garden

Bug-Repelling Plants to Grow in your Garden

We do our best to plant the flowers that attract bees and other local pollinators to our yards. But there are times we want to roll up the welcome mat and repel insects, especially mosquitoes. You can do this without using repellents containing chemical ingredients which kill the friendly bugs as well as the nuisances.

It’s not all about citronella​​

There are as many ways to foster natural pest control as there are reasons to repel insects like mosquitoes. These pests are the deadliest creatures on earth, killing about a million people a year. They harbor diseases like Malaria, dengue, West Nile virus (and there are no vaccines or medicines to prevent or treat this virus in people). In most cases, you need look no further than your local garden center. And feel free to think beyond citronella. You can fill your garden with other wonderful scents and colors that you’ll love, but mosquitoes will hate.

There are as many ways to foster natural pest control as there are reasons to repel insects like mosquitoes. Click To Tweet

The Desirable Dozen

lavender

You’ll find dozens of flowers and plants that can populate your patio or garden space while keeping the mosquito population at bay. Lavender tops the list. It’s a natural bug repellent with a soothing smell (at least to us humans). The scent of lavender deadens a mosquito’s sense of smell, making it harder for you to become its target. Other plants that discourage mosquitoes and other pests from making their home in your yard? Marigolds, catnip, rosemary, and scented geraniums. Bee balm, mint, and sage can add to the wonderful aroma of your garden, but mosquitoes seem to hate them. And of course, there’s the old standby, citronella. 

You'll find dozens of flowers and plants that can populate your patio or garden space while keeping the mosquito population at bay. Lavender tops the list. Click To Tweet

Not only do these plants make wonderful bug repellents, but many of these can also be harvested and steeped for Ikarian-inspired herbal teas.

Not only do these plants make wonderful bug repellents, but many of these can also be harvested and steeped for Ikarian-inspired herbal teas. Click To Tweet

Essential oils pack a punch

citronella

Yes, you can burn a citronella-infused candle to keep bugs away, but there are so many other ways essential oils can keep your backyard bug-free. Freshen your patio cushions with a spritz made of tea tree oil, and clean your grill with lemon oil. Your guests will love the aroma (and the lack of flying intruders – they’re repelled by these scents). You can grill cuttings of thick citronella grass (just for a short time to release the bug-repelling oils). You can also spread a few citronella grass cuttings on walkways. Their natural oils will be released by foot traffic.

Other things to consider

bird bath

It’s not just about what you add to your garden when it comes to organic pest control. It’s what you take away. Regular mowing gets rid of places where pests like to hide. Get rid of sources of standing water where mosquitoes could lay eggs and any food or animal waste that could attract flies and other pests.

Water features are not the enemy

You can still enjoy backyard ponds, pools, and fountains or birdbaths without allowing them to become hosts to mosquito larvae. Stock small ponds with fish that eat the larvae, or aerate water features and use a pump to keep water moving. Mosquitoes only lay eggs in stagnant water. You can also chlorinate pools and hot tubs.  

Outdoors is still safest

As COVID continues and variants like Delta become more prevalent, outdoor gatherings will remain popular. Heading outside is a proven stress-reliever. So invite your friends, socially-distance, and take advantage of your outdoor space—minus mosquitoes and other pests. All it takes is a little planning and planting. 


Lee Park is a botanist who researches eco-friendly disease and pest control. While he enjoys studying the effects of bugs in his gardens, he wastes no time getting rid of rodents. 

Related Articles