Plants That Repel Bugs and Mosquitoes
If you tend to spend long summer evenings hanging out on the patio or in the backyard, keeping bugs and mosquitoes at bay is probably a top priority. For pest control that will actually make your outdoor space look better, consider adding a few plants that repel mosquitoes. Whether you introduce pots of fragrant lavender around the perimeter of your patio or start planting citronella grass in your garden, these multi-tasking plants are both pretty and serve a purpose. For the best effect, be sure to position the plants as close as possible to the sitting area. Some lavender planted across the yard likely won't help, but adding a few pots of lavender to your outdoor dining table could do the trick. Once you've stocked up on the plants that repel bugs and mosquitoes, arrange them carefully to maximize their bug-repelling potential.
The citronella candles on your patio are made with the oil that comes from this plant. “Citronella is by far the most popular plant that repels mosquitoes,” says Carmen Johnston, a garden lifestyle expert. “It has a very pungent odor. I often place this in small eight-inch terra cotta pots and mix in with my centerpieces when entertaining outdoors. You can either use the clippings mixed in with arrangements or use the plant itself as the centerpiece.”
This perennial is sometimes known as “nature’s pesticide,” because it can repel aphids, tomato hornworms, asparagus beetles, leafhoppers, and squash bugs. “Petunias are very easy to grow and you can plant them in the ground or keep them potted,” says Peyton Lambton, lifestyle expert and star of My New Old House. “They like sun, and I recommend buying transplants and placing them in light, well-drained soil in full sun after the last spring frost.
“Lavender has a fragrant smell that deters mosquitoes,” Johnston says. “I have this planted in clusters at the entryway of my garden, and I love those purple blooms. It likes to be hot and dry, so it’s perfect for summer.” You can also apply lavender oil to your skin as a natural repellent.
It repels whiteflies, squash bugs, aphids, several beetles, and cabbage loopers. This one will help other plants in your garden, too. “They produce an airborne chemical that repels insects, protecting not only themselves but other plants in the grouping,” says Chris Lambton, a professional landscaper and star of My New Old House. “Plant these in early spring in moist, well-drained soil in full sun. They should be regularly watered and deadheaded to promote blooming.”
It not only adds flavor to your dishes, but it will also helps keep the bugs away. “This one is another plant perfect for summer heat because it likes to be dry,” Johnston says. “It is one of my absolute favorite smells, but mosquitoes can’t stand it. You can plant it in containers, but it also works well as a hedge.” Johnston says the plant also adds texture to arrangements, so why not place it in an outdoor centerpiece to repel bugs and provide some eye candy at the same time?
“It’s an annual herb and repels houseflies and mosquitoes,” says Chris Lambton. “Ensure that the plant gets six to eight hours of full sun daily, and its soil should be moist and well-drained. When you see blossoms start to form, pinch them off at the base to ensure the best-tasting leaves.” Pro tip: This versatile herb can also treat mosquito bites, Johnston adds. She recommends rolling several leaves between your hands to release its natural oil and apply to your bite to ease swelling.
Lemongrass is closely related to citronella and repels mosquitoes, but unlike the latter, it’s edible and is commonly used in Southeast Asian cooking. “It can grow three- to five-feet tall and adds lots of extra height and texture to the garden, so it needs a larger container,” Johnston says. Keep this plant in a sunny spot.
Refreshing mint can be used in dishes and cocktails, but it has an added bonus. “It’s a perennial that repels mosquitoes,” says Peyton Lambton. “Mint is easy to grow, but once established in a garden, it can be tricky to remove. Plant it in a pot instead and frequently pick its leaves to keep the plant at its best. You can grow the plant indoors all winter long—and it will help keep flies outside, too.”
Also, as an added benefit, use The Apothecary at American Farm and Larder's Natural Bug Repellent spray. Find it on the 'Apothecary' page of this website or, if you want a bottle today, purchase it at Amy's Farm's produce stand. If you have already been bitten, try our Bug Bite Remedy to relieve the soreness, swelling, and itching from bug bites.