Although spring and summer is still a few months away, garden enthusiasts can start gearing up to plan their gardens for the outdoor season. Like many gardening buffs, homeowners are always looking for ways to control the breeding of mosquitoes in their backyards. There is nothing worse than being eaten alive by these pesky and disease carrying pest, but with a little planning, you can keep them at bay and in check.

Before you reach for chemical sprays, there are a number of natural and beautiful plants that will repel mosquitoes on your property. Commercial insect repellents contain from 5% to 25% DEET, but there are concerns about the potential toxic effects of DEET, especially when used by children, such as developing seizures, slurred speech, hypotension, and bradycardia. Even though there are some DEET-free mosquito repellents on the market today, these plants are equally effective, easy to grow and attractive as part of your landscaping design.

1. Citronella

Citronella plants contain the most common natural ingredient used in formulating mosquito repellents, such as candles and lamps. Its strong and distinctive aroma help to mask the other scents that bring mosquitoes into your area and makes it harder for the attack bombers to find you. Because Citronella is a living plant, its aroma is even stronger than products made from its ingredients, so this results in a very effective method to keep mosquitoes away.

Citronella is a perennial plant resembling clumping grass and grows to a height of five to six feet. It can be grown directly in the ground in climate zones where frost does not occur or in the garden near a patio behind small decorative flowers and shrubs. If you live in a northern climate, your best bet is to grow it in a large pot or planter. Be sure to look for the true varieties, Cybopogon Nardus or Citronella Winterianus.

2. Horsemint

Horsemint is also known as Beebalm, which is a very adaptable perennial plant that repels mosquitoes much in the same manner as citronella. This attractive plant gives off a strong incense-like odor which confuses mosquitoes and masks the scent of its usual host, that’s you, your family and guests. This shade-tolerant and drought-resistant plant is a fast growing specimen that can reach heights of two to three feet and equally wide.
Because it can tolerate dry, sandy and salty conditions, this plant is often found in coastal regions and around beach areas, such as the Midwest and Eastern growing zones. The seeds can be sown indoors for transplanting at a later time directly into the ground. A great feature of the Horsemint plant is that it not only repels mosquitoes, but its flowers will also attract bees and butterflies to your garden. Bonus!

3. Marigolds

Marigolds are hardy annual plants that are commonly grown as ornamental border plants in full sunshine. These plants have a particularly strong, distinctive odor that mosquitoes find offensive. The compound inside the plant, known as pyrethrum, is a very effective insect repellent. Although an annual, marigold will often reseed itself in favourable conditions and established plants can be thinned or flowers dead-headed to promote additional blooms.
You can position potted marigolds near the entrance of your house or any other entry point to deter mosquitoes. While potted marigolds will repel mosquitoes, putting potted marigolds on a patio table may attract wasps, so avoid this if possible. Marigolds can also repel insects that prey on tomato plants, so you may want to plant a few marigolds in your tomato bed for added protection.

4. Additional Specimens

There are other plants, such as Ageratum and Catnip that are natural mosquito repellents.
Ageratum emits a smell which mosquitos find particularly offensive. Ageratum secretes coumarin, which is widely used in commercial mosquito repellents and Catnip is ten times more effective than DEET! Both are widely used in gardens to keep mosquitoes at bay while adding additional touches of low-lying plants of blue, pink, white and violet flowers to the landscape.
According to Iowa State researcher Chris Peterson, the reason for Catnip’s effectiveness is still unknown. “It might simply be acting as an irritant or they don’t like the smell. But nobody really knows why insect repellents work.”
Whatever the reason, it’s nice to know that there are plants that you can add to your garden that will let you fully enjoy the outdoor season without the threat of being dinner for these blood sucking pests.
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