10 Best Plants That Repel Snakes 2023 [Plants Snakes Hate]

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10 Garden Plants That Repel Snakes

Young snake in garden
Some plants are a great natural repellent against snakes. Rushen / CC BY-SA 2.0

For obvious reasons, snakes can be quite dangerous to have as visitors in a backyard. While many are not necessarily venomous and are unlikely to go out of their way to harm humans, they can pack a painful bite. They may attack in self-defense or may cause problematic infestations in dark and damp corners. Young, curious children and adventurous pets are most at risk of being injured.

In rural areas with high vegetative cover and mild climatic conditions, snakes are likely to thrive. As they fight for survival and search for their mates, they can travel considerable distances. Occasionally, the odd snake will enter private property and may attempt to feed on common garden pests, such as rats and rabbits. They may even creep into homes in search of suitable habitats.

Snake experts and pest terminators may not always be available to ensure that your home is free of wild reptiles. To keep you and your children safe, it is advisable to install physical measures for keeping snakes out. As a natural reinforcement, plants can also work as great snake repellents. The most effective ones are those which emit strong odors and have sharp features. Do yourself a favor and place some of these around key entry points of your home and garden.

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1) King of bitters (Andrographis paniculata)

King of bitters flower
King of bitters is a natural pest repellent and is also used in alternative medicine. Mokkie, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to India and Sri Lanka

Also known as green chiretta or creat, the king of bitters is commonly used throughout its native range as a natural pest repellent. To keep snakes away from establishments that are frequented by children, this species is cultivated in thick borders. In the wild, it is often found growing in patches in moist and partly shaded areas. It is an herbaceous plant with a tolerance for a wide variety of habitat types.

A. paniculata is distinguished by its slender and dark green stems, which are generously surrounded by glossy and lance-shaped leaves. These occur as pairs along the length of the stems, which can grow as tall as 43 inches (109 cm) long in optimal conditions. The small, pink flowers are arranged in panicles that arise from the upper nodes of the shoots from September – December. Once these are pollinated, they develop into seed capsules.

Interestingly, the king of bitters not only keeps snakes away as a physical repellent but also contains compounds that have anti-venom properties. It is used in alternative medicine as a traditional treatment for ailments like jaundice, the common cold, influenza, and even cancer. However, its efficacy as a cure continues to be questioned by experts.

2) Indian snakeroot (Rauvolfia serpentina)

Indian snakeroot plant
Indian snakeroot thrives in areas with full sun or partial shade, and can grow to be 1 meter tall! Dinesh Valke from Thane, India, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to East Asia and India

Known as Java devilpepper, Indian snakeroot, or serpentine wood, R. serpentina is another snake repellent herb with juices that can act against snake venom. The phytochemicals found in its roots, bark, and leaves can supposedly relieve various nervous system ailments. Alkaloids form the majority of its active components. Due to its sedative and inhibitory effects, the extract of the plant is chiefly used as an antipsychotic or tranquilizer.

A member of the milkweed family (Apocynaceae), Indian snakeroot grows best in areas with full sun to light shade. As a shrub, it grows to about 1 meter (3.3 feet) tall, though many individuals reach full maturity at a height of just 30 – 50 cm (12 – 20 inches). It favors moist conditions in forests receiving considerable rainfall throughout the year. It may also occur as a weed in fields that are used for crop cultivation. If you’re located in a tropical to subtropical area, this may be an ideal snake repellent plant for your garden.

Indian snakeroot possesses erect shoots that arise from a yellowish rootstock. Its bright green leaves are present throughout the shoot in groups of three. Its white flowers are usually present from March to May. They occur in cymes at the apex of the plant. Once these are pollinated, they develop into black drupes.

3) Garlic (Allium sativum)

Garlic cloves
For best results, garlic cloves should be crushed and applied to surfaces around the garden to keep snakes away. BrokenSphere, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Iran, Central Asia, and South Asia

Known for its strong scent and the unmistakable flavor it imparts to dishes around the globe, garlic is a well-loved seasoning. It is largely produced for its bulbs, which contain considerable amounts of sulfuric compounds. These are responsible for producing a powerful odor, which is released whenever the surface of the bulbs is scratched or rubbed. The odor can help keep many hazardous animals, including snakes, away.

