Can I Use Essential Oils for Plants? Types, When, How and Why


So everyone knows the myriad of ways you can use essential oils. Essential oils for diffusers, in your bath for a relaxing experience, to bring a sensory explosion to your daily cleaning chores and more! 

But can you use essential oils for plants? Given essential oils have enormous benefits to us, you might be wondering if you can use essential oils in your garden? 

In this article today we are going to explore if it’s possible to harness the power of essential oils for your plants and if it is possible, discover their uses in keeping your living, growing garden friends abundant and healthy! 

So before we delve a little more deeply right into the million-dollar question, let’s start by finding out the mini answer.

Can I use essential oils for plants? Although essential oils won’t give your plants any direct nutritional benefit, they are a great insecticide, help prevent fungus growth, keep away harmful vermin and can stop slugs, snails and other insects invading your flower beds and veggie patches.

So now we are clapping our hands and know our garden and house plants can enjoy the endless benefits of essential oils, let’s dive right in and start by discovering a little more. 

Let’s start by addressing one of the main questions you might have when wondering if you can use essential oils on plants. 

Welcome to Willow Yard
Welcome to Willow Yard

Do essential oils have any nutritional benefit to my plants? 

Essential oils have always been a go-to product for beauty, relaxation, and many other uses. 

Besides these uses, one common confusion many have is whether they can help your plants nutritionally.

Not a plant food

Although essential oils have a range of super uses for the plant kingdom, they don’t have any nutritional content. 

This means that although you can use essential oils to keep away slugs and snails for example, the oils won’t assist their growth as a plant food would. 

So if you decide to use them around your ailing tomato or eggplant crop, they won’t bring them back to life, or have any properties which will effectively ‘feed’ plants. 

“Although essential oils have a range of super uses for the plant kingdom,
they don’t have any nutritional content.”

Before we start delving any deeper into some of the ways you can use essential oils to benefit your indoor and outdoor plants, You might be wondering whether or not essential oils can actually be harmful to plants?  So let’s take a look below and find out!

essential oils in garden
My garden enjoying some essential oils!

Are essential oils harmful to plants? 

So before you get handy with your essential oil kit, it’s worth finding out if they might harm your garden and oasis of indoor plants at all. 

Essential oils have an important role to play in organic gardening. There are many different types of oils, which we will explore later which help to kill weeds, and also keep away insects that may harm your plants, especially those which are edible. 

Essential oils are a fabulous way of keeping your plants and veggie patch free of those little 6 legged invaders who show up to get a meal courtesy of your hard work! 

So, the good news is essential oils won’t harm your plants. They will not: 

  • Harm 
  • Damage 
  • Spoil 
  • Reduce or damage growth 

As essential oils are all-natural and derived mainly from plant and flower extracts, they will not harm either the plants themselves or the person administering the oils, unlike some pesticides which do have the potential to be harmful to humans and members of the animal kingdom. 

And it’s important to remember not all essential oils can be used for all types of plants or uses. So if one is expecting enhanced growth, or production from plants after using essential oils, then it’s a definite no. 

“The good news is essential oils
won’t harm your plants.”

Great Insecticide 

The huge range of essential oils available each with their own properties acts as a superb natural repellent to many of the pesky little insects set to benefit from your gardening labor! 

It can be really deflating to find out every creepy-crawly is lunching in your herb garden! 

rosemary sprig

Some of the more common essential oils which you may already have in your essential oil kit are: 

  • Rosemary
  • Peppermint
  • Thyme
  • Clove 

Essential oils work as a perfect insecticide for insects such as: 

  • Spiders 
  • Aphids
  • Squash bugs
  • Ants
  • Beetles 
  • Whitefly
  • Greenfly 

They also work against biting and flying insects like chiggers, ticks, and roaches.

Not only that, but essential oils can also act as a great insecticide for insect larvae that love to munch on veggies and other plants, risking your crops. 

So which oils work best as a pest repellent? Let’s take a look and find out. 

“essential oils can also act as a great insecticide for insect larvae”

12 Best essential oils for pest repellent 

The way that essential works by keeping away insects from your garden, is that they interfere with their neurotransmitters, which are not present in humans or other vertebrates. 

Insects pests can be a huge headache for any kind of gardening. Whether you are planning to harvest your own veggies, or simply want to grow a beautiful rise bed! 

Essential oils can act as a great repellent for many types of pesky insects like fleas, flies, and of course mosquitoes.

This makes essential oils an excellent, safe pest repellent. So let’s take a look below at some of the most well-known oils and how they can keep your veggie patch and your flowers pest free! 

