Ah, mosquitoes. Even though they helped resurrect the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park, most of the time they’re just pesky AF.
There’s plenty of chemical options to stop these buzzy critters from invading your personal space and noshing on your blood. But you can also hold them off au naturel with mosquito-repellant plants.
There are a variety of different plants and herbs that can prevent mosquitoes from feasting on you. While many of these need to be crushed or chopped to get the best effect, there are a few that can do their job just the way they are.
1. Citronella grass
This is one of the most common ingredients in many insect-repellents. So it’s no surprise that citronella grass is a popular plant for keeping bugs at bay. Mosquitoes hate its lemony fresh scent, but you’ll love it!
Citronella grass is also low maintenance. While it can be grown outside in frost-free areas, it also does well indoors as a potted plant. It’s a great choice for busy folks or for those who weren’t blessed with a green thumb.
Catnip does more than drive your cat wild — it can also drive mosquitoes away. In fact, researchers at Iowa State University found that catnip is 10 times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET (a popular chemical bug repellant).
Part of the mint fam, catnip is easy to grow and maintain. But it might grow a little too well. It could spread and take over other parts of your yard or garden. If you want to keep your garden growing and glowing, you may want to keep an eye on your catnip.
Bonus: Catnip also makes for a delish tea.
The soothing scent of lavender is a great way to add a little calm to your day. But it’s anything but chill for those of the buzzy blood-sucking variety. Mosquitoes aren’t fond of this calming aroma, and for good reason. Lavender contains the terpene alcohol linalool. That’s known to repel insects.
Lavender can be grown both indoors and outdoors, depending on where you need mosquito protection the most. It’s most effective when you crush it and apply it to your skin.
4. Scented geraniums
If you’re looking for something that’s both pretty and fragrant, scented geraniums may be the option for you. These simple blooms give off a lemony scent that many pests — including mosquitoes — tend to shy away from.
These plants prefer warm, dry, sunny climates if they live outside, but can also thrive as potted plants.
Pro tip: If your geranium is living indoors, be sure to prune it regularly!
5. Bee balm
Want to attract all the good buzzy critters and deter all the bad ones? Bee balm’s got your back. Bees and hummingbirds are often drawn to this colorful plant, while mosquitoes and other pests are turned off by its sweet aroma.
Also known as wild bergamot and horsemint, bee balm works best when you cut or crush it. It can also be dried and brewed in tea.
Chrysanthemums are great at banishing mosquitoes. Mums the word… or not! This popular perennial contains pyrethrum, a natural insecticide. Pyrethrum can kill not only mosquitoes, but also fleas, flies, and some moths.
Chrysanthemums generally bloom in the Fall. Because mosquito activity generally dies down around November, this flower’s preferred prime time makes it a great option for late-mosquito-season protection.
Sage just might help you clear out that bad energy… and clear out those mosquitoes. Everyone’s fave herb for “smudging” is also a natural mosquito repellent, thanks to its powerful scent. Sage contains caryophyllene, a common terpene found in cannabis, which helps keep bugs away.
Sage works best when you burn it, so you can be bug-free while zapping that bad juju.
Even though rosemary thrives in hot, dry climates, that doesn’t mean you can’t grow it in other places. Rosemary is great for growing indoors.
Pro tip: It’s the most effective at repelling pests when you burn it, so adding a little to your bonfire can go a long way.
9. Lemon balm
Like lavender, lemon balm is known for its stress-busting abilities. It’s also great at busting bugs (particularly mosquitoes). While lemon balm’s effective, it might try to take over your garden. Managing this plant is a win-win, though.
Regularly trimming or cutting lemon balm can release the plant’s mosquito-repelling oils. Need another reason to snip some leaves? You can use fresh lemon balm to brew tea, flavor salad dressings, or whip up some homemade pesto.
FYI: If you’re letting lemon balm grow freely in your yard, simply mowing your lawn can help keep it at bay.
Basil’s uses go beyond the kitchen. While its mouthwatering, savory scent attracts humans, mosquitoes aren’t a fan. Because it’s aroma is so strong, basil doesn’t need to be crushed or chopped to do it’s mosquito-repelling duties.
Basil plants love to sit in a spot that gets sunny in the morning with some afternoon shade. They thrive in warm climates and can live inside or outdoors.
Bonus: Studies show that compounds in basil are toxic to mosquito larvae.
Mint is a super effective repellent, especially the peppermint variety. One study found that applying essential oil from the peppermint plant to your skin offers protection from bug bites for over 2 hours! Even after your total protection ends, it can still help reduce the amount of bites you get.
Peppermint’s easy to grow indoors or outside in pots. Whether you want to add a hint of mint to your fave tea or keep mosquitoes away, it can always be nearby.
They’re going to suck your blood! Mosquitoes are basically the vampire of the buzzy bug world, so it’s no wonder they have an aversion to garlic. Adding fresh garlic to your meals before heading outside can provide you with a bit of mosquito protection from the inside out. Garlic lovers rejoice!
If you’re not too keen on garlic’s taste (or smell), not to worry. While it can deter mosquitoes, studies have found it to be less effective than other plants on this list.
Not only are these blooms beautiful, but they’ve also got a scent that sends mosquitoes packing. Like chrysanthemums, marigolds contain pyrethrum, a natural insect repellent.
Marigolds are annual flowers that are often planted around garden borders to keep mosquitoes and other creepy crawly critters away. They’re a great repellant option if you spend a lot of time outside in your garden. You’ll be able to go about green-thumbing it in a mosquito-free environment.
So you’ve got a mosquito-repelling plant. Now what? Here are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind:
- Crush it. Or cut it, or chop it. Most plants don’t release their natural pest-fighting scents and compounds without a little help, so be on the cutting edge of pest control by giving them a bit of a chop-chop.
- Location, location, location. Put your plant of choice where you need protection the most. If indoor mosquitoes are your problem, opt for an herb or other house-friendly plant. If you encounter these tiny buggers in your garden, border the area with pest-reducing plants.
- Track the time. Different plants thrive at different times of year. Mosquitoes are generally most active between March and November, so take the seasons into consideration if you’re relying on outdoor plants. Pick plants that will be at peak pest protecting performance when you need them most.
- Not a green thumb? Not a problem! If you were voted Most Likely to Kill All the Plants, there are other ways to naturally banish blood-sucking mosquitoes. The mosquito-repelling secret lies in many of these plants’ scents and oils. Using essential oils derived from these plants can also be an effective way to keep bugs from going after your blood.
While there are tons chemical options to repel mosquitoes, there are natural ways that can be just as effective. Many common plants and herbs are known mosquito repellants. And it’s all thanks to the scents or oils they produce.
If you’re using plants to banish mosquitoes from your yard or home, understand if they need to be cut or crushed to fully release their anti-bug fragrances. For outdoor plants, keep the seasons in your region in mind when getting your anti-mosquito garden growing.