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Plants can both attract and deter mosquitoes, so choosing the right species for your garden is incredibly important.
Thankfully, not all mosquitos are harmful to humans, and they rarely cause damage to the garden, but if you’re planning on creating a productive vegetable garden down south, then you’ll need a few natural mosquito repelling tricks up your sleeve to make the experience more bearable!
What are mosquitoes?
It might sound like an obvious question, but mosquitoes are a varied and fascinating species group, and only a few are harmful depending on where you live.
There are over 3,500 species of mosquito, spread all over the world. All are members of the insect family Culicidae, and take their name, mosquito, from the Spanish word for ‘little fly’. They are instantly recognizable up close by their long mouth parts, which they use to pierce skin, or plant cells (some species are herbivorous).
Female mosquitos live for around 50 days, and lay over 100 eggs per cycle, while males live for just 10.
Do plants attract mosquitoes?
There are more plants that deter mosquitoes than those than attract them. That’s the good news. The bad news? The plants that attract them are incredibly common garden plants and often come with few alternatives.
What plants attract mosquitoes?
The most common defining feature of plants that attract mosquitoes is water. If the plant lives in water, helps to shade water, oxygenates it, or even holds it in its leaves, it is helping to provide a habitat for mosquitoes. Others simply provide cover and breeding space.
All bamboo, but particularly lucky bamboo, attracts mosquitoes, which lay their eggs in the stalks. Those eggs can lie dormant for over three years waiting for water to hatch into.
The reason bromeliads attract mosquitoes has nothing to do with their flowers, scent, or even habitat, it’s simply because bromeliads provide water reservoirs for their larvae to hatch.
3. Water lilies
Water lilies are great for mosquitoes, giving them a landing pad, and then providing shade for their larvae, which swing around in ponds and still water for weeks, unnoticed, before emerging as flies. The nectar from the flowers provides a food source for mosquitoes too, making water lilies a double hitter.
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4. Water hyacinths
Like water lilies, water hyacinths attract mosquitoes mostly through association. They grow in damp, boggy conditions, and even marginal pond sites. So their nectar, paired with their damp location is ideal for mosquitoes to lay into.
5. Water lettuce
Water lettuce works in two ways, as a landing pad for breeding mosquitoes, and as a still, self-contained pool. Following wet weather, the cupped form of water lettuce holds water, similarly to bromeliads, creating a perfect nursery for mosquito larvae.
While the science is inconclusive, mosquitoes appear to be more attracted to blue flowers. And the nectar-rich blooms of taro provide a generous food source for adult mosquitoes.
Papyrus grows well in standing water, so is often a simple architectural option for garden ponds. However, mosquitoes can differentiate between every species of grass, and know that papyrus is a sign of still water. So while papyrus has minimal direct benefit to mosquitoes, it is effectively a massive waving flag, shouting ‘hey, mosquitoes, over here!’
How do plants attract mosquitoes?
Mosquitoes use plants to select their breeding location. If plants signal standing water, or an association with it, mosquitoes will automatically go to them. This process is called oviposition selection and is explored in more detail by BioMed Central.
The best plants to keep mosquitoes out of the garden?
The strong scent of lavender is an effective mosquito deterrent while fresh, and dry. Using swathes of lavender in pots around ponds can be an effective way to confuse and disturb mosquitoes during breeding.
Fresh basil isn’t just great in the kitchen, it’s an incredibly useful companion plant, which helps to prevent aphids, mosquitoes, and whitefly. The strong fragrance deters mosquitoes from landing on nearby nectar-rich plants, meaning they are less likely to settle in your garden, knowing they can’t comfortably access food.
Rosemary works in a similar way to lavender and most woody shrubs with strong essential oils. Powerful fragrances disturb the scent receptors of insects like mosquitoes and protect you, and your garden from them.
Marigolds are one of the most effective plants you can grow at home to repel mosquitoes. They are incredibly easy to grow from seed and packed with potent essential oils, but their secret weapon is Pyrethrum, a powerful organic chemical used in most insect repellent sprays, that is truly effective against mosquitoes.
