So the neighbourhood cat keeps digging in your garden. Should you worry?

Probably — a little. Cats are carnivores and their feces can contain parasites or pathogens not present in herbivore manure.

Luckily, there are several eco friendly solutions that will help to keep cats out of your much loved vegetable beds and away from your growing food.

Cats prefer to walk on soft soil and will avoid prickly surfaces. Make your garden beds into a less inviting litter box with the following prickly solutions:

  • Cover the garden in twigs, placed a couple of inches apart throughout the bed.
  • Push pine cones or other prickly yard trimmings down into the soil around your plants.
  • Lay chicken wire over the beds. Alternatively, upcycle the mesh produce bags from onions or potatoes by spreading them on the garden and anchoring them with twigs. Increase the hole size around your budding plants if necessary.

Use scent to keep the cats away

  • Interplant in the garden. Cats dislike the smell of rue, lavender and pennyroyal, Coleus canina and lemon thyme — so plant a few of these throughout the garden space. As a bonus, interplanting will attract pollinators and can help to avoid pests too.
  • Cats steer clear of strong citrus scents. To ward off unwelcome fur balls, throw peels directly on the garden.
  • The scent of human hair deters cats. Empty your brushes onto the garden and reclaim your territory! (Stay away from moth balls though — this is a commonly cited suggestion — they are toxic to cats and humans).

Wash well to deter garden cats

If your visitor has a favourite location, try washing the area well with a hose (or water from your rain barrel!) to remove the scent or urine spray. Cats tend to choose the same spot repeatedly — removing their previous stake on your garden will go a long way towards preventing reoccurrences.

Mix up a batch of cat-away spray

Rumour has it that this magic combination of strong scents is unparalleled kitty repellent:

  1. Combine 1 tsp of black pepper, dry mustard and cinnamon in a spray bottle with a few drops of citrus essential oil and a crushed garlic clove.
  2. Fill to the top with water.
  3. Apply to your garden beds.

Create an outdoor litter box

Cats love mint, honeysuckle and catnip. Why not plant a small, separate, cat-friendly garden that includes a variety of these plants? Place a small sand box nearby. You’ll still have to clean up and properly dispose of your cat’s waste, but it might help keep kitty — and her business — out of your veggies.

  • Preventative planting with chicken wire: Lay chicken wire down on top of your soil or mulch, across the planting bed before you plant. Cats hate walking on chicken wire. Using wire cutters, cut out holes in the chicken wire that are sufficiently large for installing your plants.
  • Bristly material: If your garden bed is already established, you can prevent pussyfooting by mulching the problem bed with sharp-edged pine cones, holly cuttings, egg shells, or a stone mulch. Cats prefer to dig and poop in loose dirt and will be put off by these rough materials. For other areas, you might use a plastic carpet runner with the nub side up to discourage cats perching or lounging.
  • Smelly plants: Some plants give off smells that cats dislike. One such plant, Coleus canina, goes by the common name “scaredy cat plant.” It is also effective if you have trouble landscaping with dogs. Other plants often recommended for keeping cats away from yards are rue, lavender, (which is also a deer-resistant plant), and pennyroyal. You can plant these between your other plants.
  • Electric wire fence: Like rabbits, cats can be kept away humanely with the popular Mr. McGregor Fence, a fence so safe that even recommends it.
  • Water guns: Water is “Kryptonite for cats.” When you catch cats in the forbidden area, you can try squirting them with a Super Soaker or similar water gun. Such action may reinforce the notion that they are unwanted in your planting bed.
  • Water devices: Devices such as Scarecrow Sprinklers detect an intruder’s presence and fire a blast of water at it.
  • Ultrasound devices: Cat Stop is an electronic cat deterrent device that operates on a high frequency that is inaudible to humans but unbearable for cats. Installation is easy. You simply situate the device so that it faces toward the garden. A motion sensor detects the intruder’s presence, and Cat Stop then gives off its high-frequency sound, scaring off the cat.
  • Sound and repellent devices: The SsssCat! repellent device uses sound and a sprayed repellent and is motion-activated. You can also make your own noisy device by placing marbles or pebbles in an empty can that can be upset when a cat walks on a fence. Or, use a sensitive bell or wind chimes that make noise when a cat causes a vibration.
  • Commercial cat repellents: Shake-Away powder bears the scent of the urine of predators that cats fear, namely, coyote, fox, and bobcat. This commercial cat repellent comes in a granular form, which you simply sprinkle around the problem area. The product is advertised as being non-toxic and organic and will not harm your plants.
  • Smelly substances: Cats reportedly don’t like dried blood (as is found in blood meal fertilizer) or citrus. Use peels of oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit in your garden. Some people use mothballs. You can also use cayenne pepper flakes, but those will sting and you may not want to use that on your pet. The “Mythbusters” show busted the myth that lion’s feces and clear bottles of water deter cats.

Cats and plants do not go well together. Since cats are free to roam throughout the neighbourhood, visiting felines are a common sight in many gardens – but they are not always welcome. Not only do cats eat precious plants, they use your garden as a toilet, ruining the soil with their infertile faeces. But there are many solutions for keeping cats out of your garden, including cat deterrent plants.

Which plants repel cats?

Cats won’t generally be repelled by plants as such, but they can be deterred by the scents or textures of particular shrubs. By carefully placing these plants at entry points you can cut down on cats wandering into your garden. Mixing them into borders can prevent cats from climbing over your flowerbeds, where they dig and disturb plants and seedlings.

Cat deterrent plants

Photo by Amazonia Exotics U.K via Wikimedia Commons

1. Scaredy cat plant (Coleus canina)

The scaredy cat plant was bred in Germany specifically as a garden pest repellent. It emits an odour when animals brush past and can be effective against cats, dogs, foxes and rabbits. Unfortunately the smell of dog urine it gives off is so strong that it is unpleasant for nearby humans too. It’s easy to grow, likes the sun and is drought resistant, but will need protection from the frost during the winter months. It grows best in dry soil, which is ideal as cats usually avoid damp patches anyway. You can expect it to grow no taller than 2 feet and have beautiful blue or purple flowers.