Garlic oil

  • Garlic Oil is very pungent and works well at repelling several pests, including mosquitoes and cats.

Lemongrass

  • Lemongrass oil that is derived from lemongrass is Citronella which is an excellent and probably best-known pest and insect repellent.it has a very sharp and pungent odor and helps to keep pests such as gnats, ants, ticks and flies away from your lawn

Eucalyptus

  • Similar to Citronella, Eucalyptus oil of the eucalyptus tree has a distinct and strong smell that mosquitoes find fairly challenging, as it disrupts their ability to locate food. The oil from Eucalyptus trees also repels many other irritating insects such as midges, sandflies, and ticks.

Head over find out more benefits of eucalyptus oils in a diffuser, which will help to keep indoor pests at bay,.

Cajeput

  • According to experts, cajeput essentials oils are very effective for getting rid of skin ticks such as scabies and other fungal skin infections, so it stands to reason it will also be beneficial in repelling garden mites. This useful oil Will repel a variety of flying and crawling pests without harming vegetation.

Peppermint

  • This well-loved fresh-smelling essential oil repels ants, lice, spiders, and fleas. If you own pets, it’s also great to use on the lawn to keep the flea population at bay. Also, soak a cotton ball with non-diluted peppermint oil and tuck around the perimeter of your garden to keep rats and squirrels from eating your vegetables.

Pine oil

  • Pine oil repels fleas, ticks, slugs, and snails. Good to use in the garden as a natural repellent which won’t harm children or your pets 

Rosemary

  • Rosemary essential oil is a natural mosquito and cat repellent. To keep cats from using your garden as their personal bathroom, try this trick. Spray small strips of cloth with rosemary oil water and hang the strips up around the perimeter of your garden. Cats hate the smell of rosemary and will stay away from along with the mosquitos. Re-wet cloth strips weekly or after a rain.
herb garden
looking after my little herbs with essential oils!

Tea tree

  • By applying a thin layer of Tea Tree Oil along any noticeable ant trails, you can remove them pretty effectively. This is because they don’t like the smell. This also works inside your home too! It’s also great for repelling pesky flies in your garbage can too. If your precious harvest or plants are bothered by fungal infections, tea tree can be applied in a spray water bottle once or twice a week. Add two tablespoons of Tea tree oil with 2 cups of water in a spray bottle. To make sure you don’t burn the leaves, spray early morning and not as often in dry, hot weather. 
  • To find out more about tea tree benefits with lavender oil, head over to my other helpful article.

Lavender 

  • In its original natural plant state, lavender is a whizz at repelling insects! There’s not many creepy crawlies who bother this plant! Lavender makes an excellent all-round insecticide. As with all essential use, it’s better to use a glass bottle for any spraying purposes. Simply mix equal parts of distilled water and witch hazel, then use 20 drops of lavender for every 100 milliliters. This spray works best on soft-bodied insects. 

Clove

  • Along with many of its other essential oil contemporaries, Clove oils are great at repelling pests and as an anti-fungal. Clove oil has the added bonus of breaking down quite quickly and along with its low level of toxins means it’s very safe to use for any organic gardening. Clove oil is often used in natural pest control products.

Neem oil 

  • Neem oil is a gardener’s best friend as it can be used really effectively in eradicating infestations of insects and other types of garden pests. Infested plants usually have a very hard and thick waxy coating that makes the pests difficult to get rid of, without damaging the plant. If this is the case, you may have to cut the infested plant parts to stop it from spreading. However, essential oils, specifically like Neem oil helps in dehydrating the waxy layers causing the insecticides to dehydrate and eventually removes the infestation. 

Thieves oil

  • Thieves oil is a mix of clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus, and rosemary. To mix your own use:
  • 40 drops of clove bud essential oil
  • 35 drops lemon essential oil 
  • 20 drops cinnamon bark essential oil
  • 15 drops eucalyptus essential oil
  • 10 drops rosemary essential oil. Then in a standard size glass spray bottle, fill it almost full of water and then add enough Thieves Oil to color the water.

As we’ve seen above from looking at individual essential oils, we can see these wonderful power-packed oils can be a gardener’s best friend! Especially if you want to be more organic. 

Along with helping to eliminate flying pests and other creepy crawlies, essential oils also help with plant diseases and help to prevent the growth of fungus. 

Let’s find out more below. 

Essential oils prevent fungal growth

According to research by Michigan State University, around 85% of plant problems are caused by fungal growth including unhealthy growth. 

Fungal growth can become a huge problem for a plant’s production overall life is left untreated. 

