Outsmart biting bugs while bringing new beauty to your garden with these superhero plant species. The joys of warm weather are many: splashing in the swimming pool, entertaining outdoors, sitting on your patio while watching the sunset. Unfortunately, mosquitoes are out to spoil your fun—and then some. According to Climate Central, the number of mosquito “disease danger days” is increasing across much of the country as temperatures rise, representing a greater risk for transmission of mosquito-borne diseases.
Nepetalactone, the chemical in catnip leaves that attracts felines, has the opposite effect on mosquitoes. In fact, studies have shown that nepetalactone is a more effective mosquito repellant than the commercial chemical DEET. As a bonus, catnip puts up pretty spikes of white or purple flowers from spring until fall. Plant, a perennial bound to return year after year, does best in full sun; allow soil dry out slightly between waterings.
You’re probably familiar with citronella candles, but might not realize that their strong fragrance, which is very objectionable to mosquitoes, is extracted from the leaves of the citronella plant, also called mosquito plant. Citronella has a grassy appearance, is fairly drought resistant, and likes afternoon shade and rich, fast-draining soil. It’s generally considered an annual because it won’t come back after frosty weather.
The many varieties of marigold, those cheerful yellow, gold, white, or orange summer blooms, all tell mosquitoes to bug off. They’re quite easy to grow, and do especially well in containers, when planted in a sunny spot. Let the soil dry out slightly before watering, and clip away spent flowers to encourage more flowers all the way through fall.
Not for pesto only, basil is a powerful natural mosquito repellant. All of the many varieties of this warm-weather herb discourage mosquitoes from lingering, so choose your favorites and plant them in a sunny spot. Keep the soil moist, feed monthly with an all-purpose fertilizer, and pinch away any flower buds that develop, as once basil flowers, it stops producing new leaves.
Like most members of the mint family, peppermint’s fragrance is a natural mosquito turnoff. This versatile perennial herb has many culinary uses: dry the leaves for tea, drop a few fresh leaves into lemonade or cocktails, shred leaves for Asian dishes and salads, or give fruit salad extra punch with a few chopped leaves.
Popular in Asian cooking, lemongrass, as its name suggests, looks like a tall clump of grass, and has a strong lemon fragrance and taste. You’ll appreciate its flavor in the kitchen, but mosquitoes hate the citrus scent. Grow this annual in a warm, full-sun spot, fertilize every few weeks with a fish emulsion or general fertilizer, and keep the soil moist.