2. Lavender (Lavandula)

Luckily, lavender comes with a scent that’s nice for us but unappealing for felines. These purple flowers are evergreen, so they act as a year round deterrent. Choose the tall varieties and plant them at the front of your borders as cats won’t jump over if they can’t see where they’ll land.

3. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Another fragrant option is rosemary, a herb that’s great for cooking as well as keeping cats at bay. It likes dry soil and a warm climate, but is also evergreen.

4. Rue (Ruta graveolens)

Rue is a shrub that kitties are adverse to. Plant it outside and sprinkle some of its leaves on the patio or inside if you need to warn cats away from these areas. But be careful since rue is poisonous, so always use gardening gloves when handling. If eaten it can cause nausea, vomiting and convulsions.

Photo by Gardenology

5. Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)

Also known as pudding grass, pennyroyal is the smallest of the mint family. But unlike a lot of mint, this variety is a deterrent for cats as it gives off a very strong spearmint fragrance. Once used in Roman cooking, pennyroyal has also had medical uses (despite the oil being poisonous) and served as a pest deterrent for early settlers in America.

6. Curry herb plant (Helichrysum italicum)

Cats don’t like curry. This spicy plant grows into a thick bush that releases its odour when animals brush past, offending the creatures with both its smell and coarse texture. You may want to use this one sparingly, however, as it is seen as a weed by many due to the harmful effect it can have on other flowers.

7. Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) and thyme (Thymus citriodorus)

Citrus is well know to ward off felines, so plant some lemon varieties to help with your natural defenses. Lemon balm produces white flowers in the summer and is great for attracting honey bees. Lemon thyme is an evergreen shrub that needs lots of sun and good drainage. It has pink flowers in late summer that attract bees and butterflies.

8. Thorny bushes

Cats won’t tread on uncomfortable surfaces, so covering exposed ground with spiky plants can be a great natural way to keep the kitties off. Grow thorny plants like roses, perennial geraniums or pyracantha over any bare soil in the flower beds. You can also make a spiky wall out of hedging like blackberry, hawthorn and holly to prevent cats from even entering your garden.

How to use plants to deter cats

Place some of these plants around the boundaries of your garden to ward off cats passing through the neighbourhood. Others work well around the front of flowerbeds as they stop cats climbing in to mark their territory. Cats spread their scent through urine and faeces as a reminder that they can visit this spot again, so preventing this is crucial for keeping them out. Cat deterrent plants ward off cats and physically stop them from digging up the flowerbeds to use as a litter tray. Layer mulch and pebbles around your plants to make it even harder for cats to dig the soil up. It’s also worth putting some of the plants in pots, so you can move them around if you see cats entering via another route, or if they come across the patio.

Using plants that attract cats

As well as deterring cats through planting, you can direct them to specific areas with attractive plants and so control their impact on the garden. Cats are attracted to catnip (Nepeta cataria) – hence the name – mint and honeysuckle, so simply plant these in the places you’d prefer cats to visit.

Other ways to repel cats

At Primrose we know a thing or two about pest control. We’ve written a list of ways to keep cats out of your garden and stock a range of cat repellers, including ultrasonic devices and water sprayers.

Our bestselling Pestbye Cat Repeller would make a great companion to deterrent plants to boost your defenses against feline invaders. Simply place it in your flowerbed and it will emit high frequency pulses whenever cats come near to send them running!

George works in the Primrose marketing team. As a lover of all things filmic, he also gets involved with our TV ads and web videos.

George’s idea of the perfect time in the garden is a long afternoon sitting in the shade with a good book. A cool breeze, peace and quiet… But of course, he’s usually disturbed by his energetic wire fox terrier, Poppy!

He writes about his misadventures in repotting plants and new discoveries about cat repellers.

See all of George’s posts.

Coleus canina

Send a not-so-subtle message to neighborhood cats and dogs who visit your garden by planting Coleus canina. This plant’s malodorous ways are something critters—including rabbits, deer and fox—tend to avoid. Because of its stinky nature, Coleus canina actually has a host of common names, including dogbane, dogs be gone, bunnies gone and, from British gardeners, pee-off plant. The plant’s leaves and stems, when brushed or broken, release odor that resembles either tomcat urine or skunk spray, depending on who’s doing the smelling.
Misinformation has attributed Coleus canina to German origins, when in fact it hails from South Africa. Like Coleus forskohlii, Coleus canina has several botanical names, including Coleus canina and Plectranthus caninus. Whatever you call it, it stinks.
Like all coleus, Coleus canina is a member of the mint family, which means plants have square stems and leaves are arranged in pairs opposite one another. Unlike its ornamental coleus cousins, Coleus canina doesn’t unfurl multicolored leaves. Instead, its foliage has a light green hue and a succulent, thickened texture, which hints at the plant’s drought-tolerant nature.
Plant Coleus canina in full sun or shade. The flowers aren’t showy, opening in shades of lavender along small spikes. They typically form in spring and early summer. Since you want the plant to produce as much stinky foliage as possible, it’s wise to pinch off blooms—if you can stand the smell. Wear disposable gloves or washable garden gloves, because the odor lingers on fabrics and leather.
Create a bushier plant by pinching out growing tips on plants when they’re young. Coleus canina thrives in well-drained soil, from sandy to fertile. Coming from South Africa, plants take off when summer temperatures soar. Although Coleus canina is succulent, it does benefit from regular moisture and responds with strong, even growth.
Coleus canina is perennial only in frost-free zones (Zone 10 in a frost-free winter and Zone 11 always). It behaves like a tender perennial in Zone 9 and possibly 8, too. Frost kills stems and leaves, but roots can survive, depending on the severity of the winter. Mulch plant crowns in Zones 8-9 in late fall to provide extra protection.
The best way to overwinter Coleus canina is to take cuttings for rooting. Stem cuttings root easily in water and can then be transplanted into soil. Coleus canina survives winter best under grow lights or in a bright southern or eastern window. And yes, plants produce their odor indoors when brushed or touched.
Coleus canina grows about 12 inches tall. Stems root easily, sinking roots where they touch soil. In warmest regions, Coleus canina forms a handy groundcover critter barrier. While there are no scientific studies to support the pest-chasing properties of Coleus canina, gardeners report that critters avoid areas where it’s planted. Squirrels dig less in pots with Coleus canina, and cats and dogs stay away from garden areas where it’s growing.

