Plants That Repel Mosquitoes and Other Insects

Jul 20, 2017
Mosquito on Leaf
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Which plants repel mosquitoes and other insects in the backyard and garden? See our list to find out.

It’s not just mosquitoes; gnats, biting flies, ants, and other pests can take the fun right out of any outdoor activity.

Mosquitoes are more than a nuisance, too, as there are many mosquito-borne diseases out there, including viruses such as West Nile, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, Dengue, and now Zika.

Block Insect Scent Receptors

Mosquitoes and many other insects target their victims by the odors and gases we give off—carbon dioxide, sweat, and smelly feet to name a few. They can be attracted from as far as 100 feet away.

The scent of mint, fruit, and even chocolate can block the receptors that the bugs use to find us.

Since many plants give off these fragrances, why not plant them around your yard or put some pots of them on your deck or patio to ward off the biters? It won’t magically make the area a bug-free zone, but it may help.

List of Plants That Repel Mosquitoes and Other INsects

Many plants that are listed as “insect-repelling” are, in fact, not. Here are a few plants that I have found repel the bugs that bug us:

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  • Lemon grass is used to make citronella oil, which has proven mosquito repelling abilities. Since it is hardy only in tropical zones, plant yours in a pot and bring it inside when the temperatures drop if you intend to keep it over the winter.
  • While we are on the topic of lemon, any plant with a strong, citrus fragrance will keep bugs at bay. Try lemon-scented geraniums, lemon thyme, or lemon balm. Lemon balm is in the mint family, so confine it to a pot to keep it from spreading crazily.

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  • Lavender repels moths, flies, fleas, and mosquitoes. Use it fresh or dry some of the flowers to hang around the house or put in with your clothing to keep bugs out. Here’s how to make lavendar sachets.
  • Garlic keeps away more than vampires. It repels mosquitoes and cabbage moths.
  • Rosemary may prevent flies and mosquitoes from ruining a cookout. If the bugs are really bad, like around dusk, throw a few sprigs of rosemary on the grill and the aromatic smoke will help drive the mosquitoes away.
  • Basil is another culinary herb that does double duty by repelling flies and mosquitoes too.

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  • Peppermint exudes a strong fragrance that ants, mosquitoes, and even mice don’t like. Grow it in a pot to contain its rampant growth.
  • Pennyroyal is a groundcover that repels mosquitoes, gnats, ticks, and flies. The trick is to crush it to release its fragrance.
  • Catmints including catnip have been found to be even more effective than DEET in repelling mosquitoes and ants. Just be sure to locate catnip away from plants that can’t take being rolled on by all the cats in the neighborhood.

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These plants may help in fighting the insect wars and most are useful in other ways, too.

I’m sure there are other plants that have acquired a bug-repelling reputation, but I wouldn’t depend on only a few plants to make my yard insect-free. One of the most effective things you can do to cut the mosquito population down is to eliminate any standing water where they breed.

For more mosquito repellent advice, see Natural Mosquito Repellents and Mosquito Bite Remedies.

About This Blog

Get inspired by Robin Sweetser's backyard gardening tips. Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer's Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. She and her partner Tom have a small greenhouse business and also sell plants, cut flowers, and vegetables at their local Farmer's Market.

Reader Comments

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Yes lemon thyme planted

Yes lemon thyme planted around my pond has done wonders. I haven't seen a single mosquito larvae in the pond this summer. Another bonus is you can spread it around once established and it smells wonderful.

Other plants to repel mosquitos

I have found that the wormwood that grows wild here is a great mosquito repellant. I always allow a couple of plants to remain in the garden and pick a couple of sprigs, crush them and tuck into my hat or shirt while gardening. We have also dried long stems of it, tied into wands with cotton string and used as "smudge" to repel bugs. And it is free! Other plants in the Artemisia family might also work.

Rosemary, basil and thyme

Snails and slugs love our flower beds. Mosquitoes and flies think we're tasty. We want to plant the herbs in our garden as natural deterrents and of course for their culinary benefits. I know the insects are repelled by their aroma. How far does their fragrance (radius) and how many would we need to plant to reduce the pest invasion?

This is an inexact science so

This is an inexact science so there are no hard and fast rules for how many plants to use or how far their effect extends. In some locations just a few plants scattered around the landscape might work fine while in others, such as where I live, we need to have a plant in tucked every pocket to keep the bugs at bay.

Citronella and lemon grass

As far as I know lemon grass is not the same as citronella even though the 2 plants look very similar. Lemon grass is edible but not citronella. They smell different too. So I do not think lemon grass produces citronella.

cintronella

Citronella oil is one of the essential oils obtained from the leaves and stems of different species of Cymbopogon (lemongrass).

Great plants

I need to plant all of them all over my garden and around the house ASAP! :) Those little guys are getting annoying, especially in the evening when I like to work in garden or just relax outside.

Insect repellant plants

You can also light a sage smudge stick (available at your local coop) and hang it nearby. It smells good and keeps the insects away. An 8 inch smudge stick will burn for quite a long time, most of the evening.

Who knew that you could clear

Who knew that you could clear negative energy and repel mosquitoes at the same time with a smudge stick!

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