Natural Mosquito Repellent Plants That Deter Mosquitoes

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Mosquitoes and other insects are a worldwide problem, especially in the spring and summer. Mosquitoes, in particular, are the bane of many a summer barbecue. Luckily, there are numerous methods to help fight these obnoxious creatures.

However, many contain synthetic chemicals and ingredients that are toxic to other animals besides pests, including beneficial insects and even mammals (like humans). In humans, the most common side effects of mosquito repellents are allergic reactions and rashes. But it can also lead to headaches, dizziness, and even seizures.

One alternative to synthetic products is natural insect repellents. These can still cause allergic reactions and may be toxic. Always exercise caution when trying a new product or plant. Here, we provide an overview of the most popular plants that deter mosquitoes.

11 Plants that repel mosquitoes

1. Lemongrass


Mosquito repellent grass Cymbopogon, or lemongrass, is a genus in the grass family. The species lemongrass, Cymbopogon citratus, is native to India and Sri Lanka. It is an introduced species in tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas, Africa, and parts of Asia, among others. Its primary uses are culinary, medicinal, ornamental, and as a source of essential oils. Lemongrass gets its name from the strong lemon scent of its leaves. It grows in tall, wide bunches, with leaves up to 2 meters tall in 1-meter wide tufts.

Lemongrass is widely used in medicine due to its antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial qualities. It can help lower cholesterol, potentially preventing cardiac issues and diseases.

Lemongrass has been shown to destroy many kinds of cancer cells, without harming healthy cells. This provides a potential non-toxic alternative to chemotherapy. It is further used to treat stomachaches and gastric ulcers. Lemongrass can even help reduce anxiety and relieve insomnia. Despite these health benefits, more research is needed before lemongrass extracts can become part of the medicinal mainstream.

Lemongrass repels mosquitoes and other insects. It can be toxic to some predatory beneficial insects, however, so use it with caution. Because it deters mosquitoes, it also helps to prevent diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, including malaria.

You can plant lemongrass in your yard or garden, but it will not just repel mosquitoes where it’s planted. It must release its oils. The easiest way to do this is to crush the leaves. You can even apply the oil to your skin to repel mosquitoes, but be sure to test for allergic reactions first. Rub a tiny amount on your inner forearm a few times a day. If you don’t feel irritation or see redness, you’re likely safe. To be extra safe, consider purchasing a commercial product with lemongrass oil in it rather than putting concentrated lemongrass oil on your skin.

2. Citronella grass

citronella grass

Bishnu Sarangi/

Another mosquito repellent grass is Citronella grassCymbopogon nardus, which is a species of lemongrass. It is a tropical/subtropical grass native to southeast Asia and parts of Africa. It has been introduced to the Americas, where it is grown as an ornamental and for its oil. You can grow it in yards and gardens in warm regions. In colder regions, it grows as an annual. Like lemongrass, citronella grass grows tall and wide and its oil is a mosquito repellent.

Commercial insect repellents often contain citronella oil. These products aren’t as effective as advertised, however. Citronella’s major effect is to mask the human scents that attract insects rather than actively repelling insects. Recent studies have found that citronella candles and citronella wristbands do not work well against mosquitoes. Citronella oil is also an ingredient in pet flea collars and flea shampoos, though its effectiveness against fleas is questionable.

Citronella further has antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties. It reduces the proliferation of cancer cells. It is used in traditional medicine to reduce fever and is thought to alleviate stress. You can also use it as an antiseptic for cleaning surfaces.

A plant similar to citronella is citrosa, Pelargonium citrosum, also known as the mosquito plant. Though advertised to protect against mosquitos, it is ineffective.

3. Geranium (Pelargonium)

geranium plant

Monika Schröder/

One of our favorite plants that repel mosquitoes and looks good in the garden.

Pelargonium is a genus of plants called geraniums (or simply pelargoniums) that are often confused with the genus Geranium. Both are in the family Geraniaceae. There are over 280 species of Pelargonium. Their flowers differ in color. While commonly white or pink, some have black flowers. Pelargoniums are native to Africa, Asia,  and Australasia. They are a low-maintenance garden plant requiring full sun in the spring and summer. They cannot tolerate overwatering or frost. You can grow them as annuals in colder regions or bring them inside during the fall and winter.

The oils of Pelargonium act as insect repellents. These oils have strong scents that you can release by brushing against the leaves. Different species have different scents, including evergreen, peppermint, lemon, rose, and apple. In addition to the varied fragrances, pelargonium plants have beautiful blooms, making them a beautiful and decorative addition to your garden. Additionally to repelling mosquitoes, this plant repels cabbage worms and Japanese beetles. In commercial products when combined with glycerin, lecithin, vanillin, coconut oil, and soybean oil, geranium oil can be as effective against mosquitoes as DEET-based products. In addition to mosquitoes, geranium oil repels ticks.

4. Coleus

coleus plant

Michelle Maloney/

One of the plants that repel mosquitoes effectively is Coleus. Coleus is a genus of an annual plant, popular for its colorful leaves. They grow best in partial shade but some newer varieties can grow in full sun. Coleus plants are easy to grow. However, they are neither drought-, overwatering-, nor frost-tolerant. They are native to warm regions of Asia so will grow best in hot climates.

One of the reasons coleus is easy to grow is that it is resistant to many pests and diseases. Keep an eye out for mealy bugs, aphids, whiteflies, and rot, though. Not only are insect pests deterred by coleus, but one species, Coleus canina, also repels cats. This species helps prevent garden damage by cats because its scent, while essentially undetectable by humans, is unpleasant to cats.