In fact, cats and dogs really don’t seem to be bothered by so-called repellent plants. Read on to learn why. Source: & domobfdi.deviantart, Montage:

There are lots of blogs and articles on the Internet promoting repellent plants, plants that are supposed to keep cats and dogs away from the garden just by their smell. It’s a most interesting concept, because sometimes our furry little friends do cause a lot of damage in the garden … but do animal-repellent plants actually deliver the goods?

The idea usually promoted is that you simply have to plant repellent plants here and there throughout a flower bed or vegetable garden and then mammals (it seems to be mostly cats that people want to expel*) will then avoid the sector. It’s a concept as old as the world … and yet, positive evidence on the subject rare; I’d even say nonexistent. Many claims, little evidence? That’s not usually a good sign!

Lack of Studies

I have seen zero serious studies on the subject. Not one! There are many about essential oils derived from plants and used to repel insects, but that’s a different story entirely. I was looking for proof that planting certain plants in a garden setting would keep pets away … for an entire season, if not longer! Instead, I found lots of sites claiming this works, but offering no proof whatsoever. Most just seem to take it for granted that repellent plants work, repeating what the author has read elsewhere. On the few sites when there did seem to be some sort of proof, either positive or negative, it always seems to be purely anecdotal, like: “Well, I grow plant X in my garden and I don’t have a cat problem.” Yes, but neither do many gardeners who don’t knowingly grow repellent plants.

“Nope! No cats in my garden!” Source:

Most positive posts were from people who tried planting repellent plants as a preventive measure (there were no cats visiting their garden, but they wanted to keep them away) and they’re the first to claim victory. “I planted plant X and no cats have come, so it must have worked!” Obviously, that proves nothing. Maybe cats simply have no reason to visit that garden? Or the owner is not looking at the right time?

Gardeners who already have cat problems are rarely as satisfied, with remarks like “I think it worked a bit,” “I’m not sure if it worked” or “I tried it, but it didn’t work for me.”

Even if you turn to sites hosted by veterinarians, where you think there would be something more concrete, you find a mix of responses. Some simply list repellent plants, but offer no proof, and a few seem to take a more studied look at things and suggest that some plants might have repellent characteristics, but at short distances. Usually, 6 to 8 inches (15 to 30 cm) is the distance given. Essentially, therefore, cats and dogs would only react to repellent plants when they’re right next to them.

My Experiences

A few years ago, I tested a few of these plants on my own pets: my cat Geisha (may she rest in peace) and my dog Maggie, just for the fun of it. This was hardly a scientific study. There were no controls and—who knows?—maybe my pets are just less reactive to scented plants than others? Or trusting of me? Still, I must admit the experiences didn’t lead me to think very favorably about animal repellent plants!

The Piss-Off Plant

The famous Piss-Off Plant (Plectranthus caninus) is more likely to piss off gardeners than cats. Source:

I got into this years ago when a plant new to me came onto the market as a cat- and dog-repellent. Called by various trade names, including Scaredy Cat™, Piss-off Plant™, Dog’s Gone™ or Bunnies Gone™, it was said to be Coleus canina, It didn’t take much digging to discover its real name is Plectranthus caninus: an honest mistake, as the two plants are closely related. Its promoters claim it will keep dogs, cats and other mammals (raccoons, rabbits, etc.) at bay.

One seller even invented a detailed background for the plant, claiming it’s a hybrid developed by an Australian amateur gardener by crossing a plectranthus with a coleus, although, in fact, Plectranthus caninus has been growing wild in Africa and India for hundreds of thousands of years. Moreover, when one seller tried to get a patent for this plant (under the name Sumcol 01), the request was denied on the grounds that “the plant presented no discernible difference from the species.”

Despite its unpleasant odor, released when you brush against or stroke the plant’s sticky foliage, there is no evidence that cats, dogs or other animals are in the least disturbed by the presence of Plectranthus caninus. I added one next to Geisha’s favorite sunbathing spot and she just ignored it. In fact, she’d often lean against it when she slept. Nor did she react if I held a cut branch in front of her. I rubbed a leaf with my fingers and held them in front of her muzzle, she did pull her head back, but then, Geisha never did appreciate anyone invading her personal space.

As for Maggie (the dog), she was harder to test, being naturally more excitable, but seemed to show no special reaction when I held a branch in front of her. Placing a pot next to her water bowl didn’t dissuade her in the least, but she did sniff my fingers more willingly than Geisha after I had rubbed the leaves and didn’t seem put off.

My conclusion based in this very limited test what that Plectranthus caninus has no repellent powers whatsoever … on my pets!

The Do About Rue

Rue (Ruta graveolens) is pretty enough, but potentially harmful to humans … and doesn’t seem effective as a cat repellent.

I tested rue (Ruta graveolens) at the same time. According to popular belief, it will keep away cats away from the garden, but when I placed Geisha next to the plant growing in my flower bed, she ignored it. I put on latex gloves (rue is phototoxic to many people and should be handled with great care) and tried dangling it front of her nose as she slept. Again, no reaction. Maggie just ignored it as well.

With rue, the question you really have to ask is whether you want to risk causing grievous bodily harm to your family in a probably futile effort to keep cats away? I no longer grow rue since a friend of mine had a painful reaction after brushing against one … in my garden!


People love the smell of lavender, but cats seem indifferent to it. Source:

Humans consider the scent of lavender (Lavandula spp.) delightful, but it’s actually a natural repellent. The plant produces it to repel insect pests and grazing mammals … but the scent itself isn’t really what keeps them away: it’s the bitter compounds in the leaves that insects and certain mammals avoid. Some websites suggest that lavender will repel cats, but certainly neither of my pets minded it at all. Also, feral cats sometimes cause damage in commercial lavender fields, suggesting lavender has little effect on cats indeed.


Clearly this cat is not bothered by African marigolds (Tagetes erecta). Source:

I tested marigolds (Tagetes spp.) at a later date, because I had not heard it was supposed to have repellent effects, at least not on mammals.

Different marigolds have different scents, some attractive to people (T. lucida and T. minuta), others distinctly unpleasant (T. patula and T. erecta). These odors are all designed to repel insects, or at least, to keep them from eating the plants. You see, the plant really doesn’t want to repel insects: it needs pollinating ones to ensure its flowers are fecundated. In fact, marigolds are widely used in companion planting to attract pollinating insects. It only wants to keep insects from eating its leaves. So its taste is repellent; its scent, not so much.

