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Plants That Repel Mosquitos

May 25, 2022


Mosquito Remedies

Mosquitoes find people and other animals to bite in part by sensing their body heat and movement, but mostly by “smelling” the carbon dioxide that is emitted from our pores. While traditional sprays containing DEET and other mosquito repellants work by making your skin uncomfortable to land on, some plants smell strong enough that they can mask your scent, and/or confuse the mosquitoes.

Dignitas Sugar Plum

Natural Remedies

If you want the mosquito-repelling benefit, you need to take a few of the leaves, crush them up a little, and then rub them on your arms and legs. This is a bit of a failure for people with sensitive or skin allergies. And for others who find themselves especially attractive to bites, this may not work well enough to make a difference. But for many people who are searching for more natural mosquito remedies, and don’t have allergies, these plants make a noticeable difference, and they’ll leave you smelling good!

If you’re pressed for time before going outdoors, just add some stems of the plants to areas with foot traffic to release some mosquito-repelling oils with every step you take.

Plants & Herbs

Here are some plants and herbs worth having in your yard, that are not only pretty, but that can help in the constant war against bug bites.

Citronella Grass

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. 



Somehow, the natural oils in Cymbopogon citratus manage to smell like real lemons, only better. Lemongrass is a staple in some Asian cultures’ cooking, and its delicate fragrance lends a citrus note to some perfumes as well. Lemongrass is a tender plant, and won’t survive the winter below zone 9, but it grows quickly in container culture. Coarsely chop the strappy leaves of this plant and strew them around your deck during your next gathering, both for mosquito repelling power and for the pleasing aroma.

Citronella Geranium

Not all geraniums will repel mosquitoes, but this particular kind (formally known as Pelargonium citrosum), which produces and smells like a citronella oil, can ward off bugs.

Geranium Citronella
Floss Flowers

Floss Flower

While they’re not the most powerful repellent, these purple beauties (Ageratum houstounianum) produce an aroma mosquitoes aren’t fond of, according to SFGate. Butterflies and hummingbirds, however, love their fragrant blooms.


Cheerful and bright, marigolds make an easy-to-grow addition to any garden plan — in pots or planting beds. These perky annuals bring terrific color all season long. What you might not know is that marigolds pack a punch to many insects, including mosquitoes, thanks to chemical insecticides they release. That’s why marigolds have such a strong odor when you touch them. Both flowers and leaves release the chemicals, but blossoms deliver the strongest dose. Tuck marigolds into pots on the patio to make summer evenings less buggy, or use them in the vegetable garden to help repel pests while you tend plants.



It may sound hard to believe since the scent is so heavenly to us humans, but mosquitoes can’t stand the smell of this herb. Keep bugs at bay by planting the lavandin variety, which has a high concentration of camphor. Bonus: It also keeps moths and flies away!


If you have a dry corner of your garden or windowsill that gets full sun, a rosemary bush will be very happy there. Just let it dry out between waterings, and it will reward you as an edible herb and a mosquito-repellent plant, driving insects away with its distinctive scent. Rubbing a few sprigs on overexposed arms or legs will help keep mosquitoes away from those areas, and rosemary smoke from a grill or fire pit will be an extra repellent. Rosemary is also a deterrent to cats if you’ve got strays poking around your yard.

Roasting Rosemary


This pretty herb also has major gardening benefits, like attracting bees, enhancing the flavor of other plants, and perhaps most important, serving as a mosquito-repellent plant! 

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm contains a compound called citronellal, which has an effect similar to the mosquito repellent citronella. The lemony scent of lemon balm is also one that mosquitoes don’t love, which makes it a perfect addition to your mosquito-repellent plant collection.

It can spread quickly once planted, so it’s best to plant this one in pots, keeping them near the areas in your yard where you want to control the mosquito population—like the porch.

Lemon Balm


Brush against lantana, and you’ll understand why it’s effective at keeping mosquitoes away. It smells! Leaves contain aromatic compounds that release when sunlight warms the plants. By placing a few pots of lantana around your outdoor living areas, you have a natural barrier against mosquitoes that provides between 27 and 42 percent protection. This bug-chasing plant opens beautiful blooms that beckon butterflies. Give it full sun and regular moisture in pots. In planting beds, it withstands poor soil, drought, and heat.

Hummingbird Mint

Also known as anise hyssop, hummingbird mint (Agastache) does what its name suggests: attracts hummingbirds, along with butterflies, bees and all kinds of beneficial insects. You can find this plant in a variety of colors including purple shades, like this ‘Blue Boa’ anise hyssop. The entire plant smells of licorice. Some gardeners rub leaves on skin to keep mosquitoes at bay. Use this perennial (Zones 5-9) in drifts in planting beds, or grow it as a thriller plant in a container garden. Dry leaves and blooms to flavor tea, cakes or cookies.

Hummingbird Mint


Count on wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) to provide a silver backdrop that brightens flowers in your garden designs or bouquets. Those pretty leaves release a strong scent described as antiseptic, putrid, or even pleasant, depending on whose schnozz is doing the sniffing. Insects — including mosquitoes — and even some critters give it a wide berth due to the aroma. 


Your cat may go crazy for it, but mosquitoes will do anything to stay away from it. In fact, studies have shown that the essential oil in catnip, known as nepetalactone, is much more effective at repelling mosquitoes than store-bought bug sprays. The essential oil of catnip is so strong that you need about one-tenth as much of it as you’d need of the insect repellant DEET for the same effectiveness. Catnip plants grow tall, so if you’re planting them directly in your garden, do so in an area where they won’t block your desired views. And be prepared to become the primary hangout for all the neighborhood kitties.

Reader’s Digest:

Bronze Fennel


(Foeniculum vulgare) are often left out of the herb garden in favor of more compact plants, but fennel plants have multiple uses in addition to their mosquito repellent properties: The feathery plants are as ornamental as any tall garden grass, the chopped leaves are delicious in salads and soups, and the leaves host swallowtail butterfly caterpillars in the garden. Bronze fennel is especially lovely and will self-seed to produce a handsome colony for the following season.