As a lawn care enthusiast, I understand the frustration of constantly being bothered by mosquitoes. Not only are their bites itchy and irritating, but they can also carry dangerous diseases. That’s why I recommend using natural and effective solutions to repel mosquitoes, such as plants. In this article, I will provide helpful suggestions for 12 plants that repel mosquitos, including their descriptions, how to grow and care for them, ways to use them to repel mosquitoes, and effectiveness research.
Mosquito bites are a common problem during the summer months, and the diseases they can carry make them even more dangerous. That’s why it’s important that we find natural and effective solutions to repel them.
Important Facts About Mosquitoes
Mosquitos in the United States
In the United States there are 176 different species of mosquitoes. As soon as the weather warms up, they lay eggs in areas with standing water such as ponds, fountains, puddles, and even logs or rotten trees. A female mosquito can lay up to 200 eggs every few days, so all it takes is a few mosquitos to drive the population up exponentially.
Why Do Mosquitoes Bite?
Mosquitos mostly eat nectar from plants, but the females also drink blood because it contains proteins that they need to make eggs. There are a number of ways that female mosquitos hone in on humans. They can sense the carbon dioxide that we exhale, certain chemicals in our sweat, and the warmth that our bodies emit.
Why do Mosquito Bites Itch?
When a female mosquito finds her target, she pierces the skin with her long pointed proboscis and injects saliva with an anticoagulant to thin the blood and make it easier for her to drink. Most people’s bodies react to the anticoagulant by producing a red, itchy bump.
Besides being incredibly irritating, mosquito bites can also be dangerous. Mosquitoes can carry a number of diseases including the West Nile virus, dengue fever, malaria, chikungunya and the Zika virus. Many of these diseases have symptoms that can be debilitating for humans.
How to Get Rid of Mosquitos
There are many ways to repel mosquitoes including mosquito foggers (link to article) sprays, creams, candles, and electronic devices. However, if you prefer to deter mosquitos in a natural way, there are various plants that will prevent mosquitoes from hovering around your backyard or home.
12 Plants That Repel Mosquitos
Although plants alone won’t entirely eradicate mosquitoes from my outdoor living spaces, these ones will help reduce the numbers. Many of them emit scents that mosquitoes highly dislike. The aromas also help to mask carbon dioxide and the chemicals in my sweat, making it more difficult for mosquitos to find me. I can add these varieties to my garden or grow them inside in pots or an AeroGarden (link to article) inside. I can also use the essential oils of some of these plants as a natural mosquito repellent.
Scientific name: Allium
I can repel mosquitos and stock up my kitchen at the same time with allium plants. I might recognize the most popular allium species such as garlic, onions, chives, scallions, shallots, and leeks. These edible plants have bulbs, long stalks with no leaves, and flowers that can be purple, pink, white, or yellow. Allium plants produce chemical compounds that give them a unique smell that is highly unpleasant for mosquitos, aphids, slugs, rabbits, and deer.
Allium is commonly found in the Northern hemisphere, and it thrives in temperate climates. If I start allium plants from seeds, they may take up to four years to flower, so I can buy the bulbs instead. I can plant the bulbs in a sunny spot during early spring or fall. Allium plants aren’t picky about soil, but the soil should contain sulfates as they give the plants their distinctive aromas.
Scientific name: Ocimum basilicum
I can tell you that basil is a fantastic herb for cooking and repelling mosquitos at the same time. Its strong scent is potent enough to keep the pesky insects away, but if you want extra protection, you can also use basil essential oil as a natural mosquito repellent. Moreover, studies suggest that basil compounds are toxic to mosquito larvae, so adding a few drops of basil oil to standing water can help reduce mosquito populations.
If you want to grow basil, you can start from seeds or buy sprouts and plant them directly in the ground. Since basil is native to tropical regions, it thrives in warm, sunny conditions and needs regular watering. Its herbaceous leaves add flavor to dishes, and you can start harvesting them as soon as the plant fills out. Just remember to remove the flowers once they start forming to keep the plant producing leaves and essential oils.
Scientific name: Nepeta cataria
I find catnip to be an effective mosquito repellent. The aromatic flowers of this herbaceous plant, which can be pink, white or purple, contain a chemical called nepetalactone that mosquitos dislike. While cats and butterflies are attracted to it, catnip repels mosquitos, flies, termites and cockroaches. In fact, research has shown that catnip can be up to 10 times more effective at repelling mosquitos than DEET, a chemical found in many commercial insect repellents.