Geisha and Maggie both found marigolds (I tried T. patula, T. erectato and T. minuta) be of no interest whatsoever and were neither rebuffed nor attracted by them.

And the Others

The curry plant (Helichrysum italicum) smells like curry and that doesn’t seem to bother cats. Source:

I suspect that, if any plant that has a scent, somebody somewhere will eventually claim it repels cats (and maybe dogs). Here are some other plants that have that reputation, but didn’t work on my pets: curry plant (Helichrysum italicum), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium). I also tried a few of the many lemon-scented plants—lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), lemon-scented pelargonium (Pelargonium crispum and others) and lemon thyme (Thymus citrodorus)—, all said to repel cats, with no luck. I stopped testing after Geisha died, as we no longer have a cat to use as a test subject. (My wife has developed a serious cat allergy, so Geisha was not replaced.)

How Believers Can Use Repellent Plants

If you still believe that plants have a significant repellent effect on cats and dogs, calculate their effect is limited to a distance of 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) from the plant. Therefore, the method most often recommended, that is, planting them here and there among garden plants you want to protect, is simply not going to work. Any repellent effect would be too diluted and cats would simply have to wander around the individual repellent plants to get their favorite spot.

For a repellent plant (here, Lavandula angustifolia) to be effective, you’d really need to use it as a barrier plant. Source:

Other sites suggest a more likely method: using them as barrier plants, that is, surrounding the zone with dense plantings felines can’t find a way around. One site recommends using taller repellent plants as being more effective, as cats simply jump right over short ones.

Personally, the cats and dogs in my neighborhood never bother my garden, so I have no need for any kind of pet repellent. If I did, given the results of my experiments, you can be sure I’d try something other than repellent plants!

Read Keep Cats Out of Your Gardenfor a few methods that really work!

Using cat repellent plants is as natural as you can get in your battle to deter cats from your garden and this will appeal to those people who for whatever reason can’t or don’t want to use any of the commercial cat deterrents.

In the UK cats are allowed to roam wherever takes their fancy and if you are a gardener who doesn’t want them visiting your garden, using plants to deter cats is going to make a lot of sense.

A few strategically placed plants that cats hate should mean they get to exercise their right to roam by quickly moving on rather than pooping in your flower beds or sunbathing in your vegetable patch.

So lets have a look at the plants you might want to consider using….

Coleus Canina aka Scaredy Cat – The ultimate cat repellent plant

Some bright spark in Germany bred this hybrid with the specific intention of producing a plant that keeps cats away. It is also said to work on dogs, rabbits and foxes too.

I purchased half a dozen Coleus Canina as plug plants when they first became available in the UK. I found them very easy to grow and kept them in containers placed around my decking where cats were entering the garden.

Coleus Canina prefers a sunny spot although they will grow in shade and are drought resistant but they aren’t hardy and need protection from frost.

Coleus Canina plants smell pretty bad if you brush by or touch them so you probably won’t want to position them directly outside your back door or under your kitchen window.

Also, you will need a greenhouse or cold frame to get them through the winter months.

In my experience most cats at least try to avoid the Scaredy Cat, with many giving it a wide berth. I have seen at least one old Tom walk straight past one – but like humans cats lose their senses as they get older.

Coleus Canina is a nice looking plant with pretty blue flowers in the summer. They grow and spread about 40cm at their peak after 2 years and you can expect to pay around a tenner for half a dozen from Nurseries or a quid each if you purchase online from here.

Ruta Graveolens

Another plant that works particularly well at repelling cats is Rue, also known as common Rue and herb of grace or to give the plant it’s proper name Ruta Graveolens. Rue can grow to up to 70cm (about 2.5ft) tall and wide and has a powerful odour.

It is a semi woody perennial with a nice grey green colour with yellow flowers. Or try the Jackman’s Blue variety for a metallic blue-green colour.

It is a native of the Balkan Peninsula and was introduced to Britain by the ancient Romans. It was originally grown for its herbal qualities and used for a variety of medicinal purposes.

It is hardy and likes full sun and can grow in hot dry climates and in poor soils. It will be happy enough in part sun spots but may produce a different colour foliage. For my North American readers I’m told it’s fine in Zones 4 to 9.

Rue will repel cats from its vicinity but you can also collect and spread dried Rue leaves on your beds and in your pots.

I will be growing Rue this year (2018) so will report my findings later in the year.

Seeds should be planted between March and May in the UK. You can purchase ready grown in pots for a few quid here.

Other Cat Repellent Plants

If Coleus Canina (the Scaredy Cat) or Ruta Graveolens isn’t for you, here’s a few other cat repellent plants you might want to try.

Curry Herb and Lemon Balm Plants

Helichrysum Italicum (aka the Curry herb plant) and Lemon Balm plant are strongly disliked by most cats and are often purchased together by gardeners in the know to be planted in their borders.

Cats find the odour from both unpleasant and the course texture of the Curry plant is said to irritate them if they brush by it. If grown into tight bushes the Lemon balm too is irritating enough for cats to avoid going near it.

Planting around your boundary will deter cats from entering your garden or if this isn’t practical, adding them to your beds and borders should stop them being used as litter boxes.

You might also want to grow a few in containers so they can be moved to troublesome spots. For example, placing on the path to your back garden can stop cats using it as a point of entry.

Both these cat repellent plants are said to be easy to grow and for most of us the smell is not unpleasant. As an added bonus you can make a tea with the Lemon Balm leaves which is said to be a tonic for common colds, stomach cramps and headaches. Bees and butterflies are said to be attracted to the Lemon balm too.

I have as yet not tried either of these plants but plan to grow them this year. You can either grow from seed or purchase as plugs. If your garden centre doesn’t have any then you can order online from here.

Rosemary – Rosemary is a wonderful perennial that smells lovely, is great for cooking and as an added bonus, many cats hate the smell! The only problem is that it needs a warm and dry climate so in the UK you are probably best to grow Rosemary in containers.

Lavender – Borders with sways of Lavender plants smell and look gorgeous to us but not to a lot of cats. Occasionally though you may find a cat will come along that likes the smell of Lavender.

