Control Pests with the Right Landscaping

Sept. 25, 2006
Plants and landscaping practices can make a facility vulnerable to pest activity

By Zia Siddiqi

Tulips vs. roses, Scotch Pine vs. Cypress: Landscaping decisions for commercial buildings may seem as simple as finding the right colored flowers or shrubs to accent the exterior. While the aesthetic qualities created by landscaping help make a building appealing to tenants and guests, certain plants and landscaping practices can also play a significant role in making the facility vulnerable to pest activity.

Since pest infestation can create a stigma for certain properties, pest control should always play a role in landscaping decisions. As you consider which types of flora to use around the property, keep the following tips in mind.

Trim the Trees
Vegetation should never touch the building. If tree branches, shrubs, or other plants are touching the exterior, cockroaches, ants, and other insects can crawl up the masonry and find their way inside the building via cracks and crevices. The answer to this problem is simple, but it does require ongoing maintenance. All vegetation should be trimmed back at least 2 to 3 feet from the building.

Build a Barrier
Besides trimming vegetation near the building, installing a 3-foot gravel strip (made of quarter-inch pebbles) around the entire perimeter of the facility helps deter a variety of pests in different ways. Rodents don’t like crossing open spaces as they look for a way inside a facility, so installing a gravel strip uses rodents’ fear of open spaces against them. The strip also presents a rocky obstacle to roaches, ants, and other crawling insects.

Monitor Your Mulch
Organic mulch provides a source of nutrients and helps retain moisture for flowers and other landscaping plants. But, that moisture also attracts a variety of pests - from roaches to rodents. Instead of organic mulch, use the pencil-cedar variety, which retains much less moisture. As a bonus, this type of mulch also repels Argentine ants.

Plan Your Planting
Planting anything bearing nuts, seeds, full-season flowers, or fruits should be avoided since these features attract insects. Ground-covering plants (such as spreading yew and crawling juniper) are not a good idea, either, since they may provide harborage to rodents and crawling insects. And, it’s no secret that flowers can attract stinging insects like bees and wasps. Among these “buzz-worthy” flowers are chrysanthemums, daisies, geraniums, marigolds, and roses. Consult your pest-control provider for additional information about which types of plants will work best for your property.

Whether landscaping decisions are being made during original construction or as part of a renovation, building managers and landscape architects should work in tandem with a pest-management professional when making decisions about what and where to plant. Ultimately, your landscape will still look great, but by taking the pest-control implications into account, you’ll retain the pleasing aesthetic of your building and make it a cleaner, safer environment for tenants and visitors.

Dr. Zia Siddiqi is quality assurance director at Atlanta-based Orkin Inc. As a Board Certified Entomologist with more than 30 years of experience in the industry, Siddiqi is an acknowledged leader in the field of pest management. For more information, e-mail Siddiqi at ([email protected]) or visit (

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