You?ve likely experienced the disappointment of having an outdoor party, hike or other event ruined by a swarm of mosquitoes. If you?re looking for a natural way to get rid of these uninvited guests, try adding some mosquito-repelling plants to your garden this year.
Simply having these plants in your yard and outdoor living spaces can be helpful, but you?ll get the most benefit by crushing the leaves and flowers to release their pungent, bug-repelling essential oils. You can then rub the oils on your skin, clothing or outdoor furniture to deter mosquitoes. You can also cut and hang fresh cuttings around your home, or dry them to keep on hand for later use.
Scientific Name: Ocimum basilicum
Mosquito larvae are aquatic, living underwater until they mature and emerge as adult mosquitoes. A 2009 study found that basil extract was highly toxic to mosquito larvae. Planting basil near wet areas is unlikely to directly kill mosquito larvae, but the plants may ward off any approaching adults and convince them to lay their eggs elsewhere.
Basil is an easy-to-grow annual herb you can sow directly in the ground after the risk of frost has passed.
2. Bay Laurel
Scientific Name: Laurus nobilis
Bay laurel is the plant bay leaves are taken from. This commonly used herb has been shown to contain compounds that repel various insect pests, including mosquitoes. You can also use bay leaves to ward off ants, cockroaches, flies and wasps.
Bay laurel is hardy in USDA zones 8 and up, or it can be grown as a houseplant in colder climates. You can also easily buy bay leaves and place them around your home to deter mosquitoes and other pests.
Scientific Name: Nepeta cataria
If you want to attract cats to your garden and beat bugs at the same time, catnip is a great choice. Catnip contains a compound called nepetalactone that gives the plant its distinct odor. Cats find the scent irresistible, but mosquitoes hate it. In fact, nepetalactone has been found to be about 10 times more effective than DEET in repelling mosquitoes.
Catnip is perennial in most regions. Just make sure you protect small plants so they can get established before your local cats devour them.
4. Citronella Grass
Scientific Name: Cymbopogon nardus
Citronella grass is the plant citronella oil is derived from, which is used in a variety of insect repelling products. Citronella oil has been proven to be more effective than DEET when it?s first applied to an area, but its mosquito-repelling power slowly decreases after one hour. To maintain citronella?s strength, reapply citronella oil or crush some fresh leaves against your skin or clothing every hour or two when you?re outside.
Citronella grass is native to tropical areas of Asia and is only hardy in USDA zones 10 to 12. It can be grown as an annual in colder regions. The plants are very attractive and can grow up to 6 feet (2 meters) tall.
Scientific Name: Allium sativum
Research is limited so far, but the oil that?s released when you cut up garlic cloves has been reported by many to effectively repel mosquitoes. Garlic is also included in various commercial bug and mosquito repellants. The chemical compound that gives garlic its distinct smell is called allicin, which is likely what wards off bugs. If you eat garlic, the allicin will come through to your skin. This may also help prevent mosquito attacks.
Garlic grows as a perennial in USDA zones 3 to 8. You can simply grow it as an ornamental plant, or you can harvest it in early summer to eat and replant some of the bulbs for next year.
Scientific Name: Lavandula species
Research has shown that lavender essential oil is as effective as the chemical bug repellant DEET for repelling a variety of bugs. This is a good thing, considering that DEET-based repellants have been linked to motor function impairment and nervous system damage in humans.
Lavender is a perennial in USDA zones 7 and up. It can be grown as an annual or indoor herb in colder climates. You can crush the leaves to rub on your skin and clothing to repel mosquitoes, as well as promote relaxation and calmness.
7. Lemon Balm
Scientific Name: Melissa officinalis
Research has shown that lemon balm has a variety of natural compounds that can repel mosquitoes. In addition, researchers made an extract of basil and lemon balm that was toxic to adult mosquitoes, whether they inhaled it or came in contact with it.
Lemon balm is a hardy perennial, but it can be fairly invasive as it?s related to mint. Plant it in a container sunk in the ground to prevent spreading. It also makes a good indoor plant.
Scientific Name: Tagetes species
Marigolds produce what are known as allelochemicals, which are harmful to a range of insect pests, including mosquitoes. One study extracted these allelochemicals from the roots, leaves and flowers of different species of marigold plants. The researchers found that marigold flowers have the highest amounts of insecticidal allelochemicals. So, it would likely be most effective to use marigold flowers to repel mosquitoes by crushing them and distributing them around your home.
Marigolds are annuals that you can easily grow from seed or buy seedlings at most garden centers or nurseries in the spring. They come in a wide range of stunning colors and can handle a variety of growing conditions.
Scientific Name: Mentha x piperita
A study published in Bioresource Technology found that peppermint essential oil was toxic to mosquito larvae. Also, when peppermint oil was rubbed onto human skin, it repelled 92 percent of mosquitoes across a range of species.
Peppermint is hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8. The plants can be invasive, so try planting them in an unused corner of your garden or sinking a pot in the ground to contain the roots.
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