The tall varieties seem to work best as cats won’t jump over something if they can’t see where they are going to land.

Ground Cover – Cats go for bare soil when it’s time to find itself a toilet so grow some ground cover such as Perennial Geraniums to hide these spots. It can make a garden look too cluttered for some tastes though so instead of planting the area you could instead spread your rose or other suitably thorny cuttings over the bare spots.

Hawthorn and other Prickly Bushes

Talking of thorns, there are many prickly plants that will deter cats, dogs, foxes and even human intruders from your home if strategically placed around your garden.

The downside is that by their prickly nature they can be difficult to look after and you will want to think carefully if you have toddlers regularly in the garden.

Suitable prickly plants include:

  • Hawthorn – can be pruned into an hedge that the SAS would find practically impenetrable
  • Holly – Planted close together it creates a formidable barrier
  • Berberis – Plenty of varieties that come in various sizes and all have prickles
  • Blackthorn – Really nasty spikes guaranteed to keep cats and most other animals out
  • Blackberry – Plenty of thorns to keep all animals at bay with the added bonus of producing berries

Unlike the Curry plant, Lemon Balm and Coleus Canina, thorn bushes cannot be simply jumped over. They can though, like all these plants be walked around so you need to do some planning before planting and because of your particular garden layout using cat repellent plants might not be practical.

Of course, plants take time to grow and so you can think of them as a cat repellent for the months and years to come. If you need something that is going to work straight away you should check these commercial cat deterrents.

Last updated 16th August 2019

Plectranthus Caninus Coleus Dogbane Seeds

Packet of 100+ home grown seeds!

This fella has a very long and convoluted history when it comes to names, so I better start there first.
Probably skim to the bottom bold bit if you are not interested in that sort of stuff..

Here in Australia this plant is sold under the botanical name of Plectranthus Caninus with the synonym of Plectranthus canina, or visa versa, depending on who is selling it and which state they are located.

Overseas in many places it is sold under the botanical name of Plectranthus canina with a synonym of Coleus canina, Plectranthus neochilus with a synonym of Coleus neochilus, or even more rarely Plectranthus ornatus , Coleus ornatus, and Coleus spicatus.

Plant Identification keys are used to differentiate different species based on their parts(corolla length, calyx position etc) and in this case they completely contradict each other based on the different locations, so that is as far as I got…

I believe the botanical name accepted for this species here in Australia is Plectranthus caninus, with the synonym of Coleus caninus also being commonly used.
Therefore I have used that name on the packet label, though if you are overseas your countries classification methodology may dispute this.
Not much I can do about it unfortunately.

Moving on to common names.
This species has been sold under the name of Scaredy Cat, Piss-off Plant, Dog’s Gone, Bunnies Gone, Mozzie bush, Mosquito Bush and here in Queensland there was even an attempt to patent it under the name of “Sumcol 01” as an alleged hybrid between Plectranthus and Coleus species.

This patent was rejected on the grounds there was no noticeable differences at all between the original species and the fancy new hybrid plant they supposedly bred.

In all cases this plant is marketed aggressively as a fancy new insect and mammal repellent plant, ideal for keeping cats, dogs, rabbits, deer, gophers, raccoons, foxes, annoying flies and biting insects away, blah blah blah…

Now I am not saying that it won’t, but I will say there have been no independent studies that back these claims, and that gardeners the world over strongly dispute its effectiveness.
I’m personally one of those folks.

I firmly believe that it actually encourages my intact male dog to mark.
I think he finds the smell extremely offensive, not repellent, as he puffs up and struts around, making a point of pissing on the edges of that garden border every single time he goes past.(These seeds are from the plants round the back of the house several hundred meters away, and I promise, they have absolutely no dog piss on them!)

It’s one of the very few things he gives me full attitude about, ignoring my loud objections, and seems quite proud of himself every single time…

Our other desexed male dog doesn’t pay any attention to it, doesn’t like it, but isn’t repelled by it at all.
Magpies, possums, frogs, bettongs, roos, wallabies, wrens, quail, chickens, lizards, snakes, and many more critters I can’t think of at the moment have all been seen in it or cruising past it seemingly unaffected by it, though I have never seen anything eat it ever. Not even a nibble.

There may be a mild insect repellent effect in that general area, but not massive?
Used as a tea then sprayed on to other plants it does work well as a repellent spray for aphids and better than nothing on grasshoppers on chillies, but that’s as far as I got with my testing.

Despite some folks saying its an Aussie made hybrid, or that it was a native to Europe, Germany in particular, the plant really comes from Africa and India where it has been grown for thousands of years and apparently it even has a few traditional medicine uses.

Over there they call it fly bush, mosquito bush, lobster bush, or spur flower.

OK, moving on, we have the names out of the way, and we now know its not really great at repelling stuff, or at very best in might be, maybe…

So why would you want to grow it? The answer to that is easy!

It just looks pretty, same reason I grow all the other ornamental species.
It looks nice, it is super drought tolerant, fills in blank patches of bare dry rocky earth, cooling the soil and helping retain moisture, plus the roos and wallabies leave it alone even in the dry times.

Another bonus is the bees love it. Large pagoda style purple and pale blue layered flowers and hundreds of them.

As it flowers consistently all year round it provides a heap of pollen for them in the cool winter and hot dry summer when there isn’t much else around.

Pretty is the main reason though, and to me that’s plenty.

Easy to grow, just surface sow on a nice sandy potting mix, water well and wait a week or two, Bob’s your uncle.

Grown by me and the Mrs organically, no chems, no nasties, no problems!!!

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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Wednesday – March 04, 2009

From: Newark, DE
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Seed and Plant Sources
Title: Source for non-native Coleus Canina
Answered by: Barbara Medford


We are trying to find Coleus Canina (Scaredy Cat Coleus)? to no avail. We purchased this plant in 2006 and it works. The Vt company no longer carries it. Can you help me. Thank you.


You probably bought a plant known as Scardy Cat! or Dog’s Gone! or Bunnies Gone!—all the same plant, Coleus canina Sumcol 01 (synonym = Plectranthus caninus). The plant belongs to the Family Lamiaceae (Mint Family) and is a native of Africa. It has an odor that has been described as smelling like tomcat pee and has acquired the name in England of the Pee-off plant. Luckily, its smell is only evident to animals with more sensitive noses (cats, dogs, foxes, etc.) than humans. It is only offensive to humans if the plant is crushed or rubbed. This information is from a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer; the above link is to a nursery and is still active.

