As the weather warms, we spend more time outdoors. And gardeners love playing in the dirt and caring for their plants. But nothing ruins a day in the garden like mosquitoes! Fortunately, gardeners have a secret weapon against these biters: mosquito-repellant plants. Across the country, gardeners are fighting back against pests with bug-repelling plants. Gardeners love nothing better than a plant-based, natural solution like this. But do mosquito plants really work?
Scientific evidence shows that some plants contain essential oils that effectively repel or kill mosquitoes. Concentrated oils from these mosquito-repellant plants form the base of our highly effective natural mosquito treatments. Unfortunately, filling your garden with these plants may not protect you completely from biters. Nevertheless, growing plants that harbor compounds used to kill and repel the nasty biters can be deeply satisfying. So, let’s explore the truth behind these “bug-repelling plants” and the top varieties you might want to include in your garden.
Mosquito-repellant Plants — A Natural Solution?
Mosquitoes have an incredible sense of smell, which is how they locate their next meal. They can sniff out and pinpoint our carbon dioxide fumes from over 150 feet away. So, it seems logical that a highly fragrant plant would impede their ability to find us, right? That’s why the idea of planting mosquito-repellant plants has gained traction and become so popular with gardeners over recent years. After all, if the essential oils of plants like citronella and rosemary effectively repel mosquitoes, surely the plants themselves perfume the air with scents that will drive off the biters. Right? Does this logic hold true? Do these aromatic bug-repelling plants, such as citronella, mints (peppermint, horsemint, mint), lemon balm, lavender, rosemary, marigolds, basil, and lemongrass, really protect your garden from mosquitoes?
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The Science Behind Aromatic Plants
Using plants as a natural mosquito repellant seems like a great idea. But the Mosquito Joe® entomologists, our resident bug experts, are real sticklers for things like facts and proof. And there’s no shortage of research on plants to get rid of mosquitoes. Unfortunately, all the research concludes that the aroma from living, growing mosquito-repellant plants doesn’t significantly affect the number of mosquitoes that land on a human subject. Even though these plants give off a strong and pleasant aroma we enjoy, they actually do little to deter mosquitoes. This applies to all the plants mentioned above, including citronella.
While surprising, the ineffectiveness of mosquito-repellant plants can be explained by how plants release their fragrance. While a lavender plant smells delightful up close, it does not fill the air around us with a strong fragrance. In fact, most of these plants release a significant amount of their fragrant oils only when crushed. And it’s the plant extracts that have the most powerful repelling properties—but only when those active ingredients are applied directly to the skin.
Homemade Mosquito Repellant
So, if mosquito-repellant plants don’t really ward off biters, at least in their plant form, what about using them in a homemade mosquito repellant? Some gardeners crush the leaves of these fragrant plants to release their oils. They then rub the crushed leaves on their exposed skin as they work in the garden. However, this can lead to dermatitis if the plant’s oils are too harsh for your skin. An alternative approach is to mix up a batch of DIY insect repellent at home.
There are certainly plenty of recipes for DIY mosquito repellant out there. But there are a few important considerations to take before you start:
- The effectiveness of homemade mosquito repellant wears off relatively quickly, so be prepared to reapply every few hours.
- Applying essential oils directly to your skin can trigger a reaction. Apply a small amount first to check sensitivity, especially with children, who are often more sensitive than adults.
- Essential oils have a limited shelf life. It’s best to store homemade repellant in a dark-colored bottle in a cool, dark place.
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To make a homemade mosquito repellant, combine the following ingredients:
- Essential oils from bug-repelling plants like lavender, catnip, eucalyptus, lemongrass, and other aromatic plants.
- A carrier oil (olive oil, almond oil, or grapeseed oil).
- Witch hazel.
- Vodka, about ½ teaspoon (apply responsibly), which will act as a preservative.
Repelling mosquitoes is no easy task, so be prepared to add about 100 drops of essential oil to 2 tablespoons of oil. Herbal mosquito repellants work the same way, using essential oils from mosquito-repellant plants like basil or rosemary as active ingredients.
Natural DIY mosquito repellants can be effective. Just remember that mixing, storing, and applying these homemade solutions to your skin can get messy. Many homemade mixtures leave behind an oily residue. And people with sensitive skin might have an allergic reaction. Consider all these factors before you invest time and effort into a homemade mosquito repellant.
The EPA website offers excellent information regarding insect repellants applied directly to the skin. You’ll also find an excellent search tool that will help you identify which repellant is right for you.
Top 10 Mosquito-Repelling Plants
As you’ve seen, the subject of mosquito-repellant plants is more complicated than just planting fragrant shrubs for protection from biters. Although there are plants that contain natural compounds that prove highly effective at repelling mosquitoes, the growing plants offer no such repelling properties. However, if you’d like to plant them in your garden as a source for creating your own insect repellent for as a symbolic stand against these nasty insects, we’ve compiled a list of the best bug-repelling plants for your consideration. The plants on this list have many qualities that make them welcome additions to your garden.
