Wednesday, May 8, 2013

10 Top Mosquito-Repelling Herbs and Flowers

Put Mosquito Dunks in water gardens and
eliminate breeding grounds
Now that summer is here, many homeowners and community managers are looking for ways to control mosquitoes. As the first preventative, standing water should be drained to eliminate breeding areas for mosquitoes. Mosquito dunks or mosquito fish are good to add to water gardens. Screen mosquitoes out of the house and sit in front of a fan when outside to blow lightweight mosquitoes away. A fabric softener sheet tucked into the sleeve also helps repel mosquitoes.  Tea Tree or Neem is non-toxic and is effective as a repellent. 

In addition to the discomfort of the itch, diseases such as the West Nile virus add to the problem.  Commercial sprays are available, but exercise caution with those containing DEET; when used by children adverse medical side effects can occur. Do not spray directly on the skin, but into a handkerchief or on a scarf, and wash off DEET repellents once you go back inside. Other  DEET-free sprays are based on citrus oils or other non-toxic ingredients. 

CrabappleLandscapExperts suggest that there are also plenty of easy-to-grow, natural garden plants that have some effect in repelling mosquitoes from areas of homes, condo communities, picnic areas, playgrounds and landscapes.

10 Most Effective Mosquito Repelling Plants
Simple to grow in metro-Atlanta.  

1. Lavender
One of the most delightful garden herbs, Lavender is "ever gray" and adds a silvery note to the landscape. In bloom the lovely lavender-colored flowers are fragrant, and remain so even when dried. Lavender is a familiar fragrance for soaps and perfumes, but it can also repel mosquitoes. Try rubbing the crushed leaves or a few drops of lavender oil on a hankie or towel draped over your chair to repel pesky mosquitoes. 

Give Lavender full sun, excellent drainage and an alkaline soil for best growth. In Atlanta this means the addition of coarse sand or Permatill to our Georgia red clay along with plenty of organic matter. A flowerpot full of pulverized dolomite lime mixed in with the soil offsets the acidity of the native soils. 

2. Marigolds
Pungent French Marigolds
Ubiquitous yellow- and orange-flowered annuals, marigolds are tough annuals for flower borders with a distinctive smell that mosquitoes (and some people) find offensive. A member of the Daisy Family, Marigolds contain Pyrethrum, a natural pest control compound used in many organic insect repellents.

Marigolds do best with full sunlight and ertile soil. School kids often start marigolds for Mother’s Day from seed, but starter plants are inexpensive and readily available at garden centers. Sometimes marigolds will reseed in favorable conditions. Crabapple LandscapExperts deadhead spent flowers throughout the season to promote additional blooms.

Marigolds grown in containers can be positioned at entrances, open screened windows, decks or patios, and the smell may stop mosquitoes from going past this barrier. (Since wasps are attracted to bright yellow, avoid putting marigolds on the table.)

In addition to repelling mosquitoes, marigolds are said to be a companion plant for tomato plants (although this may be hearsay), so a few planted in and around tomatoes may help and looks nice.

Additional Strong-Smelling Members of the Daisy Family (Asteraceae) 
Santolina, Wormwood and the genus Tanacetum (tansy, pyrethrum, feverfew), all offer some repellent qualities and are easy to grow garden plants. 

3. Lemon Balm
Lemon Balm
Lemon Balm smells like Citronella and is an edible herb in the Mint Family that grows easily in sun or shade in the metro-Atlanta area. Rub the crushed or minced leaves on legs and arms or on a cloth worn around exposed limbs to repel mosquitoes. 

When your mosquitoes are no longer a problem, make Lemon Balm Wine Cooler for a cool and refreshing summer drink

4. Ageratum
Blue Ageratum or floss flower
Also known as blue Floss Flower, annual Ageratum is a low-growing ornamental plant which reaches heights of 8 – 18” and is easily recognized by its lavender-blue flowers. This plant will thrive in full or partial sun and does not require rich soil.  Taller wild ageratum blooms in late summer or fall.

Ageratum secretes coumarin, a smell that repels mosquitoes and an ingredient widely used in commercial mosquito repellents. Crush the leaves of Ageratum to increase the emitted odor, but don't rub on the skin. 

5. Pennyroyal 
Fresh Pennyroyal is an amazingly effective natural mosquito repellent. This low-growing herb can be planted beneath a bench where shoes will bruise the leaves and emit the fresh minty smell, or in a vase as a cut flower for the table. Pennyroyal is also great against fleas and ticks. However, do not rub crushed Pennyroyal directly on your skin or on your dog's coat because it is extremely toxic to the liver of humans, dogs and cats.  

6. Bee Balm
Red Bee Balm or Monarda 
Also known as Oswego Tea, Horsemint or Monarda, Bee Balm is perennial plant in the Mint family gives off a strong incense-like odor, confusing mosquitoes by masking the smell of its usual hosts (warm people).

Bee Balm is a fast growing, shade-tolerant and drought-resistant plant that reaches a height and width of 2 – 3 feet with pink, red, rose, white or lavender flower heads that attract pollinators such as bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden. Bee balm grows in sun or shade and can be divided in spring or fall and given to friends or transplanted to other locations in the garden. Bee Balm leaves are also dried and used to make herbal tea.

7. Catnip
Catnip in flower 
Catnip is a natural mosquito repellent. Work at Iowa State in August 2001 found that catnip oil is ten times more effective than DEET, while in more recent work ISU has patented nepetalactone, the primary ingredient in catnip oil, in the search for a product to thwart mosquitoes. 

