16 Plants That Repel Bugs and Mosquitoes Naturally

Adding a little rosemary to your patio tells mosquitoes, "You're not invited!" Learn about more plants our experts use to deter outdoor pests.

Plants that Repel Bugs and Mosquitoes, pretty flowers
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When you spend long summer evenings on the patio or in the backyard, keeping bugs and mosquitoes at bay is a top priority. Fortunately, there are many great outdoor mosquito repellent options available on the market.

However, for pest control that also makes your outdoor space look better, consider adding a few plants that repel bugs. Whether it's pots of fragrant lavender around the perimeter of your patio or citronella grass in your garden, these multi-tasking plants are pretty and serve a purpose.

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Citronella Grass

Plants That Repel Mosquitoes, Citronella Grass
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The citronella candles on your patio are made with the oil that comes from this plant. "Citronella is by far the most popular plant that repels mosquitoes," says garden lifestyle expert Carmen Johnston. "It has a very pungent odor."

"I often place this in small eight-inch terra cotta pots and mix in with my centerpieces when entertaining outdoors," she adds. "You can either use the clippings mixed in with arrangements or use the plant itself as the centerpiece."

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Plants that Repel Mosquitoes, Purple petunias
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This perennial—sometimes called "nature's pesticide"—can repel aphids, tomato hornworms, asparagus beetles, leafhoppers, and squash bugs. "Petunias are very easy to grow and you can plant them in the ground or keep them potted," says Peyton Lambton, lifestyle expert and star of My New Old House. "They like sun, and I recommend buying transplants and placing them in light, well-drained soil in full sun after the last spring frost."

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Plants That Repel Mosquitoes, Lavender
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"Lavender has a fragrant smell that deters mosquitoes," Johnston says. "I have this planted in clusters at the entryway of my garden, and I love those purple blooms.

"It likes to be hot and dry, so it's perfect for summer," she adds. You can also apply lavender oil to your skin as a natural repellent.

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Plants That Repel Bugs and Mosquitoes, Orange nasturtium
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Nasturtium is a colorful, edible flower that repels whiteflies, squash bugs, aphids, several beetles, and cabbage loopers. As if that's not enough, it helps other plants in your garden, too.

"They produce an airborne chemical that repels insects, protecting not only themselves but other plants in the grouping," says Chris Lambton, professional landscaper, star of My New Old House, and Peyton's husband.

"Plant these in early spring in moist, well-drained soil in full sun," he advises. "They should be regularly watered and deadheaded to promote blooming."

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Plants That Repel Bugs and Mosquitoes, Rosemary growing in yard
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You probably know rosemary best as an herb that adds flavor to your dishes, but it also helps keep bugs away. "This one is another plant perfect for summer heat because it likes to be dry," Johnston says. "It is one of my absolute favorite smells, but mosquitoes can't stand it."

"You can plant it in containers, but it also works well as a hedge," she suggests. Since a rosemary plant adds texture to arrangements, she says, why not place it in an outdoor centerpiece to repel bugs and provide some eye candy at the same time?

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Plants That Repel Mosquitoes, Basil in pots
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Nothing beats basil as a go-to for making pesto and a host of other Mediterranean-style dishes, and now add "bug repellant" to its resume. "It's an annual herb and repels houseflies and mosquitoes," says Chris Lambton.

"Ensure that the plant gets six to eight hours of full sun daily, and its soil should be moist and well-drained." he continued. "When you see blossoms start to form, pinch them off at the base to ensure the best-tasting leaves."

This versatile herb can also treat mosquito bites, Johnston adds. She recommends rolling several leaves between your hands to release their natural oil and then applying them to your bite to ease swelling.

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Plants That Repel Mosquitoes, Lemongrass in garden
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Lemongrass is closely related to citronella and repels mosquitoes but, unlike citronella, it's edible and is commonly used in Southeast Asian cooking. "It can grow three to five feet tall and adds lots of extra height and texture to the garden," Johnston says, "so it needs a larger container." Keep this plant in a sunny spot.

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Plants that Repel Bugs, Fresh mint plant
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Mint leaves serve as a refreshing addition to dishes and cocktails, but the plant they come from offers another bonus. "It's a perennial that repels mosquitoes," says Peyton Lambton.

"Mint is easy to grow, but once established in a garden, it can be tricky to remove," she warns. "Plant it in a pot instead and frequently pick its leaves to keep the plant at its best. You can grow the plant indoors all winter long—and it will help keep flies outside, too."