Oils extracted from coleus plants not only repel mosquitoes and prevent them from laying eggs but can kill mosquito eggs and mosquito larvae. Coleus leaf extracts also have water purification properties.

5. Horsemint

Clinton & Charles Robertson/

One of our favorite plants that repel mosquitoes and looks good in the garden.

Horsemint (Monarda punctata), also called spotted beebalm, is a perennial, flowering mint that grows in clumps. Its light-colored flowers (ranging from purple to yellow to green) make it a pretty ornamental garden plant.

Horsemint is drought-tolerant and requires full or partial sun. It grows in sandy soils and reaches heights over 1 meter. Its leaves have a distinct oregano scent and its flowers attract butterflies, bees, moths, and hummingbirds.

Horsemint is also medicinal. For example, its leaves can be crushed and steeped in cold water to alleviate backaches. It is also used against fever, inflammation, and chills.

Its oils, in addition to being effective at repelling mosquitoes, have antibacterial properties and can be used against respiratory bacteria, including Streptococcus. A component of horsemint, thymol, is an important ingredient in mouthwash.

6. Tiger grass


Tiger grass (Centella asiatica), also called spadeleaf, is a tropical to subtropical perennial. It grows in moist habitats, often wetlands, so it is not drought-tolerant and perhaps not an ideal garden plant. Furthermore, mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, so keeping a wetland plant in your yard may be mildly counterproductive.  Not technically a grass, tiger grass is a creeper with kidney-shaped leaves.

Common in Asia, tiger grass is a culinary herb and used in cosmetics and traditional medicine. Its medicinal uses include the treatment of wounds, diarrhea, fever, anxiety, depression, and skin conditions such as eczema. It has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral properties.

In addition, it’s on this list because its leaves contain substances that kill mosquito larvae (the extracts showed larvicidal action against three different species of mosquitoes). Its essential oils act as a mosquito repellent. Like the other plants on this list, it will not repel mosquitoes simply by growing in the garden. You must release the oils by crushing the leaves.

7. Catnip


This plant is a favorite among cats. But it doesn’t only work on cats but also helps you to repel mosquitoes. There have been many studies about whether catnip really repels mosquitoes. The results suggest that this little plant might even be more efficient than DEET. This is very good news because DEET is a chemical but catnip is both natural and efficient.

A word of caution to cat owners, though. If you decide to grow catnip, please make sure that the cat has a safe environment to play with the catnip in. You don’t want any catnip-related accidents to happen, such as damaging nearby plants or breaking the pot that the catnip is in.

8. Lavender


Most people associate lavender with a nice, calming scent that helps you relax. It’s actually proven to be quite the efficient mosquito repellent, too. In addition to its nice scent and beautiful purple flowers, it can repel mosquitoes because unlike us, mosquitoes don’t like the scent of lavender, so they keep far away from it.

9. Peppermint


Peppermint is quite famous for its great properties as an herbal tea and for its fresh scent. It’s now used in many fields, ranging from cooking to beauty products. Its scent and taste are quite strong and can help you not only to repel mosquitoes but other insects as well. They absolutely despise this minty, fresh scent, giving peppermint excellent mosquito-repelling qualities.

10. Marigolds


One of our favorite plants that repel mosquitoes and looks good in the garden.

You’ve probably seen these yellow and orange flowers growing in gardens or in parks. Not only do they look very good but they also don’t require much care. Marigolds have quite a distinctive smell that’s great to repel mosquitoes or insects in general. This is why they’re used in many mosquito repellent products as well as the reason why mosquitoes won’t come near a house that has marigolds planted around it.

11. Basil


Finally, basil is also a plant that repels mosquitoes. It’s famous for its taste and is a very common herb in many different cuisines. It’s very easy to grow because it thrives virtually anywhere. But did you know that basil also has mosquito-repelling properties? Yes, it’s true! So now, on top of having a deliciously fresh herb to add to your dishes, it can also help you to repel mosquitoes and keep them at bay.


In the spring, when you start preparing your garden, consider including mosquito repellent plants on this list. Not only would the ornamentals be a decorative addition to your garden, but you’ll also have a ready supply of oils to help you keep in control of these pesky insects.

In order to get the most out of your mosquito-repellent plants, plant them near your patio, deck, and other outdoor spaces and near entrances. This will ensure you brush against the plants when you’re spending time outside or as you leave your house.

If you choose one of the culinary plants, it will also be convenient to have it growing close to the house for easy access when cooking. Some also have a pleasant scent that will enhance the enjoyment of your outdoor spaces. A few of the plants mentioned above are safe to apply directly to your skin and mosquito bite. However, if you have sensitive skin, you can also carry fresh, crushed leaves in your pockets. The oils will still be detectable by mosquitoes.

For maximum effectiveness, make sure that your yard isn’t attracting mosquitoes in the first place. Also, get rid of any standing water. This includes keeping pots turned upside down to prevent them from collecting rainwater, filling in puddles, and regularly changing the water in birdbaths. Be sure to fix any leaky outdoor faucets. Turn off the water supply to hoses when you’re not using them.

If you’re not into gardening, there are many commercial products that contain oils from these plants. Just remember, citronella candles and wristbands don’t work well.

There are many alternatives to synthetic chemical products. Give these insect-repellent plants a try if you’re looking for something more natural that can also enhance your garden.

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