Comes the warm and wet weather and mozzies spring to life in their numbers. Worse, with the Australian mild climate even in the autumn and winter, the nuisance level of mosquito presence somewhat lingers over the so-called cooler months of the year, too. Not to mention that there are species that keep going on their blood spree adventures all year round by default.

Well, with the ever-present danger of various mosquito-borne diseases going on the rise, every year the authorities methodically apply mosquito control solutions in peak times of potential invasions in affected urbanised wetland areas, around river estuaries and generally, in regions that are susceptible to infestаtions. With that being said, it doesn’t hurt if you protect yourself and your family further at home against the health-hazardous insects, as well.

So, this post will focus on what else you could do apart from showering your kids with a repellent every time they go out and furnishing your windows and doors with new insect nets every year. You may have heard this, but there are quite a few plants that can keep the bloodsuckers at bay along with the rest of the precautions you take during the hot weather months.

We don’t claim that our list of mosquito repellent plants is exhaustive but you may well learn a thing or two about the insect-deterrent properties of some common herbs, grasses and flowers that you didn’t know about.

So, read on and feel free to share your thoughts with us at the end!

Mosquito Repellent Plants

1. Lavender (Lavandula)

Does lavender repel mosquitoes? With its powerful and mind-blowing scent, lavender may deter the insects from coming boldly onto a none-the-wiser “host”, chilling with a beverage in the garden. You need to plant plenty of the gorgeous herb along the edges of your backyard and around sitting areas to have some success.

We should point out here, however, (as this applies to most of our examples in the list) that the essential oil produced/extracted from each plant is threefold more effective as a repellent than the actual flower or grass. So, it’s best if you make a lavender mosquito repellent spray with the plant’s essential oil.

Still, growing the herb in your garden may not only keep a “shy” family of mosquitoes at bay but also help you source and make lavender potpourri sachets, which you can use around the home for extra protection.

How to care for lavender

The most common type that home growers go for is English (or True) lavender, which loves protected spots from high winds, full sunlight exposure and well-drained soil. Heavy wet soils tend to promote mould and root rot, so always improve such soil by mixing in some organic material and sand.

It’s a low-growing variety (under a metre high) and if pruned regularly by trimming foliage back up to 5cm, the plant will form a nice and thick mount of divine smelling purpleness. Water your lavender infrequently, when the soil is almost dry, as it is a drought-tolerant plant above all.

2. Citronella Scented Geranium (Pelargonium citrosum)

This is another drought-tolerant perennial with some proven mosquito repellent properties, hence, known also as a mosquito plant geranium. You shouldn’t confuse it with citronella grass and lemongrass.

The scented geranium releases lemony, citronella type of aroma if you crush the leaves or rub them with your fingers, but it belongs to a different family of plants. Naturally, it won’t control a heavy mosquito invasion, but the plant may help in the quest of deterring some random hungry females that are after a night snack, sourced from you and your garden party guests.

How to care for citronella geranium

The mosquito plant grows best in full sun, but it can also tolerate light shade, especially during the hottest hours of a summer day. It should be grown ideally in well-drained soil, which is alkaline or neutral and reasonably fertile.

Geraniums are generally hardy and stand strong against common diseases and pests. Water your plant regularly during the growing stage. Once established, the scented geranium will withstand drought pretty well. To promote new growth, prune dead stems and foliage, as well as pinch any spent flowers.

3. Catnip (Nepeta cataria)

If you are confident that you want to turn your backyard into a cool hang-out place for the neighbourhood’s cats, then, go ahead and plant some catnip. The feline attractant apparently also prevents mosquitoes from rushing into your garden, according to researchers.

You can also make a mosquito repellent spray from catnip essential oil by mixing it with some water. Its active ingredient nepetalactone will effectively deter the pesky bloodsucking insects from coming near you. For short-term protection, you can also rub some catnip leaves on your skin, as well.

