These 5 Mosquito-Repelling Plants Are Easy To Grow In Any Garden
Love being outside but prone to bug bites? When it comes to choosing plants for your backyard garden, going for ones that can help ward off hungry insects isn't a bad idea. Here are five low-maintenance plant species that double as natural mosquito repellers:
A wonderful addition to your backyard and your cooking (homemade pesto, anyone?), basil has long been used as an insect repellent.
It requires full sun and regular moisture to grow, according to Marc Hachadourian, the director of glasshouse horticulture at the New York Botanical Garden.
Be sure to clip back and prune your plant from time to time, too, as this will encourage the continued growth of its yummy basil leaves.
This annual has gorgeous flowers, attracts hummingbirds and butterflies, and also repels mosquitoes. Perfect for a pop of color, it needs full sun, regular water, and fertilizer.
Mint is another great herb to grow in the garden, and Hachadourian notes its fragrant oils can be used to repel mosquitoes. Be sure to plant it either in a large container or sectioned off in the garden, as it can spread quite quickly. Then, all it needs is full sun and regular watering.
Lavender's fragrance is smooth and relaxing to humans, but off-putting to mosquitoes! Lavender plants make for a great addition to any backyard, but they require some maintenance.
They need full sun and well-drained, sandy soils since they can get finicky with too much water. "Prune back after flowering to encourage new growth," Hachadourian adds.
Last but not least, citronella oil from the Cymbopogon (lemongrass) family has long been a standby for its mosquito-repelling properties.
Even watering and good sunlight are best for Cymbopogons, according to Hachadourian, and they can handle a little drying out between waterings. He recommends using the aromatic grass as a foliage accent in mixed flower containers for some added texture.
Why certain plants repel mosquitos:
Hachadourian explains that many plants likely evolved mosquito-repelling compounds as a self-defense mechanism.
"Many plant extracts from plants as wide and unrelated as cedar, basil, lantana, beautyberry, lavender, eucalyptus, mint, and even breadfruit have shown promise as natural insect repellents in studies with varying degrees of success," he says.
These plants produce a wide variety of antifungal1, anti-herbivore2, and anti-insect3 compounds that fend off different types and species of bugs—some of which can stunt their growth or carry plant viruses.
Can plants replace bug spray?
These five plants may be able to lend a helping hand for keeping mosquitoes at bay, but wearing bug spray is still important.
"Any of the plants that possess the natural oils will only really be effective in small areas, and one plant will not drive hungry mosquitoes away from you and your yard completely," Hachadourian notes.
So to maximize your mosquito-repelling potential, your best bet would be to wear bug spray, light a citronella candle or two, and position your new plants near where you usually like to sit outside.
The bottom line:
With a few easy additions to your garden, you can freshen up the aesthetic and limit mosquitoes at the same time. However, even if you have all of these backyard beauties, applying bug spray is still recommended during the height of summer.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.