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8 Mosquito-Repelling Plants to Add to Your Backyard ASAP

Skip the bug spray this summer. You can repel mosquitoes naturally with plants! Here are the varieties we're adding to our gardens ASAP.

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Potted plantsSTEINER WOLFGANG/SHUTTERSTOCK

As the weather gets warmer, it’s important to learn how to repel mosquitoes near your home by using your plants effectively. Often, the best way to prevent mosquitoes from invading your space is to plant several repellent plants in a small area or plant them in pots, which can be easily moved to where you need them. “If you enjoy working in your garden, you may get some relief from mosquitoes by interspersing your repellent plants among your other plants to keep the mosquitoes off you while you garden,” Lawhorne suggests.

Rocha stresses the importance of combating the majority of the mosquitoes before they hatch, which will allow your plants to more effectively control live mosquitoes. Rocha says you can do this by “getting rid of any sources of water where they may be able to hatch, including in wheelbarrows, buckets and dishes under flower pots, children’s wading pools, clogged rain gutters, over-irrigated lawns, used tires and any other items that may collect water, and thus, becoming a place for mosquitoes to thrive.”

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Basil

Basil is not just for adding amazing flavor to your favorite dishes. This herb has major gardening benefits, like attracting bees, enhancing the flavor of other plants, and perhaps most important, repelling pesky mosquitoes. Matteo Grader, a pest control specialist for the London-based pest control company, Panther Pest Control, says gardeners highly recommend planting basil in the garden as a mosquito deterrent, thanks to its strong scent.

Grader recommends also growing basil to make a natural mosquito repellent that won’t harm your other plants. To do this, take about 100 grams of fresh basil leaves, picked right from your garden. Pour a half-cup of boiling water onto the leaves, and then a half-cup of vodka. Mix thoroughly and add the mixture to a clean spray bottle. Spray your natural, basil-based repellent in your outdoor area to keep mosquitoes at bay. (These other tricks work, too.)

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Lemon balmWILD DRAGO/SHUTTERSTOCK

Lemon balm

Lemon balm contains a compound called citronellal, which has a very similar effect to the highly-repellent citronella. The lemony scent of lemon balm is also one that mosquitoes don’t love, which makes it a perfect addition to your mosquito-repelling yard. Juan J. Rocha, Vice President of DynaTrap, suggests caution when planting lemon balm in the garden, though, because of its invasive properties. It can spread quickly once planted, soon taking over your other plants. It’s best to plant this one in pots, keeping them near the areas in your yard where you want to control the mosquito population.

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CatnipMASHE/SHUTTERSTOCK

Catnip

Your cat may go crazy for it, but mosquitoes will do anything to stay away from it. In fact, studies have shown that the essential oil in catnip, known as nepetalactone, is much more effective at repelling mosquitoes than store-bought bug sprays using DEET. The essential oil is so strong, that about one-tenth of it is needed to be just as effective as DEET. Catnip plants grow tall, so if you’re planting them directly in your garden, do so in an area where it won’t block your desired views. These products can keep bugs away from your outdoor eats. 

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PennyroyalJOAO BRANQUINHO/SHUTTERSTOCK

Pennyroyal

Pennyroyal is an extremely potent species of mint. If too much of its oil gets absorbed into the skin or consumed, it can be toxic to humans and animals. But, when grown and used carefully, pennyroyal is one of the most effective plants for repelling mosquitoes. You can plant a few pennyroyal plants close to the main gathering area of your outdoor space, like a seating area. Grader says that, for extra protection against mosquitoes, some people prefer to crush pennyroyal leaves and place them inside their pockets, where their strong odor still helps repel the pests.

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CitronellaRAWF8/SHUTTERSTOCK

Citronella

Citronella has long been favored as one of the most effective plants that repel mosquitoes. In fact, many outdoor candles and bug sprays are made with its oils. You can plant citronella grass right into your garden, and optimize its efficiency by planting it near other repelling plants, like lavender. Citronella thrives in a variety of climates and soils, so it’s also one of the easiest plants to grow. By the way, do you know the foods that defend against bug bites?

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Top view of a bowl and wooden spoons with dried and fresh lavender flowers and a bouquet of lavender on a wooden background ; Shutterstock ID 669397450; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of HomeCora Mueller/Shutterstock

Lavender

Who knew such a sweet-smelling flower would also be one of the best plants to repel mosquitoes? Fortunately, mosquitoes dislike most of the scents humans find pleasing, and lavender is one of them. Rocha explains that carbon dioxide is one of the most pleasant scents for female mosquitoes, since their main sources of blood meal, like humans and animals, emit the scent. Lavender’s calming, flowery scent is about as opposite as you can get from a scent that appeals to mosquitoes. If you want to get your lavender doing double duty, use it as a natural mosquito repellent. Simply place a few drops on your wrists or ankles to keep bugs at bay.

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Close up of Marigolds flowers blooming against beautiful sunlight at the garden in Thailand.FootMade0525/Shutterstock

Marigolds

Arguably one of the most beautifully simple flowers, marigolds bring more than just specks of bright reds, oranges, and yellows to the garden. Their scent is also attractive to the human nose, but highly unattractive to mosquitoes. Amy Lawhorne, vice president of the tick and mosquito control company, Mosquito Squad, suggests planting marigolds in pots to place near common mosquito entry points of the home, like windows and doorways. Or, place several pots of marigolds on your deck or main outdoor gathering area to keep mosquitoes away.

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GarlicMS MIENIEN/SHUTTERSTOCK

Garlic

Garlic has long been used to repel mosquitoes from humans. Eating garlic leaves the potent scent and taste in your bloodstream, making you a less tasty meal for mosquitoes. Most people don’t think to plant garlic, though, which can have a similar effect on mosquitoes in your yard. Its strong scent lingers through its shoots, and mosquitoes will want no part of the area in which they’re planted. Next up: Secrets for having your healthiest summer ever. 

Originally Published on Reader's Digest

Amy Boyington
Amy Boyington is a former preschool teacher turned journalist living in Ohio with her two children and two cats. She graduated college with an A.A. in Elementary Education and a B.A. in English. Her work has appeared in publications like AdvisoryHQ, Babygaga, and several health, marketing, home improvement, and lifestyle publications.

Amy's writing tends to display her interest in special needs children, advocacy, and empowering women in business ventures. On her own blog, The Work at Home Mom, she strives to help women balance their families and businesses with helpful tips, advice, and work at home job and business leads. 

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