A fragrant geranium, the citronella plant is the most popular mosquito-repellant plant in the U.S. After all, the plant’s essential oils are the active ingredient in many topical commercial mosquito repellants, mosquito-repellant coils, and scented candles. Citronella plants are tender perennials, surviving only mild winters. In most of the country, they are planted each year as annuals. They should be planted 24” apart in full sun.
Lavender is a sweet-smelling herb whose fragrant oils are effective at repelling biting insects. This lands it high on any list of bug-repelling plants. Lavender plants are cold and hardy but require dry conditions to thrive. Plant in full sun, two to three feet apart.
Cheerful, blooming marigolds have long been prized by organic gardeners for their natural ability to repel various pests. These bug-repelling plants are annuals that produce profuse yellow blooms all summer long. Plant marigolds in full sun, 8 to 12 inches apart.
Lemongrass is a tall, fragrant grass closely related to citronella. It has a lovely, citrusy fragrance and flavor that is often added to Southeast Asian cooking. Considered one of the top plants to keep mosquitoes away, lemongrass essential oil is used in commercial mosquito repellants. Lemongrass is tender to frost. It should be planted in full sun with excellent drainage.
In addition to being a valuable culinary herb, rosemary contains potent insect-repelling oils. Rosemary can grow up to three feet tall when planted in full sun. It is drought tolerant with periwinkle-blue flowers that attract pollinators.
Basil is another delicious herb that people plant to get rid of mosquitoes. In addition to making yummy pesto, pasta, and pizza, basil leaves contain compounds that kill mosquito larvae before they hatch. This tropical herb thrives in full sun, except in the southwest, where some afternoon shade is a must. Protect plants in the winter, or bring them indoors. Otherwise, treat it as an annual.
Garlic is not only a delicious addition to any kitchen garden, but the whimsical blooms are highly attractive to pollinators. Furthermore, garlic contains fragrant compounds that repel mosquitoes (and vampires!). It is cold hardy and grows well throughout the country in full-sun, weed-free locations.
Mint is a vigorous, cold hardy herb with wonderful fragrance and flavor. Its tiny blooms attract pollinators, and the leaves are excellent for teas, jams, and sauces. Peppermint essential oils are highly effective in natural mosquito treatments. Various types of mint are considered mosquito-repellant plants. Plant in full to partial shade. But beware, mint quickly becomes invasive if not corralled in a container.
Lemon balm leaves contain lemony-smelling compounds similar to citronella. A delicious addition to teas, lemon balm is related to the mint family. Hardy to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit, lemon balm thrives in full sun to partial shade.
Catmint is another member of the mint family that is prized as a bug-repelling plant. It contains a powerful mosquito-repelling oil, nepetalactone. It also produces lovely stems of lavender blooms that attract pollinators and flower arrangers. Catmint leaves are edible and valuable in cooking. And of course, cats love it!
A Final Word on Mosquito-Repelling Plants
While mosquito-repellant plants don’t actually repel mosquitoes, they contain compounds that do once you process them. Although the plant extracts can act as short-term mosquito repellants, the oils must be mixed with carrier oils. The plants themselves don’t consistently repel mosquitoes.
Many of the plants mentioned will make a great addition to your garden. Just don’t count on them to repel mosquitoes. If you’re looking for a natural solution to repel mosquitoes, call the professionals at your local Mosquito Joe.
Our concentrated natural barrier spray uses essential oils from mosquito-repellant plants, such as lemongrass, peppermint, rosemary, and garlic, to repel mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas on your property. We target your shrubs, plants, flowers, vegetable gardens, and ponds where mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas like to hide, rest, and feed. It’s an effective natural mosquito repellant that allows you and your family to enjoy a bite-free backyard.
Pro tip: It is vital to remember that the primary attraction for mosquitoes is standing water. Just one teaspoon is enough water for mosquitoes to breed and thrive. Therefore, it’s critical to eliminate or treat any standing water in your yard so you can continue to garden bite-free.
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There’s no harm in planting “mosquito-repellant plants” in your garden, and there are plenty of benefits. The plants we’ve covered are attractive, often edible, and some have beautiful blooms. You can even crush their leaves or use essential oils to make homemade insect repellants. But what they won’t do is keep mosquitoes out of your yard.
To protect your family and pets from biting mosquitoes, call on the experts at Mosquito Joe. Our comprehensive pest control services keep mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas from biting. Our complete satisfaction is guaranteed by the Neighborly Done Right Promise™ and the Mosquito Joe Satisfaction Guarantee. So, request a free quote at the top of this page. Let us make your outdoor space fun again!