Many homeowners invest a significant amount of time and energy into making their outdoor spaces inviting places to relax and unwind. Unfortunately, there is a common pest that often interferes with these well-laid plans: the mosquito.
Are you wondering how to keep mosquitoes away without bug spray? You may not have realized that the intense aromas of many herbs repel mosquitoes. Some of them may help just by being planted near sitting areas, while others are most effective when crushed and rubbed on the skin, or in commercial essential oils.
Mosquito Repellent Plants
Below, let’s take a look at some of the best options for your garden and deck.
Citronella Grass and Lemongrass
Both citronella grass and lemongrass are warm-climate clumping grasses. Citronella grass (Cybopogon nardus) is the source of citronella oil, the most common ingredient in herbal mosquito repellent products. Most consider it to be inedible, but the plant can help keep the buzzing insects at bay. Citronella is considered invasive, so it may be best suited to containers around your outdoor living areas rather than planted directly in the garden.
A better option for some gardens may be the related species Cymbopogon citratus, also known as lemongrass. Like citronella grass, this plant contains compounds that will repel mosquitoes. The tender shoots near the base can also be used in cooking, particularly Asian dishes, and the leaves can be used as a tea. In climates with mild winters, lemongrass will die back after a frost and grow back from the roots in the spring.
Growing either variety near other garden plants such as tomatoes may even eliminate your need to use pesticides on your vegetables.
The Mint Family: Lemon Balm, Catnip, Bee Balm and Peppermint
Many different kinds of plants in the mint family are excellent insect repellents. For all of these, consider growing them in small pots scattered around your deck unless you have space for them to establish themselves, as they can be invasive. These plants also tend to like moist soil and a bit of shade in the summer. For all of these herbs, crush a few leaves and rub them on your skin to get the most out of their properties.
Lemon balm has pretty heart-shaped leaves and white flowers. It’s a lovely plant to help keep the bugs away, and also makes a refreshing and calming summer tea.
Catnip contains a natural chemical called nepetalactone. Studies show that when concentrated, this chemical is even more effective than DEET in repelling mosquitoes. Since catnip essential oil is quite expensive, you can get a more subtle effect by rubbing the leaves on your skin. Just beware—it may repel the stinging insects, but you will become your cat’s best friend!
Like catnip, peppermint also repels mosquitoes and other insects. Scientists found that it both repels adults and kills larvae. Peppermint oil is also a way to deter ants that get indoors. Fill a spray bottle with water and add a few drops of peppermint oil, and use this mixture to wipe down your countertops.
A less common herb, bee balm or horsemint (Monarda spp.) is a gorgeous addition to any garden, with different varieties offering stately columns of flowers and greenery or bright splashes of red. As the name suggests, bees love this plant, but mosquitoes tend to avoid it.
Is there anything rosemary can’t do? In addition to tasting great and being a pretty evergreen herb in the garden, rosemary can also help run off mosquitoes from your next cookout. Toss a few sprigs of rosemary into the coals. Not only will it smell good, but it will help repel mosquitoes.
How about the mosquito plant (Citrosum), a new mainstay at many garden centers? While it does share a similar scent to citronella grass, it isn’t nearly as effective as many of the other options. Still, if you get a mosquito plant, you can rub the leaves on your skin for a bit of an anti-mosquito effect.
Many people love the scent of lavender, but mosquitoes can’t stand it. Add containers of this visually-appealing herb to your deck to help drive bugs away. You can also cut sprigs of flowering lavender and tuck them into the pockets of your winter coats and sweaters to help discourage moths from invading your closet over the winter.
According to Rodale’s Organic Life, a trusted gardening site, the oils in basil that give it its trademark scent and taste are also toxic to mosquito larvae. You might try growing it around ponds to reduce the larvae in the water.
How to Make the Most of These Plants
As noted above, most of these plants work best when you crush the leaves and rub them on your skin. When that’s not feasible, you can still get benefits from these plants. Here are a few other ways to use these plants to reduce the number of mosquitoes in your outdoor spaces:
- Add mosquito repelling plants around outdoor seating areas or in container gardens on your deck or porch.
- Sprinkle fresh leaves on your deck.
- Burn fresh or dried plants on hot coals within a chiminea or firepit.
- Use products that contain the essential oils from these plants. There are insect repellents for both humans and pets that include some of these mosquito-repellent plant oils. You can also purchase lanterns and tiki torches that burn lamp oil made to repel insects, as well as citronella candles.
ABC Can Help Control Mosquitoes in Your Yard
When you need a hand maintaining your lawn and keeping your outdoor landscape pest-free, give ABC Home & Commercial Services a call. Our expert crews can help you with routine lawn care. Our highly-trained lawn specialists can also diagnose and treat lawn diseases and assist with other landscaping needs. If mosquito repellent plants don’t do the job, ABC can provide you with a range of services to help control the mosquitoes in your yard.