How to Rid Your Garden of Cockroaches

We’re going to do a little test.


Did an involuntary shiver just go through your body? You’re not alone. The very mention of these vile pests can send folks running for the hills.

And an actual glimpse of one might have the more skittish among us performing stunning feats of athletic strength and agility as we desperately leap onto couches or countertops to avoid these fast-moving, creepy critters.

More than 55 species of cockroach populate our lands, many of them “gifts” from Asia and Africa, having come over on trading vessels.

Get tips and tricks for banishing cockroaches from your yard and gardens:

In some parts of the United States, cockroaches are called palmetto bugs, because of these insects’ tendencies to hide under the leaves of palm trees. Other names for the bugs include waterbug, Croton bug (named for the water supply system of New York City but not to be confused with the croton plant), and Bombay canary.

Whatever you call them, they’re a pest in our gardens, and heaven forbid they get into our homes — they’re an even worse scourge there.

Let’s explore some ways to avoid and get rid of them.

Hang up a “No Vacancy” Sign

Your first line of defense is to avoid attracting them in the first place.

Roaches like moist, dark places. Of course they do. Also unsurprising is the fact that they’ll eat just about flipping anything organic, including each other. Gross.

Anyway, keep garden areas tidy and free of excess clutter and refuse that might provide a home for these pests. Keep an eye on mulch, turning it or replacing it often to dissuade the bugs.

Learn how to banish pesky cockroaches from your back yard with tips from our expert |

For those of us who enjoy a winter fire, wood piles are inevitable. But store your logs in a cool, dry location far away from the house, and keep an eye out for insect infestations.

And compost! Compost piles are to roaches what a Vegas buffet is to a hungover gambler. Paradise!

Build your compost pile well away from your house, cover it, and turn it often to discourage roaches from taking up residence in your muck.

If your garbage pails are stored near your garden, make sure they’re tightly sealed.  Ditto pet food containers.

Natural Eradication

While it’s true that many species are more interested in human food and, oh, any kind of feces than they are in your garden plants, there are some species that will eat plants.

And even if they don’t eat your plants, you don’t want them in your yard.

Why not? Because the next step is an invasion of these pests into your home, where they’ll spread all kinds of nasty germs and eat your food and startle the socks off late-night, refrigerator-raiding humans.

Cockroaches are disease-carrying pests that aren't good for your garden |

For a natural way of getting rid of these malevolent marauders, try dusting diatomaceous earth around your plants. The powder’s tiny particles are sharp and have the effect of miniature razor blades on insect respiratory systems. Bwahahahaha!

For those of us in the South who are plagued by the slightly less vile but equally annoying fire ants, we have a choice between two evils.

While fire ants are loathsome tormentors in their own right, they do offer the benefit of helping to control cockroaches, by killing and eating them. So, pick your nasty bug.

Use any of a number of techniques to get rid of cockroaches from your garden |

On the other hand, our lovely friends the birds also like a tasty cockroach morsel, so create a welcoming environment for your avian friends by putting out seed.

A birdbath is nice for the feathered fowl, too, but keep in mind that roaches are also attracted to water.

Live Trichogramma Parasitic Wasp Eggs

Some parasitic wasps also feed on roaches. You can purchase parasitic wasps from Amazon.

Or plant any of these to attract the wasps to your garden: masterwort; yarrow, available from Amazon; caraway, available from True Leaf Market; or dill, also available from True Leaf Market.

Time to Bring Out the Big Guns?

If natural eradication methods aren’t doing the trick, you may have to turn to a more powerful insecticide?

You can purchase any of a number of poisonous gels, sprays, or sticky traps that contain insecticides such as fipronil or imidacloprid.

Some may contain boric acid, which is derived from the mineral boron, and is a notoriously effective cockroach killer.

Get tips for ridding your garden of cockroaches |

Keep in mind, however, that using these commercial products in the garden can be tricky, because you run the risk of harming beneficial insects or pets.

And sticky tapes may end up trapping more dirt and mulch than roaches.

Some gardeners have had good luck with bait stations such as these, available from Amazon. They may be placed in areas where palmettos have been spotted.

Combat Bait Stations

If you go with chemicals, check labels to be sure outdoor use is safe.

Legs Up!

To normal human beings who aren’t entomologists or Richard Schweid, author of The Cockroach Papers: A Compendium of History and Lore, the only good cockroach is a dead cockroach.

The Cockroach Papers, available on Amazon

To ensure you’re not pestered by these pests, first practice clean garden habits to deter them. And if they nevertheless insist on taking up residence in your yard, try some diatomaceous earth or other natural killers.

Learn how to keep cockroaches out of your gardens |

As a last resort, you can procure poison, but use only with the utmost caution so that beneficial insects, pets and humans aren’t harmed.

In the comments section below, tell us how you banish these vile vermin from your outdoor spaces.

And if cockroaches have also invaded your house, check out the story on our sister site, Foodal, about ridding your abode of these contemptible creatures.

Product photos via Basic Books, Combat, and Natures Good Guys. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.

Photo of author
A former garden editor for a daily newspaper in Austin, Texas, Gretchen Heber goes through entirely too many pruners and garden gloves in a year’s time. She’s never met a succulent she didn’t like and gets really irritated every 3-4 years when Austin actually has a freeze cold enough to kill them. To Gretchen, nothing is more rewarding than a quick dash to the garden to pluck herbs to season the evening meal. And it’s definitely time for a happy dance when she’s able to beat the squirrels to the peaches, figs, or loquats.
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CM (@guest_937)
6 years ago

Can you make those disgusting pictures smaller? I could not read your article as it was freaking me out. I am petrified of them and seeing them at 200% max is not working.

