Love spending time outdoors but hate being swarmed by mosquitoes? You’re not alone. These flying pests can quickly turn any outdoor event into a nightmare, whether it’s a summertime BBQ or an outdoor birthday party. Not only do mosquitos leave itchy bites that can cause discomfort for days, but these insects are responsible for spreading a wide range of diseases, including:
- West Nile virus
- Zika virus
- Dengue fever
- Chikungunya virus
Protecting yourself and your family from these threats can be challenging, and many people resort to chemical repellants or insecticides. The good news is that you don’t necessarily need to spray yourself down with a DEET-containing pest repellant. There are plenty of plants and herbs that you can grow and use that will do the trick instead.
Lavender is good for more than just scented baths and aromatherapy treatments. It has been grown for centuries because it also works as a mosquito repellant. Fresh lavender plants will repel mosquitos in their immediate area, but you can also dry the flowers and use them around the home in much the same way, hung from windows or in doorways where mosquitoes may enter.
You can even use the essential oil combined with water and spritz it around areas where you’ll be spending time outdoors. If you intend to plant lavender, it needs plenty of sunshine to thrive. There is no research on how many plants are required to protect a given area, but crushing the flowers and leaves and rubbing them on your skin is more effective.
Lemongrass is an annual in most areas of North America, but if you’re south of zone 9, then you can probably grow it as a perennial. Unlike lavender, lemongrass does not automatically ward off mosquitoes just by its natural scent. Instead, you need to crush the grass to get at the oil inside. Lemongrass is one source of citronella, the oil used in citronella-based products like candles that act as a mosquito repellant.
To use lemongrass in this way, simply take a small cutting of several blades, crush them up, and rub them over your skin. As a nice bonus, you can also use lemongrass in your cooking. Note that this not a single type of grass, but an umbrella name for multiple species. Citronella grass is another specific type, but all contain citronella oil.
Another plant that can pull double duty in your kitchen and as a mosquito repellant, rosemary has a lovely scent and can be easily grown at home. It does best in dry climates with plenty of heat, but you can grow it in a container even in colder climes. Again, this plant is best used crushed up and rubbed on the skin to help repel mosquitoes. Interestingly, rosemary can also repel cabbage moths and carrot flies.
Sage has been burned (smudged) for thousands of years to help with spiritual cleansing, but it also has a lot of promise in repelling mosquitoes. Unlike the other plants we’ve listed above, you don’t need to crush sage and rub it on the skin. However, you do need to release the oils and scent within the leaves. The best way to do this is by burning it. Simply toss a bundle into your fire pit, or burn a bundle near the table, and the scent will keep away mosquitoes.
Peppermint, spearmint, and other types of mint can be used to repel mosquitoes. Like lemongrass and several other plants on our list, mint won’t do this without a little help, though. You’ll need to crush the leaves to release the aroma – it’s the smell of mint that pests do not like. Note that mint works well either fresh or dried, which makes it a good option for drying and bundling into sachets with other herbs to help prevent pests in your home. You can also combine cut pieces of leaves and stems with witch hazel and create a spray that can be used around outdoor areas.
Aloe has been used for thousands of years in a wide range of treatments. However, it is particularly useful for treating mosquito bites. No, it does not work as a repellant, but a small piece of aloe rubbed over a bite will alleviate itching, help control swelling, and improve your comfort. Growing aloe is pretty simple, as these succulents require little in the way of special care. They also thrive in pots, making it easy for those without a lot of outdoor space to cultivate them.
While it resembles mint in appearance, lemon balm is a little different. It can be used in culinary dishes, but can also be crushed up and rubbed on the skin to repel mosquitoes. It works to reduce itchiness in bites and can attract butterflies and bees to your outdoor areas. Note that these can grow up to three feet in height.
Floss flowers might not be the most recognizable option on our list, but they can be an excellent addition to your arsenal. Floss flowers produce a chemical called coumarin, which is used in commercial pesticides. It does mean that these flowers are toxic, so do not plant them if you have pets or small children that might ingest them. Simply adding these flowers to your garden or planting a few in pots is enough. They are not safe to apply to skin. Because of their size, you’ll want to plant several in the outdoor areas where you spend time. Note that these are annuals in zones other than 10 and 11.
As you can see, there are plenty of natural options available when it comes to repelling mosquitoes. Most of the plants we’ve listed need to be rubbed on the skin, but there are a few options that do not. All of them can add beauty and visual interest to your outdoor areas, as well. However, do note that some are not well suited for homes with children or pets, as they can be toxic.