Mosquito Repellent: 5 Flowers and Herbs to Keep Pests Away

Mosquito repellent plants are garden heroes: colorful flowers and herbs with natural fragrances that chase away buzzing insects even as their perfumes soothe humans.

The first step in your plan to thwart mosquitoes? Grow plants such as lavender, basil, mint, scented geraniums, and marigolds. But unless you’re planning to plop your chair down in the middle of a flower bed, you may not enjoy the full protective benefits. So we came up with a plan to bring the full power of your anti-mosquito forces to the deck or patio: a mosquito repellent floral arrangement. (We placed ours on a side table next to our favorite reading chair.) Read on for step-by-step instructions.

Photography by Mimi Giboin for Gardenista.

Lavenders

Above: Read more about white lace lavender (Lavandula dentata ‘Blanc Dentelle’) in Everything You Need to Know About Lavender (Plus 5 Kinds to Grow).

Lavender’s strong scent, which comes from essential oils that can be distilled from its flowers, is often used for aromatherapy. While there is little scientific evidence to back up claims that lavender oil has health benefits, inhaling its fresh, herbal scent calms many people. But not mosquitoes.

Above: Florists at work.

I asked a couple of aspiring florists named Clementine and Eve to arrange the mosquito repellent plants and flowers in a few clear glass vases: a deconstructed floral arrangement. (If you don’t have vases of different heights and shapes on hand, you can just as easily arrange the flowers in mix-and-match drinking glasses or glass jars to get the same effect.).

Above: Jagged lavender (L. pinnata buchii) with feathery leaves and deeply purple flowers goes into a vase, roots and all.

Scented Geraniums

Above: Scented geraniums are actually pelargoniums, but nobody calls them that. For growing and care tips, see Pelargoniums 101: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design.

Scented geraniums have “many varied and exotic fragrances,” writes Justine. Rub a leaf between fingers and you may smell lemon, chocolate, almond, apple blossom, or rose. Learn more at Scents and Sensibility: The Scented Geranium.

Basil

Above: Sweet basil repels flies as well as mosquitoes, so I like to keep a few pots of it growing on my patio. I also plant basil in my edible garden, where it enjoys full sun and moist soil.

See more varieties of basil and growing tips to keep this Mediterranean herb happy at Basil 101: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design.

Marigolds

Above: Marigolds are annuals and mostly bloom in bright shades of yellow and orange. Their dusky, herbal scent repels all sorts of varmints, which is why you often see them planted like a line of soldiers on security detail on the perimeter of an edible garden.

When arranging marigolds in a vase, strip off any leaves below the water line to prevent them from rotting and turning the water cloudy.

Mint

Above: This is peppermint, which I grow for tea and use with abandon in any recipe that calls for mint flavoring.

If it seems like there are a million varieties of mint to grow, that’s because there probably are. Rejoice. Read more about our 9 Favorite Mints to Grow in a Cook’s Garden.

Above: The bright colors of the marigold won’t look garish if you arrange stems singly in small bud vases.
Above: Portable protection. Our deconstructed mosquito repellent floral arrangement moves easily to an outdoor dining table whenever its powers are summoned.

And if one of your winged enemies manages to chomp on you anyway? Try our DIY: 7 Best Natural Mosquito Bite Remedies.

N.B.: This post is an update; it was first published July 2019.

Ready to design and plant a spring herb garden? See Everything You Need to Know About Herb Gardens and read more at:

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