Summertime means lots of gorgeous sunshine, outdoor fun, family picnics, and . . . mosquitoes. But, what a treat nature has given us with plants that keep those mosquitoes away!
Often found in rock gardens, ageratum (flossflowers) is a low-growing ornamental plant which has easily recognizable blue flowers. Ageratum secretes coumarin which is often used in mosquito repellents. Reaching a height of 8 to 18 inches, it thrives in full or partial sun and does not need rich soil to grow well. Crushing the leaves will strengthen its odor, but should not be put directly on your skin.
Many members of the mint family have mosquito-repellent attributes, and basil is no different. It’s a tasty compliment to your recipes and can be grown in pots or in your garden. Though basil is not the strongest mosquito-repelling plant available, it does well when planted in large groupings. Basil needs full sun and rich soil with proper drainage to grow well.
Also knows as horsemint, beebalm is a perennial plant that has a strong incense-like aroma which masks other scents, leaving mosquitoes confused and unable to find a host to feed on. Attracting bees and butterflies, beebalm grows fast, is shade-tolerant, does well in dry sandy soil, and grows to a height of two to three feet. It can also be dried and used as an herbal tea.
Catnip is not only used for your cat’s enjoyment, but also for your outdoor enjoyment as well! Though it’s unknown why it keeps mosquitoes away, recent studies have discovered that catnip is actually 10 times stronger than DEET, which is the ingredient used in most mosquito repellents. Catnip is related to the mint family. For the amateur gardener, it can become invasive when planted in the garden, like most mint plants. So, if gardening and weeding are not your favorite things, try a few potted plants on your deck or porch. Crushing the leaves and rubbing them on your body will also keep the mosquitoes away. But don’t be too surprised if your cat becomes extra friendly around you!
If you have mosquito-repellent candles and lanterns on your porch or deck, then you are already familiar with citronella. The oil in the candles and lanterns is made from citronella, a tropical grass from the lemon grass family which grows to about five to six feet tall. The actual plant is more effective than the candles and torches because its scent is much stronger and hides you from the mosquitoes, making it more difficult for them to find you.
Did you know that geraniums are also known as “mosquito plants”? This plant’s scent is comparable to citronella and is very repelling to mosquitoes. Considered to be poisonous, it’s best to keep this plant away from children and pets. It grows best in warm climates and should be brought indoors on cold nights. Geranium plants can grow up to 2 to 4 feet tall.
The soothing scent of lavender can not only enhance your peaceful time outdoors, but it can also help in keeping all kinds of insects (moths, spiders, ants) away. When used as an herbal remedy, lavender can ease the annoying pain and itch from insect bites, like mosquitoes. It is a beautiful perennial with purple flowers that grows on average about three feet tall; but due to many varieties of lavender available, sizes will differ. This plant likes full sun and well-drained soil.
Another strong perennial to keep mosquitoes away is lemon thyme. Lemon thyme is a flavorful seasoning as well as repellent and is very easy to grow in a sunny spot, gravelly dry soil, and with an occasional watering. This is a plant which needs to be trimmed from time to time.
Marigolds are a popular summer annual. Not only does this plant add a bright touch of color to your potted floral arrangements and gardens, but its strong scent is infamous for repelling mosquitoes (and some people too!). Look for the African and French species as their scent is known to be most effective. Marigolds are also a great addition to your vegetable garden as many insects are bothered by their overwhelming scent and will leave your crops alone. Full sun and fertile soil is what is needed for marigolds to thrive. Deadheading the flowers (pinching away the dying blooms) will encourage multiple blooms. Crushing the flower and applying to your arms, neck, or legs will also be helpful at keep those mosquitoes away!
Part of the evergreen family, rosemary not only looks nice in your garden and acts as a wonderful seasoning in your cooking, but it is a plant that will also keep those mosquitoes and fleas away. They are considered tropical plants and do not weather the cold season well, but can make wonderful potted plants if brought indoors for the winter. Rosemary loves full sun and a rocky, well-drained soil.
Another member of the herb family, sage is another plant which mosquitoes don’t like. It also prevents flies, cabbage moths, and black fleas from invading your space. Like most herbs, sage prefers full sun, well-drained soil, and grows about 18 inches tall. Sage easily reseeds itself, so to prevent it from taking over your garden, trimming the flowers before they go to seed is advised. Sage can easily grow in pots as well.
Are you surprised that so many herbs work well as mosquito repellents? It’s a great incentive to start that herb garden you’ve always thought about growing – with an added bonus of keeping mosquitoes away. Decorate your porch and deck with any these aromatic plants for a relaxing, mosquito-free time outdoors!
Marten, Melanie. "Five Plants That Repel Mosquitoes." Gomestic. 14 July 2007. Web. 17 May 2012. <http://gomestic.com/gardening/five-plants-that-repel-mosquitoes/>.
"Eartheasy." 5 Easy Ways to Grow Mosquito-Repelling Plants. 28 Apr. 2011. Web. 17 May 2012. <http://eartheasy.com/blog/2011/04/5-easy-to-grow-mosquito-repelling-plants/>.
McMahan, D. "Top 10 Common Plants That Repel Mosquitoes and Other Insects." IB InfoBarrel. 29 May 2011. Web. 17 May 2012. <http://www.infobarrel.com/Top_10_Common_Plants_that_Repel_Mosquitoes_and_Other_Insects>.