We get it. You're sick of dousing yourself in bug spray only to end up with mosquito bites anyway. Enter: mosquito repellent plants. Not only can they help liven up your backyard, but they can help keep pesky insects away, too. We talked to Charlotte Bailey, a horticulturist qualified by the Royal Horticultural Society, about which plants can actually help keep mosquitoes away.
Which mosquito-repellant plants work?
According to Bailey, some plants that repel mosquitoes include:
Rosemary: Its scent repels the bugs. It thrives in hot and dry climates in containers.
Lavender: Its distinct “herbal aroma” makes it one of the best mosquito repellent plants, said Bailey. It not only shoos away mosquitoes but animals like deer as well. It’s a hearty plant, too — it just needs good drainage and lots of direct sunlight, and it’s all set.
Catmint: Not to be confused with catnip. It rarely needs water and thrives in light shade to full sunlight. But most importantly, according to Bailey, research has found it to be a whopping 10 times more effective than DEET (think: the chemical found in most insect repellents). So if you plant enough of it, you may be able to throw that bug spray away.
Bee balm: This colorful flower (which comes in shades of red, pink, purple, and more) attracts butterflies and bees while keeping other bugs away. It thrives in direct sunlight with soil that has good drainage.
Lemongrass: Aka the most common natural ingredient in insect repellents. Lemongrass thrives in warmer conditions in direct sunlight. It has a high concentration of citronella oil, which has a strong citrus smell that keeps mosquitoes away. It also grows pretty tall (think: three to five feet), so it can be great for adding a little privacy to your outdoor spaces.
Basil: This plant can keep both mosquitoes and flies away. It likes to be put in direct sunlight and kept damp. And it can be planted among your other flowers or in its own container.
Allium: This plant’s globe-shaped flowers may look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. But they can give you the mosquito protection you need. They prefer full sun and soil that has good drainage.
Sage: It can be dried and used to make homemade bug spray. Or if you have a fire pit, you can throw its leaves into the flames to keep bugs away. Make sure its soil has good drainage. And that it gets plenty of indirect sunlight.
How else can I use these plants to keep mosquitoes away?
Just having the plant growing in your yard won’t necessarily do much to repel mosquitoes. But using the oils and scents from the plants will help keep bugs at bay. They can be found in heavy concentrations in the leaves of the plants, said Bailey. So your best bet is to crush the leaves (think: spread them on the ground in your outdoor space so the oils are released when you step on them) or burn the leaves (bug-repelling bonfire, anyone?). You can also crush the leaves and rub them on your skin — but make sure to do a patch test first to make sure you’re not allergic, said Bailey.
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