Nepeta cateria, is very easy to grow. This low-growing, lavender-flowered perennial herb is related to mint, and grows easily as a cultivated perennial in metro-Atlanta.

While catnip will repel mosquitoes in close proximity to the plant, some people apply crushed catnip leaves or catnip oil to a scarf or handkerchief for more robust protection. Or put 2 handfuls of catnip in the food processor, then add boiling water and white vinegar, and steep as a tea to brew a home-made mosquito repellent., 

8. Citronella Grass
Citronella Grass
Citronella (Cymbopogon nardus and C. winterianusis) is the real deal. Citronella is the most common natural ingredient used in mosquito repellents and its strong citronella/lemon/citrus aroma covers other smells that attract mosquitoes (such as carbon dioxide from exhaling, or lactic acid from sweating), making it harder for them to find you. Citronella is offered commercially in many forms including scented candles and torches, but fresh leaves have the strongest smell. Citronella is in the same genus as Lemongrass (Citronella citrates), and the tender white bases of the grass are used in Thai cuisine, while the long slender leaves can be woven into a fan. 

Citronella nardus is a tropical, perennial ‘clumping’ grass that grows about 3-4 feet in metro-Atlanta and does best in full sun. Like any grass, springtime applications of nitrogen-rich compost or blood meal will increase vigor. It turns a lovely rust color in the autumn that harmonizes with fall mums and asters. Citronella sometimes winters over, or if container-grown can be brought indoors during cold spells.  

Get your citronella from a reliable source and choose Cybopogon nardus or Citronella winterianus. Other plants may be sold as ‘citronella scented’, but these do not have the mosquito repelling qualities of true citronella.

9. Lemon Thyme
Creeping Lemon Thyme Flowers
Lemon Thyme has a greater concentration of citronella than the Scented Geranium widely sold as "fake citronella" or a mosquito repellent. Crushed leaves of thyme provide 62% of the repellency of DEET. 

Lemon Thyme is a hardy perennial whose tiny blooms attract butterflies and bees in season. Its spreading, creeping habit is good on pathways or trailing down the side of a container or large pot. 

10. Basil
  Pungent Basil has a strong aroma even without touching or crushing, and its use for pesto and flavoring of food is greatly appreciated. Pots of basil placed around the patio or deck are beautiful AND will help to keep mosquitoes away. Lemon Basil, Peruvian Basil, African Blue Basil and Cinnamon Basil are particularly strongly scented for this use. 

Claims for Scented-Geranium "Citronella" are greatly exaggerated! 
Scented-geranium (Pelargonium) sold as "cirronella"
Garden centers often sell scented-geranium plants in place of citronella grass. These tender perennials (Pelargonium) are offered in pots ready to transplant to a larger container or in-ground beds. However, the University of Georgia cautions that no scientific data backs up the insect-repellent claims, with only 0.09% of the effective oil in contained in the leaves. Dr. Arthur Tucker of Delaware State College says that repellent claims are greatly exaggerated with only 0.09% of the effective oil in contained in the leaves. 

Even without a repellent function, scented-geraniiums are wonderful, fragrant plants and are great houseplants or will occasionally winter-over in metro-Atlanta if temperatures do not fall below about 20 degrees F. Once established, new plants are easily propagated by cuttings and shared with friends and family after rooting. In addition to the "citronella-scented or lemon-scented geranium, there are many fun types of scented geraniums, from Rose to Coconut to Mint to Lime and more! 


  1. another blog along the same lines:

  2. Truly one of the most delightful garden herbs, Lavender is "ever gray" and adds a silvery note to the landscape.In case you are allergic to commercial repellents, you will be happy to know that we are offering you a very safe
    Natural Mosquito Repellent that can be used by people of all ages, including babies.

  3. Can you plant any of these with each other? If so, which ones can I plant with each other?

  4. I just got back from a 3 week long trip to Asia. Wish I would have found your blog sooner.
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  5. all of them can be planted together! Enjoy

  6. all of them can be planted together! Enjoy

  7. Thanks, Leo Green! appreciate the vote of confidence. :-)

  8. My house is near valley and it is surrounded by various plants.thanks for the article, this will definitely helps me to repel mosquitoes and mosquitoes spreading diseases in my landscape

  9. great pleasure reading your post.Its full of information I looking for and I love to post a comment that "The content of your post is awesome" Great work.
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  10. Mosquitoes are very small predators but causing major diseases like malaria< dengue, etc. If you're in home you can protect yourself from mosquitoes. In the case, if you're in outdoor, surely you can't do anything against that. In these cases you can wear anti mosquito clothing and outfits to protect yourself from Mosquitoes. Get more about anti mosquito clothes and men's fashion wear at Hunt and Howe.

  11. Replies
    1. Yes, it works very well and can even be used on pets. We use it in Arkansas (very hot and humid and lots of bugs in summer) to deter mosquitoes, chiggers, fleas, and all kinds of stinging bugs.

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  15. Yes, It's true. That works perfectly fine..

    Most people use commercial products to prevent mosquitoes and other defenses for their safety due to mosquito-borne diseases such as Dengue, Malaria, Chikungunya, Yellow Fever, Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) , LaCrosse Encephalitis (LAC), West Nile Virus (WNV).

    But the problem with commercial products can be harmful to the environment or to the children because of the chemicals.

    Instead, they decide to do Natural Mosquito Repellent by planting herbs plants around or inside the house..

    It's really works. thanks for sharing. ;)

    Jaime Scott PHD

  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

  17. What about Repel 100? Who try to use it? Or maybe the same spray, but with the lemon?

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