Urban legend or truth? Are there really plants that repel insects that can be planted in your garden or around the patio to prevent mosquitoes from hanging around where you wish they didn’t?
Unfortunately, the answer is no. Simply planting juniper shrubs, rosemary, or citronella grass or any other plant at the back door won’t stop mosquitoes from buzzing around the patio during the dinner hour. What will keep insects like mosquitoes and gnats away are the essential oils contained in the plant’s leaves, which are obtained by crushing the leaves.
There are a variety of both wild and cultivated plants that repel mosquitoes. Almost anywhere you go, it is reasonable to find several plant species that you can use to ward off these pesky critters. Plant-based mosquito repellents are especially useful for people who spend a great deal of time outdoors.
It is important to note that it is compounds found within the plants that do the repelling. These compounds need to be released from the plant to unlock the mosquito-repelling qualities. Depending on the species of plant, they can be released by, either crushing, drying, or infusing the plant into an oil or alcohol base that can be applied to skin, clothing, or living spaces. Others are best used as a smudge, which releases the compounds in a smoke. Just standing near living plants that repel mosquitoes is often not effective.
Below are separate lists of wild and cultivated plants that are known to repel mosquitoes:
Cultivated Plants That Repel Mosquitoes
Citronella Grass (Cymbopogon nardus) is the most popular cultivated plant used for repelling mosquitoes. Its oil, citronella oil, is the primary ingredient in most natural insect repellents sold in stores. Products applied to the skin are most effective. It grows in tropical regions.
Pelargonium citrosum also known as the Mosquito Plant is a genetically engineered geranium hybrid with a unique characteristic: it repels mosquitoes! It is easily grown as a potted patio plant, and easily enjoyed for its attractive foliage and sweet lemony scent, as well as for its mosquito repelling powers. It produces a leafy, attractive, foot-tall plant during its first season.
The Mosquito Plant was created by a Dutch botanist, who genetically incorporated traits of the Chinese citronella grass into a scented African geranium. The resulting cultivar still had the growth and habit of the geranium, and its sweet lemony citronella scent. Citronella is the substance in citronella candles, which have long been used to deter mosquitoes. It doesn’t harm them, but they don’t like citronella and avoid it. It is most effective as a repellent if you crush a few leaves and rub them on your skin. This releases the citronella and a sweet perfume.
Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a common garden plant that can be used to repel mosquitoes. The crushed plant can be applied directly to the skin or the dried plant can be infused in an oil, such as olive oil.
Additional cultivated plants that repel mosquitoes: Peppermint (Mentha piperita) Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) Marigolds (Tagetes spp.) Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) Garlic (Allium sativum) Clove (Syzygium aromaticum) Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp.) Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia )
The basic recipe is as follows:
Take 2 cups of catnip leaves or 1 cup of rosemary leaves, stems removed and crush in a mortar and pestle. Alternatively you can use a rolling pin to crush the leaves. Place the leaves in a clean jar.
Fill the jar with 3/4 cup of rice vinegar or vodka, or if you use oil, 3/4 cup of jojoba or almond oil. Let the mixture sit for a couple of weeks, gently stirring at least once a day. Strain mixture into another clean jar and your homemade bug spray is ready to make its debut!
Wild Plants That Repel Mosquitoes
Vanilla Leaf (Achlys triphylla) is a plant native to the northwest and Japan. Indigenous peoples were known to hang bundles of the dried plants in and around their dwellings to keep mosquitoes and flies away. The plant can be rubbed on the skin fresh or dried to deter mosquitoes.
Sagebrush, Wormwood, and Mugwort (Artemisia spp.) are in the same genus (plant grouping). All of these species can be used as an aromatic smudge that is known to be a very effective mosquito repellent. The crushed leaves can also be applied directly to the skin. These species grow in the drier habitats of the west, including the plains, deserts, and mountainous regions.
Pineapple weed (Matricaria matricarioides) is a common weedy species that grows all over North America. It can be found growing in lawns, edges of roads, and other disturbed areas. The aromatic crushed plant can be applied to the skin to help repel mosquitoes. Additional wild plants known to repel mosquitoes: Nodding onion (Allium cernuum) Wild bergamot (Mondarda fistulosa) Snowbrush (Ceonothus velutinus) Sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina) Cedars (Thuja spp.) It’s important to note that insect repellents applied to the skin generally only last one to two hours. Frequent re-application is necessary. Also, when utilizing wild plants, internally or externally, always be sure to correctly identify the plant you are going to use. It is best to utilize field guides and work with someone who knows the plant well to avoid accidentally using a poisonous look-alike.
Additional Tips on Repelling Mosquitoes
In addition to using mosquito repelling plants, you may want to consider some other factors that can help keep mosquitoes away. Mosquitoes find their prey by following carbon dioxide and other components that animals breathe out. Many outdoors-people have noticed that mosquitoes have a greater attraction to people that have been eating processed, sugary foods, and less attracted to people eating more of a natural diet such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
The processed food diet may make your odour and blood chemistry more attractive to mosquitoes. You can choose to eat less processed foods and sugars during the mosquito season. Additionally, diets high in garlic and onions have been noted to help reduce the attraction of mosquitoes.
And finally we must remember that although many people swear by these natural remedies to keep insects away, they are not always guaranteed to work and in many occasion have now scientific facts to back up the claims made. I can only suggest that you try them for yourselves and see if you like many others find a more natural cure to the irritating seasons that we endure living in our warmer climate.