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Akchamczuk / Getty Images

Catnip is a member of the mint family, but bears a separate mention. It's non-toxic to pets, although it's known to make some cats crazy and others mellow. More importantly, it makes mosquitoes and other flying insects go away.

Essential oil from catnip is an active ingredient in many all-natural insect repellents, but you don't need to extract its oil to make it work for you. You can simply crush the fresh leaves and stems onto your skin and clothing.

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Mosquito Shoo Geranium

full frame overhead view of citronella scented geranium plant with serrated green leaves and pink and small pink and white flowers

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This descriptively named plant was biogenetically engineered as a hybrid of a scented geranium and citronella grass. The result is a plant with cute but unspectacular flowers and leaves that, when crushed, release a fragrance similar to lemon furniture polish.

It's also known as the citronella plant, mosquito plant geranium, or citrosa geranium, which inaccurately implies that it contains mosquito-repelling citronella. It actually produces a scent that smells like citronella but is not the real thing. Perhaps that's why, despite its name, its effectiveness in keeping mosquitos away is debatable.

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Marigold 'Queen Sophia' - 1979 AAS Winner

Courtesy of the National Garden Bureau, Inc. (http://ngb.org/)

The bad news is that these ubiquitous annuals have a fragrance that many of us find unpleasant. The good news is that mosquitos, wasps, and hornets also find their smell objectionable.

Gardeners would do well to find some real estate around their vegetable beds for marigolds. Their vibrant autumnal colors attract butterflies and bees while their scent drives away pests that would otherwise enjoy a good meal of fresh vegetables.

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eucalyptus tree
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Eucalyptus has an overpowering minty, citrusy smell that mosquitos find quite offensive, making this tree somewhat effective as a mosquito repellent and more so at repelling termites, fleas, and bugs. Nevertheless, planting a eucalyptus tree near an entrance may help keep mosquitos from entering your house.

If you crush the leaves and place them inside the house as in a potpourri, they'll release their oil, keep mosquitos from wanting to hang around, and smell fantastic. Another idea is to shred eucalyptus tree trimmings, turn them into mulch, and spread it in the yard anywhere mosquitos are a problem.

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Lantana Plants

© Marie Iannotti

Many varieties of lantana offer a kaleidoscope of colors on each bloom. This aromatic bedding plant is highly prized for attracting hummingbirds and bees, but it also deters mosquitos better than most plants.

When they're rubbed or crushed, lantana leaves and flowers emit a strong citronella-like scent. You can also dry out lantana leaves, crush them, and then toss them in your fire pit to deter mosquitos. Avoid rubbing crushed lantana leaves on your skin though, because its oil can be irritating.

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Bee Balm

Bee Balm or Monarda flowers
Patrick Standish

Bee balm is a versatile perennial garden favorite that blooms in a firework of color all summer long. It's prized for attracting bees and is also a popular herb widely used in traditional herbal medicine and less frequently as a culinary herb.

This hard-working plant's side hustle is insect repellant. When bee balm’s leaves are crushed and applied to the skin, they release a scent that helps repel mosquitoes. You can also place crushed leaves around your home or in areas where you spend time, inside or out.

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Purple ageratum flowers in the flowerbed.
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Ageratum, also known as floss flower, are brilliant little gems useful in any garden. Their insect-repelling power comes from coumarin–a chemical often used in insecticides–that mosquitoes can’t stand the smell of. Butterflies and bees don’t mind the fragrance, and hummingbirds absolutely love it.

Warning: These plants are toxic to cats and dogs, so opt for a different one if you have pets. Also, you can increase their effectiveness by crushing their leaves to release their bug-repelling odor but, unlike many plants on this list, rubbing the leaves directly on your skin is discouraged.

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Venus Fly Trap

A close up shot of a Venus Fly Trap.

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There aren't many of them, but the ultimate in natural pest control is a carnivorous plant. The most popular among them, the Venus fly trap, captures insects and spiders in its claw-like, clamshell-shaped leaves, snaps them shut, and then "eats" its prey by releasing digestive enzymes.

While these plants are fascinating and entertaining, they require rather specific conditions. A Venus fly trap needs full sun if planted outside. If kept inside, it craves more light than any sunny window sill can provide, so artificial light is in order.

The Venus fly trap also likes wet feet, meaning if in a pot, its roots must always be sitting in water. And it must be distilled or clean rainwater, please; because it can't handle hard water that comes from most of our taps.

And one more thing: Venus fly traps must eat regularly, and not like most plants that are good with a dose of fertilizer. If a Venus fly trap isn't catching its own food (like if it's indoors for the winter), it has to be hand-fed with live insects, dried blood worms, or high-protein fish food. Still want one?

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