Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.
Illustration by Livia Myers
Many of the herbs you already love to grow also work to keep mosquitoes away from your outdoor spaces! Move them from the garden plot to your deck or patio containers and you’ll have a multi-purpose garden that keeps bugs away and gives you a mini herb garden right outside your door. These herbs also look just lovely combined with traditional container elements such as wave petunias or lobelia but also pair nicely with the three plants mentioned in Part 1 of this series (Citronella Geranium, Lantana, or Lemon Grass).
If planting in one large container, just be sure to put plants together with similar sun, water, and soil requirements. And don’t be afraid to experiment with color, shape, and scent – with these choices you can build interesting planters that look great all summer long.
Most of these herbs work to repel mosquitoes because they give off a lemony, citronella scent. While humans, butterflies, and hummingbirds love this smell, it drives biting insects away! Here’s the top four herb choices for fending off mosquitoes.
'Creeping Lemon' Thyme
Stock photo from istock, photographer unknown
This low-growing, trailing herb fits well in rocky and sandy locations and adds a lemony kick to your summer cooking. The lovely leaves release a burst of citronella scent when bruised or rubbed and its vining growth pattern makes it a great “spiller” addition to most containers.
'Creeping Lemon' Thyme is a great companion plant for cabbage and broccoli but can be invasive if not kept trimmed back. Better yet, deer hate it but bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds love it!
Plant grows as perennial in Zones 4 and warmer; requires no overwintering protection; prefers at least six hours of sun per day; and tolerates most types of soil.
Stock photo from Dreamstime, anonymous
This workhorse garden plant adds delicious flavor to grilled chicken and veggies; grows like a champ and fits perfectly into containers; and keeps the mosquitoes away.
Rosemary is an upright, evergreen-like herb that grows as an annual in most Zones but can be overwintered in containers. It withstands a wide range growing conditions but prefers full sun, well-draining or sandy soil, and does best if soil is allowed to dry out between waterings.
Plant can be pruned regularly to maintain a bushy shape but trim off no more than one-third of overall growth and prune above leaf joints. Use these trimmings in outdoor bouquets; tie in bundles and dry for later use; or toss on the campfire for a smoky, scented repellent. Rosemary also makes a great garden companion as it deters bean-hungry bugs, parasites, and cabbage flies.
Mint (any variety)
Photo courtesy of Wenke Greenhouses, photographer unknown
Here’s one more reason to love mint! This hardy herb is a fast and perennial grower in most Zones and thrives in nearly all conditions. It comes in lots of interesting varieties such as Apple Mint or Chocolate Mint and adds delicious flavor to every dish and cocktail all while keeping mosquitoes from crashing your party.
Plant prefers full sun and well-draining soil and should be trimmed back periodically. Mint also works to deter ants, aphids, and cabbage flies so it’s a good companion for cabbage, kohlrabi, broccoli, and kale.
Stock photo from dreamstime, photographer unknown
No cottage garden is complete without this gorgeous flowering herb. It not only repels mosquitoes but also deters fleas, ticks, and even mice while at the same time attracting beneficial insects, butterflies, and birds. Lavender prefers full sun; well-draining soil; infrequent but deep waterings; and occasional pruning. Grows as a perennial in Zones 5 and warmer but in Southern climates, the plant must have good drainage all winter.
Stems can be bundled and hung to dry and will continue to give off a lovely scent making it a favorite for sachets and potpourris. You can even make a natural insect repellent that almost smells like perfume (more on that in our next article).
Some Quick Garden Design Ideas
For the best mosquito-repelling benefit, group these herbs together in containers and place in high use areas such as patios or decks. Try filling window boxes (see top image) with trailing herbs such as creeping thyme or tuck some mint along your walkways and into foundation beds.
Lavender and Rosemary can be shaped with creative pruning – try sculpting a mini-hedge or topiary in your outdoor spaces for a great conversation piece that also works as a bug deterrent.
Julie Fryer is a landscaper, gardener, and sugar-maker. Clovers Garden is offering a free Mosquito Repellent Plants ebook which also includes five original garden designs (like the one shown here). Readers can gain instant online access by signing up here. Even more great ideas can be found at their website. Any gardening questions, feel free to contact Julie at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read all of Julie's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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