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu(@allison-sidhu)
Reply to  CM
6 years ago

Haha, we hear you, CM! And you don’t want to see them in the garden either. Better to be prepared- we hope you find our tips useful, if you ever need them. Thanks for reading!

Kate Carr
Kate Carr (@guest_14451)
Reply to  CM
2 years ago

I agree. the gore factor does not enhance your adds or your material.

Brenda Shults
Brenda Shults (@guest_1328)
6 years ago

Just started my raised beds for this yr and bought 100# of garden soil, mulch and compost at home depot and the local calloways. Emptied a few bags into the beds and began working it together, with my hands. The horror when i crumbled a large gob of soil only to have hundreds of roaches burst out the second it broke apart! A heads up for those of you getting started this yr. Use a hoe, a rake, a shovel! Anything but your hands! I almost went into full panic attack coniption! Now im terrified to go back to getting… Read more »

Charlotte (@guest_1891)
5 years ago

Where I live, they call them red Russian water roaches, new to me, reddish orange 2-3″ long uulck..
In my garden.
I have to water my plants, so how do I get rid of them as they seem to live in the water in the bottom of the plants
So grossed out!
Please help??
I can’t find any info about this species of roach.

Shaida (@guest_9310)
Reply to  Charlotte
3 years ago

You need to get powder from Tesco called Raid. I think used it and killed all cockroaches within a week. You just shake the box and the powder is sprayed. 100 percent effective.

Craig (@guest_1896)
5 years ago

Thanks for the info I definitely want to try some of your suggestions. My very tiny yard is cement and I live in the city. I rarely have food in my trash cans and the big looking water bug roaches are a problem. I have a great hammock I want to enjoy but I’m guaranteed at night to see out 7 big bugs very quickly. What can I do to keep them out of my yard, keeping in mind there are a bunch of other yards close to me- so even if I clean, other neighbors may not as much?… Read more »

Kate Carr
Kate Carr (@guest_14452)
Reply to  Gretchen Heber
2 years ago

Problem with this, is it also kills lady bugs and praying mantids which are the good guys that I purchase every year.

Taylor Bishop
Taylor Bishop (@guest_4243)
5 years ago

I wanted to thank you for this advice for getting rid of cockroaches. I’m glad you mentioned that you should keep garden areas free of excess clutter. It sounds important to regularly clean you garden, like maybe once a week or something.

Jess Bell
Jess Bell (@guest_4259)
5 years ago

I got some planter boxes for my raised garden, got home and found dozens of roaches in the boxes and scurrying into nooks and crannies. I immediately went to the general store and bought roach spray and literally hosed the inside and outside of the boxes with a commercial bug killer (like RAID but I’m blanking on the brand name). I planned on using these boxes this fall for my fall crop but I’m wondering if I need to wait until next spring or just use these boxes for flowers. (no herbs, teas, foods) If I can’t use them for… Read more »

Gina (@guest_9462)
3 years ago

Just one comment. Although the article is useful, why did need to add a dozen HD images of these stupid bugs????? I’m equally grossed out to see them no matter in reality or on computer screens.

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu(@allison-sidhu)
Reply to  Gina
3 years ago

Looks like we got your attention! ???? We illustrate all of our pest and disease articles with photos, and this can be helpful for identification. Granted, most people do already have a pretty good handle on what a roach looks like…

Lisa (@guest_11144)
3 years ago

what ground cover do you recommend to deter them? my mulch is never being replaced.

Helga George, PhD
Helga George, PhD(@helgageorge)
Gardening Writer
Reply to  Lisa
3 years ago

Hi Lisa,

That is an excellent question! I assume you don’t want to grow a ground cover plant. Pennyroyal is supposed to repel them. They will probably infest anything organic, so your best bet is a nonorganic ground cover like gravel or pebbles. That should help to keep them away. Let us know how it works for you!

Lena (@guest_18172)
Reply to  Lisa
1 year ago

Both cedar and cypress wood chips are supposed to repel bugs including roaches and termites. It’s more expensive than getting a free chip-drop but maybe worth the extra cost if it means less creepy crawlers.

Christina (@guest_16830)
2 years ago

My 3ft high raised beds are infested with cockroaches. I found them today while planting asparagus crowns.
They are quite far from my home so I’m not worried about them getting in my house and I spray the perimeter outside for roaches.
I know cockroaches are gross.
BUT I never heard of them eating growing vegetables.
So please, educate me. Why don’t I want them in my raised beds?

Rose Kennedy
Rose Kennedy(@rosekennedy)
Gardening Writer
Reply to  Christina
2 years ago

Hello Christina. I’m glad you aren’t feeling threatened by the cockroaches in your beds. I agree that the “ick” factor alone doesn’t make them bad. There are a few reasons you probably don’t want them around your veggie plants, though. While they won’t necessarily eat fresh produce as it grows in your raised beds, they will indeed consume rotting vegetables, parts of the compost pile, that sort of thing, depending on the variety of cockroach you’re hosting. With a food and water source, they’ll reproduce quite quickly. With certain types, you then will have to worry the infestation from the… Read more »

Louise (@guest_22905)
1 year ago

Can you please tell me on how to actually use boric acid? Like do I sprinkle it outside or spray it? Thank you.

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu(@allison-sidhu)
Reply to  Louise
1 year ago

Some gels or sprays that are commercially available for roach control contain boric acid, but you’ll usually find it in powdered form. The bugs need to walk through the powder in order for it to be effective, and it won’t get rid of their eggs. Overall, boric acid is best for indoor use, and adding too much boron to the soil can harm plants. If you’ve noted roaches in outdoor spaces like sheds and garages, spraying or sprinkling powdered boric acid strategically in those areas may prove effective, in combination with other methods. Tracking roach activity can be more difficult… Read more »