By: Karl Deibert
Mosquitoes can be real nasty pests, especially during the warmer months of the year. Not only do they annoyingly buzz around your ears at night and leave itchy bites all over, but they can also transmit a myriad of diseases such as Dengue Fever, West Nile Virus, and Eastern Equine Encephalitis. While many people turn to chemical sprays and insecticides to keep mosquitoes at bay, these often harm beneficial insects and can have rippling effects through the ecosystem. There are natural alternatives that can be just as effective. One such solution that we’ll discuss here is using mosquito repellent plants in the landscape.
There are a number of plants that produce chemicals that are either off putting or toxic to mosquitos. Most of these contain volatile oils within the leaves, emitting a strong scent when the plant is brushed or disturbed. Luckily the fragrances most off putting to these flying pests are quite pleasant to our noses and include some of our most used culinary herbs like basil and mint. Mosquitos like it best when it’s hot out and so do most of the deterrent plants, most are not cold hardy and will have to be brought inside over winter and replanted in the spring. Place planters in high traffic areas where you’ll be enjoying the outdoors and the plants can be touched and leaves crushed, releasing a boost of natural insect repellent. Some of the culinary herbs that can be used include basil, lemon grass, mint, sages, and lavender.
Probably the best known and most effective natural mosquito repellent is citronella, Cymbopogon nardus, a tropical grass from south Asia closely related to lemongrass. It has reddish stems and long bright green blades making it a desirable warm season annual here. Another great option is the citronella geranium. Pelargonium citronellum is a scented geranium from South Africa and makes a great container plant with interestingly lobed, resinous leaves and dainty pink and white flowers. Marigolds, Tagetes sp. are cottage garden classics and have been used for centuries to keep pest insects away from veggie gardens and dinner guests.
Marigolds come in a variety of warm colors like deep reds and cheery yellows and are easily grown by seed after the danger of frost. A few plants that can be grown as perennials here include Lavender, catnip and Ageratum, all blooming in summer and providing beautiful purple flowers and food for pollinators like bees and butterflies.
In conclusion, there are many plants that have mosquito repellent properties that can be a great alternative to chemical insecticides. Planting these plants in your garden or keeping them in pots on your patio can help keep mosquitoes at bay. Mosquitos do not often travel far and the most important thing that can be done for their control is eliminating areas where stagnant water collects and females can lay their egg masses. Mosquito repellant plants are a valuable tool in bringing peace to our outdoor spaces and provide us with beauty and fragrance.