Mosquitoes can ruin a summer outdoor activity faster than a weed in fertilizer. Everything from a child’s birthday party, to a backyard BBQ, to a garden wedding can be ruined by a infestation of hungry, biting mosquitoes. They’re looking for a meal, and your exposed arm, leg, or anywhere in between is fair game. Mosquitoes can keep us from wanting to spend time in our own yards, especially in the early evening, when they’re most active. Thankfully, toxic chemical sprays aren’t the only effective means of repelling mosquitoes. There are certain plants that repel mosquitoes, and that’s a win for our garden and our bodies!
Knowing which plants repel mosquitoes is important. Not only are mosquito bites painful, but they can pose a serious health risk to those who are bitten.
Keep yourself, family and guests safe from mosquito bites this summer by including these plants in your landscape. If you don’t have flower beds near your patio or porch area no problem! Plant some of these helpful plants in small containers so they can be moved around on the deck, porch or backyard as needed.
Plants that Help Repel Mosquitoes
Basil is a lovely, compact herb plant that emits a scent that repels mosquitoes. The plant is also toxic to mosquito larvae, so plant basil near standing water to deter mosquitoes from laying eggs. Not only can this annual herb help deter mosquitoes, but it’s perfect for use in recipes and preserving for use later in the winter. (Try my post on pruning basil for larger, fuller plants and for drying basil to use later.)
This is a tall, fragrant plant that produces a red or purple flower and is the perfect addition to any backyard space. Bees, butterflies, and birds are attracted to the flower, which is wonderful for pollination and pest control. And the scent of bee balm helps repel mosquitoes, so it’s working double-duty in your yard to attract pollinators and deter mosquitoes!
Bee balm is often used to make tea and jelly. Be sure to plant in full sun and adequately water if planted in containers. (Seed Needs has a wonderful variety of Bee Balm, so consider adding this favorite to your garden area!)
It’s not just for felines! This is the number one plant choice for repelling mosquitoes. Catnip is in the mint family (sometimes called cat mint) and contains the chemical nepetalactone, which is a strong mosquito repellent. Nepetalactone and other chemicals naturally found in catnip make it more effective than DEET, a chemical found in most insect repellants.
Cats are extremely fond of this plant, so use it only in cat-friendly locations.
Most people are familiar with this scent as it is often the repellant used in candles and burning oil for outdoor torches. But citronella actually refers to a plant, not the candles you can buy at your local hardware store. The strong scent put off by the plant does a great job of repelling mosquitoes.
The citronella plant will reach a mature size of 6 feet tall and equally as wide, so consider this when planting. Citronella also grows well in partial shade unlike many of the other plants that repel mosquitoes.
Grow a few cloves of garlic in your garden to help keep mosquitoes away. They dislike the scent of raw garlic and are less likely to bite a person who has recently eaten garlic, so load up! Garlic is usually planted in the fall and harvested in summer, so planting a few cloves will not only give you fresh garlic, but it can repel mosquitoes all fall and spring long. Garlic also doesn’t take up much space, so you can interplant it with other mosquito repelling plants to increase your mosquito-free area. (I like to purchase my garlic from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. Don’t plant garlic from the grocery store, which has been treated to prevent sprouting.)
Lavender produces a calming fragrance and spike of lovely purple flowers, but mosquitoes hate it. Grow plenty of lavender in your landscape for beauty, fragrance and a mosquito-free environment. You’ll have the added bonus of being able to harvest the lavender to use indoors.
Plants will reach a mature height of 3 feet and is easy to grow in containers. Lavender also makes a wonderful low hedge if you’re in need of structure in your garden area.
Fragrant and edible, lemon balm is an herb with a mild lemon flavor and is often used in soups, marinades, teas and jams. Lemon balm is also known for its calming effect and helping ease anxiety. As a bonus, it will also repel mosquitoes.
A member of the mint family, lemon balm also help settles an upset stomach and it’s an ideal plant for growing in small pots. Though not as aggressive as mint, lemon balm does have the tendency to spread when planted in the ground, so just be aware. If you have a friend who is growing lemon balm, chances are you can ask for a volunteer to add to your own yard. (Here’s a great recipe for Lemon Balm Simple Syrup that is a wonderful addition to tea!)
Marigolds are the workhorse flower in the garden, and I’ve featured them before in my post about Flowers to Grow in a Vegetable Garden. These scented beauties keep away a lot of garden pests, including mosquitoes.
Plants marigolds around the garden and in small containers in your outdoor space to keep pests at bay. Some varieties of marigolds are also edible, so consider this when planting them.
Other Ways to Repel Mosquitoes
Besides using plants to repel mosquitoes, deter mosquitoes in your yard by eliminating areas where they tend to thrive. Areas of standing water are perfect mosquito breeding grounds, so pour out water that is unnecessary. Our garden wagon tends to hold water after a rain, so we’re careful about pouring out the standing water. Also, gutters and the lower ends of down spouts can also be attractive to mosquitoes.
If you have bird baths, ponds, or other areas where water is necessary, then consider using Mosquito Dunks or Bits. These contain BTi (Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies Israelensis) to make the mosquito larvae non-viable. So you can attract the mosquitoes to your water source and then eliminate any chance of new mosquitoes hatching. BT is safe for humans and animals and is the same product I use for cabbage worms in the garden. (Want more ideas for Natural Pest Control in the Home Garden?)
So don’t let mosquitoes ruin your outside time, and avoid having your entire yard sprayed with toxic chemicals. We had our yard sprayed for two seasons, and I knew that the spray was killing more than just mosquitoes. So protect your yard from overkill by using gentler methods of mosquito control.
And I’d love to know if you have other plant suggestions for preventing mosquitoes. Leave a comment below and share! Happy Gardening!