Since this plant is not native to North America, we do not have it in our Native Plant Database. We did find, when we search the Internet on Coleus canina, that several people had bought them at Lowe’s or Home Depot. However, the previous answer cited above was dated 2006 also, and it could be that this plant didn’t sell well enough to satisfy the mass merchandisers, and is just not available. You might try the same thing, searcching on the Latin name, and see if you get other references to online mail order nurseries.

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Cat Repellent: How To Keep Cats Out Of The Yard

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While there are many repellents on the market aimed at keeping these animals at bay, there are no sure-fire results, as each cat responds to repellents differently. Let’s look at how to keep cats out of the yard and how to keep cats out of my garden soil.

How to Keep Cats Out of My Garden Soil

It’s no secret — cats are unpredictable and extremely territorial, so keeping cats out of garden areas can be a bit tricky. They mark their territory by depositing pheromones from scent glands (urinating or otherwise), and will continue to visit as long as their scent remains. Therefore, if an area of your garden has been frequented by a cat, the first thing you must do to keep cats out of the yard is remove any feces along with some of the soil.

You can then try sprinkling cat repellent in the area and hope that it works or consider laying chicken wire down on top of your soil. This prevents cats from scratching and digging in the soil, thus keeping them from using it as their litter box. Likewise, cats typically stay clear of areas that are mulched with stone, pebbles, or similar materials.

Finally, you could cut up lemons, oranges, or similar citrus fruit and put them in the garden to stop cats from using this area as a toilet.

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How to Stop Cats from Eating Plants

You may be wondering how to stop cats from eating plants. Again, there are no absolutes, but there are a few things you can try. Cats hate getting wet. Therefore, when you catch cats nibbling on your garden plants, you could try spraying them down with a garden hose or water gun to reinforce the fact that they are unwanted near your plants.

Learning how to repel cats with plants is another alternative. You can choose to incorporate plants that cats do not find attractive or tasty and are known to avoid. For instance, some plants emit odors that cats find offensive, such as the scaredy-cat plant (Coleus canina). Other plants often recommended for keeping cats away include rue, lavender, rosemary, and pennyroyal.

Then again, you could also appeal to their taste buds by planting catnip in areas outside the garden where they’re more welcome.

Keep Cats Out of Yard

To keep cats out of yards, you can try sprinkling offensive substances around the area such as cayenne pepper flakes or ammonia. These repellents can be sprayed around the perimeter as well. Citrus sprays seem to work well too.

Again, you can also incorporate plants that cats dislike. For example, plant some rosemary all around the perimeter of your lawn. Cats hate it and will typically avoid the area. For those who can afford it, there are motion sprinklers available that squirt the cats whenever they enter your yard.

Make Cat Repellent at Home

There are many products on the market to repel cats and help to keep cats out of the yard. For instance, citronella is great to use, as it’s not only safe but also works at repelling other animals too. However, you can make cat repellent at home as well. Home remedies include citrus peels, cayenne, Chile powder, rubbing raw onions on an area, and vinegar.

In addition to repellents, you should consider using fencing or other barriers.

One homemade cat repellent that seems to works pretty well contains nothing more than a mixture of rosemary and water. This is then sprayed in areas where there are problems or around the perimeter of your lawn.

Note: Take care when applying cayenne or red pepper flakes to the garden/yard. Make sure the cat isn’t already present and don’t do it on a windy day to avoid any of the flakes (or even sprays) from getting into the animal’s eyes. Once it’s applied, however, there is generally little threat to the cats, as they will normally smell the peppers and avoid the area.

Whether they are feral cats, neighborhood cats, or your outdoor cats, the last thing you want is them digging up your precious garden. If you feel like you are losing the battle in keeping cats out of your garden, it is time to look into plants that repel cats.

Although there is no guarantee that these plants will work to keep all cats out of your garden, they are worth a try. When wondering what plants repel cats, there are a few that make it to the top of the list. Cat repelling plants share similar features.

For example, they offer strong scents that may be pleasant to humans, but cats find them repugnant. Although we have included a list of 10 cat repelling plants, the results are not guaranteed. In addition to using these plants, you should try other cat deterrent methods if they are doing a number on your garden.

Home Remedies to Help Repel Cats and Other Critters

If your garden is cat-friendly in addition to pleasing you, there are several things you can do to make it a garden that cats dislike so that they will go elsewhere to explore. In addition to planting plants that deter cats, use several of these methods for keeping cats out of plants and to help stop cats from digging up your yard or using it as their favorite place to poop.

Moving sprinklers are a great way to discourage cats from entering off-limit areas. Most cats do not like water, so by strategically placing motion sensor sprinklers throughout your yard, you can stop them in their tracks and send them running in the other direction. Be sure to alter the locations slightly every few days, so the cats don’t develop a new route to reach your garden.

Mulching the surface of your beds with cat repellent mulch can keep cats out all off-limit areas. Some of the best cat deterrent mulches are citrus peels, which includes grapefruit, lime, lemon, and orange.

Other deterrents you can use are pipe tobacco and coffee grounds. Not only will this help keep cats away, but they will also aid in replenishing nitrogen in your soils.

Plastic forks are a great deterrent; they work to keep squirrels out, as well as cats. To keep these and other critters out of your garden, plant forks in the dirt every few cubic feet. Forks can also serve as a natural bird repellent.

Tines should be facing up towards the sky; it will look like you are growing forks in your dirt. If you don’t want forks sticking up all over the place, another option is to lay chicken wire across the soil to create an uncomfortable walking path for kitties.

Other ways to keep unwanted cats out of your garden include diluting essential oils in a spray bottle with some water and spraying it around the plants. Some oils to try are eucalyptus, lavender, rosemary, lemongrass, and other strong scents.

Cayenne pepper or crushed up pine cones sprinkled across the ground make an uncomfortable walking surface for sensitive paws. Despite what you have heard about mothballs deterring properties, it is not recommended as they are toxic to not only cats but children, as well.