Growing catnip is a breeze, and it makes for a beautiful addition to any garden. Simply plant it in well-drained soil and an area that receives full to partial sunlight, either in the spring or fall. The plant usually blooms from late spring to early fall and can grow up to four feet tall with feathery green foliage and small blossoms. To encourage reblooming, you can cut back the blossoms, but keep in mind that catnip can spread rapidly and become invasive.
Scientific name: Cybopogon nardus or Citronella winterianus
Let me tell you about citronella, which is often called the ‘anti-mosquito plant’ because it’s highly effective at repelling these pesky insects. It produces a compound called citral, which is often used in mosquito repellents and candles, as well as essential oil blends. It has a fresh, lemony scent that is offensive to mosquitos and great at masking my aroma. It also helps repel flies, leeches, and lice. In addition, citronella essential oil contains antibacterial and antifungal properties.
If you want to grow citronella, it’s good to know that this tall, clump-forming grass is originally from Asia, but you can find it in countries all over the world. It is technically a perennial plant, but often considered an annual because it typically doesn’t grow back after the ground freezes. The best time for me to plant citronella is in early spring. I should plant it in an area with filtered sunlight, give it plenty of water, and make sure the soil is well-drained. At its peak, it can grow up to six feet tall. It works best at repelling mosquitos when I pinch or crush the leaves to release the oils.
Scientific name: Chrysanthemum L.
If you want to keep mosquitoes away while adding some color to your outdoor living spaces like myself, consider planting chrysanthemums. These beautiful flowers contain a compound called pyrethrum, which is harmful to insects’ nervous systems and repels female mosquitoes from biting. Pyrethrum is often used in natural and synthetic insect repellents and is sourced from chrysanthemums.
There are thousands of species of chrysanthemums with varying sizes, shapes, and colors. I’ve found that most species prefer dry soil and full sunlight, as well as good air circulation and occasional fertilizer. However, overwatering should be avoided as mildew can be a problem. With proper care, your chrysanthemums can grow up to five feet tall (depending on the species) and bloom throughout the fall season.
Scientific name: Lavandula angustifolia
I love the floral scent of lavender, and I find it to be very relaxing. Interestingly, mosquitos really don’t like this beautiful flowering shrub. The highly fragrant flowers repel a number of insects, including mosquitoes, flies, moths, fleas, and spiders. On the other hand, bees and butterflies flock to the bushes. I can plant lavender shrubs in my garden to deter mosquitos or use the essential oil as a repellent. The oil can have a soothing effect on my skin.
Lavender is a perennial plant that is native to the Mediterranean. It has distinctive tiny flowers that range in color from deep purple to pink and white. It likes hot, dry conditions, so I should plant it in a spot that gets full sunlight. It doesn’t need a lot of water to thrive. In fact, overwatering and overly humid conditions can kill it. I can expect it to grow up to three or four feet, and it typically blooms in the summer and early fall.
Scientific name: Cymbopogon
I can tell you that lemongrass is a type of grass that produces a strong lemon scent. As with many citrus-scented plants, it is unappealing to mosquitos and flies, which makes it a great natural insect repellent. The plant contains citral, which is also found in citronella, and is commonly used in plant-based insect repellents. In addition, lemongrass has antimicrobial and antiseptic properties, which makes it a common ingredient in many soaps and cleansers.
To grow lemongrass, you’ll need to provide it with warm, humid, and tropical conditions. This means planting it in an area with full sunlight and watering it frequently. With proper care, it can grow up to six feet tall or more. It’s an annual plant, so you’ll need to replant it every growing season. The best time to plant it is in the spring after the last frost has passed. After about three months, you can harvest and use the roots in cooking.
Scientific name: Thymus citriodorus
I love lemon thyme because of its lovely citrusy aroma that attracts butterflies and bees but is off-putting to mosquitos. According to a study at the University of Guelph in Ontario, when I crush lemon thyme leaves and rub them on my skin, I’m 62% less likely to get bitten by mosquitos. If I plant lemon thyme in abundance, these green and yellow plants can help create a natural barrier that mosquitos won’t want to cross. As an added bonus, they’re also unappealing to deer.
This hardy evergreen shrub is perfect for my region that doesn’t get a lot of rain. I just need to stick it in sandy, well-drained soil that gets direct sunlight, and then I only have to water it every so often. Lemon thyme can grow up to 15 inches tall and produces multiple small leaves that I can use in cooking or crush up to release the oils, which I can then use on my skin as a natural mosquito repellent..
