Nothing ruins a relaxing day in the backyard more than the buzzing and biting of mosquitoes. Worldwide, there are over 3,500 types of mosquitoes, 200 of which live in the United States. The most common ways to keep mosquitoes at bay are to use chemicals either in your yard or on you and your clothing or to move to Iceland or Antarctica, where mosquitoes don’t seem to be able to breed.
But, if you have a green thumb, there are plants that repel mosquitos and will let you reclaim your happy place this summer.
Mosquitoes are a common insect and the most deadly animal on earth. Universally disliked because of their itchy bites and the diseases they can spread, they reproduce profusely and are difficult to control.
Mosquitoes have four life stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. All except the adult stage happen in water. Only the adult flies and only the females bite and feed on the blood of humans and other animals. Summer is prime mosquito season. They are most active at dusk and dawn and when temperatures are between 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Their life span is only two to four weeks.
Malaria is the disease most associated with mosquitoes and the disease that makes them the world’s deadliest animal. Luckily, malaria is most commonly found in tropical climates. The most common diseases mosquitoes spread in the U.S. include the West Nile virus, Zika Virus, and Chikungunya virus. They also spread heartworm to dogs and eastern equine encephalitis to horses.
Mosquito Repellent Plants
One way to repel them aside from chemicals is to create an unwelcome environment for them to breed and live. As they require only half an inch of standing water to lay their eggs and for their larvae and pupae to survive, ensuring your yard has no standing water is imperative.
But mosquitoes are also fussy about odors. Growing mosquito-repellent plants is a clever way to make your yard uninviting while adding wonderful scents to your patio area and even delicious flavors to your cooking. Here are some plants that will add natural beauty to your yard while keeping those pesky mosquitoes away. And you might even attract some butterflies and hummingbirds!
Lavender is a perennial plant that has a wonderfully relaxing scent. It comes in multiple varieties and blooms from summer through fall. And once the flowers are past their prime, you can bring them indoors and create a potpourri.
These easy-to-grow annuals make a great border plant and do well in pots that you can place around your patio and near your door to keep mosquitoes away. They are also a good companion plant for some vegetables, including tomatoes.
Eucalyptus is a fast-growing plant that can reach 30 feet. Used in floral arrangements, it has a menthol aroma that repels mosquitoes. If you don’t want a 30-foot plant in a small space, just keep pruning it and bring it indoors, where you can hang it in your shower for an invigorating experience.
Your cat will love you for planting these hardy perennials. Their leaves contain a chemical called nepetalactone, which is supposed to be more effective than DEET at repelling mosquitoes. They have a lovely purple flower and are notorious spreaders. When their spread becomes too much, transplant some to a new area for added mosquito protection.
Lemongrass is one of the most commonly used ingredients in natural mosquito repellents. These plants will not withstand a frost, but if you plant them in large containers, they can be brought indoors.
Bee balm is a perennial that will not only repel mosquitoes but bring bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies to your outdoor environment. It comes in red, purple, pink, or white and grows up to four feet tall. Some people make tea from the leaves.
Rosemary is a delicious herb with a woody scent. They are considered tender perennials as they do not always survive winter. Plant them in containers and bring them inside for winter so you can continue making tasty meals with their leaves. If you live in a warmer climate, these plants will grow into bushes that can be pruned into shapes of all kinds.
Add to your cooking herbs by planting basil. Its pungent smell will turn mosquitoes away. You can plant these annuals directly in the ground or in containers. The more you clip their tops, the bushier the plant will grow. It is best to harvest all the leaves before the first frost, as they will not survive.
American beautyberry is a larger shrub that can grow up to six feet high and wide. It has delicate, tiny berries that straddle the stalk. One nice thing about this plant is that the berries are present through the winter, so it adds color to your yard when all the other plants go bare. But beware, deer love to eat these plants.
Another herb, sage, is a perennial that has beautiful silvery green leaves. Left outdoors to winter over, it will come back more shrublike the following year.