What Plants Repel Cats? One of These 10 Will Work

Even if you are a cat lover, you don’t want stray cats wandering in your yard and you certainly need to know what to do for keeping cats from pooping in the garden. Growing cat repellent plants is a natural and effective deterrent. Check out our ten suggestions.

Geraniums (Pelargonium)

Geraniums are an excellent choice if you are looking for a natural cat repellent that also adds color to your landscape. For humans, these garden plants emit a pleasant odor, but most cats find them unpleasant to their sense of smell. Geraniums are mainly an outdoor plant but are also kept indoors during colder months, and with enough care, they continue to bloom all winter long.

When caring for geraniums, it is important to water in small amounts and only when the leaves begin to droop. Cut off old, dead leaves as new growth appears.

Before watering, allow the soil to dry and cut back watering in the winter, but not enough to allow the roots to dry. Pinch stems to promote a bush-like appearance and deadhead blooms to encourage new ones.

Keep Cats Away – Scaredy Cat Plant (Coleus canina)

The name of the plant is enough to make you think these are the best plants that repel cats, but it is not the name that does it but the smell. These are plants to keep cats away, but also to keep dogs away, as neither species enjoys the scent. These plants emit an extreme pee like odor, so not all people enjoy them either.

When planting the Scaredy Cat Plant, place them directly in your problem areas either in a ring or a line. Cats will not walk around them to reach the remainder of your garden. These plants are low maintenance; you may be surprised at how easy they are to care for. They do well in dry conditions, so if you have a cat using dry areas of the garden as a litter box, plant one of these in the exact place.

Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)

As the smallest member of the mint family, Pennyroyals aren’t just plants that deter cats; they also repel a variety of insects. If you enjoy using the plants that you grow, this herb is an excellent choice as it is stronger and far more potent than other mint herbs in the family.

In extract form, the herb is often used in teas. Do not confuse the American Pennyroyal with the European one. The low growing plant features hairy stem roots that grow up to about a foot tall.

Great as ground cover flowers, Pennyroyal roots wherever it touches the ground. The new Pennyroyal plants work well as a border plant for a cat repellent. The plant enjoys full sun but can tolerate partial shade and does best in zones 5 through 9.

Lavender (Lavandula) – Cat Repellent Plants

While most of love the scent of lavender, it is not a favorite among cats for some reason, so they make an excellent choice as plants that keep cats away. Shrubby lavender plants are not just an excellent deterrent for cats; they are also one of the best plants that repel insects and deer. When used to keep cats out of your garden, it is best to plant them in a line.

One issue you will face with lavender is the numerous options available. While all help keep cats out, the taller varieties are the most effective.

Cats are jumpers, but if the bush blocks their line of sight as the taller lavender plants do, they are not as curious. Planting along borders also aids in chasing cats out, as these bushes release their pleasant scent whenever something brushes against them.

Common Rue (Ruta graveolens)

The musty odor emitted by the Common Rue keeps cats at bay, but the leaves also offer a bitter flavor, making it undesirable for cats to nibble. The shrub is poisonous if eaten so use caution when planting in garden beds around children.

The evergreen shrub thrives in well-drained, dry to medium moist soils. The bush loves full sun but tolerates partial shade and poor soil as long as the soil offers excellent drainage.

Rue grows well in zones four through 8, but requires winter mulch and does not tolerate wet soil. When used in garden beds to deter cats, use it in the middle or front rows as it only reaches heights of up to three feet with a similar spread.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) – Plants that Keep Cats Away

Rosemary is a woody perennial native to the Mediterranean. The perennial not only helps repel cats from your garden but is also extremely useful in cooking. When planting Rosemary, keep in mind that it prefers a dry and relatively warm climate, and it does not do well in soggy soil or cold temperatures.

Use a high-quality compost with a pH of 7 as these plants prefer neutral to alkaline soil. For those living in areas colder than Zone 9 based on the US hardiness map, Rosemary works best when planted in a container as you can move it indoors when the weather changes.

Rosemary may also work as a summer annual rather than a perennial plant. Containers alongside the patio or near flower beds can also help to repel cats, as it is the smell the plant emits that chases them off.

Curry Plant (Helichrysum augustfolium)

In areas where this plant grows naturally, many view the plant as a nuisance, but these strong-smelling plants are useful cat repellent plants. The shrub requires full sunlight and reaches two feet tall by three feet wide. When planting in gardens, offer the Curry Plant protection from wetness and wind.

Not only does this plant work at repelling cats, but it is also considered a deer deterrent. The Curry Plant is sold as a shrub and features small yellow flowers that do well in USDA hardiness zones 8 through 11. If you ever want to remove the plant, you should know it is often difficult to remove.

Although the plant does smell like curry, it is not an herb and has no use in the kitchen. The plant does well in poor soils and dry conditions.

Plants that Deter Cats – Citronella (Pelargonium graveolens citrosa)

Also referred to as the mosquito plant as it helps keep mosquitoes at bay, Citronella also works to help repel cats. Citronella is a geranium that emits a pleasant citrus-like scent that humans enjoy, but cats, mosquitoes, and other insects do not. Citronella works in garden beds or containers placed throughout the patio and along walkways where they are brushed up against to release its scent.

Do not over-fertilize these plants, as the excess nitrogen reduces the leaves’ fragrance. Although a perennial, Citronella is a fragile plant and does not do well in cold climates.

Always move indoors before the first frost hits, or treat it as an annual. The plant prefers part shade and requires well-draining, light soil that is kept on the drier side.

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon)

Lemongrass grows in tall, grassy clumps and reaches heights of up to five feet tall. The appearance of this tropical herb is similar to ornamental grasses; so many people use it as such in their garden beds. As an herb, Lemongrass offers a lot of benefits, one of them being the ability to repel cats and other pests with its lemony-citrus fruit scent.

Never plant Lemongrass in clay soil; as it’s a tropical plant, it enjoys moisture but will quickly die if left in soil that allows water to puddle. When planting Lemongrass, select a location that offers full sun, even in hotter climates.

As a tropical plant, Lemongrass requires well-draining soil with steady moisture to ensure the roots won’t dry out. When planting in a pot, find one that is at least 12 inches across and use a high-quality potting soil.

