perfect! I started asking how to take care of the plants, how to propagate them, etcetera. To cut to the chase, we bought what she was selling. Speedy haggled with her to get the best price.

casaveneracion.com how to propagate citronella

When we got home, we put the plants in water. That’s the citronella on the right and the “racumin” on the left. According to the seller, both will survive without planting, just keep in jars of water, and the citronella should always be kept out of the sun. New shoots grow near the roots and it’s easy to propagate them. The “racumin” is not sun-sensitive and may be replanted in the garden. For best results, she recommended planting them around the perimeter of the house.

Of course, the fact that the seller called one of the plants “racumin” intrigued me. The racumin I know is rat poison. I surfed the web searching for references to “racumin plant.” I found none but I did discover more plants that naturally repel common household pests. Mint is one of them.

Mint is an herb that will repel most insects, including termites. The EPA recommends mint as a natural pesticide to use in place of the common environmentally harmful chemicals. [Read more: Plants That Deter Termites]

casaveneracion.com mint plants for sale

We’ve had mint in the garden for years because we use them for cooking and mixing cocktail drinks. We buy mint from the Manila Seedling Bank along with other herbs for cooking.

casaveneracion.com propagating mint

But we’ve never planted the mint directly into the soil because I read a long time ago that its roots grow fast and can kill other plants near it. So, we’ve been replanting the mint in troughs. But, now armed with the information that mint can repel pests, if the “racumin plant” turns out to be a lemon, we can buy lots of mint plants and replant them at intervals around the house where they can grow and spread.

Still another natural ant and termite repeller is the chili.

casaveneracion.com bird's eye chilli

Hot chili pepper plants can deter termites, ants and cutworms, according to The Organic Farmer in Kenya, Africa. You can also make a spray from chilies by soaking 2 cups of very hot chilies in 1 qt. of water for one day; shake the mixture, strain it and add 1 gallon of water and 1tbsp. of dishwashing soap. Spray the wood where you suspect termites exist and repeat your application every other day until you see no further evidence of termite damage. [Read more: What Plants Prevent Termites?]

Our chili plants dont look so healthy these days. But I think I should pay more attention to them and see that they get enough water in this terrible heat. Then, I will start growing more. Chilis are among the easiest plants to grow anyway as they need very little care. When we have enough chilis, mint and “racumin plant” to surround the house, let’s see if they can really keep the darn ants and termites out.