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April 25, 2012

Keep Mosquitos Away…with Plants.

Photo: wildturkey5300

The mere thought of a mosquito sends me into an itching frenzy.

And with the mild winter, skeeter season is going to be a doozy. There have already been reports of West Nile Virus. But who wants to douse themselves in insect repellent (a euphemism for pesticide)? Not me.

There’s hope. Certain plants may help keep mosquitoes where they belong–far, far away from you. No chemicals required. (Note: the leaves of the following must be crushed to release the aroma. Otherwise mosquitoes can’t smell them):

  • * Horsemint has a scent similar to citronella and  grows wild in most of the Eastern United States, from Mexico, Texas up to Minnesota to Vermont. It is partial to sandy soils and will grow in USDA Zones 5-10.
  • * Marigold is a sun-loving annual used by organic gardeners to keep aphids away.
  • * Citronella Geranium (Also called mosquito plant) A genetically engineered geranium hybrid, easily grown as a potted plant. The jury is out on its mosquito repellent effectiveness. But, since it’s attractive, it can’t hurt.
  • * Agastache Cana is another form of mosquito plant. Its common names include Texas hummingbird mint, bubblegum mint, giant hyssop, or giant hummingbird mint. It’s usually hardy in USDA Zones 5a-9a.
  • * Catnip is one of the most powerful mosquito repellant plants. Recent studies have shown that it is ten times more effective than DEET at repelling mosquitoes. Crush a few leaves and rub on your skin and clothing to enhance the effect.

Another plant, ageratum, contains coumarin. But don’t rub it on your skin.

If you’re a gardener who disrupts swarms of mosquitoes every time you step foot into your garden, try incorporating some of these plants/herbs:

  • •    Citronella
  • •    Rosemary (crush this and rub on your skin for protection outside of the garden, too)
  • •    Lemongrass
  • •    Lemon Thyme
  • •    Lavender (questionable)
  • •    Basil
  • •    Thyme
  • •    Penny royal garlic
  • •    Rue

Photo: Jason Hollinger

Have a water garden? Bladderworts—carnivorous plants with small round bladders attached to their leaves—trap, then digest mosquito larvae and other tiny water critters. Weird!

As a bonus, here’s a mosquito quote:

If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.
~ Dalai Lama XIV

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