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Essential Oils / Gardening 101

Ultimate Guide to Using Essential Oils for Plants

A healthy, thriving garden is what we all want! The bugs, slugs, fungus and weeds…not so much. Great news! It IS possible to treat your garden naturally for all of these problems using just essential oils for plants. Enjoy the health benefits of an organic garden and say goodbye to toxic chemical sprays and pesticides. Essential oils for gardening is not only a natural and holistic approach for ourselves, but also a much healthier option for plants to remain pest-free.

This organic alternative serves as a plant’s natural defense, repelling insects while aiding in healing for both themselves and neighboring plants. Various essential oils for plants possess anti-fungal and insecticidal properties for naturally preserving our gardens.

Keep reading to find out the best 8 essential oils for plants, as well as my top essential oil recipes for pest control and pollination. Then read all about why you should consider Young Living essential oils.

This article contains affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.

What Are Essential Oils?

First things first, what are esssential oils?

Essential oils are concentrated aromatic liquid extracted from different parts of a plant. This includes the leaves, flowers, stems, and roots. Different essential oils use different parts of the plant and are extracted in different ways (i.e. steam distillation vs cold pressing).

They hold the plant’s natural fragrance, essence and beneficial chemical compounds (this is where the healing comes from!).

Essential oils find common use in aromatherapy, for their scent, relaxation, and wellness benefits. Certain essential oils are known for their soothing, energizing, and relief-providing properties for various health issues. Now, essential oils are becoming increasingly popular in the field of gardening and plant care as well.

And rightly so, the idea of plants helping plants makes absolute sense!

essential oils being dropped on a leaf. essential oils gardening tips

Benefits of Using Essential Oils for Plants

1. A Pest-Free Garden

Most commercially available pest controls consist of toxic chemicals that can be harmful to both plant and human health. As plants and soil naturally absorb everything, this means they all absorb any toxins and unknown ingredients present in pesticides and fertilizers. In a vegetable garden, this then becomes what we eat!

Incorporating essential oils in your garden keeps harmful chemicals away and provides a safe space for growing healthy herbs, veggies and fruits. 

2. Draws in Pollinators

Shifting to an organic approach also attracts pollinators, which is a great advantage. 

Essential oils for plants have powerful ingredients that not only repel weeds but also attract pollinators. Bees and butterflies help pollinate flowers, leading to greater vegetable and fruit production in the garden.

Many crops rely on their pollination for growth and production.

3. Mother Nature’s Medicine

Plants produce essential oils as a survival strategy and way to interact with their environment. 

These oils offer protection against fungus, bacteria, microbes, pests and herbivores. Certain oils have a strong scent or flavor that deters pests from eating the plant. Specific plant oils offer protection by having natural antimicrobial properties that shield the plant from fungal and bacterial infestations. 

Why not embrace nature’s wisdom and use essential oils for the well-being of your garden? Plus, it’s a form of vegetable companion planting! By using essential oils for companion planting, you create a more harmonious and pest-resistant garden that promotes the well-being of your plants. 

8 Best Essential Oils for Plants

Heading to your local garden center and finding the right bottle for the right gardening problem is easy. But let me encourage you by saying that the natural approach is truly worth it for your health and the health of your garden! Before long you will get the hang of it and you’ll be away!  

So where to begin? Here are the top essential oils commonly used for gardening:

1. Rosemary Essential Oil  

rosemary essential oil in front of rosemary bush in our essential oils for gardening

Rosemary oil is derived from the aromatic herb rosemary ‘Rosmarinus officinalis’ through a steam distillation process. 

One of the best smelling essential oils, rosemary oil is known for its invigorating and herbaceous fragrance. This makes it a popular choice for natural pest repellent in gardening. 

Studies show that rosemary is particularly well known for killing two common garden bugs; white flies and spider mites. It also effectively repels other pests including; aphids, bean beetles, ants, fleas, flies, mosquitoes and cabbage moths, and can also deter insect larvae. 

Moreover, adding diluted rosemary oil solution to soil can help improve its health by preventing harmful microorganisms’ growth. 