If you don’t have allergies, rubbing marigold leaves over your arms acts as an instant bug repellent too!
All members of the mint family are effective insect deterrents, but catnip is possibly the best, with gorgeous purple flower spikes in summer. What’s more, it’s super easy to grow, takes very little water, and will cope in full sun, or part shade.
6. Lemon Balm
Another member of the mint family, lemon balm has powerful citrusy tones, with the same compounds as mint. But again, there’s a secret weapon, as lemon balm contains citronella compounds in high concentration, which is very off-putting to passing mosquitoes.
Ageratums contain coumarin, another key ingredient in many organic mosquito repellents. The flowers are blue which can attract mosquitoes, but their odor is an effective deterrent, and there are some pink or white varieties to try if you’re worried about blues attracting mosquitoes.
How do plants repel mosquitoes?
Most mosquito repelling plants work through distraction or confusion, but some contain active citronella compounds or coumarin, which will confuse, sicken, and deter mosquitoes after direct exposure.
Natural mosquito repellents
Organic sprays and balms
For busy gardeners, trying to keep safe from mosquitoes is the last thing you need to be worrying about, and yes, you could plant a garden packed with citronella-producing plants, but sometimes it’s easier to find pre-made solutions.
I use Murphy’s Naturals Lemon Eucalyptus Oil, which works wonders to repel any mosquitos, even in early fall when our garden is completely packed with the frustrating biters. If you’ve got sensitive skin, a similar treatment comes in a gentler balm form by Badger.
DIY Mosquito repellent for the garden
To make your own from your kitchen garden herbs, try processing a handful of lemon balm and rosemary in a pestle and mortar until the oils are released and a deep emerald green liquid is in the base (add a drop of water every so often to loosen the mix).
When you’ve got your basic paste, add a splash of witch hazel, and a cup of boiled water. Leave the mixture to cool, and then fill a spray bottle with the strained liquid.
Natural mosquito predators
Bats are nature’s most effective mosquito predators but are quite hard to encourage, particularly in urban environments. An easier option is to replace your pond plants with reeds, which will attract dragon and damsel flies. Dragonfly larvae eat mosquito larvae in ponds before it hatches, and the adults seek out mosquitoes as a food source too.
Plants attract mosquitoes, but they also repel them, so if you’ve got a severe problem with mosquitoes in your garden, consider changing your pond plants, or adding repelling plants to the pond edge. Water butts should be covered, and any greenhouses should have basil and marigolds planted alongside tomatoes.
A combination of all of those tricks will get rid of mosquitoes from your garden in no time!
Check out these must-have gardening products
You don’t need much to start gardening, but some tools and products will make a difference in how comfortable and effective gardening can be for you. Here are my favorites:
- Garden Trowel. A good garden trowel will last you many years. I love how sturdy this hand trowel from WOLF-Garten is, the metal doesn’t bend and it has a nice grip.
- Trimming Scissors. I use them for delicate pruning and harvesting all summer long, and they’re super handy. These Teflon Trimming Scissors are extra nice because they don’t rust as easily.
- Dutch Hoe. Dutch hoes may seem old-fashioned, but there’s nothing like a quick sweep through the topsoil to get rid of small weeds – no bending required. I love WOLF-Garten’s selection: this dutch hoe coupled with their universal handle.
- Grow Lights. These grow lights from Mars Hydro are super strong, yet dimmable, so they fit every stage of growth. They don’t put out too much heat and are very economical.
- Seedling Trays. There’s an art to choosing the best size for seedling trays so that it holds the perfect amount of water and gives the roots enough room to grow. These germination plugs are perfect when coupled with 1020 bottom trays.
- Liquid Fertilizer. You’ll need to feed your plants from the seedling stage, all the way to fruiting. This organic fish & seaweed blend is a very versatile option. Use it half-strength for young plants and full-strength for established plants.
Browse our list of tools, fertilizers & pesticides, indoor growing products and seed shop recommendations – we hope you find our selection useful and it saves you some time!