8 Plants That Repel Mosquitoes Naturally

Grow a garden full of your own natural pest control and never buy bug spray again!

February 17, 2017
Mosquito Repelling Plants
MATT RAINEY

Look, mosquitoes are awful. They fly around searching for animals or people, to take a bite and suck out their blood. Gross. They may be great food for birds and bats, but you don’t want them hanging around your backyard with their diseases and viruses and whatnot (trust us, mosquito-borne diseases like west nile virus, malaria, or zika don't sound like health issues that we want to explore personally). You also don’t want to spray yourself in harsh chemical mosquito repellents that could themselves be the source of other health issues. So, aside from making your outdoor living areas less friendly to the eggs by getting rid of any standing water (including the water in clogged rain gutters), what are your best option for repelling these bugs, and keeping yourself free from disease?

It turns out that mosquitoes, along with many insects that bite, are attracted to certain odors in human skin. They’re especially attracted to your body odor and other secretions, meaning that if you’re spending a lot of time running around and sweating, or working hard in your garden at the end of the day, you can expect to have more mosquitos following you around.

Alternately certain strong—or unpleasant to the insect—smells can both hide the scent of people and prevent them from getting close enough to bite you. This is why deet sprays and citronella candles sell like hotcakes in the summer. There are several plants with strong scents that we find pleasant, which you can use to help mask your own smell and keep nearby mosquitoes populations under control. The aroma needs to be in the air around you, at the very least, and ideally on your skin.

To get the maximum effect of these natural mosquito repellents, crush herb leaves in your hands to release their perfume and essential oils, and then rub the leaves and their oils over your skin. By including these 8 plants in your garden, you can reduce your dependance on deet sprays and high chemical citronella candles.

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lemon balm
1/7 Robert Cardillo
Lemon Balm

This member of the mint family has white flowers and a gentle lemony scent, as well as some healing properties. Lemon balm is particularly good at keeping mosquito bites low, but it’s also an invasive species, so be careful when growing it in your garden. It does well if you plant it in a pot on your patio, or other outdoor areas.

Related: Soothe Colds + More With These Healing Herbs

catnip
2/7 MeowDr/Shutterstock
Catnip

This fragrant mint cousin contains a natural chemical called nepetalactone, which is both a feline attractant and a useful insect repellent. Though if you're not interested in a bunch of cats moving into the area, skip this one and move onto a different plant.

basil
3/7 Mitch Mandel
Basil

A 2009 study showed that the essential oil from this delicious staple from your indoor herb garden is toxic to mosquito larvae. Grow this amazing plant around any natural water sources, such as a pond, to help control the rate of eggs being laid.

lavender
4/7 Florence Rodale
Lavender

One of the 7 Cool Things We Never Knew Lavender Could Do is repel flying insects like mosquitoes, moths, and flies. The flower’s perfume is well-known, and while it will scent the air, it’s most effective way to control insects is by actually rubbing the plant on your skin to release the oils. 

Related: 10 Herbs That Blossom Into Stunning Flowers

peppermint
5/7 lzf/Shutterstock
Peppermint

In its concentrated form, peppermint is sometimes used as an insect repellent, and its oil has been shown to repel the adults and kill the larvae and eggs of several species.

citrosum
6/7 wasanajai/Shutterstock
Citrosum (aka Mosquito Plant)

This perennial is actually marketed as “mosquito plant,” and sometimes referred to as the citronella plant primarily due to its strong citronella scent. Unfortunately, though it’s the most heavily marketed, there’s some research that suggests it’s also the least effective garden plant at mosquito control. Still, there’s some benefits to be had from rubbing the crushed leaves on your skin, and if there’s nothing else around, it will provide some protection.

Related: How To Keep Mosquitoes Out Of Your Yard

sage
7/7 Rodale Images
Sage + Rosemary

If you’re planning to gather around a fire, try burning a little sage or rosemary. The incense these plants give off when they burn not only smells good but is unpleasant enough to most species of insects that it’ll repel them—as long as you’re near the smoke.

When away from your garden, you may still need an organic or natural bug repellent. We like Buzz Spray and Bite Blocker

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