Scientific name: Tagetes
I can recommend adding rows of marigolds to your home to repel mosquitos while adding vibrant colors to your garden. These flowers emit a musky scent that repels various pests, including mosquitos, aphids, squash bugs, and tomato hornworms. They can also repel deer, rabbits, and rodents, making them an ideal plant to grow alongside other edible plants such as tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, and alliums like garlic, chives, and onions.
Marigolds are versatile plants that can thrive in any type of soil, and you can grow them in pots indoors or directly in your garden. They require direct sunlight and warm temperatures, but they sprout quickly and usually bloom fully within eight weeks. You can encourage more blooms by cutting back the flowers as they mature.
Scientific name: Mentha × piperita
I use peppermint as a natural pesticide to deter all sorts of pests including mosquitos, wasps, ants, and rodents. I love the refreshing, herbaceous aroma of peppermint leaves, which should keep mosquitos away just on their own. But if I want to take things one step further, I can apply peppermint oil to my skin as a repellent. This has the dual effect of sending mosquitos packing and cooling and soothing any itchy bites I may have.
I grow peppermint in containers because it’s incredibly invasive. It grows best in damp soil and partially shady spots, so I place the containers accordingly. I make sure to water it regularly so that the soil doesn’t dry out, but not so much that it gets waterlogged. Once the leaves start growing, I can pick them off and use them in food and drinks.
Scientific name: (several varieties)
Instead of repelling insects, I learned that pitcher plants lure them in so they can eat them. These carnivorous plants have attractive colors, shapes, and nectar that attracts insects and encourages them to fly or walk into my plant’s cavity. Once inside, the insect drowns in liquid and is dissolved to provide nutrients for the plants. Pitcher plants are great for cutting down mosquito populations and getting rid of a myriad of flying pests including wasps, flies, and moths.
There are hundreds of species of pitcher plants. Some do best in tropical conditions, while others are native to the northern regions of North America, so I should try to look for a species that is either native to my area or native to an area with a similar climate to mine. Once they are planted, pitcher plants are pretty low maintenance because they get their nutrients from the insects. This means I don’t have to fertilize them
Scientific name: Salvia officinalis
I have been using sage in cooking and traditional remedies. The Romans used it as a local anesthetic for the skin, and people throughout the Middle Ages used it for everything from insect bites and stings to toothaches, fevers, and memory loss. Sage has a slightly sweet, herbal scent that is unappealing to mosquitos. I can burn it, rub the leaves directly on my skin, or use essential oil to keep mosquitos away.
Sage is a perennial evergreen shrub that is native to the Mediterranean. There are over 750 species of sage to choose from, and nearly all of them grow best in dry soil. If I want my sage plants to thrive, I can place them in direct sunlight and water them sparingly. As the plant grows, I can keep harvesting the leaves to encourage regrowth. Sage loves warm weather, but it is also very hardy and can keep growing well into the autumn months.
Other Ways to Naturally Reduce Mosquitoes in Your Backyard
There are other natural ways I can try to reduce mosquitos in my backyard, besides planting mosquito-repellent plants.
- One way is to drain any areas of standing water to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs and to kill any larvae that may be present.
- I should also remove any objects that could collect water, such as buckets, birdbaths, and old tires. I need to clean out my gutters frequently to avoid creating a moist environment that mosquitoes like.
- Trimming my grass and weeds regularly will eliminate hiding spots for mosquitos during the day. I can also introduce fish that eat mosquito larvae, like mosquitofish, koi, or goldfish, into my pond.
- Another tactic is to set up fans on my patio or backyard to make it hard for mosquitos to fly and disrupt the flow of carbon dioxide, which helps mosquitoes locate their prey.
- Wearing a plant-based mosquito repellent that contains citral or the essential oils of some of the plants listed above can be helpful as well.
- I can also encourage bats to visit my property by planting night-blooming flowers and setting up a bat box so they can sleep during the day.
By cultivating just a few of these plants, I can make my backyard and patio a more pleasant place to be. Not only do these plants help deter mosquitos, but many will add to the beauty of my property, and some can even be used for cooking. When combined with other mosquito-repelling tactics like wearing mosquito repellant and ensuring my property is free of standing water, these plants can greatly reduce the mosquito population, making my outdoor living areas safer and more enjoyable for me and my family.