How to care for catnip

You can grow catnip both outdoors and indoors, be it from seed or by transplanting a potted specimen. The plant loves full to part sun and grows well in well-drained and relatively rich loam soils with a pH-range from 6 to 7.5. The hardy perennial self-seeds and spreads pretty fast, so to control it, remove the flowers before they go to seed.

In terms of feeding or watering your catnip plant, you’ll find that it will thrive with hardly any attention on your part. If grown outdoors, water only during prolonged periods of drought. There’s no need to apply any fertilisers, especially if you don’t want to diminish the potency of the plant’s scent and this way hinder its mosquito repellent properties.

4. Lemongrass and Citronella grass

Both plants are very similar in the way they grow and in their mosquito deterrent qualities with the difference that Lemongrass (Cymbopogon Citratus) can be consumed by people and Citronella grass (Cymbopogon Nardus) should not be. The two cousin plants are ornamental grasses that can not only keep mosquitoes at a distance but also add texture and colour contrast to your flowering plant display.

Still, as we’ve mentioned above, citronella essential oil is far more effective against the pest insects than the actual plant that it can be extracted from.

How to care for lemongrass and citronella grass

The two types of perennial grass thrive well in fertile and moist loamy soils, in filtered sunlight. Full sun exposure is also fine, as long as the plant is well-watered and the temperatures are not scorching hot. Drought conditions, extreme heat and intense sunlight will cause the grass to wilt, so consider this when planting it.

If grown in a container, water the plant daily and make sure it gets some shade in the hot part of the day. Also, you should feed it annually with a nitrogen-rich fertiliser.

5. Lemon Eucalyptus (Corymbia citriodora)

This mosquito deterrent tree is a marvellous addition to your arsenal against the pest if you own a large garden. It can reach up to 35m, so you do need the space in your yard. With that being said, the plant can also be grown as a bush and even potted in a container to manage its size.

Again, it’s the oil, contained in the leaves, which can repel the vampire-insects rather than the tree or bush itself. Naturally, you probably wouldn’t attempt to extract pure lemon eucalyptus oil and its inferior – citronellal yourself but as a short-term method to keep mosquitoes away, you can burn some leaves and hope for the thermal release of the active ingredients to work.

How to care for lemon eucalyptus

The plant is native to Australia and it’s relatively easy to grow. It can establish in almost any type of soil, even such that is poor in nutrients. Still, good drainage is important, especially because the tree/bush needs regular watering in the first few years.

Then, once established, it can be considered well-tolerant to drought conditions. Note that your young lemon eucalyptus plant won’t thrive in a shady spot, so ensure it gets full sun.

6. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Another hardy perennial with a strong musky scent, rosemary is a mosquito repellent plant that can easily eliminate the nuisance insects in they are in small numbers. Say, you are planning a barbecue.

Just place a few stems of the plant on the grill to keep the area mosquito-free while entertaining family and friends. You can, of course, infuse the herb or make a spirit-based tincture, which, when mixed with a little water, will become the perfect rosemary mosquito repellent against bites.

How to care for rosemary

It’s not hard to grow the aromatic herb both in a flower bed or in a container. To ensure that you properly care for your rosemary plant consider the following tips:

  • Always start the plant indoors for best results, be it from seed or cuttings.
  • Ensure that the soil is well-drained.
  • Water it regularly during the growing season.
  • Beware of root rot and bacterial leaf spots problems.
  • Trim the rosemary, once the flowering period is over.
  • When harvesting the herb, you can prune up to a third of the plant.
  • If grown in a pot, you can bring the plant indoors and place it in a sunny spot in the winter.

7. Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

One of the active substances in basil that shows mosquitoes the door is called tarragon. The insects will sense it and avoid the area where the herb grows. You can keep pots of basil near your home on the porch, balcony or window sill, as well.

To make a repellent spray and protect your body, use basil essential oil, mixed with water, or extract the plant’s active ingredients with 95% spirit. The tincture is again mixed with water to make a protective solution against the mosquitos’ keen appetite.