Fungi cause damage to plants by poisoning or killing the plant cells and also by blocking the stomata through which plants breathe. 

Also, the growth of the plant is affected by fungal growth because these fungi steal the nutrients from plants as they spread in the plant.

Essential oils can help not only fungal growth but can also altogether help to kill the fungus. 

The best recommended essential oil for this use is Tea Tree oil. 

To make tea tree oil fungicide you will need: 

  • 2 tbsp. tea tree oil
  • 4 tbsp. baking soda 
  • 1 gallon of water

Mix the tea tree oil into the water along with the baking soda in a glass spray bottle. 

The baking soda helps to control mildew, while the tea tree oil kills fungus

Every gardening dreads seeing that little silvery trail indicating the evidence of slugs and snails! 

So can essential oils stop these little unwelcome guests from feasting on your plants and garden? Let’s find out below. 

Stop slugs and snails from invading plants 

Slugs and snails can easily turn up in your veggie patch and more often, on rainy days. 

I have found this out to my cost! As an amateur veg grower, I can’t tell you how disappointing it is on a wet morning to discover those telltale munch holes! 

Essential oils can help to keep these unwanted tiny creatures away from your plants and garden. 

I’ve experimented with different types of oils and have found cedarwood, hyssop and pine seem to work the best. 

Here’s my recipe. 

Essential oil slug and snail repellent

Use 1 tsp of cedarwood, hyssop, or pine oil. You could also use a blend of the three, depending on the oils you have available. Then mix roughly about a teaspoon of your chosen oil or oils into a 32oz spray bottle filled with water. Spray right around any veggies or plants where slugs and snails have been. 

head over to my other article to find out the power of cedarwood oil to keep your home smelling beautifully of mountain air while discouraging mini-flying pests!

Ok, so we know a squirrel is adorable to look at, but they are very partial to munching on your carefully grown plants and veggies! So can essential oils help to deter our furry friends? Let’s find out. 

Vermin 

Essential oils can help keep harmful vermins such as rats, mice, and squirrels away from your plants and crops. It works mainly because of the fragrance. 

Peppermint oil with its fresh, clean smell works wonders in dispersing those vermin, including mice and squirrels, who might have visited your garden for lunch! 

A good way to ensure you don’t have any unwelcome furry visitors is to soak some cotton wool balls in peppermint and drip around plant pots and any areas with your crops. 

You can also hang them in plant pots where squirrels are likely to be, or even near mouse entrances. and any other rodent burrows. 

Helps in pollination 

Essential oils are perfect for boosting pollination and aid the production of flowers, fruits, and vegetables, obviously unless they are self-pollinating! How essential oil helps pollination is quite magical. 

The smell and fragrance of certain essential oils such as give out an irresistible attractant for pollinators. 

  • Neroli, (which is made from orange blossom)
  • Lavender
  • Hyssop
  • Marjoram
  • Helichrysum
  • Basil
  • Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Yarrow
  • Catmint 
  • Fennel

The bees and butterflies will flock to your garden and help to speed up the pollination process for you! 

So now we’ve discovered how essential oils are a real boon to the organic gardener or anyone who wants to try more natural processes in your garden, you might be wondering if there’s anything important you should know? Let’s take a look below.

bee on lavender

Is there anything I should know about using essential oils on my plants?

It’s important to remember essential oils are highly concentrated so don’t use them neat on your plants and veggies.

Always dilute with water as directed in a spray bottle. Spray bottles can be plastic for a one-off hit, but if you are looking to store your mixes, then a glass spray bottle will help to keep the essential oils in tip-top condition. 

Light and especially sunlight is damaging to essential oils, so make sure you store any mixes in a cool dark place. 

And of course, depending on the type of plant and temperature, there are certain areas of plants and temperatures where using essential oils may not be appropriate. So it’s important to be mindful of these when using essential oils for plants. 

“sunlight is damaging to essential oils, so make sure you store
any mixes in a cool dark place.”

This content has been checked and verified by a medical professional or aromatherapist The article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policy.

And finally…

Well, that’s a wrap! I hope this has given you lots of info on how to use your essential oils in your gardens and veggie patches! 

Essential oils are perfect in your garden, to help remove many insects, furry critters such as squirrels, rats, and mice, and are also great for promoting a fungal-free environment for your green space. 

For any budding aromatherapists out there, don’t forget to check out my other helpful articles for use in your home and personal use! such as ‘Can Essential Oils firm Breasts?How Much Oil Do I Use in a Diffuser, A Guide, and lots of oil blend advice, such as using gorgeous Orange oil for living!

This content has been checked and verified by a medical professional or aromatherapist The article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policy.

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