A great companion, rosemary oil also stimulates growth of herb plants like sage and basil. Not just this, pollinating butterflies are also attracted naturally to rosemary’s scent so you’ll soon be welcoming beautiful butterflies to your garden!

All great things, right? Nature provides so much of what we need for our garden!

2. Tea Tree Essential Oil

Also known as Melaleuca oil, tea tree oil is the best option for gardeners to combat fungus and fungal diseases in plants.

This natural fungus suppressant wards off common fungus and mold! Protect your garden plants by spraying them with a mixture of tea tree oil and water. 

Tea tree oil, when applied carefully and in the right proportions, offers benefits in terms of pest control and fungal prevention. 

3. Peppermint Essential Oil

One of the best essential oils for plants, Peppermint oil works best to repel beetles, spiders, mites, flies, aphids and moths. 

Thanks to its strong mint scent, it can also deter larger pests like mice, moles and gophers. Using peppermint oil-soaked cotton balls and strategically placing them around gopher holes and other garden space is an effective technique.

peppermint bottle in front of peppermint plant. We learn about essential oils for plants and are essential oils bad for plants

4. Clove Essential Oil 

Looking for a multipurpose oil to improve your garden’s health? Clove essential oil is the answer. 

Yes, this powerhouse oil removes unwanted weeds while keeping insects at bay with its strong spicy smell.

Clove essential oil aids in managing mold and fungus issues in both soil and plants.

5. Lavender Essential Oil

I have heard this question a few times, “is lavender oil safe for plants?” Trust me; lavender essential oil is a must-have for your garden! 

It not only attracts butterflies but also pollinators like bees. It also repels chiggers and mosquitoes. This natural insect repellent is absolutely considered safe for plants when used correctly. 

And as a side note, lavender oil is consider to be the swiss army knife of oils. Great for a gardener to have on hand to apply to any bites, scrapes or stings from being outdoors.

lavender essential oil in front of a lavender bush. We look at the question is lavender oil safe for plants

6. Orange Essential Oil

With its sweet aroma, orange essential oil naturally attracts master pollinators like butterflies and bees to your garden.

Orange oil also contains limonene that not only repels insects but also kills opportunistic flies and ants. 

orange essential oil in front of orange tree. As we look into essential oils for gardening and are essential oils safe for plants

7. Cinnamon Essential Oil

Dealing with weeds is a well-known challenge for every gardener. This is where cinnamon essential oil comes in handy! Thankfully, cinnamon oil is the best natural way to remove weeds. 

The strong odor also serves as a garden pest repellent for snails, ants, moths and gnats. 

8. Oregano Essential Oil 

Another powerful oil on our best essential oils for gardening list; oregano oil is famous for its anti-fungal properties. It has the dual function of combating plant fungus and acting as a natural pest repellent, effectively deterring pests like mosquitoes, carrot and green flies. 

With these 8 essential oils in your gardening belt, you have everything you need to promote a healthy, thriving, pest-free garden!

oregano essential oil amongst oregano plant. great essential oil for gardening

How to Use Essential Oils in Your Garden

The good news is that you really only require a small amount of essential oils in the garden so it pays to buy organic if you can. This makes it an economical method for crafting natural garden sprays by using essential oils for pest control. 

Spray Bottle Application

Here is a general rule for diluting essential oils for plants in a spray bottle.

  • When using oil around plants, it’s recommended to add 15-20 drops per 10oz spray bottle then top with water.
  • If you intend to spray the plants themselves, a more diluted mixture of only 1-3 drops in a 10oz spray bottle is suitable.
  • If you are looking for an allrounder recipe rather than mixing two spray bottles, a good rule of thumb is 8-10 drops of oil in a 10oz spray bottle.

Like a lot of things, it’s always a good idea to conduct a patch test on a small area of your garden before widespread application. This is to ensure compatibility with your specific plant species.

spraying vegetable garden with hand spray. Using essential oils for plants

Cotton Ball Application

Another popular method for using essential oils in your garden. Using cotton balls is an effective method to deter larger garden pests including moles, moths, and mice. 

