Plants that deter slugs & snails: which ones work?


I studied horticultural sciences at university and in my free time you can find me in my own patch of land, growing anything with roots. I am particularly passionate about self-sufficiency and seasonal food.

Favourite fruit: quince, cornelian cherry and blueberries
Favourite vegetables: peas, tomatoes and garlic

Snails are among the archenemies of all amateur gardeners, but it is said that there are plants that can drive them away. Let us show you how to combat snails.

You can use certain plants to naturally repel snails [Photo: Don Huan/]

It is often very annoying when slugs and snails (Gastropoda) attack vegetable and flower beds, after all, you have put a lot of love and care into your own little plants. Salads, but also basil (Ocimum basilicum) are eaten with particular pleasure by hungry snails – who often do not leave much of the plant behind. However, in addition to snail-resistant plants there are also those that actively deter snails with their odour.

Repelling snails using the smell of certain herbs

Snails have a fine nose and can be deterred by different smells. Snails pick up chemical signals through their olfactory and gustatory cells. These special sensory cells can be found all over the body and are mainly concentrated on the head or feelers of the snails.

First and foremost, several herbs have a repulsive effect on snails, since their essential oils often have a very intense scent. But there are a few vegetables and ornamental plants that can also chase snails out of garden beds. If you grow a lot of such plants in the garden, the little critters will not be able to find much food and will hopefully withdraw from the beds.

herb garden plants
Lemon balm, chives and yarrow are all plants that repel slugs and snails [Photo: JoannaTkaczuk/].

The following herbs and medicinal plants have a snail deterrent effect and are also not eaten by them.

  • Wild garlic (Allium ursinum)
  • Berberry (Artemisia abrotanum)
  • Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)
  • Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • Garden cress (Lepidium sativum)
  • Starflower/Borage (Borago officinalis)
  • Curry leaves (Helichrysum italicum)
  • Nasturtium (Tropaeolum)
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
  • Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
  • Thyme (Thymus)
  • Savory (Satureja spec.)
  • Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)
  • Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)

With these herbs, you are unlikely to have problems with snail feeding. In addition, you can also enjoy the pleasant smell and delicious taste of the herbs.

The intense odour of garlic (Allium sativum) and onions (Allium cepa) also shows a deterrent effect against snails in some cases – but there’s little agreement on how strong this effect is. In any case, these alliums (Allioideae) are avoided and not eaten. You can plant these plants on the edges of beds, and even between the rows to spoil the appetite of snails. Incidentally, there are some other vegetables that snails do not like.

Tip: In addition to deterrent plants, it is important to know which plants are eaten by snails. We’ll therefore answer the question “What do snails eat?” for you.

Plant-based snail repellent

Some plant substances can also repel snails by their smell and are exceedingly easy to make. For this, take coarsely chopped plant parts and let them ferment in water for a few days to weeks to obtain a ‘broth’. When this is ready, you can spray the affected plant with the diluted solution or water the plants with it.

yarrow soaking in water jar
You can use yarrow to make an easy liquid fertiliser [Photo: Yarrow Brew/]

Broths and plant teas from the following plants have a snail repellent effect:

  • Begonia (Begonia)
  • Ivy (Hedera helix)
  • Ferns
  • Elder (Sambucus)
  • Lavender (Lavandula)
  • Liverwort (Marchantiophyta)
  • Moss
  • Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum)
  • Yarrow (Achillea)
  • Blackcurrants (Ribes)
  • Pinecones (Abies)
  • Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum): The shoots produced during tomato pinching are excellent for this.
  • Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)
rhubarb tea in spray bottle
You can boil plants, such as rhubarb, and pour or spray the concoction to protect against slugs [Photo: Simone Hu/]

However, not only can you turn these plants into broth, but you can also spread them as a layer of mulch around vulnerable plants to create a deterrent barrier. Since snails do not like to climb over rough, dry areas, materials such as dry lawn clippings, straw, rock dust or sand are also recommended for such barriers.

Tip: In addition to plant broths, you can also make teas from compost to use in the fight against snails.

Other measures against slugs & snails

Unfortunately, sometimes a selection of snail-repelling plants is not enough for snail control. If the snail population is especially high, you’ll still need to use other control methods to drive the little critters out of the garden and get rid of them completely, such as slug pellets.

With slug pellets you can effectively and reliably combat slugs and snails. Thanks to the highly concentrated power active ingredient with iron-III-phosphate,slug pellets offer optimal protection and are also rainproof. After ingestion, snails retreat to their hiding places without producing slime and die there unnoticed. The active ingredient, which also occurs naturally, is gentle on pets and beneficial insects.

Another option for control is baiting with particularly desirable plants. These include, in addition to Lupines (Lupinus) and Larkspur (Delphinium), the low-maintenance Marigolds (Tagetes). Slugs and snails clearly prefer them to other plants and quickly eat them up. Sow or plant marigolds in secluded garden corners and the voracious molluscs will migrate there, hopefully leaving vegetable beds untouched.

Mechanical barriers such as snail fences along a raised bed are also a good idea because snails cannot climb over the angled side. Individual, particularly endangered plants can also be protected with snail fences.

red and orange marigold flowers
Marigold may repel flies, but it attracts slugs [Photo: Irina Zholudeva/]

But there are other methods for combatting snails and slugs such as home remedies against snails, which can help in the fight against snails. In addition, other biological and also chemical strategies exist to control snails with which good results can be obtained. A special type of pest control is the use of ducks against snails.

Want to know which vegetables snails avoid? The answer can be found in our dedicated article