Does the mosquito population seem to grow every year or is it just me? I currently live on a river which means the weather is finicky and when it rains, it pours. Perfect breeding ground for mosquito larvae aka future vampires. Aside from calling mosquito pest control – which I would love to do but I’m not too keen on what they put in those sprays- and using safe bug repellents, another natural way to save me (and you) from mosquito bites, is to grow repellent plants.
What’s great about this option, is that many of them you can grow right in your herb or vegetable garden. Quite a few of these plants are also companion plants to your favorite veggies which means they can deter pests. Garden centers will have most of these plants listed so you can hop on down and grab a few transplants if they are in season after you read this post.
1. Marigolds (Calendula officinalis)
Marigold plants have an incredible ability to keep many different garden pests at bay. A few they are particularly good at are squash bugs and tomato hornworms. It’s strong scent even keeps humans away sometimes! People tend to enjoy the smell or hate it. Personally, the smell of marigolds transports me back to my childhood in the summer, where my mom would tend to what looked like a wave of oranges, yellows, and reds when the wind would blow.
You can plant these beauties on the border of your garden beds, but I think the best way to harness their strong smell for mosquito repelling purposes, is to place them by open windows or doors. That way when the little buggers try to get in, they get one whiff, and get flying in the other direction. They are also good for attracting beneficial insects like bees, so be mindful where you decide to plant them.
- French marigolds
- African marigolds
- Mexican marigolds
2. Citronella Grass (Cymbopogon nardus)
Have you ever bought citronella candles? If you have, you know the distinctive smell that this plant tends to give off. They use the essential oils from this plant to make the candles. Fortunately for you, the fresh grass is even more potent than the candles and makes for a wonderful natural mosquito repellent.
The citronella plant also makes for a beautiful ornamental grass that you can place in your garden or in a pot alongside your walkway.
3. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
An incredibly beautiful plant even without its ability to ward off the dreaded blood sucker. Their purple flowers are excellent for drawing in beneficials and providing a deep contrast to the green that decorates your lawn. Once you pluck a leaf you will notice a strong smell that is incredibly relaxing to you, but not so much for the mosquitoes.
This is also a great plant to keep close by for its health benefits as well as there are many. You can check out our recipe here for lavender tea if you want an easy way to gain those benefits.
4. Bee Balm (Monarda didyma)
This is one plant who really enjoys full sun and will show you its gratitude by producing an odor that is fantastic for keeping mosquitoes away. As an added bonus, it is wonderful to help bring in beneficial insects. I love bee balm for the crazy number of flowers it produces which in turn feeds those insects and makes your garden look pretty.
As a side note, the flower always reminds me of a spikey haired kid who needs a haircut. Speaking of haircuts, if you want to keep the flowers coming in, deadhead bee balm after the blossom has died.
5. Petunias (Petunia spp.)
You may already have these gorgeous blooms adorning your flower beds. The pinks and purples could also sit nicely in a pot close by your patio to provide you with a bit of relief from your buzzing enemies. These colorful flowers also act as a wonderful deterrent to other pests like aphids and leafhoppers.
6. Mint (Mentha spp.)
The mint family has quite a few plants that are filled with natural fragrances. Many of them are used in cooking for this exact reason. They can keep all types of insects at bay and can be a real ally in your fight against mosquitoes. Be sure to contain your mint though. It likes to be a wild one and take over the garden.
7. Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
This is another great perennial herb to have in your garden. Keep a few of these in some containers nearby for the best results at keeping mosquitoes away. An added side effect is that if you let it flower, all sorts of butterflies are drawn in and it is absolutely wonderful watching them on a cool summer morning with a cup of coffee in your hand. Time well spent I say. Just watch them going to seed or spreading by runners because it will take over your garden.
Some people rub the catnip’s crushed leaves on their skin. The catnip oil placed directly on your body acts as an even more intense deterrent than the plant itself. Watch out for your kitties, though. It might have the opposite effect on them.
8. Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
Your tomato plants won’t be the only happy thing if you plant basil in your garden beds – tomato worms aka hornworms dislike basil so it’s a great companion plant. Outside of the culinary uses of basil, this acts as a wonderful deterrent for many buggy bugs. And you really can’t have too much basil for cooking so a few extra plants will only benefit you.
9. Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus)
The classic addition to any herb garden and another wonderful natural repellent. This is an incredibly aromatic herb used in everything from cooking to lotions and deodorants. One of my favorite pastimes is plucking a rosemary leaf from the garden, rubbing it between my fingers, and pretending like Thanksgiving dinner is cooking in the oven. It always reminds me of family get-togethers.
10. Ageratum aka Floss Flowers (Ageratum houstonianum)
Not only is this plant excellent for keeping mosquitoes away, it can be a wonderful food source for pollinators. If you enjoy watching butterflies and hummingbirds, this may be a wonderful addition to your garden. It is wonderful to mix in with other ornamental plants and flowers and can come in a striking blue that will get your neighbors talking about your beautiful yard.
11. Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Have you ever smelled a plant with the essence of Fruit Loops and Fruity Pebbles? That is what this one smells like to me, and it acts as a wonderful mosquito deterrent. If you need to relax a bit, make tea from the leaves. The oils can have calming qualities and it may even help settle an upset stomach.
12. Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citratus)
Looking for a plant that will give you a great tasting tea AND keep mosquitoes away? This is your plant of choice. Breaking the stem releases a lemony aroma – as the name implies – and it smells absolutely wonderful. This is an easy one to put in as an ornamental grass or as a potted plant.
13. Sage (Salvia officinalis)
With all the different shades of sage, there is sure to be one that catches your eye. They range from light bluish-green to purple. Sage can be a splash of color in rock gardens amongst other herbs and ornamental grasses. Plant this close by to your patio or sitting area for best results.
14. Garlic (Allium sativum)
I saved the most ironic for last. I mean garlic to keep blood suckers away? That is funny. Maybe noticing that mosquitoes (and other pesky bugs) were kept at bay was the inspiration for the defense against vampires. There are even garlic body sprays you can use to keep mosquitoes and flies away, but I think I’d prefer to keep the smell with the plant and maybe even hang some nearby instead.
A couple of final thoughts…
Number 1…it would be a good idea to plant a variety of these plants in your yard. Variety has the potential to be more effective. Every environment is different and has many factors that could decrease a plant’s effectiveness to hold off pesky mosquitoes.
Number 2…As a reminder, putting colorful flowers on your table or near your seating area can attract bees so be mindful of anyone who might have allergies.
And finally, Number 3…get started in early spring so you can reap the benefits all season long.
Hope this helps you enjoy the outdoors all summer long!