12 Plants That Repel Mosquitoes
Every year, the rainy season ushers in springtime, which is a welcome arrival. Rather less unwelcome is what spring—and then, eventually, the heat of summer—inevitably brings. Mosquitos buzz in, emerging from eggs laid in stagnant water across the region. Fun, right?
The best way to combat mosquitoes is by interrupting their life cycle, consistently dumping out containers, refreshing water in birdbaths, and adding Mosquito Dunks to wet areas that can't be easily drained. While sitting on your porch or deck, a blast of air from a fan can help blow weak-flying mosquitoes away. But mosquitoes are also repelled by bug sprays with strong scents, many of which are derived from common plants in the garden. Surround yourself with carefully chosen plantings that you can crush to release their oils, rubbing them on skin as a natural repellant (simply having these plants growing in the garden won't be enough to send your tormentors packing). Or, throw a few sprigs on the grill to emit a fragrant smoke that chases mosquitoes away.
We've compiled a list of plants with fragrant foliage that have been known, either anecdotally or scientifically, to repel mosquitos and other bothersome insects. Some are herbs with multiple uses, making them do-it-all plantings in the garden and the kitchen, too. So get to planting, and you just might be able to get some relief from those pesky garden visitors this season.
Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
This easy-to-plant herb has fragrant leaves and thrives in hot and humid climates, making it perfect for Southern landscapes. Its green leaves are a popular addition to kitchens across the globe. Once planted, basil requires full sun and regular watering. The strong, fresh fragrance of lemon basil (Ocimum x citriodorum) has been known to ward off mosquitos in the garden.
Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
Catnip, also known as catmint, has aromatic, bright green leaves and small blossoms. It is a low-maintenance plant that tolerates full sun or partial shade and moderate to regular watering. Nepeta cataria x Citriodora is a good choice for mosquito-repelling, as its fragrant foliage has a citrusy, lemony scent.
Citronella Grass (Cymbopogon nardus)
This plant is a tropical perennial that's widespread in Asia and the coasts of the Pacific. It's also the origin of the known mosquito repellent citronella, the essential oil derived from the plant's tall grassy stalks, that's widely marketed in candles and repellent sprays.
Garlic (Allium sativum)
Whether chopping, cooking, or eating, the scent of garlic is a notorious lingerer. It sticks to fingers, utensils, and breath, and it's that quality—the potency of the oily, smelly allicin compound created when cloves of garlic are broken down—that makes it a potential mosquito repellent. Plant bulbs of garlic, and provide them with full sun and regular water to encourage them to thrive in your garden.
Lavender (Lavandula sp.)
Rumor has it mosquitos don't love the scent of lavender. This showy plant has origins in the Mediterranean region, and it's prized for its downy leaves, purple blooms, and strong, heady fragrance. Not all lavender can thrive when planted outdoors in the South, but with appropriate care—and planting in well-draining, gravel-heavy soil—they have the potential to become perennial garden fixtures.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Lemon balm, the plant also known as sweet balm, has heavily perfumed foliage, which, according to The Southern Living Garden Book, is "used fresh in cold drinks, fruit cups, salads, fish dishes; dried leaves give lemon perfume to sachets, potpourris," with the additional use of potentially warding off mosquitos.
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)
It's a tender perennial that thrives in full sun with regular water. According to The Southern Living Garden Book, "All plant parts are strongly lemon-scented and are widely used as an ingredient in Southeast Asian cooking." Its powerful, citrusy aroma is also used to repel mosquitos, as it is akin to the fragrant oils found in citronella-scented products.
Marigold (Tagetes sp.)
Growing marigold plants provides showy garden color as well as an easily identifiable fragrance, one that is known to repel mosquitos. (Even some people find it repellent.) The Southern Living Garden Book describes marigold foliage as "finely divided, ferny, [and] usually [with] strongly scented leaves." When touched, copper canyon daisy (Tagetes lemmonii) leaves emit a very strong aroma, as does the foliage of Mexican mint marigold (Tagetes lucida), which smells strongly of tarragon.
Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)
Pennyroyal, a type of mint, gives off a strong fragrance in the form of a classic mint scent. It also possesses a powerful flavor; according to The Southern Living Garden Book, the plant is "poisonous if consumed in large quantities but safe as a flavoring." It requires regular watering in a cool climate.
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
Another form of mint, peppermint, offers a strong, fresh fragrance from tall columns of deep green aromatic leaves. (It can grow to over three feet tall.) Peppermint has also been known to repel mosquitos. It is widely known for its flavoring potential, and its fragrance has been adopted for everything from toothpaste to tea.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Aromatic rosemary is a low-maintenance planting, only needing full sun and low to moderate watering in well-draining soil. It's also known for its mosquito-repelling potential. 'Benenden Blue' smells strongly of pine, and its foliage has a bitter taste. 'Very Oily' grows to considerable height and width and, according to The Southern Living Garden Book, is notable "for its high essential oil content," a characteristic which also may help in repelling pests.
Scented Geranium (Pelargonium sp.)
There exist many species of scented geraniums, the foliage of which carries a heavy aroma and is accompanied by showy flowers. Prince of Orange Geranium (Pelargonium citrosum) and other citrus-scented species, like lime geranium (P. nervosum), have been known to deter mosquitos. Other species also carry strong scents that may help in this garden effort, including peppermint geranium (P. tomentosum).