12 Plants That Repel Those Pesky Mosquitoes

Lantana Plants

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What is the world's most deadly animal? Step aside saltwater crocodiles and great white sharks, because the mosquito kills more people worldwide than any other living creature. Although most gardeners in developed countries don't have to worry about malaria, other diseases like Zika virus, West Nile virus, yellow fever, (as well as the general nuisance of insect bites) are just a few ways mosquitos can ruin our enjoyment of the outdoors. If stinky chemical repellents aren't your bag, consider growing garden plants that can drive mosquitoes away naturally. One plant not on the list is the citronella plant Pelargonium x citrosum, which was debunked as a mosquito buster by a Florida A&M study.

Merely growing these mosquito repelling plants isn't a standalone way to deter pests, but you can increase the insect-repelling power of the plants by releasing their essential oils. You may add some cuttings of these powerful plants to the grill (most relevant when the plants are known for their culinary value), or you can roughly chop plants and spread them on your lawn and patio. If you're pressed for time before going outdoors, just add some stems of effective mosquito-busting plants to areas with foot traffic, and release some mosquito repelling oils with every step you take.

  • 01 of 12

    American Beautyberry

    Beautyberry

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    The tiny white flowers of Callicarpa americana aren't much to look at, but the vibrant magenta berry clusters make this small shrub stand out in the landscape. Beautyberry plants are a member of the Lamiaceae family, which include many mints. The fragrant oils released by crushing the leaves of the beautyberry repel mosquitos, and although not common as an edible, the leaves and berries of the American beautyberry are safe to eat.

  • 02 of 12

    Catnip

    Catnip Plants

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    The same plants that drive your cat to distraction can simultaneously protect Felix from mosquito bites. Join kitty for a romp through the Nepeta plants, or spread some clippings around the pool and patio for a bite-free relaxation zone. Try the 'Walker's Low' cultivar, which tolerates dry soils and blooms from April until September.

  • 03 of 12

    Lemongrass

    Lemongrass

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    Somehow, the natural oils in Cymbopogon citratus manage to smell like real lemons, only better. Lemongrass is a staple in Asian cooking, and its delicate fragrance lends a citrus note to some perfumes as well. Lemongrass is a tender plant, and won't survive the winter below zone 8, but it grows quickly in container culture. Coarsely chop the strappy leaves of this plant and strew them around your deck during your next gathering, both for mosquito repelling power and for the pleasing aroma.

  • 04 of 12

    Marigold

    Marigolds

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    Marigold plants have a unique odor that can only be described as pungent. These mosquito repelling annuals are easy to grow from seed, and make a handsome addition to the flowering vegetable garden, where they might even repel other insect pests like nematodes. The substance in marigolds that give them their mosquito repelling power is pyrethrum, the same substance used in many organic insecticides.

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  • 05 of 12

    Mint

    Mint Plants

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    Grow this and you can achieve that perfect mint mojito, and then sip it outdoors without the buzzkill of mosquitoes. All types of mint plants repel mosquitoes, and there are more varieties than you thought: explore the subtle differences between spearmint and peppermint, or marvel at just how much the chocolate mint plant smells like a candy dish. All mints grow and spread like wildfire, so harvest them with abandon in your pursuit to banish mosquitoes.

  • 06 of 12

    Lavender

    Lavender Plants

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    Although lavender growers covet the purple flower spikes for their fragrance, the sweet soapy perfume of lavender permeates the foliage as well, not just the flowers. It's a fact that mosquitoes do not like this smell, and the pleasing nature of lavender fragrance means you can rub the plants on your skin as a kind of natural repellent: finely chop the plants and mix with sweet almond oil as a skin preparation, or, in a pinch, just crush the plants and rub on skin and clothing.

  • 07 of 12

    Rosemary

    Rosemary Plants

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    People have used rosemary as a natural pest control for years, as insects shy away from its piny scent. Rosemary-laden smoke from a grill is particularly effective at banishing mosquitoes from an outdoor area, and it will do double-duty in flavoring your meats as well. Rosemary does need full sun to prevent needle drop, but it prefers to dry out between waterings.

  • 08 of 12

    Lantana

    Lantana Plants

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    Lantana flowers have such a potent effect against mosquitoes, a scholarly journal published a report about it: The Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association (yes, there is such a journal) shares that "lantana flower extract in coconut oil provided 94.5% protection from Aedes albopictus and Ae. aegypti" mosquitoes. In fact, this oil preparation protected from mosquitoes for an average of two hours, with no adverse effects to the humans. What a bonus that lantana flowers are so easy to grow in warm sunny locales, and attract butterflies as well.

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  • 09 of 12

    Fennel

    Fennel Plant

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    Fennel plants are often left out of the herb garden in favor of more compact plants, but fennel plants have multiple uses in addition to their mosquito repellent properties: the feathery plants are as ornamental as any tall garden grass, the chopped leaves are delicious in salads and soups, and the leaves host swallowtail butterfly caterpillars in the garden. Bronze fennel is especially lovely in the back of the border, will self-seed to produce a handsome colony for the following season.

  • 10 of 12

    Eucalyptus

    Eucalyptus Leaves

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    As a native tree in Australia and the Philippines, the eucalyptus tree can soar to 60 feet tall after several years. Because it's a tender plant that won't survive a hard freeze, the better alternative for many gardeners is to grow the eucalyptus as a potted plant. For short term potting, choose a quick growing species like E. globulus bicostata, which will give you many fragrant leaves to harvest for mosquito repelling. For a plant that will live for several years in a pot, choose a slow growing eucalyptus like E. vernicosa. Eucalyptus plants like full sun and rich soil.

  • 11 of 12

    Basil

    Basil Plants

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    The fast growing leaves of the basil plant are as repugnant to mosquitoes as they are a delicious addition to our pestos and salads. Not all basil types are created equal when it comes to repelling mosquitoes, and the extra-spicy Thai basil, with its narrow foliage and cinnamon scent, has the best ability to fend off the insects. All basil plants need full sun and warm growing temperatures, which make them great companion plants for tomatoes.

  • 12 of 12

    Thyme

    Thyme Plants

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    Thyme rounds out the list of savory herbs that repel mosquitoes, making one wonder if a homemade soup might be the best remedy of all for getting rid of these nuisance insects. Plant thyme between stepping stones in the garden, where your steps will crush some leaves and release the mosquito-repelling oils.