Repel Mosquitoes with These Plants, Part 1: Citronella, Lemongrass, and Lantana

Reader Contribution by Julie Fryer and Clovers Garden
1 / 4
2 / 4
3 / 4
4 / 4

Photo by Michelle White

Did you know mosquitoes are considered to be the deadliest critter on Earth? Every year they spread a host of debilitating, and often fatal diseases, including West Nile Virus, Encephalitis, Malaria, Chikungunya, Zika Virus, and Canine Heartworm. Pretty scary for folks like us who spend so much time outdoors!

But dousing on bug spray is not always practical and for children and animals, it’s potentially toxic. Try this idea for chemical-free, all-natural mosquito control that’s also beautiful: a mosquito-repellent garden that works all summer long to keep bugs out of your outdoor living spaces.

3 Gorgeous and Easy-to-Grow Plants Mosquitoes Hate

Citronella Geranium, Lemongrass, and Lantana Camara already top popular gardening lists because they’re robust and quick growers; adaptable to almost all conditions; gorgeous in every setting; and in Southern climates (Zone 9 and warmer), hardy enough to grow as perennials.

Best of all, when cut, bruised, or even jostled by a breeze, they give off a pleasant lemony, citronella scent that mosquitoes avoid.

These three plants make fantastic container elements and look lovely combined with Petunias, Alyssum, or even tucked into your potted herbs. This article offers quick tips on growing these plants but you can also find much more information in this free ebook, Mosquito Repellent Plants, from Clovers Garden. Just click this link to be taken to their signup form where you’ll get instant online access to the book.

Citronella Geranium (Mosquito Plant)

Photo by iStock/photographer unknown

Citronella Geranium grows large and bushy with thick foliage of lacy, medium-green leaves and produces a few pink-purple blossoms during the season. Like all geraniums, Mosquito Plant should be planted outside after all danger of frost, needs direct sunlight for at least 6 hours per day but can tolerate partial shade, and prefers well-drained, moderately-rich soil.

It makes a great container addition but give it room to grow as it will reach up to 4 feet high and 2 feet wide. Toward mid-summer, prune back woody branches to keep plant nicely shaped. Look for the main central stem and cut it back to the preferred height — this will promote outward, side stem growth and encourage more blossoms.

Add trimmed branches to floral arrangements as the thick leaves provide a good structure for smaller flowers. Citronella Geranium can be overwintered using regular geranium propagation techniques.

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)

Photo by Dreamstime/photographer unkown

This edible plant is often grown as an ornamental and grows in a dense, rounded clump reaching up to four-feet high and three-feet wide. Similar to scallions, the grassy stems grow out of a thick bulbous base which is frequently used in Asian or Thai cooking.

Follow the same general planting instructions as Citronella Geranium: full sun but partial shade tolerant, prefers well-draining, loamy soil, and does best if watered consistently. Lemongrass bulbs can be harvested throughout the entire growing season.

When mature, this plant benefits from division as it can become root bound. Just slice into the crown with a sharp knife or spade and separate each root clump. Replant in a pot or in the ground and feed and water until established.

Unlike most plants, Lemongrass will grow in soil with black walnut residue.

Lantana (Lantana Camara)

Photo by Dreamstime/Photographer unkown

Sometimes called Yellow Sage or Shrub Verbena, Lantana has been a popular bedding plant for decades. All summer long, it produces lovely verbena-shaped blossoms in multiple color combinations of pink, red, yellow, orange, and purple.

The foliage grows in an upright and sturdy pattern making it a great container choice and, best of all, it thrives in nearly all growing conditions especially low moisture, hot sun, and even salty soils.

Deer and other critters dislike the taste and smell but butterflies and hummingbirds love it.

A note to families with kids and pets: Some varieties produce a small berry-like fruit that turns black when mature. These are poisonous so just trim off when they first appear in their green stage.

How to Get the Most Mosquito Repellent Benefit

Start by planting near high-use outdoor spaces such as play areas, patio borders, deck containers, or around foundations and entry ways. Cutting or bruising the leaves releases a burst of citronella scent so as you walk near the plant, rustle or crush the leaves.

You can also place trimmed branches and leaves in bouquets around your outdoor areas. Some folks have tried rubbing the leaves on the skin or clothing but it’s best to first test this approach as it can cause irritation.

What’s Next?

These three plants aren’t the only way to keep skeeters from your yard! Upcoming posts will talk about the many herbs that also work, offer more gardening ideas, and share recipes for cooking with lemongrass and making your own all-natural bug spray from the plant leaves. Click here to read Part 2 and here for Part 3 of this series.

Julie Fryeris an expert landscaper, gardener and sugar-maker. If you’d like to read all of her mosquito-repellent insights right now, sign up with Clovers Garden to get theirfree ebookand be sure to come back for more great mosquito-repellent info. For questions on using mosquito repellent plants, feel free to contact Julie Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.