  1. Drop 8-10 drops of essential oils on cotton balls and place them in rodent burrows/nests or position them around your garden beds where you’re likely to get pests.
  2. Replace the cotton balls every few days or when the scent starts to fade in order to maintain effectiveness.

I have also seen this done using strips of cloth tied to sticks like a flag and dotting them around the garden. This is more eco friendly as more oil can be applied to the same cloths again and again.

How Often to Apply

For preventive measures, I’d suggest spraying your plants every 1-2 weeks. If you have a certain pest issue, it’s advisable to spray every 3 days for a week or two. 

The best time to spray your plants is when the sun is setting (especially in warmer months to) avoid plant burn or evaporation. 

Precautions

Keep essential oils out of reach from children and pets as certain oils, especially tea tree oil, can be toxic in high doses. 

If you are using Young Living essential oils like I suggest then these are safe to ingest, otherwise, thoroughly wash any edible plants before consumption to remove any residual oils.

Are Essential Oils Safe for Plants?

I have been asked these questions a lot, “are essential oils safe for plants?” or “are essential oils bad for plants?” which is one of the reasons why I wrote this article.

Essential oils are safe for plants when used in moderation and with care. It’s important to take care not to overuse them as excessive essential oil use has the potential to harm certain plants. 

Furthermore, it’s vital to use essential oils for gardening purposes in accordance with recommended dilution guidelines and precautions to ensure the well-being of plants. are essential oils safe for plants

hand spray plants with essential oils..are essential oils bad for plants

How Essential Oils Work for Pest Control

Harnessing the power of essential oils for pest control offers a natural and eco-friendly approach to safeguarding your garden. Thanks to their potent aromatic compounds, essential oils serve as natural pest repellents in the following ways:

Sensory Overload

Essential oils’ strong sharp scent can engulf pests, making it challenging for them to trace their target plants. This sensory overload disturbs their usual behavior and drives them away from your garden. 

Toxicity

Certain compounds found in essential oils are toxic to pests and kill or harm them when they come in contact or ingest oils, thus acting as an effective natural pesticide.

Communication Interference

Certain essential oils disrupt the chemical communication systems of pests making it hard to carry out mating or foraging which can hinder their ability to thrive. 

Repellent Properties

Citronella, lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus essential oils are famous for their natural repellent properties. Pests find these scents unappealing and tend to avoid essential oil gardening areas with these plants or essential oils. 

Additionally, it’s worth noting that while essential oils can be effective, they may not offer a complete solution for all your pest problems, and a combination of pest control methods may be necessary for comprehensive protection. Here’s how a mixture of essential oils play an important role in deterring:

Essential Oils for Garden Pests

Common Pests

Lavender, lemongrass and rosemary essential oils repel fleas, flies, mosquitoes as well as insect larvae like cabbage loopers. 

Sweet orange, peppermint and spearmint deter other common pests such as aphids, whiteflies, squash bugs, beetles, ants, and spiders. 

Rodent Control

All you have to do is place a cotton ball soaked with peppermint oil close to the entrances of chipmunks, mice and other burrowing rodent tunnels. 

Rodents move somewhere else as they dislike the minty scent of peppermint. Plus, squirrels are a not fans of peppermint-scented areas. 

Wandering Pets

No more wandering pet cats and dogs in your garden! Prepare a water and rosemary mixture and apply it on garden mulch or the kids sand pit.

Alternatively, saturate or spray cloth pieces with the rosemary mixture and hang them amidst your plants. Cats dislike the smell of rosemary whereas dogs detest peppermint!

Snails and Slugs

Pine, orange, garlic, cedarwood and hyssop oils serve as snail and slug repellents. Spray the oil-water mixture around the base of vulnerable plants to deter these garden pests.

Essential Oils for Plant Growth and Health

Essential oils have the potential to contribute to various aspects of plant health and vitality. 

  • Lavender and rosemary oil contain compounds that enhance cell division and elongation for healthy robust plant growth. 
  • Cinnamon and clove oil encourage root development.
  • By attracting pollinators, essential oils indirectly support overall plant health including seed and fruit production.