How to care for basil

Basil germinates quickly in pH-neutral soil with some compost, added at the start of its growing period. Subsequently, avoid feeding it, as the herb actually loses its potent flavour if the soil is too rich.

The plant grows well in warm environments with at least 6 hours of full sunlight exposure. Water the herb only when the soil is dry and avoid moistening the leaves. If planted directly in the garden, basil is a good companion plant to some veggies and various other herbs, such as oregano, parsley, chamomile, tomatoes, peppers and lattice.

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8. Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)

An effective insect repellent plant from the mint family, including against mosquitoes, you can grow it in your garden with caution. Why? The active ingredient pulegone in its essential oil can be toxic to both humans and pets, hence, its effective poisonous powers against insects.

So, avoid making a homemade spray from the plant, because even when used topically, the plant can cause skin reactions. You can, however, use cut fresh or dried stems of the herb and place them in strategic spots outside your home or indoors to ward off mosquitoes, gnats, ants, fleas and other nuisance flying or crawling insects.

How to care for pennyroyal

Pennyroyal is easy to establish in your garden, including the native Australian variety (Mentha satureioides). It prefers damp areas but will grow in dry conditions, as long as you don’t miss to water it during prolonged periods of lack of rain. You can start up pennyroyal from seed or by dividing the roots of an established plant. If you saw the seeds directly in your garden, make sure frost is no longer predicted ahead.

Don’t cover the seeds, as they need light to germinate, and slightly moisten the soil. Beware that it’s an invasive plant, which can easily overtake other varieties in your garden if not controlled, as it will spread rapidly from underground runners.

You can grow pennyroyal in hanging baskets, too, which will deter nuisance insect pests from entering your home.

9. Peppermint (Mentha)

The essential oil of peppermint contains menthol, which has larvicidal and insecticidal properties. It will also successfully repels insects, including mosquitoes. You can make a peppermint mosquito repellent spray from mixing the oil from the plant with water. Or for short-term protection outside, crush the leaves of the plant and rub them on exposed areas of your skin.

How to care for mint

Peppermint is easy to grow and you actually don’t need more than 2-3 plants in your garden, as they can take over large areas (if not stopped) in a space of one year. Peppermint prefers part sun, part shade and could do with some mulch around its base for soil-water-retention purposes.

The plant should not be left dry for long periods, so water it when the soil is dry to the touch. To control the plant’s invasive nature, prune (pick) the leaves regularly and place barriers nearby, such as edging stones or slabs to form a garden path.

In this connection, many folks plant peppermint at the edge of a wall or in a segregated corner of the garden, as well as in containers, which, note, will need regular watering.

10. Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Lemon balm is another mint family member, which contains various oils and other active substances with mosquito repellent properties (citronellal, geraniol, rosmarinic acid, etc.). Crush fresh-picked leaves from the plant and they will release the lemony scents that will keep mosquitoes and other annoying insects at bay.

Make a safe repellent spray from lemon balm essential oil, or directly rub some leaves on your skin. Other lemon balm uses include spicing up your food or making medicinal and refreshing tea to relieve various common chronic health conditions.

How to care for lemon balm

Our lemon balm care tips don’t differ much from those we’ve shared about growing peppermint above. You can establish the plant both in a container or straight in your backyard from seed, cuttings or through root division.

Lemon balm will grow ideally in filtered sunlight and will benefit from mulch to keep the soil moist. The plant is a moderately fast spreader when compared to peppermint.

Still, if not pruned a few times during the growing season and managed, it can quickly distribute itself horizontally. Thus, expert gardeners will advise on planting lemon balm next to another vigorously growing plant as a form of “self-control”, because the two varieties will adapt and hold their own territory against each other.

11. Marigolds (Tagetes erecta)

Marigolds contain pyrethrin like many other “relatives” of the chrysanthemum family. The active ingredient is widely used in all sorts of organic insect repellent and insecticidal products, including against mosquitoes.

Plant your marigolds near doors, under your windows or in pots on your patio or decking to deter the pesky bloodsuckers from entering your home. Make, as described several times above, a mozzie repellent spray with essential oil from the plant, mixed with some water.