Garlic is an effective ingredient in organic nematicides and insecticides. The only downside to using it against snakes is it may have to be crushed and used as a spray to work. As an intact plant, the unwounded bulbs may not be fragrant enough to repel pests. Consider crushing cloves of garlic or creating a paste and applying it to surfaces around the garden and outside the home. If the extracts are fragrant enough, you should notice a reduction in local pest populations.

4) Snake plant (Dracaena trifasciata)

Snake plants
To effectively repel snakes, snake plant should be planted as a dense border with a mix of miniature and large cultivars. Matthieu Sontag / CC BY-SA 4.0

Native to West Africa

Contrary to its common name, Dracaena trifasciata is not directly associated with snakes and the like. It is only named as such due to the snake-like patterns on its leaf surfaces and the curved orientation of its succulent leaf blades. It isn’t this mimicked pattern that keeps snakes away. Rather, it is the toughness of the leaves coupled with their sharp edges that tends to keep soft-bodied reptiles away.

To be effective against snakes, D. trifasciata will need to be planted as a dense border. Try to mix and match both miniature and large cultivars so that your natural fence can have sharp points along several height levels. This way, slithering snakes can be visually repelled and may have difficulty navigating through the dense stands of the plant.

Keep in mind that the snake plant is considered a semi-succulent species. Low-maintenance and long-lasting, it favors dry conditions interspersed with generous watering sessions. The substrate needs to have good drainage for the plant to thrive and send out offsets. These can eventually be separated from the mother plant and propagated to produce new colonies.

5) West Indian lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)

West Indian lemongrass
If you want to deter snakes, mature West Indian lemongrass should be placed in areas where snakes & other animals are most likely to burrow and hide. Takiwasi, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Southeast Asia

A tropical plant used to flavor many culinary dishes throughout its native range, West Indian lemongrass is known for its citrus-like fragrance. Though it is appealing to humans and bees, the scent keeps many pests (including mosquitoes and snakes) away. It is produced by a cocktail of phytochemicals, with citral as the primary component. The essential oil can supposedly lower blood pressure and has antioxidant properties.

Lemongrass is a robust perennial that is able to spread vegetatively via rhizomes. It can also be grown through seed propagation. Its culms can grow up to 2 meters (6.5 feet) tall and produce leaf sheaths that give the plant a highly textured appearance. The leaves are bluish-green in color and are long and light enough to gracefully arch.

This low-maintenance plant thrives best in warm and humid areas, such as along the edges of water features. It has become naturalized in many parts of the world, including subtropical zones of many western regions. To serve as an effective repellent against snakes, mature plants should be placed in areas where animals are most likely to burrow and hide. To distribute their scent, cut bundles can also be spread around the garden. 

6) Marigold (Tagetes spp.)

Marigold roots produce thiophenes, which give off an odor that can keep small snakes away. Dmitry Makeev, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to the Americas

Of cultural importance to many ethnic groups throughout their native range, marigolds belong to a large group of flowering plants with vivid colors. They are usually cultivated as annuals, especially in areas with temperate climate conditions. Able to thrive in almost any type of substrate, these plants are anchored by a network of fibrous roots. Some popular cultivars are able to tolerate both high rainfall levels and brief droughts.

Marigolds are generally popular as pest-repellent plants due to their thiophenes, which are produced by the roots. These emit an odor that is likely to keep small snakes away. The leaves of some varieties may also emit a musky fragrance. Marigolds can thus be planted around herbs with more vulnerable roots and leaves. Keep in mind that snakes often burrow into the ground for protection, and they may damage the roots of sensitive plants that are not afforded protection.

Apart from their ability to keep many troublesome pests away, marigolds are, of course, lovely garden plants due to their colorful features. The many-petaled blooms are remarkably vivid and eye-catching. They attract many pollinators and are resistant to the grazing pressures of common herbivores. If your garden is in need of some spring and summer color, try sowing a few marigold seeds as soon as the final frosts are over.

7) Onion (Allium cepa)

Onion plants
Onions give off a strong smell which is disliked by snakes. MIKHEIL, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to Asia

Another extremely popular bulb with culinary importance all throughout the globe, the humble onion is a highly durable crop. Known for making many home cooks shed a tear or two, they produce many volatile phytochemicals that are released when the skin of the bulb is damaged. Some of these have strong odors which keep pests away just as garlic bulbs do.

