17 Plants That Repel Mosquitoes
(and Other Bugs Too)

By: Kealia Reynolds

Here’s the ultimately alternative to chemical mosquito and bug repellents: plants. Most plants that repel mosquitoes do so with their natural fragrances and essential oils. In some cases, you’ll have to crush the leaves of these plants and rub their oils on your skin for a stronger defense. Here are 17 plants that repel mosquitoes (and plenty of other insects too!) and look lovely—both indoors and out.

1. Citronella

Of all the plants that repel mosquitoes, citronella is the most popular. Commonly used in mosquito repellants, citronella grass (officially known as the citrosum plant, but more commonly known as the “mosquito plant”) is extremely effective at keeping mosquitoes at bay. When a citronella leaf is crushed and rubbed onto the skin, the pleasant aroma naturally repels mosquitoes for a few hours.

This low-maintenance plant does best with full sun and well-drained soil and can be planted directly in the ground or in large planters. When buying Citronella (typically found at gardening centers), make sure you buy Cybopogon nardus or Citronella winterianus, which are true varieties that have repelling qualities.

2. Lavender

Most insects and animals stay away from lavender because of its lovely fragrance, which comes from the essential oils found on its leaves. Plant the lavandin variety, which has a high concentration of camphor, when trying to get rid of mosquitoes. Though lavender can endure many climates, it thrives in areas with a lot of sun and dry soil.

3. Lemon balm

Lemon balm contains high levels of citronellal (the main component in the mixture of compounds that give citronella oil its distinctive lemon scent) and has a strong lemon scent that’s similar to that of citronella and lemon verbena. For a quick mosquito repellant, crush its fresh leaves and rub them directly on your skin, especially around your ankles, arms, and other areas vulnerable to bug bites. Though lemon balm can be planted in your garden, it’s an invasive species that spreads like a weed. For this reason, it’s best to keep it contained in a pot on your deck or patio.

4. Marigolds

These easy-to-grow flowers emit a smell that deters mosquitoes, aphids, thrips, whiteflies, squash bugs, and tomato hornworms. They contain pyrethrum, an ingredient found in many insect repellants. Grow marigolds in pots and place them near the entrance of your home or near common mosquito entry points, like open windows. These flowers prefer full sunlight and fertile soil. Although marigolds can be planted from seed, there are marigold starter plants that are inexpensive and readily available at most garden centers.

5. Peppermint

In its concentrated form, peppermint is sometimes used as an insect repellant. Crush a few peppermint leaves to release a minty scent and essential oils. Rub the oils on your skin for an added layer of protection against mosquitoes. To enhance the mosquito-repelling effectiveness of peppermint, pick several mature leaves from the plant, mince them into tiny pieces, and scatter them around your outdoor seating area.

Because peppermint quickly propagates, it’s recommended that you grow this plant in pots. If you want peppermint in your garden, use simple garden edging or lay down bricks to slow its spread.

Left Catnip

Right Bee balm

6. Scented geraniums

Similar to citronella, scented geraniums, like the Pelargonium citrosum, give off a lemon scent that keeps several types of pests away, including mosquitoes. They work best if crushed and rubbed on your skin. Scented geraniums thrive in warm, sunny, and dry climates, but can be grown in planters (in colder climates) and managed with constant pruning.

7. Catnip

One of the more common plants that repel mosquitoes, catnip contains a chemical called nepetalactone that deters a variety of insects. According to entomologists at Iowa State University, catnip was found to be 10 times more effective than DEET, the chemical used in most insect repellants. Though catnip will naturally repel mosquitoes in its proximity, it can also be used as an oil that’s applied to the skin for an additional layer of protection.

Catnip is easy to grow and maintain, but it may start to invade areas of your yard or garden if planted outside. Keep catnip in a pot on your front porch or back patio.

8. Bee balm

Bee balm has a strong incense-like odor that confuses mosquitoes by masking the smell of its usual hosts. This attractive perennial plant is tolerant of almost every soil type, but does best in moist, well-drained soil. Bee balm can become invasive once established, so make sure you separate the plant as it begins to die out on the inside.

9. Rosemary

The rosemary plant and its cuttings are effective at keeping mosquitoes away inside and out. You can also make a simple rosemary repellent spray by boiling a quart of dried rosemary in a quart of water for 20 to 30 minutes and then straining the liquid into a spray bottle. Take the bottle with you when you go outdoors and spray your surroundings.

10. Basil

Basil is one of the few plants that repels mosquitoes without needing its leaves crushed: its pungent smell alone can keep mosquitoes away. A 2009 study showed that basil essential oil is also toxic to mosquito larvae. Because basil needs to be kept damp and receive lots of sunlight, consider growing this herb around a pond or near water. You can also plant it in your garden or keep it on a windowsill.

11. Mint

Mint oils are incredibly effective at repelling insects inside the house. Mix mint oils with a few drops of carrier oil (like grapeseed oil) and water and spray it around the house. Mint leaves can also be rubbed on the skin to keep mosquitoes away and help soothe bug bites.

Left Floss flowers

Right Feverfew

12. Floss flowers

Floss flowers secrete coumarin, which is widely used in commercial mosquito repellants, and emit a smell which mosquitoes find particularly offensive. Though the leaves of floss flowers can be crushed to increase the emitted odor, we do not advise rubbing the crushed leaves directly on skin because of their irritating properties. Floss flowers thrive in full or partial sun and don’t require rich soil.

13. Sage

Though sage isn’t one of the more popular plants that repel mosquitoes, it’s still a great defense when trying to manage these bugs. If you decide to spend a night around a bonfire, burn some sage in the fire to keep mosquitoes away. The incense given off by this plant smells great to us, but is unpleasant for most species of insects.

14. Garlic

Eating garlic-filled foods won’t repel mosquitoes, but growing garlic and rubbing its juice on your skin can do the trick. Like most bulbs, garlic needs to be planted in the fall after the first frost to ensure a healthy crop the following summer.

15. Pennyroyal

Compared to other plants that repel mosquitoes, pennyroyal is one of the most effective. It’s often used in commercial mosquito repellant sprays, but is best utilized as a natural mosquito repellant applied to the skin. Plant it around the perimeter of your house to discourage mosquitoes from nesting or keep a vase of fresh pennyroyal in a room to kill mosquitoes that occupy the area.

16. Feverfew

These daisy-like flowers repel mosquitoes through their fragrance and pyrethrum oils. Plant them in your outdoor seating area or close to doorways and windows. To maximize its benefits, plant feverfew with citronella grass and lavender.

17. Pitcher plant

Pitcher plants don’t repel mosquitoes; they attract mosquitoes with a sweet smell and eat them for nutrients. Often thought of as tropical plants, these North American natives can be found growing from Canada all the way to Texas. Pitcher plants need sandy soil and lots of sunlight—because they’re self-fertilizing plants, they don’t need to be fertilized.

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