How to care for marigolds

Marigolds need space, so don’t cramp the plants by growing them too close together. They need full sunlight for most of the day (about 6-7 hours). Well-drained, moist and not overly rich soil is the perfect medium for marigolds to thrive.

This means that you shouldn’t overwater or overfeed the plant to avoid ending up with a week specimen that produces fewer flowers or promoting root rot.

12. Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)

Wormwood is a woody perennial, which has also been a controlled plant in Australia and other countries for some time in the past, due to the active neurotoxic and psychoactive substances it contains, such as thujone. As you can probably guess by its Latin name, the plant has been long used in the production of the strong alcoholic beverage Absinthe.

Its essential oil has medicinal uses and insect deterrent properties, but like pennyroyal, should be applied with extreme care topically. As a mosquito repellent plant, you can grow it in your garden and rely on its menthol refreshing aroma to keep the pests at bay. You can make an insecticidal spray from wormwood essential oil, which will be highly toxic to most insects. Do not use on people, but spray with caution around standing water, near fountains and ponds, for instance.

How to care for wormwood

Our wormwood care tips include:

  • Wormwood prefers full sun. Shade or even semi-shade will turn the plant somewhat droopy.
  • Plant wormwood in well-drained soil, which you should ideally feed only if it’s predominantly sandy.
  • Water your plant regularly during its growing stage when you find that the top layer of the soil is completely dry.
  • When fully established, you can reduce irrigation to once every 2-3 weeks to prevent fungal infections.
  • You can pinch the tops in the summer to deter self-seeding.
  • Prune the plant in the autumn by significantly cutting it back to encourage bushier growth the following year. Trimm half of each stem in midsummer only if you notice that the plant have a leggy appearance.
  • Every 3 years, you can divide and transplant (if you wish) your wormwood plant.

13. Oregano (Origanum vulgaris)

Oregano is another member of the mint family and a staple herb that you can add to a variety of savoury dishes. Along with that, you can count on its moderate insect repellent properties, including against mosquitoes.

The active substances in oregano essential oil, which can keep pesky insects at bay, are thymol and carvacrol. If you make a mosquito repellent spray with oregano oil, make sure it’s well diluted, especially when using it on exposed skin. Reapply as needed throughout your outdoor venture.

How to care for oregano

There’s nothing special to note about caring for your oregano herb. Like with most edible herbs, it prefers full sunlight exposure. Part shade is also fine during a few hours of the day, however, the plant will lose its intense flavour if it doesn’t get at least 6 hours of unfiltered sunshine.

Oregano prefers moderately rich, well-drained soil. So, again, avoid over-watering and feeding it.

Takeaways

So, there you have them, the most common mosquito repellent plants you can grow effortlessly in Australia. To round up our guide, here are our final thoughts:

  • It is the essential oil of various plants that have mosquito repellent properties.
  • Use oil derivatives of some poisonous, but medicinal plants, with caution.
  • There are plenty of other plants Down Under that can deter mosquitoes, such as garlic, bee balm (or bergamot), cedar, tea tree, pineapple weed, tansy, sweet fern, stone root, etc.
  • Pitcher plants are not one of them, contrary to popular belief. Be it Venus Flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) or the native – Australian Pitcher Plant (Cephalotus follicularis), pitcher plants may attract the odd male mosquito, the tiny size of which will give hardly any nutrients to the plant, unlike flies, for example. Also, some female mosquitoes will actually lay their eggs in the pitcher plant, which, along with the larvae, are immune to its digestive juices. In effect, the pitcher plant, which prefers damp conditions near standing water that will attract mozzies, will provide an extra breeding ground for the pesky insects.

If you’re experiencing severe mosquito problems, relying on plants alone to repel the pests will prove unsuccessful. Turn to a professional pest control company, instead.

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Did you had any success with some other plant?
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Image source: Shutterstock/khlungcenter

  • Last update: July 8, 2019

Posted in Pest Issues

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