Plant This: Tansy is a Potent Pest Repellent…And an Easy Keeper

Common Tansy | ©iStockphoto.com/MantonatureIf you’re going for the kind of urban oasis that’s untamed and colorful, than tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) is for you. It’s a rangy herb, growing over two feet tall with fern-like foliage and big heads of button-like, bright yellow flowers that bloom for most of the summer.

Tansy, however, is a potent plant whose traditional medicinal and culinary uses have been overshadowed by its dangers; it contains substances that can cause miscarriage or birth defects, and can accumulate to toxic levels if ingested regularly. Don’t use it in the kitchen unless you’re consulting with an herbalist, don’t let your animals eat it, and use gloves if you find it irritates your skin.

Its chemistry is also a powerful insect repellent, though, so it might be just what you need to deter ants, flying insects, and beetles. To corral its invasive roots and reap its benefits, plant tansy in pots near roses, blackberries, raspberries, peppers, potatoes, and squash. It will tolerate partial shade and likes a dry soil (read: can take some neglect). Think about planting it at the outer edge of your container garden to create a useful and visually interesting border…and create the perfect setting for a roof-top picnic.

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