By using essential oils as natural pest repellents they can also help protect plants from insect damage, diseases and contribute to the overall health of your garden. 

using essential oils for gardening by treating a plant with fungal infection

Garden Essential Oil Recipes You Can Make At Home

Anti Fungal Spray Recipe

Commonly susceptible plants to fungus infections include tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, melons, grapes, lilacs, fruit trees and bee balm. You might be familiar with powdery mildew on cucumber leaves, and squash and blight affecting tomato plants. 

Plant molds and mildew can swiftly harm plants, frequently spreading within a species. Try these amazing blends of oils to combat fungus. 

Recipe 1: Spray Bottle

  1. Prepare fungus suppressant by adding 20 drops of tea tree oil in an 8 oz water-filled spray bottle. 
  2. Add 10 drops of oil in 4oz of water if you require half quantity. 
  3. Spray both the underside and top of leaves to treat and prevent fungal issues. 

Recipe 2: Sprayer

  1. Take a 1 gallon water-filled sprayer, add 5 drops of tea tree, 1 drop oregano oil with 3 tbsp baking and 1tbsp liquid castile soap. 
  2. Spray on affected leaf parts preferably during the morning or evening once a week. 

Pest Repellant Recipes

In a 16 oz amber glass bottle equipped with a spray top, combine:

  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 drops of Peppermint oil
  • 2 drops of Rosemary oil
  • 1 drop of Oregano essential oil .

Use this mixture around the garden to eliminate unwanted pests.

Take a 16 oz spray bottle; combine:

  • 2 tbsp Castile Soap or Thieves Household Cleaner Concentrate
  • 10 drops of Peppermint oil
  • 10 drops Lavender oil
  • 5 drops of Cedarwood oil
  • 5 drops of Lemongrass oil.

Fill the bottle to the top with water and spray to eradicate pests.

Pest Repellants vs Pollinator Essential Oils

As a quick reference guide, here’s a list of the best essential oils to use in pest repellents:

ESSENTIAL OILS USED FOR PEST-CONTROL
Peppermint OIL
Lavender Oil
Lemongrass Oil
Cedarwood Oil
Clove Oil
Cinnamon Oil
Orange Oil
Basil Oil
Oregano Oil

Butterflies and bees are attracted to the following essentials oils scent:

BEESBUTTERFLIES
Lavender Oil
Helichrysum Oil
Wild Orange oilFennel Oil
Rosemary Oil
Basil Oil
Marjoram Oil

Pollinator Attractor Spray

To attract bees and butterflies, choose any essential oil or combination of oils from the above chart to prepare a pollinator spray.

  • Add 5 drops of your selected oils in an 8oz water-filled spray bottle

Mist on buds and flowers to enhance pollination. 

bees pollinating a lavender plant. is lavender oil safe for plants? Yes essential oils are safe for pollinators and plant

Potential Drawbacks & Considerations of Essential Oils

While essential oils offer many benefits in gardening, they also come with certain downsides and limitations that must be considered. 

Plant Sensitivity

A few plants are sensitive to essential oils, especially when applied in high concentration. Overuse of essential oils may result in damage or even plant death.

Oregano and thyme essential oil for examplecan harm tomato plants while clove and cinnamon oil may damage petunia plants. The strong chemical compounds and aromas in essential oils can cause damage to delicate plants like violets and pansies.

For this reason it is recommended to do a test with your essential oil spray before widespread application in your garden.

Cost 

Another potential downside of using essential oils for gardening is cost. Organic pure essential oils can be relatively expensive, particularly if you require in larger quantities or to use them regularly. 

Frequent Application

Essential oil solutions tend to break down and evaporate more quickly than artificial chemical pesticides or fertilizers. This implies that essential oils may require repeated reapplication especially in outdoor settings. 

Final Words on Essential Oils for Gardening

In summary, essential oils are an incredibly valuable addition to your gardening toolkit! Using essential oils for plants is a growing trend and emerged as a versatile and eco-friendly tool in the realm of gardening. Their natural properties offer many benefits, from pest-control and fungus prevention to promoting plant growth. Integrating essential oils into your plant care routine, in combination with traditional gardening practices, provides a holistic approach to a nurturing, flourishing and thriving garden.