Catnip (Nepeta cataria)

The majority of cats are attracted to catnip, so obviously you are wondering how to repel cats using catnip. Catnip attracts cats to a specific area of your yard, so plant it in an area that you don’t mind them visiting. Catnip is another plant that belongs to the mint family, but its aroma is one that drives cats crazy.

Catnip, even just sprinkling crushed leaves in a sandbox or other parts of your yard, keeps your planters from being used as litter boxes. When planting, make sure it’s in an area that has plenty of room for cats, including stray cats, to rub and roll in without harming anything else.

The low growing perennial will die back in winter but comes back next spring. You can cover plants with chicken wire to help protect the base and roots from loving cats.

Hopefully, you enjoyed reading about these ten cat repellent plants. If you found any of our plants that keep cats away useful, please share our ideas on plants that repel cats with others on Facebook and Pinterest.

Tips for Repelling Cats

Cats can be a real nuisance around your garden and home. Whether they are your cats, your neighbors, or just wild cats roaming the neighborhood, cats can make real pests of themselves. In the process of digging in your flower beds, cats may destroy plants and seedlings. Cats often decide that your flower box or flower bed is the perfect litter box. The odor is annoying and the mess they leave behind is disgusting! Sometimes cats decide that your car hood is the perfect resting place and they don’t care about scratching your car in the process of jumping up and down. Whatever your cat problem, there are many ways to repel cats.

“After about five days usage, “I Must Garden…” stopped a few cats from using my alley as a pit stop. Prior to its application, cat droppings were appearing several times a week over a three-week period on my property but fortunately, “I Must Garden” ended it. Product was easy to apply, practically odorless, and did not leave any stains on concrete. The company states that “I Must Garden” is made from all natural essential oils, so there is no danger of harm to plants or animals. It’s a terrific buy that eliminated an annoying problem in about two weeks”

Repel cats with physical objects

One of the reasons cats enjoy going into garden beds is the soft dirt, which they dig into before using the bathroom (similar to how they use a litter box). Placing physical objects like plastic forks (tines facing upwards), wooden popsicle sticks, or chopsticks into the soil can help discourage this damaging behavior. Push the objects into the soil every 5-8 inches, or experiment to find a placement pattern that is effective for you. The idea is not to harm the cats, but simply make digging inconvenient. This approach can be effective by itself, but it is made much stronger with the addition of I Must Garden Dog & Cat Repellent. Cats find the All-Natural ingredients in our repellent highly irritating, and will avoid any area that is regularly treated.

Tip: Use brown or black plastic forks to create a more aesthetic deterrent!

Repel cats with plants

One plant that is particularly good at repelling cats is Ruta Graveolens, or Rue. Rue is a semi-woody perennial that grows to about 2-3 feet high and wide. Rue has gray-green foliage and clusters of small yellow flowers in summer. It is hardy in zones 4-9. Rue prefers full sun and, once established, can grow in poor soils and hot dry sites. Rue will repel cats from the area in which it grows. In addition, you can sprinkle the leaves of dried rue in flower pots or other areas you would like to protect from cats. If you plan on planting some Rue, but need to stop cat damage immediately, considering spraying your plants with I Must Garden Dog & Cat Repellent. Our repellent offers long-lasting protection for any treated plants without causing any harm to animals or vegetation.

Repel cats with citrus or coffee grounds

Cats don’t like the smell of citrus fruits, such as oranges and lemons. Try scattering citrus peels in your garden beds to keep cats out. You may have to experiment a little to see just how much, and how often, you will need to reapply the peels to keep cats away!

One other home remedy to repel cats that people have had success with, is to sprinkle used coffee grounds in their garden. Once again, you would have to experiment on just how much would be satisfactory to repel cats.

Discourage cats from using your garden bed as a litter box

Let’s face it! The reason cats are in your garden to begin with, is that they like your soil. So in order to repel cats you have to make your soil less appealing. There are several things you can do to keep cats out of your soil. You can add more plants to your garden, which would eventually cover the exposed soil making it too much of a nuisance for cats to dig in. Covering your soil with chunky mulch, river rocks or attractive pebbles is another method used to keep cats out of garden beds. If you’ve recently seeded a flower bed, protect the bed with wire mesh or netting to hide the attractive loose soil from the cats.

Get a dog to repel cats

Unless raised together, most cats will stay away from dogs. Chances are, if you have a dog roaming around the garden with you, you won’t have a cat problem. One other technique that you may want to try, which is certainly less time consuming and expensive than owning a dog, is to collect dog hair from friends who own dogs. Scatter the dog hair in the flowerbeds to repel cats.

Install a motion activated sprinkler

A motion activated sprinkler will harmlessly spray a cat when it passes in front of it. It will also spray mailmen and delivery men so you must be careful in directing the spray.

Throw water on cats

Cats hate being sprayed with water. Conditioning cats to avoid your garden beds by consistently spraying or pouring water on them can be a time consuming defense strategy, but one that eventually takes care of your cat problem for good. For 24/7 protection, apply I Must Garden Dog & Cat Repellent to protect your plants when you’re not around to douse those pesky cats

Repel cats from trees

Cats will readily use young trees as scratching posts. To protect the trunks from cats, wrap the tree trunks in wire mesh or netting. Plastic tree guards may also be purchased to protect your trees.

Repel cats from ponds

Netting may have to be placed over a pond to keep cats away from fish. Netting should be checked regularly for rips and repaired as necessary.

Use I Must Garden Dog & Cat Repellent to keep cats out of your garden

I Must Garden Dog & Cat Repellent offers pet-safe protection against dog and cat damage. Designed to smell pleasant to humans and offensive to cats, you can protect your plants without fear of foul odors or dangerous chemicals. It is available in two unique options – a Liquid Repellent to prevent chewing and gnawing, and a Granular Repellent to prevent digging. Both options are totally harmless to animals, but will put an end to their destructive habits. I Must Garden Dog & Cat Repellents are people and pet friendly and safe for the environment too!

Breaking established habits requires more aggressive applications of repellent. Generously sprinkle or spray I Must Garden Repellent frequently during your initial applications, and continue regular applications to maintain control. Always remove fecal matter from garden beds and surrounding areas before treating.

We want you to be satisfied with every purchase from I Must Garden, if you have any questions or concerns please contact us

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