If your garden is frequented by snakes and troublesome grazers, you may opt to protect your more vulnerable plants by cultivating a few stands of onions. Snakes dislike the smell of onions and can easily be dissuaded by their presence. As a bonus, you’ll eventually have bulbs that you can harvest and store in your kitchen.

Note that onions thrive best in fertilized substrates and under full sunlight. They are able to tolerate cool conditions and can thus be grown outdoors all year round. During their peak growth period (spring), they will benefit from being watered once a week. To support root expansion, they should be watered deeply. Keep an eye out for thrips as these pests may accumulate on the leaves.

8) Society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea)

Society garlic flowers
Society garlic’s lilac flowers emit a fragrance that is unpleasant to some pests, including snakes. EmmanuelVln, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to southern Africa

A recipient of the RHS Award of Garden Merit, this flowering perennial is commonly known as society garlic, spring bulbs, pink agapanthus, and wild garlic. It is set apart by its delicate foliage and large inflorescences, which come into bloom in midsummer. The lilac-colored flowers emit a fragrance that is often found appealing by a select few (due to its resemblance to the odor of garlic cloves) but disagreeable by some pests.

The strong scent of society garlic should help keep snakes away from your property. The crushed leaves of healthy plants can also be used to repel mosquitoes and fleas. There does have to be enough of the plant to create a distinct scent, so it will have to be planted in clusters. Note that large stands may create a particularly pungent smell, similar to that emitted by a skunk, so any close neighbors may unfortunately be made wary whenever they get a whiff.

The delicate leaves of society garlic can be eaten as a substitute for chives. The plant has antifungal properties, making it highly resistant to many diseases. It thrives best in well-draining and moderately fertile soils. Relatively hardy, it can persist through droughts and light winter frosts.

9) Kaffir limes (Citrus hystrix)

Kaffir lime thorns
The kaffir lime shrub has thorny stems & branches, which deter animals from coming too close. Forest and Kim Starr / CC BY 2.0

Native to China and Southeast Asia

This species is best known for its rough fruits, which produce a distinctly aromatic fragrance similar to those of some other citrus plants. Interestingly, the leaves are more frequently used as a culinary ingredient and source of essential oils compared to the fruits. Crushing them likewise produces a fragrance that is strong enough to keep many pests, including snakes, away.

Apart from repelling snakes due to its scent, the kaffir lime shrub is also avoided by many animals because of its thorny stems and branches. These may be masked by its glossy green and evergreen “double” leaves. Caterpillars of the Atlas moth (Attacus atlas) rely on the leaves as their main source of nutrients. The flowers may bloom for most of the year in tropical regions. They are fragrant, pinkish white, and speckled with yellow anthers.

Kaffir lime stems can grow up to 7.5 meters (25 feet) tall. A mature shrub may cover a spread of up to 3.6 meters (12 feet) wide. It favors fertile and well-draining soils in warm climates, such as those of USDA hardiness zones 10 – 12. It can be grown either indoors or outdoors as long as it receives ample sunlight and proper ventilation. The juices from the leaves and fruits can be applied to pest-ridden areas of the home or garden.

10) Skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)

Skunk cabbage leaves
Skunk cabbage gives off a pungent scent that is not appealing to both animals and humans! Alpsdake, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Native to North America

The skunk cabbage is a wetland plant that is likely to keep most grazers and pests away from the garden. The pungent stench of its bruised leaves may even disgust humans, causing them to suspect that an actual skunk is close by. Snakes, which are quite sensitive to odors in nature, are invariably thrown off by this meadow cabbage.

The leaves of S. foetidus are large and wide. They arise from stems that remain buried along with an underground system of rhizomes. The foul smell is also emitted by the unique flowers, which are produced on a spadix. They are shielded from full sun by a mottled spathe. Fortunately, the odor is mostly harmless, although it does attract many flies. It is likely an adaptation for repelling larger grazers that may feed on the leaves.

Skunk cabbage roots are highly specialized in that they are able to contract and pull the plant further into the ground. Thus, instead of growing upward, this species appears to grow downward. Fully mature plants may be extremely challenging to dig up and eliminate from the garden, so you’ll need to cultivate this plant with caution!

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