After an especially cold winter and rainy spring, warmer weather feels like a special (and well-deserved) treat. Being able to spend time outside without a hat or a jacket? A dream. That said, one not-so-lovable part of the warmer temps are the return of bugs, particularly mosquitos. Most people, myself included, will go to great lengths to fend them off to enjoy the sunshine in peace.
There are several topical mosquito repellents (like these ones you can buy on Amazon) as well as natural sprays and oils to keep them at bay. For an extra level of protection, surround yourself and your yard with these plants that repel bugs and mosquitoes.
This may not be a surprise considering citronella is a popular ingredient for natural mosquito repellents, patio candles and more. But you might not know that citronella is actually a grass you can plant in your yard. Most citronella products are made with the fragrant oil the plant expels. Research has shown that topical citronella products only last for about two hours since the oils evaporate quickly, so having plants around is a nice insurance against biting pests. Citronella grass can grow up to six feet tall and six feet wide, so be sure to space them accordingly. The grass also prefers filtered sunlight (think: in the sun but with a tree overhead) and frequent watering.
The aroma of lavender helps deter mosquitos, and research shows that lavender essential oils repel most species for six to eight hours. If you grow the fragrant plant on the grounds around your house, it can also attract helpful pollinators to create a profusion of purple flowers. Lavender should be planted about 2 to 3 feet apart to allow them space to grow, and they thrive in direct sunlight. Water the plants once or twice per week, depending on the dryness of the soil.
While they might not be the first thing you think of when it comes to mosquito repellent, marigolds have several insecticidal constituents (aka compounds that repel several types of insects), making them beloved by gardeners and landscapers. Similarly to other insect-repelling plants, the scent from the marigold flowers can help keep bugs at bay. Plus, this plant doesn't take up much space, is relatively low-maintenance and produces beautiful, colorful flowers all summer long.
Nasturtiums are vining edible flowers with attractive circular leaves and colorful petals. Unlike other plants that repel pests, nasturtiums actually attract them to draw them away from your other plants (or from you). If you have a garden, nasturtiums are helpful for protecting cucumbers, tomatoes, squash and more from common pests like aphids, beetles and flies (this relationship is called companion planting). Nasturtiums can trail throughout open space in the garden, so be sure to plant them at least 10 to 12 inches apart. They thrive in areas with six to eight hours of direct sunlight. Plus, their gorgeous flowers are totally edible and can give your salad an aesthetic upgrade.
Along with being a delectable and versatile herb, rosemary leaf contains oils that have been shown to be an effective mosquito repellent. Rosemary is easy to grow and is popular with home growers. It can thrive in a garden, a window box or even in your landscaping. Plus, having a rosemary plant around makes it easier to when it comes time to season your food.
If you needed another reason to have a basil plant nearby this summer, we've got you covered. Beyond its aroma, basil leaves have compounds that can actually kill mosquito larvae before they hatch, which might help to reduce the number of mosquitoes in your yard. Basil plants can also help attract pollinators to help your yard and garden thrive… and their leaves make a delicious pesto. Basil is one of the easiest herbs to grow and is a staple of summertime, so save a spot for it in your yard.
Mint is yet another fragrant herb that has pest-fighting properties. Menthol, the active insect-fighting ingredient in mint and peppermint oil, has biocidal properties that help repel and control mites, mosquitoes and various other pests. It grows like a weed and is a perfect plant for beginners (Make sure to grow it in its own pot, if you don't want it to spread). Once it's thriving, you can use mint leaves for a variety of dishes from Lemon, Cucumber & Mint Infused Water to Fresh Mint Chutney.